Norma Berry (nee Burns)
My parents met at Mount Egerton near Ballarat.
They were married in Ballarat when Frank was 21 and Edith (“Eadie”) was 20.
Mum’s maiden name was Payne.
Frank’s family was from West Geelong but they moved up to Mt Egerton where Frank’s grandparents had a farm. I was born while they were living there in 1925 and Jon was born in the following year
When we came to North Shore in 1927 we first lived in No 6 Myrtle Grove and Dad got a job at the Phossie. Some time later he left there to work at Fords. I was about two and lived there for three years.
Keith was born in 1928, June in 1931 and finally Clive in 1936.
We moved to Donnelly Ave opposite the Beckleys and next door to Mr and Mrs Ward who had no children and on the other side was the Gourley family. The Eastwoods were two doors away. Mrs Ward was a sister of Mrs Parker who lived down in Walchs Rd. After a time in Donnelly Ave we moved down to one of the two houses in the eastern extension of St Georges Rd.
Jon and I both started school on the same day when we were at Donnelly Ave.. Dad made a gate in the back fence so that we had a short cut to school.
I’ll never forget the first day of school in Grade 3 because I got the strap. I was sitting next to Lila Evans at the time. I remember one day when a lady came to school to complain about a teacher strapping her child. She went up to strap Mr Mason and he ran away with this plump lady chasing him.
Later when we moved down to St Georges Road we had to walk up to Kings’ home before being taken across the airfield in the ambulance. (A girl named Joyce Findlay lived in that house before the Kings.)
We girls played rounders and basketball, skipping and hopping. There was a hollow near the railway line where the boys used to go to have fights.
In summer we would sometimes walk from the school to North Shore beach but we had no lessons; we just splashed around. My best friend at school was Irene Meyrick but she and her brothers Mervyn and Neil are all dead now.
I remember Robyn Ward coming to school but she refused to work so her father had to take her away. I think she went to Morongo.
Mum was a member of the Mothers’ Club at the school and during the war she knitted for the Comforts Fund.
I finished school with my Merit but Jon went on to Intermediate at Geelong High.
Rabbits and fish were always on the menu at our home. Dad had ferrets and he skinned and cleaned the rabbits. We were sometimes given small fish by the net fishermen at Oyster Cove. Jon was badly surnburnt one day when he was down there helping with the nets. He had to lie on his belly for a week.
Dad took the boys fishing at the Grammar School lagoon and they would also use a spotlight to fish for flounder at Oyster Cove. We had plenty of fish.
The boys would go ferreting with Basil and Pat Gamble, Maxie Evans and Scratter Dean
When the boys grew older they played football for North Shore and Dad supported the club. He brought all the jumpers home for Mum to wash.
Dad, Ron Evans and Harry O’Brien started up the Boys’ Club in the hall and it was very popular with all the local boys. He and Harry O’Brien also used to do the doorman duties at the dances and balls held in the hall.
Playing cards on Sundays was a favourite activity at our place: rummy, euchre, 500, poker. If you made a mistake when playing with Jon he’d always be sure to let you know what you’d done wrong.
Dad’s brother David came down to Geelong and got a job on the trams and his sister Meg came down too after she sold the farm.
Two of Mum’s three sisters, Alma and Rita also came to Geelong and they all worked at the Grammar School.
Marj Walker and her sister worked there too, in the laundry.
Uncle Frank Merryck was the bus driver at the school for years. Irene Meyrrick and Alvie Finnegan were there for a while too. I worked there as a maid for a couple of years.
My favourite student was a little junior boy named Rupert Murdoch who went on to great things in later life. He would come into the kitchen when I was washing up and he would “paddle” his hands in the water, pretending to help me with the washing up.
Auntie Rita met Tom Finch at the Grammar School and they were married and lived in Myrtle Grove. They had a son, Peter, and Tom died when Peter was only 16.
Aunt Alma (“Em”) married ?? Rawlings and they had one daughter Muriel. Mr Rawlings died when I was 15. Muriel married Ron Leatham but he died of a heart attack about 10 years later.
Aunt Annie stayed in Ballarat and she married Perce Ellsworth and they had two girls.
I married Gordon Berry and we couldn’t find a place to rent so had to stay with Mum and Dad at St Georges Rd. Gordon’s brother Malcolm had married Lila Evans and they too couldn’t get a place to stay so they finished up at St Georges Rd as well. Gordon and I were eventually able to rent a flat behind the home of the Silletoes in The Esplanade. Gordon and I had a son Robert born in 1953 and a daughter, Margaret, born in 1955.
Jon worked at Bright and Hitchcocks where one of his fellow workers was Ken Hands who later had a great football career as captain of Carlton. Jon was very serious at work and when June went to work there too she was not allowed to call him Jack as she did at home.
After Jon came out of the Air Force he worked at Fords.
Clive was at school with Barry Crocker at the Junior Tech in Moorabool St. Barry also went on to work at Bright and Hitchcocks before he became a famous entertainer.
Jon married Bernice Walker from Belmont and they had two boys. After his marriage broke up he travelled around Australia and he now works on a property near Cloncurry in Queensland where the owner is 102 and his wife 98.
Keith married June Rylance, an English girl, not long after her family had arrived from the old country and were living in Sparks Rd. Keith and June had ten children, five girls and five boys. Their eldest died at the age of 16 months. Keith died of prostate cancer in 1998.
June married William Carlson from Drysdale and their child is Merryn.
Clive married Valerie Scott, a Norlane girl. Their children are Rodd, Colleen and Stephen. On the eve of his wedding his car was hit by a train on the St Georges Rd crossing. He survived the crash and was determined to go on with the wedding on the day and the ceremony was performed while he was still in bed. Sadly, not many years later, Clive was killed in a car accident while driving home in fog from work in Morwell.
Also, sadly, neither Mum nor Dad lived to old age. Mum went down with Leukemia in 1955 only a couple of weeks after Gordon and I married. She was only 50. Dad died in 1960 aged 56.
Interviewed by Bryan Power