Posted by Joy McCaffrey on May 25, 2018
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the conversation you have on meeting someone for the first time and they ask “so how long have you been in Taree”. My standard answer is that I’m a local. So what does being a local mean?
In my case it means that my paternal great great grandparents arrived here from Sussex in 1838 and settled on land at Dingo Creek and are buried at the Wingham Cemetery.
Their names were John Smith, who married Mary Brown – the truth! Their son, my great grandfather was born during their voyage as the ship rounded the Cape of Good Hope and so he was christened Henry Hope Smith. He moved as an adult to the Camden Haven area and is buried at the Kendall Cemetery.
My grandfather George Smith owned a bullock team in the Camden Haven area then farmed in the Manning Region and at one stage he was educated at evening classes conducted by the poet Henry Kendall. I was 6 years old when he came to live with us (of course there were no nursing homes here then) and i learnt such a lot from him. He had a sharp mind and loved telling stories from his past.
He introduced me to Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson whose writings were reminiscent of his younger years. Five of his sons served in the 2nd World War, one having been a POW for 3 1/2 years. He died aged 102 when I was 20. I missed him terribly but feel blessed to have had such a close connection with him over those years.
My maternal great grandparents George and Lucy Levick had a farm at Taree Estate, across the road from Levicks Lane, which has obviously been named in their honour. My grandfather and his siblings all went across the river to school in Tinonee.
My grandparents are buried in the private Taree Estate Cemetery alongside the Wynters, Fletts and our Dyball relatives (two Levicks married two Dyballs). My parents worked the Levick farm after my dad returned from the 2nd World War, but when it had to be sold he joined the railway for secure employment and became a train driver.
Some of my Levick great uncles were builders and constructed many of our early local buildings, including the Taree, Tinonee and Cundletown schools, St. Thomas’s Anglican Church in Cundletown and the Wesley Church in Manning Street, now a BWS outlet – I’m sure they would be outraged at that!
My father purchased a block of land in Deb Street like a lot of railway men because of its close proximity to the locomotive depot and he said people questioned why they would want to live “way out there” but soon the area grew and in 1954 I started school at Taree West Primary School, the year after it had opened. Neil Hanington and Rhonda Blanch were among the first intake in 1953.
I attended Taree High (where four generations of my immediate family studied). Ian Woollard was also in my year. Then I did a secretarial course at Taree Technical College (now TAFE) – where our very revered Rotarian Bob Young was Principal.
I gained employment at TMC as a stenographer then was promoted to secretary to the Town Clerk, Mr Clyde Powditch. Those days the mayor, Mr Eric Martin sat in on the interview panel and he terrified me! Max Carey and Brian Braithwaite were excellent serving aldermen around that time. Mr Braithwaite was also my dentist and I still chuckle when I think of sitting in the dentist chair and he was doing an examination and whispering to June, who was his assistant “a ok 3 half erupted 5 minor disaster”.
During my council days I was proud to be involved with the presentation of our submission to encourage industry to decentralise here and we were very successful with Speedo, Grasslands and Lester Bonney Leathergoods among the first to arrive.
When Wayne and I decided to marry in 1969 (of course with wedding invitations beautifully made by Ralph Godwin’s Classic Printers) I had to make a formal request to stay on the council staff as a married woman and it was put before a committee meeting and after hearing the Town Clerk’s recommendation, it was agreed that I could remain – how times have changed!
I subsequently had my daughter Kylie then my son Craig and during their early years I did various casual work, including (and you must forgive my crossing over to the dark side) when I was employed by the International Secretary of Lions International. John Stone was one of our former health and building inspectors. I also worked for Dr Bruce Hunter when he served as National Secretary of the GPSA. I assisted during the amalgamation which took place between TMC, MSC and WMC. That was a pretty stressful time as no-one wanted it, as usual. I also did temp work at Chatham Medical Centre for our very own Dr. Col (when he was the young doc in the group).
When my children were both at school I worked permanently for one of our first orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Ben Teo, then Wendy McKeough poached me to work with her for our Federal Member for Lyne Mr Bruce Cowan. That was a very interesting time because while I was there he served both in government and opposition. Of course it was before computers, so Mr Cowan would phone from Canberra, dictate a press release which we took down in shorthand, then typed up and sent to the media. Would you believe when I left this position Joy Mccaffrey took my place.
In 1984 my former husband and I, together with our friends Chris and Gus Buderus started a business known as Town Plumbing Supplies. You may have heard the Buderus name as their son Danny was a Newcastle Knights player, who went on to captain NSW and Australia. We began in rented premises opposite Eggins Bus Depot, worked extremely hard and in 1990 we purchased 3 blocks of land in the newly developed subdivision on the corner of Whitbread and Muldoon Streets, which had been the site of a former sawmill. In 1998 we expanded our operations to Forster as the area out there was developing rapidly and although we were servicing there daily, the Forster residents didn’t want to come into Taree to shop.
Both families brought a son into the business and we imagined trading indefinitely, however in 2012 we were pleasantly surprised when the multinational plumbing supplies company Reece approached us to buy both our stores plus the Taree premises. Only the year before we had subdivided our land and sold the corner premises to our tenant Ross Greenshields, who operates Rocket Tools. That was originally built as part of our superannuation plan.
During our 28 years in business we employed over 100 local men and women, some staying with us for over 20 years, while other young men were re-employed (some on a number of occasions) after having overseas adventures or trips to the big smoke, then realising that paradise was right here.
Throughout these years, we had our family holidays at Black Head (some now know it as Hallidays Point, but I still call it Blackhead). People laughed when they knew we only travelled that far for our annual holidays, but lots of our friends, particularly from Wingham, also went there and we had a fabulous time. Why go any further away from the magical beaches we have here?
During these years i studied community welfare at TAFE and did a counselling course with the Smith Family. Following my dear dad’s passing I chose to become a Legatee because he had been a passionate supporter of Legacy. It was there I met Les Hogarth, who has been a tireless worker for the organisation. I looked after the interests of eleven widows and was very involved with the annual badge day. It is now up to the baby boomers and beyond to become involved.
I have been a member of Quota International and delivered Meals on Wheels and library books to house-bound residents through that service club.
I reluctantly resigned from both Quota, then Legacy when my dear mum needed more assistance with daily living and when she entered residential care at Bishop Tyrrell Place I became a volunteer there. She is now almost 95 and still residing there.
My family has always been the main focus of my life. My daughter Kylie studied nursing at Newcastle University and worked at Royal North Shore Hospital before travelling overseas to the UK and doing the Australian nanny gig and European tours, etc. She became an international flight attendant with Emirates and lived in Dubai before settling in Port Macquarie. She has two step-sons and one step-daughter. The eldest Alex joined the army after leaving school and is now a registered nurse at the Sydney hospital for the criminally insane - using all the combat skills he learnt in the army.
Tim is in 5th year medicine and is currently spending a year in Taree working at our hospital and loving the experience immensely.
The youngest Amanda is in 2nd year medicine at Newcastle University.
My son Craig worked with us at Town Plumbing Supplies for ten years then married an American following a year long trip there. He worked at Boeing in Seattle as a quality inspector on wings. He worked on the production of the first 787. I have two grand daughters aged 15 and 14 who live with their mother in the US. Craig is currently working here as a support worker in various local schools.
Just prior to Christmas 2016 my dear friends Kylie and Ashley Cleaver said they would like to introduce me to a special friend of theirs by the name of David Denning. After 12 years of single life I was not too sure, but they insisted we would get on well.
So…Ashley and Kylie took us out for dinner and our lives have been beautifully enriched. One of our first outings was to Jemma Sisia’s night about the school of St Jude. David’s passion for Rotary was evident and I very quickly became interested in the organisation. I was impressed by the palpable positive energy and genuine fellowship I observed, when I was a guest at Rotary gatherings and would genuinely like to thank all members who have always made me feel most welcome.
My decision to become a member of the Rotary Club of Taree was made with a sincere desire to serve the community and as part of a Rotary group which travelled to Kokoda last September. It was wonderful being involved in overseas service.
Kokoda was a very emotional experience for me as I saw firsthand where my father had served with the 2/33rd infantry battalion and I saw places he had talked to me about and I heard names I remember from my youth. The PNG people still speak of Australia’s war assistance and Rotarians are so respected because of their work with the hospital in Kokoda.
So I’ll continue to proudly tell anyone that I’m a local who was born here and has lived here all my life and will be laid to rest here. However I have just acquired an apartment in Port Macquarie to spend relaxation time – a little bit further away than Blackhead, but still with great family history ties.
Club member, Max Carey, gave the vote of thanks to Sandi on behalf of the club.