Looking Back: More work than play for valley kids

 Bega Pioneers' Museum has countless files on people and places. This one was written by Len Spindler about his life in the Valley in the early 1900s. The whole family was working at Jack Taylor's farm on the Tathra Road and Len when not at school helped in the dairy.

Hard work: Lot Stafford, the owner of the brickworks where Len Spindler worked when he was 14.  Len's job was to push barrows of clay up a plank to tip into the mill.

Hard work: Lot Stafford, the owner of the brickworks where Len Spindler worked when he was 14. Len's job was to push barrows of clay up a plank to tip into the mill.

WHEN the cows were left too long in the lucerne paddock they would bloat, swell up and bellow.

Dad showed me how to stick a sharp knife in its guts, just behind the last rib, allowing the gas to escape. In a short time she would be on her feet again. I always carried a pointed, skinning knife tied to my saddle, just for this purpose.

Dad wouldn’t allow Mum to take even one cup of cream, so my sister, Muriel, would fill a little billycan with cream, wrap her old jumper over it and tie the jumper around her neck. Next day we would have scones and homemade butter.

About this time Mum started writing pieces for the Bega paper, under the pen name of Kate O’Connor. Strange to say, Mrs Taylor’s maiden name was Kate O’Connor, sister to Captain O’Connor of the good ship Cobargo. For years no one knew my mother was the writer.

After a big flood in Penuka swamp I’d go with Dad, shooting snakes driven out by the flood. We would shoot up to 20 in one morning. The only sport we had was racing down the steep hills on slides we made out of tin. Finally we had to stop that as the farmer said we were wearing out the grass.

Lot Stafford started brickmaking in Jack Taylor’s paddock. Bill Stafford and Paddy McGovern were the moulders. I started work there pushing barrows of clay up a plank to tip into the mill, which was turned by a horse walking around in a circle.

Jack O’Shea worked with me when he first came to Tathra. I tried to handle the brick mould, but couldn’t. There were usually 80,000-100,000 bricks in the kiln, which was kept burning, day and night, for seven days.

We stayed for three years on Taylor’s dairy, by which time we were pretty fed up, so when John Darcy called for a family of four milkers, Mum, Dad, Dot and myself (Muriel had gone with Fred Monk), moved to the Number Two dairy on Warragaburra. The Richards were on Number One and for the first time in three years we were all happy.

Now we were getting eight shillings in the pound from the cream cheque, and the same for pigs. Dad would buy them small and fatten them.