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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 48 - 02 of 02 (Raw)

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Interviewer Respondent
IN 00:00:00 OUT 00:25:37
Trish FitzSimons
Bev Barr
Griffith Film School
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48 - 02 of 02
21 June 2000
Timecode refers to tape 48_BC_SP Topics in Bold
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 48 - 02 of 02
Race Relations Communications
PTB Refers to Part B of Tape 48
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Bev Maunsell
Interview with Bev Maunsell. Part 1 of 5. Water damage evident.
part of:
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 48 - 02 of 02
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48_BC_SP_PTB_MAUNSELL-raw.txt — 21 KB

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                                  21 June 2000
                       Timecode refers to tape 48_BC_SP
                                  Topics in Bold
                  I = Interviewer              R = Respondent


I     Camera tape 48, DAT tape 18, time code 0, Channels of History project,
      Trish FitzSimons on sound, Julie Hornsby on camera. It’s 21 June 2000
      and we’re interviewing Bev Maunsell outside her house in Dixon Street,
      Jundah. 48_BC_SP

      So Bev, I’d like you to tell me where and when you were born and what your
      name was when you were born, your childhood name.

R     00:09:08:14    Yes, well I was born in Pittsworth, a small town on the
      Downs, just out from Toowoomba, ummm August 1947, and ummm my
      parents were Vince and Flora Barr and my maiden name was Barr.

I     I’ve come across somebody else Barr. Is there a Jean Barr?

R     Race Relations

      A Jean Barr in Birdsville. She was a Crombie.

I     Yes, is she any relation?

R     Yes, she married my brother. Yes, she’s my sister-in-law.

I     Do you find that interconnection unusual?

R     Braided Channels

      00:09:50:02    I don’t think so out here, Trish.    No.     Because ummm I
      remember when we first moved to the west ummm I was younger of course,
      but most people I felt were related and yet we weren’t related to anybody but
      thirty-odd years down the track and, as you grow up and some of the family
      have married locally, and now that goes on where, you know, we do have
    members of our family who’ve married local people and so, yes, it is quite

I   Because I found an incredible degree of interconnection out here.

R   You would too, yes.

I   It’d be a bad place to make an enemy I reckon.

R   00:10:33:00    Exactly and sometimes you will actually hear somebody
    telling a newcomer – I was going to use the word ‘warn’ but it might be a
    little strong – but sort of, you know, saying to them, ‘Well, she’s his niece’
    or ‘He may be her sister-in-law’ or whatever else, you know. You’ll hear
    people explaining relationships.

I   With Barr, that interconnection between black and white, is that quite
    common in your experience out here?

R   00:10:58:10: Well probably. I don’t know whether common. I mean it’s,
    well yes, ummm has been over the years. I mean, I’m not looking at just
    recently. You’re not asking about recently but over a period of thirty or forty
    years, yes.

I   So just going back, it was just the Barr that …

R   Yes that triggered, yes.

I   … that triggered that. Going back into your childhood, then, Bev, what was
    your parents’ job in life and did you come to the Channel Country with your
    parents? I guess I’d like you to just sketch your life up until the time that
    you came to the Channel Country.

R   Women/Work
    00:11:42:20    My first years were spent on a farm ummm a little farm at a
    place called Captain’s Mountain just outside Millmerran.            My mother
    virtually ran that farm on her own. My father and his twin brother had a
    dam-sinking plant so they’d go off, you know, to various places working the
    plant. My Mum actually had four children under age three. She had twins
    and then myself ummm thirteen months later and then another daughter
    seventeen months later, so she had four children under three, and ten years
    after that she actually had twin boys, so my father and all of his sons were
    twins. But, yes, she ran that farm on her own. I can remember that she used
    to … I can’t remember her doing it, but telling we children how she used to
    milk the cows and put the cream can, you know, up on the neck of the horse
    and ride down to the front gate and unload those onto the ramp even while
    she was expecting that younger daughter. So then we moved on to another
    property and we spent a few years there before moving on to yet another
    property, so most of my life was spent on stations.

I   What would cause the movements, do you know? Why would your family

R   00:13:14:14    I think that perhaps then it was a settling thing, you know, I
    don’t know … in those days parents didn’t speak in front of their children
    about their business ummm whether it be their financial position or ummm
    they weren’t as forthcoming as they are now, I don’t think. So I don’t really
    know. My father had a twin brother who was in partnership with him and
    they just purchased various properties so, you know, we did move quite a bit
    in the early years, from place to place. And then we went to a property called
    Cooroora.     We settled there for a long time.       That’s where I first did
    correspondence school, which is now distance education. It was primary
    correspondence with Primary Correspondence School in Brisbane but, you
    know, there was no School of the Air. We did have a governess but we
    didn’t have ummm School of the Air or anything like that. When I was in
    Year 2 we actually rode ponies to school, to the local school up the road. We
    rode the horses and they sort of had the paddock there to put the ponies in
    and that was just a part of your school day, to unsaddle your horse and let it
    go and then you know, when you finished school, you resaddled it and rode
    home. Progress to bikes was fairly important.     00:14:38:10

I   Where was Cooroora?
R   Cooroora was ummm Meandarra, Meandarra area, which is still down on the
    Downs, around the Dalby-Tara area.        My parents were involved in the
    community there for years and very active workers in that community.

I   So what, then, brought you out here?

R   Channels Country: Arriving

    00:15:01:02   When they were building the bitumen road between Quilpie
    and Windorah, my father brought a couple of trucks out to Thiess Bros and
    put them on that job there. Ummm he probably – I’m guessing here because
    I was at Concordia then, going to boarding school at the time – I think it was
    probably out here 18 months or so before he bought the home in Windorah
    and the garage in Windorah and ummm and we moved to Windorah. So,

I   So how old were you then?

R   00:15:36:12   I was 15 when I left Concordia. I didn’t actually stay in
    Windorah at the time. I went back to Meandarra and I worked in a hardware
    type store there ummm for 12 months, during which I made my debut and
    things like that, and then I came back to Windorah and worked on the
    exchange there, telephone exchange. I worked on various properties west of
    Windorah and I met Graham there, of course, and …

I   Was there a sense that, at the age of 15, if your parents had moved and were
    running Windorah Service Station but you stayed on the Downs, were you
    considered an adult at 15?

R   0:16:25:08    No, no, not at all because had I not gone down there to work
    for friends of my parents, I would not have been allowed to go at all. You
    know, Mum and Dad were very strict and ummm in that sense, and I didn’t
    know Windorah. I didn’t know the Quilpie area. I didn’t really know the
    country that my parents had moved to, which was quite strange, a very lonely
    and disappointing feeling while I was at Concordia, I think, not to know
    exactly … I knew where they were but I wasn’t familiar with ummm with the
    area that they’d moved to, so I guess there was a sense of loss there and
    ummm I was focussed on going back to Meandarra where I sort of knew
    everybody and we had our friends and it was actually my parents’ friends
    that owned this store there, and I went down and I actually stayed with
    friends of my parents and I worked for friends of my parents. And had that
    not been the case, no, I would have ummm not been able to do that.

I   So tell me your first view of Windorah, then. 1962 you came to Windorah?

R   Mmmm.

I   So tell me what you saw. Paint a picture.

R   Channel Country: First Impression/Physical Hardships/Dust Storms

    00:17:44:05     It was negative but it’s certainly changed since then. Ummm
    probably unfortunately, we arrived to the house that my father had bought at
    night time. Ummm it hadn’t been inhabited for a long, long time and when
    they did have somebody in it, it was just some old gentleman who, you
    know, hadn’t sort of looked after it and there was no furniture or anything in
    it. There was lots of dirt and lots of cobwebs. In those days they had many,
    many ummm really big sand storms, or they call them dust storms, but
    ummm so I mean it was absolutely filthy. There was no electricity, which I
    know that, you know, I soon learned that that was common and you do
    become quite comfortable with that. Having said that, I know that you can
    be uncomfortable with it too. Ummm yes, so I don’t know that it was ... I
    was amazed. I really thought that we had lived in the country. I believed
    we’d spent our whole life in the country and I soon realised that we hadn’t.
    We were now living in the bush. And this was the bush, yes. So ummm …

I   So other than electricity, what were the things that made you think, ‘Ahhh,
    this is the sticks’?

R   Dust Storms
    00:19:12:12    Ummm perhaps it was the difference, because I had lived on
    properties and considered that I lived in the bush but ummm the dust storms
    amazed me probably most of all, the heat, ummm things that now are not
    important, I mean, but then at that age and having just moved to Windorah.
    Ummm probably lack of services.          Being so far from Quilpie when,
    especially when most of that road was dirt. They were just sealing it, you
    know, I think the bitumen was 68 miles this side of Quilpie on the western
    side at the time and ummm a lot of the road that wasn’t sealed was bulldust
    so you were looking at many hours. We had conventional cars then, too, I
    mean we didn’t have four-wheel-drives and the vehicles that we have today
    ummm to travel those roads either. So, perhaps isolation.

I   So bogging? Was bogging a common thing?

R   00:20:26:02    It was. You could step from a vehicle and step into bulldust,
    you know, so deep.      Ummm fortunately I was a teenager and saw the
    humorous side of a lot of those things where I’m quite sure my parents didn’t
    appreciate it quite as much since they mostly had the responsibility of getting
    us out of there. Ummm but, yeah, I ummm perhaps these things grow on you
    a little bit and you actually forget exactly what did ummm surprise me the
    most, but I think, you know, if I was to sum it up quickly, I’d say dust storms
    and the isolation, the heat, ummm yeah. A lot of the homes then weren’t
    gauzed, you know, they didn’t have fly screens, so ummm the Sunday roast
    dinner was quite a battle and you’d tend to go on holidays and keep doing
    this, you know, so yeah …

I   Describe your first dust storm. What happened?

R   Dust Storms

    00:21:31:02    I remember distinctly one of the younger brothers, Trevor, one
    of the twins running through that because he was actually up the street when
    it hit. But, of course, you can see them coming but we weren’t … or I wasn’t
    aware and I’m quite sure they weren’t, being you know so many years
    younger than I, of exactly how that sand could sting their legs and ummm
    that it would become so forceful, so thick. I can remember sweeping it from
    the lino and my mother doing so and everyone helping and, you know, you’d
    have quite a lot of sand in the dustpan and you used to laugh and so you’d
    just sweep it out in bucketfuls, you know. And it would be in waves on the
    vinyl and going inside the houses and up against the skirting boards around
    the bottom of the floor. It’s quite hard to believe today that that, yeah, older
    homes too, Trish.                                   00:22:32:12

I   I read a description of a dust storm in the thirties, with people holding their
    sandwiches under the table.

R   00:22:39:16    Exactly. That was something I’d forgotten about because you
    could feel the grit on your teeth and you could feel, you would ummm feel
    the grit in food. Yes, it seemed to just get into everything.

I   And how often would this happen?

R   00:22:54:02    That, you probably couldn’t put an average on that because
    you could get perhaps two in one day and then you may not get another one
    for days, or a couple of weeks or whatever, but they happened quite
    frequently, yes, and it wasn’t uncommon to clean up from one … and this is
    without vacuum cleaners and things like that, either. This is virtually with
    brooms and dustpans and my mother still scrubbed everything on her hands
    and knees. She wouldn’t use a mop so, I mean, it was quite a task for her.
    But ummm I can remember times when we would no sooner finish cleaning
    up from one when we would be hit with another, or you’d spend all day
    cleaning house and it would blow all night and you’d wake up to that same
    mess in the morning. And the women would start again, and it was an
    accepted … there would be the odd moan and groan but it was still accepted.
    It was an accepted part of living there.

I   What did the dust storms sound like?

R   Dust Storms

    00:24:00:00    My description would be simply wind.             Ummm we were
    travelling across – you would have crossed this area – the Morney Plain
    once, when our children were small and we had a foreigner with us. Ummm
    I can’t remember from which country he came but we saw the dust storm
    coming across the plain and it was rolling. It was a great mass of rolling
    ummm across the plain and actually it was magnificent, and we weren’t
    disturbed by that because, you know, we were quite used to them but when I
    looked in the back seat and saw this fellow that was getting a lift with us, he
    was actually leaning forward, you know, over the seat, and he was terrified
    and ummm he actually thought that there was a vacuum and we had a truck
    in front of us that was driving into this great roll of dust and he was
    expecting … he said to us later that he was expecting that truck to be picked
    up and to start flipping over. Ummm so he likened it to a tornado or
    whatever, but ummm …

I   Tell me about dust storms now, while we’re talking dust storms. How
    common are they now?

R   00:25:22:02    They’re not. No, they’re not, Trish, really. We get the odd
    one but if … I would say perhaps if we saw one once a year … we get a lot
    of dust, dust blowing in the wind. Ummm there’s a terrible lot of dust here
    because we get the dust blowing off the yards across the way here, the
    Barkly Shire Council yards, so you could drive up the street and see that my
    house was just covered in a cloud of dust, and that’s quite common. It’s a
    little disheartening too, even though we now have vacuum cleaners, but …

I   So what’s changed, do you reckon? Why are there not dust storms any
    more? What do the locals think about that?

R   00:26:11:04    I have asked that question of several older people ummm in
    the Windorah area and opinions vary but the most common one, or the one
    that seems to be ummm acceptable, is the rabbits. You know, you’ll notice
    the … I’m not saying with the … windbreaks. Ummm vegetation on the
    sand hills, and that’s not quite an answer to your question, sorry, but ummm
    you know the sand hills that you saw on your way in, they were all exposed,
    whereas now most of them, or a lot of them, have much vegetation covering
    them. They say that it was possibly the rabbits, you know, and now that the
    rabbits have … the rabbits apparently pull the grass, etc. from the roots and
    ummm they say with the control of the rabbits that the vegetation has now
    been able to get a bigger go on or whatever, but … so perhaps with that and
    ummm trees and things like that. I don’t really know why that is thicker but
    it certainly must have an effect on the control of the dust storms. Well it
    does because …

I   Ann Kidd thought it might also be related to the move from sheep to cows,
    because sheep didn’t …

R   Oh, right, yes.

I   It’s very interesting.

R   Yes, that’s interesting. It is, too. Yes, Trish.

I   Had your Mum wanted to come to Windorah or has this been one of your
    Dad’s schemes?

R   Women/Work: Housework

    00:27:52:14       It would have been Dad’s scheme, yes. Mum was versatile.
    Mum was an extremely hardworking woman, very much a lady, and I
    admired her so much. She worked very hard, as most women did in those
    days, but she reared six children, having had two sets of twins and ummm
    she, as I said before, she scrubbed floors on her hands and knees. You know,
    mops weren’t clean. That was Mum’s opinion. She made all of our clothes
    on a treadle sewing machine. I remember her excitement when my father
    bought her a 32-volt sewing machine on a farm that we lived on. She baked
    everything we ate ummm as in bread. She made our own butter, or we sort
    of, I was designated that job in Year 2 I think, but ummm you know, so I
    mean Mum was a woman who was an extremely hard worker and ummm I
    think that she would have gone wherever my father decided that we might
    move or wherever they decided that we might move to, and she fitted in to
    Windorah very easily.       She didn’t complain.   I mean, Dad went about
    building, or installing a 32-volt electricity plant and ummm fixing up the
    place and making it as liveable as possible, I suppose, with the isolation and
    everything then, you know, and access to materials and things. But I often
    thought about her because I thought about what she’d left behind ummm and
    what she’d sort of moved to, and yet she did that with grace and humour and
    whatever it took to .... yeah.                    00:30:02:08

I   Tell me about working on the telephone exchange. Where was the exchange
    in Windorah? Paint a picture for me. You’re 15, 16?

R   Women/Work: Switchboard

    00:30:11:18    Yes, and the exchange was within the Post Office itself.
    Ummm there was a much bigger building there at the time. It actually burnt
    down in a fire several years ago. There was just a small switchboard, you
    know, with the little shutters that dropped down to expose the number that
    was calling in and ummm I suppose we’ll always remember the long short
    longs and the long and two shorts and the rings that ummm each station or
    whatever had. Ummm I enjoyed the exchange. I think the exchange was a
    lifeline. It certainly was then. At night time, I remember, we plugged, we
    would plug somebody from town into each property and I think the police
    station … I’m not too sure if we plugged the police station through to the
    Longreach Exchange but there was certainly somebody there from town that
    was plugged through to Longreach Exchange so that we had … probably
    people had contact at night if they had an emergency and needed to phone
    through, and there was also a contact to Longreach. But most young girls
    from Windorah during that era worked on the telephone exchange at some
    time, I’m sure, yes. Cheryl did as well, and for many years. But of course
    it’s been replaced with STD and UHF radios are much more common and
    communication’s improved.                          00:31:42:20

I   Would you run the galah session or did that come with radio and …?

R   Facilities/Galah Sessions

    00:31:47:02    That wasn’t actually a part of the Post Office ummm from
    property to property. I took part in the galah sessions while at Currawilla
    ummm you know it takes ten minutes to call around and each lady on each
    property would speak to each other, or gentleman, or whichever, and just you
    know make sure that everything’s fine and everybody’s okay.         Ummm I
    can’t imagine their excitement when the telephones were connected to those
    properties. I remember the first time I pulled up at Betoota and saw a Telstra
    phone box in front of Betoota Hotel. I honestly did not believe that I would
    see the day. It was a wonderful feeling.

I   So some people are nostalgic about the galah sessions. Do you think that’s
    crazy or was there a way in which it was linking everybody together?

R   00:32:37:06     I think you can afford to be, once you have a telephone
    installed ummm but no, during the years when that was your communication,
    that was the way that you checked on everybody. You knew, even if you had
    an accident or … oh, would have called the Flying Doctor base, but if there
    was somebody called through that needed the next door property to know
    that they were going to be there in X amount of time, or that they’d left the
    property that we were on, at least you know that if you can’t call anybody
    that they will be on that session. I remember my husband and I had car
    trouble once out near Betoota and ummm German tourists came through.
    They were non-English speaking tourists and ummm I wrote them a note to
    give to Simon                     at Betoota and then crossed everything we
    owned I think, and they did that, and you knew well then that by five o’clock
    that afternoon that he would be on that session and word would be passed to
    the property that we were broken down on, so I mean, you put your
    confidence in that and that was what you had to depend on.

I   Tell me about … was your job as a lady’s help the next job? You told me
    once on the phone. What was your next job after being a telephone operator?

R   I did go to ahhh … when I left the exchange, I’m just trying to remember in
    which order I did this. I don’t want to get it wrong. Ummm I worked …