Brian Harrison was born in 1946 and moved to Millers Point as a baby. His family ran several boarding houses and residentials in the area. In his interview he talks about his well-known aunt the activist and landlady Shirley Ball; social distinctions between Dawes Point and Millers Point; the ‘Battle of the Landladies’; local characters; unsavoury aspects of boarding house life; thugs and crooks; his different jobs and merchandising businesses; personal issues; individual tenants; resident action; and the maintenance of historic buildings. In the excerpt below he discusses the daily work involved in running a boarding house.
This interview is part of Housing NSW’s 2005 Millers Point Oral History Project. The City of Sydney acknowledges the State Library of New South Wales as the archival custodian of the project and digital preserver of the masters.
What we did, every Tuesday we changed their linen, which meant there was a lot of washing. A hell of a lot of washing in those days. It was in a copper, it was wood, stirring it, there was the old wringer. There was a lot of cleaning as well because we also cleaned their room, we polished their floors and in those days it was on your hands and knees, there wasn’t the polisher. Runners down the hall, doing the lino or the wood beside it. It was getting the brass rods on every step, taking them out and cleaning them.
If I wanted to take a day off school my mother would tell me I would have to stay at home and work, if she knew I wasn’t sick. So I would have to work, I’d have to clean the rods, I’d have to polish, I’d have to clean cupboards. To go into strange men’s rooms, and we had keys all the time, open them and all their personal things are there. You strip their sheets off which could be smelly but in those days you didn’t even think about it. You would clean the floor, sweep it, polish it, it was a hard life, a hard life.