Memories of Gawler 1945-1959

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MEMORIES of Gawler in 1945 to 1959 - BRIAN GORDON THOM

Born at the old Hutchinson Hospital on East Terrace, Gawler on 20-01-45 to David Murray Thom and Gweneth Margaret Thom [nee Oldland], my earliest recollection was that Dad, Mum and I lived at Mrs Croft’s home at 6 Para Road Evanston [opposite to where Ken Brereton lived] with its then very high green hedge. It had a cellar that you could walk down into, after one went out of the back door from the open veranda.

When I was born, after seeing me and my mother, the Grandparents were going back to Edithburgh when their car hit a bus, I think, in a severe dust storm near Port Wakefield. That experience didn’t help their longevity because of prolonged hospitalisation.

David was a shunter at Gawler Railway Station [after having been allocated to Bridgewater, and then Wolseley during WW2 with SAR], and Gwen did not resume work after working at Myer’s in Adelaide with her friend Emily (who married Alan Laws at Wudinna EP, and who died in the late 50s I think), among others.

I obviously cannot remember a lot from age 3 to age 5, except that at about age 4, Mum took me to the dentist [John Sampson I think] and I had teeth removed using ether; the smell of which I can recollect today, so too the filling of ones tongue into the bloody cavity left behind. The Surgery on the East side of Murray Street was opposite Jacob Lane, south of and next to where Cash Converters are in 2015.

With Mrs Croft, a widow in her 60’s, lived an older Miss McCormack and, between them, they used to spoil me rotten. Down the back of the very long yard, which abutted the railway siding/spur line, I used to watch the steam trains being shunted onto the turntable, so as to be able to turn the trains around to go back to Adelaide. Mrs Croft used to have fowls and I delighted to help her scythe the lucerne crop which then got cut up in the circular blade slicer by turning the handle.

Her back veranda had a seat on which I used to stand, making out that I could “see” the racehorses running around the Gawler Racecourse and I was “calling the field”. As one walked under the veranda towards the house, one went through the right hand door into her “lean-to”, a long and narrow back kitchen; with the wood stove generally going. Her afternoon teas were a delight and even after shifting to 13 Gawler Terrace, in about 1950 I used to ride my bike over to see Mrs Croft every week or so, for a good old chat. She was only about 5 foot tall and had a hunch-back, but was a very strong person who was liked by everyone. She was active in the CWA. Her daughter was “auntie” Clara and she was a lovely person who also spoiled me. [I never met her husband but I think he was unwell for many years. She lived at Ovingham]. Mrs Croft looked after me whenever Mum and Dad went on a rare holiday. Over the road, on the corner of Para and Hillier roads, was old Cliff Brereton, who was a bit like Lloyd Modra, in that he used to attend all the clearing sales and he hoarded stuff. I can still picture Cliff riding his bike down Hillier road. [When Cliff died in the 70’s or 80’s, they found the place to be a pig-sty, with many years of newspapers stacked up. It took ages to clear the house; subsequently bulldozed.]

Please click here to continue reading about Gawler memories, as recalled by Brian Thom.

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