Corio Shire Oral History Project
Name of interviewee: Mrs M J Beckley nee Walker
The following story is reproduced in this website with the kind permission of the Geelong Heritage Centre whose reference for this story is GRS 1437.
Q. Which school did you go to?
A. I went to Avalon State School No 3785, which isn't there anymore.
Q. What happened to it?
A. It moved when the Aircraft Factory came to Avalon. It moved to the Corio School and was joined on there when Corio grew. Going back a few years they had a fire at that school and the Avalon school went up with it. So Corio now have a new School and Avalon has gone.
We had to walk to school most days, put the rubber boots on and walk to school and walk home again, a mile and a little bit. It wasn't a lot; some came a long way further than that. Before going to school we had to help milk the cows, do our chores, and in those days, too, there were no separate bathrooms. The bathroom was part of the laundry, very primitive, and in the morning when you got up you went out to the tank stand where there was a box and an enamel dish. You took your towel, got some cold water out of the tank and you preceded to have your wash and clean your teeth and that was the start of your day. Breakfast was good because the toast was made by the fire from a double oven stove in the kitchen. When we got home we would have to help light the little fire in the sitting room, but not a lot of heat came from it.
Q. How big was the house you lived in?
A. Three bedrooms and a couple of sitting rooms and the kitchen and a little pantry plus a larder, I think they called them in those days. I can remember going back to, in our early days, bath time was a big event. The bath was brought in - it had two handles - and put in front of the fire. We all took our turns, one at a time sweated in this bath. There was a shortage of water so we used to have to economise. We were always short of water.
Q. Why was that?
A. Well, there was no water laid on and not a lot of tanks so we had to be very conscious all the time of the water. Where we lived down there at Avalon (now the overpass goes through it) was all burnt down in the Lara fires in 1969, but our family didn't own it then, it had already been sold. My dad had retired to Norlane to be near me.
Q. How long did you live in Norlane for?
A. Till twelve years ago.
Q. What was your impression of Norlane then?
Q. Good, I watched it grow. Watched all the commission houses come in on big lorries. One day I spent the whole day at the window watching how neatly they put it all together. It was all paddocks; I can remember the paddocks and things like that.
Q. What’s your impression of Norlane now?
A. Well, I was at Labuan Square about a week ago. A little bit disappointing. Mr Bowens finished last week, the chemist that’s been there a lot of years. I think Norlane is all right. I, like, it’s all right but I don’t say I’d go back. Once out you don't usually want to go back. It's the same when I go anywhere down near Avalon. I think, oh how did I ever live here? Actually, I couldn’t get out quick enough really once I was old enough. The thing is with Norlane, commission houses were rented. Early they were rented, now a lot of people have bought them and they they’ve done them up lovely and a lot look after their gardens and a lot don't. I just think that one day it will be a good area. It will be an upmarket area because it is so close to Geelong. Norlane, I watched it grow and saw everybody move in and watched all the young families grow up around us. We only moved out because we got too big for the street.
Q. When you lived in Avalon did you ever go into Geelong?
A. Yes. I had a very sick mother for a lot of years and I did something that I shudder about now. To go shopping I thumbed a ride on the road, the highway. I would take a big case to bring all the necessities home and come home with a neighbour over the road.
Q. Where did your family the Walkers come from?
A. From Scotland, my grandfather continued on – well, I’m not so sure about whether or not he started there - but he continued on at the Lime Works. He worked with horses and drays for a lot of years. My dad worked there too until he married and he went to the war -he went to the First World War. When he came back he didn’t go back to the lime, that’s when he bought the farm out at Avalon with some of his money that he got from being in the War.
Q. How long was he away for?
A. Four or five years I think. Anyway they continued on with the lime and they finished up with a nice truck before grandfather died. The lime works finished because Burt only had four girls, no boys to carry on. The big homestead is still there in Walkers Road in Lara, and the road is named after the family. The name came from the grandfather, David. I’ve got great visions of going to grandfather Walker’s big house in those days. It was one of the best in Lara and one of the biggest. As there were no boys to carry on in that family it had to be sold.
Q. Could it have gone to someone else in the family?
A. Well, you see, they finished up, Burt and Margaret. Margaret is still alive now. She nursed grandfather right through so it was just automatic to take over and to continue on. When Burt died there were no boys so they decided to subdivide the land for building on. Today you can't see much about where the lime was manufactured.
Q. What about floods or bushfires?
A. I don’t remember much about the floods and we weren’t in here in Lara when the fire went through and neither were we here when the very bad floods were here. We came out from Norlane to our daughter who lived here at the time. Ray helped reassure quite a lot of people over at the Brotherhood and all around that morning. We had the storm in 1983 and we had 2 1/2 thousand dollars worth of damage to our house here. A lot of damage there was, so that’s the memory I have of that time, because, you see, we weren’t home that night of the storm. We were in Geelong and we could see that Lara was all in darkness as we came in. So we went around to our son's place and when we got around there our daughter‑in‑law said, "Have you been home?” and I said, "No, we haven't been home.” “Ah,” she said, "You might not have a house.” I said, “Why,” and she said, '”We've had a terrible storm." So I stayed with Ross and Ray came on home. The big tree was down in the front which filled five semi trailer loads to the tip and there was a lot of damage in there.
Q. Were there many fires when you lived in Avalon?
A. Yes. If it was a hot day my dad would be on his toes all the time, in and out all day; he would never leave the property if it was a hot day. He never went anywhere.
Q. When you were younger how did you get into town? By horse and cart or some other way?
A. I can’t go back to the horse and cart days. I can remember going in, my dad had an old Rugby car, and the old Rugby car had the side curtains and was draughty. We didn't go into Geelong very often; we came into this little place called Lara. We shopped at the store here mainly. Of course, we had our own eggs and milk and my dad would kill the sheep. We had a lot on the farm that we used. You couldn’t grow a lot of vegetables because of the shortage of water. All the washing water was saved and carted wherever the trees were or for whatever. None of it was wasted.
A. How had Lara and Avalon changed when you came back?
Q‑ A big improvement - that's what bought me back. Plus, I had two brothers living here and that enticed us to come back. We really were looking for just a one acre block when we started out to build. But there were none, only five acre blocks. So we had to settle for the five acres and built here. Lara is going ahead; it’s gone ahead since we've been here.
Q. Have you ever thought of living anywhere else?
A. We are moving back to Geelong.
A. Why are you going back to Geelong?
A. We're getting ready for retirement. Ray is not retiring just yet but we find the five acres a bit much as well as the business and the harness racing board that he is on. We just haven't got enough time to get the benefit out of the five acres so we're moving.
Q. With your husband being on so many committees, how did you cope?
A. You just do. It's nearly as bad now. I think at one stage when he was with the Shire as a Councillor he had 16 meetings a month.
Q. What are your impressions of the Corio Shire?
A. Well, it's good, but everything has changed so much since, well it doesn’t seem the same. But things aren’t the same as they were back six or seven years ago; everything is changing.
Q Who else lived in the Avalon area?
A. There were the Howards and Coffeys, Hodges, Brequests, Heales (who Heales Road was named after), plus Dandos. They were all farmers.
Q. Did your husband go away during the war? I mean, did he enlist?
A. No, he is just a little bit ahead of that or a bit before it or whatever, so he didn't go to the war. He drove the trucks himself for seven years while we were rearing the family. He did all the interstate runs in those days.
A. When you were living in Norlane, how many men did your husband have working for him?
A. Well, it was a gradual start. It started as one, then two, until we got going.