Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Shellharbour Surf Life Saving Club

In 1925 the Shellharbour District Surf and Life Saving Club was formed and new surf sheds were opened at the beach. In 1937 a meeting was called at the Shellharbour Hotel to kick start the Surf Club. Local identity Keith Hockey was 16 years old when he attended the meeting and he played an integral part in reforming the club. He served as Honorary Secretary until 1952.

During the war years the club folded up, though the reel was still on hand at the beach if anyone needed assistance in the water. After the war, the Army sold off a lot of its assets. Jim Cullen, owner of the Ocean Beach Hotel, with the help of donations from the local community managed  to get a Nissan Hut from near the Steelworks that had been used as an Army canteen. The Nissan Hut was brought on a truck from Warrawong and became the first club house. For the first couple of years, Shellharbour Workers Club rented the hall from the Surf Club for £5 per week, and with this money, the club house was paid off.

In 1962, Keith was appointed Secretary of the Shellharbour South Beach Committee, which was formed to establish life saving on South Shellharbour beach during the holiday period. Campers at South beach would not walk over to North beach for a swim and it became very dangerous.

Shellharbour Council put a lifesaver on the beach during the weekends and eventually increased this to full time, and Lifesavers have been on the beach ever since.

Shellharbour Surf Lifesaving Club 1957.
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Beatrice Slater

Beatrice was born at Waverley in 1900.  She lived in the same one room house that  her husband built at Oak Flats in 1920 on the west side of Horsley Creek, until she was 100 years old.

Mr. Slater worked as a timber getter for Bernard Kirton, a saw miller from Thirroul. Kirton had purchased 266 acres of the Kembla Vista Estate (Oak Flats) and  had a contract to supply pit props for the coal mines. The swamp oak casuarinas glauca was perfect for pit props and grew all over the Kembla Vista Estate .

Mr. Slater was also a bridge builder and built the bridge on The Esplanade in the 1920s. He also helped built the first Windang Bridge, opened in 1938. The first bridge built across Horsley Creek, near the Slater’s family home was built by Mr.Slater but unfortunately it washed away in a flood. The replacement bridge that exists today was named Slater's Bridge, in honour of the family.

There weren't any buildings at Oak Flats when the Slater family arrived, just one house owned by the land agents, Watts’. The Slater's added one room at a time to their house - just what they could afford, bit by bit. The  home was made of fibro and iron. The windows were purchased from Waters, and the timber came from a saw mill up the coast. The floor was given to them by the local rifle range and was 4 inches thick. The front door was made out of tram seats from Sydney.

Beatrice Slater used to swim in Slater’s Creek every morning at 6am. One day eight children walked onto the middle of the bridge and jumped off into the creek, where they became stuck. Beatrice swam out and swan each child back to shore. This was when she was 75 years old.

Sadly Beatrice's husband died when she was just 50 years old but she always had the company of her 70 year old Cockatoo, Cocky, who she shared a cup of tea with every day.

Beatrice lived through two world wars, men landing on the moon, and the development of the automobile. Beatrice Slater died in 2002 aged 102 years. (Information Gillis, K, 'Oak Flats A Garden Suburb')

Beatrice Slaters house at Oak Flats c.2000
Tongarra Museum.
Tram seat front doors, Beatrice Slaters house c.2000
Tongarra Museum.

Slater residence c.2000
Tongarra Museum.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Evelyn Owen

Evelyn (Evo) Owen was born 15 May 1915 and grew up in Wollongong. His mother Constance, was the daughter of Sir William McMillan who farmed a property called ’Riverfarm’ at Tongarra.

 As a young man Evo lived in a hut at the foot of Macquarie Pass, and worked on the prototype for his famous Owen Gun, at Brewster’s Garage at Albion Park. He became one of the greatest Australian heroes of World War II when he invented the Owen submachine gun, which contained just one moving part.

The Owen Gun could be used easily and reliably in jungle warfare, unlike other guns available at the time. In New Guinea and at Kokoda during World War II the gun proved its worth to Australian Soldiers in battle, operating in wet, humid and muddy conditions with no problems at all.

The Owen gun was the subject of much scrutiny for many years by the authorities, who preferred the British Thompson gun, and delayed its manufacture for years. The Owen gun was manufactured for £12 against the Thompson’s £50, and never jammed.

Evelyn enlisted in the AIF 2/17 Infantry Battalion in 1940  but was discharged in 1941 for employment in a reserved occupation. 

Evo’s Owen Gun was tested and produced at Lysaghts, Port Kembla, and cleared for production on 23 September 1943, becoming a vital part of the defence of Australia in WWII.

Evelyn got little recognition of his famous Owen Gun, and a large portion of the money he made for his invention was taxed. He died 1 April 1949, just short of his 34th  birthday.

Lest We Forget.

Evelyn Owen c.1940
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries. 

Evelyn Owen c.1940
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Macquarie Pass

Aboriginal people  travelled up and down a track from the valley at Macquarie Pass to the escarpment for thousands of years before European settlers came to the area. Tullimbar camped with his tribe at the base of Macquarie Pass.

During the early years of settlement, when cedar was cut and transported to the harbour, many tracks were made through the thick forest. Ben Rixon was paid £5 to cut a path for horsemen, drays and buggies.    

Mr. Carl Webber was employed to map a route for a road up Macquarie Pass when pressed by the local residents. Archibald Campbell MLA for the Illawarra paid for the cost of the initial survey.
On the 4th July 1898 Macquarie Pass was officially opened with over 600 people attending the festivities. The Albion Park Band entertained the crowds and a banquet was held at the Commercial Hotel at Albion Park; officiated by Louis Robert Mood of Shellharbour.

A marble tablet marking the opening of the Pass was placed on a rock wall at the top hair pin bend.

It reads - Macquarie Pass opened July 4th 1898 by the Hon. J. B. Young Minister for Works and Archibald Campbell M.P., this tablet erected by the Borough Council L. R. Mood Mayor Shellharbour, S.N. Co. J. Fraser J.P. Chairman, Albion Park A&H Society J. Brownlie President Robertson A. Society W.R. Hindmarsh President

Macquarie Pass Survey Camp c.1894
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.

Ladies on Macquarie Pass c.1898
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.

Macquarie Pass c.1898
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.