Down Memory Lane
With JACK DEVITT*
GRANNY Orton had a small shop and residence in Park Road Bulli, still existing now (1990s) as a hair hairdressing salon next door to Dr. Feneley’s former surgery.
She sold pencils, exercise books, rubbers for school kids plus a few jars of jelly beans, boiled ollies and, from Arnotts biscuit tins with the cocky on the side – Milk Arrowroot, Iced Vovos, Date Sandwhich and Monte Carlo.
If she was busy in the hourse, a little bell she kept on a string on top of the counter was tinkled to summon her. Children bought their school requisites from Granny, who served them with her lovely smile and a kind word plus “hurry up or you will be late for school!”.
Pencils cost a penny, exercise books a penny, both single and double ruled for copy work and a larger book for three pence. She still had slate pencils for the few littlies who used slates.
There was no kindergarten class as it is known today. The first class, those eligible to start school, was called “The Babies” at the Convent [St Josephs Catholic] School.
In 1925 the babies used slates to write on and to rub out they used a damp bit of rag kept in a “Log Cabin” tobacco tin or some such container.
Every nun taught two classes in the one room although over all there were not very many in each class and all were well instructed.
The other “Granny” was Granny Evans who lived in a little house off Farrell Road towards the cemetery where a row of houses now stands.
It was said that she cured herself of arthritis by using a concoction made from boiling prickly pears. Whether she used it as an ointment or drank it is not known.
She was quite happy and reputed to have gone down to the surf every morning, winter and summer, paddling out just far enough to let the waves wash over her legs.
Some said she couldn’t swim, but certainly enjoyed her paddle in the briny and she lived to a ripe old age.
* The late Jack Devitt was born in The Oaks, via Camden on December 12 1917. He arrived in the Illawarra with his family as a boy in 1921 settling in Bulli. He attended St Josephs Catholic School, where he won a bursary to attend Stanislaus College in Bathurst gaining a leaving certificate. He obtained work as a steelworks tally clerk after leaving school on a wage of 32 shillings and six pence a week before being employed as a clerk in the merchant mill. Jack bought his parents’ home in Hospital Road in 1925 and he lived there until his death in 2006 at the age of 88. His local history column, Down Memory Lane, became much loved in the Bulli Times, Corrimal Post and Northern Leader newspapers during the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s. Down Memory Lane was enjoyed by northern Illawarra residents for many years, and has become an important record of life in Bulli during the 1920s and 30s.