Bega Pioneers' Museum has countless files on people and places. This one was written by Len Spindler about his life in the Valley. This extract is set in the Depression years and Len is working on the Bega sewerage works.
THERE is a 10-inch pipe going from the pumping station near Ready Cut to the treatment works in Wee Howards. All those pipes were caulked at the joints with rope yarn, the boiling lead poured in. Arthur Tyghe and I worked on the whole line. George Britten, Kelvan Love, myself, and an Aboriginal called Charlie were the top tunnel diggers. After some time a few of us were put on full time. I was whacked on the head one day with a nine pound hammer and had eight weeks off (on the dole, no compo) with a fractured skull. After that I left the job and returned to timber cutting.
The next job of any size was the latter end of Tathra Road to the wharf. Burt, Bolton and Hayward had the contract and they brought their picked men with them and used them as pacemakers against us. I saw 28 men start above the Tathra pub using No 7 square-mouthed shovels and eight still there at knock-off time. All the rest were sacked. Ray Unwin was quarry boss and a damn hard man. He’d sacked a man for going to the toilet too often and you had to roll your smokes overnight, not while on the job. As horse and drays were used a lot, they were filled by one man each side, so they picked a right and left handed man for each dray. The ganger would yell out, “Fill the back of your shovel, the front will fill its bloody self”.
There were thousands of men in the same circumstances. In the 1930s there were no unions and your boss worked you from daylight till dark and paid you just what he liked. If you didn’t accept these conditions, your wife and kids went hungry.
Silo filling was a job we would wait for and it lasted about six to eight weeks. It was hard work but the Parberys were good people to work for. I would usually get the job of carting the corn from paddock to silo, driving two horses, Bonny and Royal. Clem Parbery would give us morning tea and hard biscuits that Minna would make. When they were building the cheese factory, Dad and I gathered up 100 bags of charcoal out of the bush to put in the walls for insulation. Ray Cooper was the cheesemaker at that time.