Eldest child of Bohwen & Sarah (nee Thorp)
“We as kids never thought to ask about our family, but by the way the garden was set out around our place at Waanyarra, I think our ancestors must have known about growing things.
There was an elaborate system for watering the many varieties of fruit trees and vegetables that were growing on the place. We had no pumps in those days. By excavating the land to create a ’fall’ from the dams, and with a number of pipes layed underground, the trees and vegetables were efficiently watered.
When it rained, Dad would go out wearing his oilskin coat and check to see that all the gutters in the dams were clear. We relied mostly on the dams for our water. But there was a spring or well which supplied water when it was a dry season and when the dams were getting low the well was fed by an underground stream, it was about six foot down to the gravel bottom. We would have to dig down and clean it out when we wanted to use it.
Many people got their drinking water from that well during the dry seasons. Mum’s flower garden was watered from the creek. We had a guttering system rigged up to lead from the creek to the garden. By bucketing the water into the guttering, the water would run to the garden some fifty yards away.
Mum had all kinds of flowers in her garden including opium poppies, which were in those days considered by us to be just ’pretty flowers’. I suppose the Chinese gave our family the seed in the first place because the flowers had always been there from the early gold days.
I went to school at Waanyarra and for a time at Koondrook when my parents went there to help Dad’s brother, Bill Douthat, grow tomatoes for the Melbourne market. School work at Waanyarra was no trouble to me with Miss Vera Bool as my teacher. Miss Bool was one of the best teachers who could have been around as far as I was concerned. I liked all the work we did at school, I got my Merit Certificate at Waanyarra.
We had a little dam at the school and a vegetable plot and just below it was a pine tree which is still there. An unusual shrub, which us kids called a ’Snotty Gobble’, grew near to the school. It had fruit on it about the size and shape of a ’Jelly-bean’. We’d squeeze its ripe fruit and eat the jelly-like flesh inside. There were many other things we’d eat from the bush, cranberries and geebungs but I never saw another ’Snotty Gobble’ in all my wanderings about the bush.
I went all through that bush around Waanyarra as a youngster chasing foxes and Starry Taylor’s, goats with the dogs. The dogs never caught the goats because they were too cunning and ran high up onto the rocky ridges where the dogs would not dare to go.
I used to play the mouth organ but would have loved to play the concertina. The first time I played the piano accordion was one weekend we went over to Uncle Emanuel’s house at Long Gully. We went to Greys’ who lived nearby and they had an accordion. I grabbed hold of it and found I could get a tune out of it, so I bought one, I think I was in my early teens then.
I played at the dances at Waanyarra, barn dances, waltzes and foxtrots, anything people would dance to but would go to the dances at Tarnagulla on most Saturday nights and would play cards instead of dancing.
Nearly every family around was self sufficient. We had a cow to milk, chooks for eating and eggs and of course, all our lovely fresh vegetables. The baker, butcher and grocer called regularly. We hardly had to leave the place.
One story I remember my father telling me was about the time he caught a 21 pound cod in the dam. It must have been there a long time to grow so big, he seemed to think it was put there by his grandfather.”