OPINION: Yesterday Today with Alan McRae

STAFF: Gerry Taylor, Leo O’Meara, Bob Corkill, Ray Hanlon, Don Mackenzie, Bill Harrison, Terry McCarthy and (sitting) Mrs Robb, Bert Jarvis and John Grimes.
STAFF: Gerry Taylor, Leo O’Meara, Bob Corkill, Ray Hanlon, Don Mackenzie, Bill Harrison, Terry McCarthy and (sitting) Mrs Robb, Bert Jarvis and John Grimes.

THIS week we continue the memories of Bathurst Demonstration School teacher Leo O’Meara. He recalls this teaching staff photo being taken in the 1960s. Those in the back row are:

  • Gerry Taylor, who served later in western NSW and then in outer Sydney. On one occasion, he conducted the Annual Messiah in the Methodist Hall. At last call, he had retired to the Springwood area.
  • Leo O’Meara, who later served at Lake Albert (Wagga), Wyong, Yagoona, Denistone East and Berkeley Vale on the Central Coast.
  • Bob Corkill, who served subsequently at Wollongong, then as principal at Dareton and Lismore Demonstration School.
  • Ray Hanlon, who later went to a number of Sydney schools and finished as a principal in the northern suburbs.
  • Don Mackenzie, who served mainly in the Newcastle area, before moving into real estate.
  • Bill Harrison, who still resides in Bathurst. He served as principal at Eglinton before returning to the Demonstration School and later to Kelso, before being appointed district inspector of schools at Bathurst.
  • Terry McCarthy, who taught for some time in Canberra, before joining the Foreign Affairs Department.
  • Sitting are Mrs Robb (librarian), Bert Jarvis and John Grimes (deputy principal).

The Demonstration School in those days had some wonderful staff members and some great characters. At the end of 1959, there was quite an exodus. Trevor Harrison, who played the trumpet with the Debonairs Dance Band for some years, moved on, as did Arthur Allen, Norrie Spicer, Ray Broadhurst and Rex York. Rex, a World War Two ex-serviceman, lived life to the full, and irrespective of the time he ‘turned in’ at night, was always first at work each morning. He had the most immaculate hand-writing on the chalkboard Leo has ever seen.

The average age of this teacher group would be over 80 and Leo would be happy to hear from any of them who are still in the Bathurst area. The Bathurst he knew in those days had not even begun its growth into the modern city it is today. The buzzword in conversations was “decentralisation”. Everyone was hoping that governments would do something to boost the city’s economy and viability. The city still hung grimly to the railway workshops as a major employer, but it was obvious that they were on their last legs. Conservatism reigned supreme. People were looking backwards rather than to the future and efforts to establish new businesses and industry were not overly successful.

The only store of any consequence was The Western Stores, later to become Myer (he believes) and now central to a modern mall. One of Leo’s earlier recollections is of Harry’s Fruit Shop in Howick Street. He pioneered the use of plastic packaging to present his fruit and vegetables. Hector Lupp’s playing at the Carillon each afternoon was a particular feature, as was Machattie Park itself. The Bathurst Leagues Club had only just been established and was the centre of much social activity in that era. He remembers the Knickerbocker, the Park, the Commercial and the Dudley hotels as four popular “watering holes” and Theo Venardos’ Heath Café and the Rainbow Room upstairs as the venue for many functions. The three rugby league teams in the town were Railway, St Pat’s and Charlestons (which folded soon afterwards). The Bathurst Gaol was another large employer, still years away from the 1974 riots.

The plumbing on many of the earlier homes was on the outside of the buildings and plumbers were kept extremely busy on winter mornings repairing damaged pipes. The Edgells factory on the western edge of town was also in full operation. Some of Leo’s happiest memories of that time concern his association with the Bathurst Junior Rugby League, including his involvement with local competitions and the Annual Group 10 Schoolboys Carnivals. My thanks to Leo O’Meara for his memories.

- Alan McRae is with the Bathurst District Historical Society