Our City

A collection of interviews about different places in the City of Sydney

Our City
City of Sydney Archives SRC76

The City of Sydney is characterised by diverse neighbourhoods, each with their own personalities. Locals reflect on different places in Sydney in which they have participated: their significance, meaning and transformations.

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  • Graeme Goodsell

    Graeme Goodsell

    Graeme Goodsell is an architect who was born 1943. After working in private enterprise he took up a position with the Housing Commission of New South Wales [now Housing NSW]. In his interview he talks about many aspects of management of historic housing, his work with public housing buildings in other parts of Sydney, in-fill and rehabilitation of old buildings; arguments about pragmatism vs preservation; relative costs; urban renewal; differing government approaches to public housing and concepts of social and welfare housing. In the excerpt below he recalls the disruption caused within the Millers Point community when the Department of Housing [now Housing NSW] took over management of properties formerly managed by the Maritime Services Board.

  • Phyllis Flynn

    Phyllis Flynn

    Phyllis Flynn was born in 1920 and lived most of her life Millers Point. In her interview she recalls her childhood, schooling, nuns and priests, the death of a baby, neighbours, shipping lines, the building and opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the opening of the Sydney Opera House, demographic change and unpopular pub crawls. In the excerpt below she recalls sheep being brought to Dalgety’s Bond Store in the early 1930s, when wool was still a major export from the Sydney wharves.

  • Joe Fitzpatrick

    Joe Fitzpatrick

    Joe Fitzpatrick was born in 1931 in rural NSW and came to live in Millers Point in 1954 when he started work at the nearby General Post Office [GPO] where he spent his working life. In his interview he talks about living in boarding houses; playing chess and other activities; various types of people he has known around the Point; hotels; assisting with the Queen’s visit in 1954; work as a radio announcer in later life; and his work in the local area with the St Vincent de Paul Society. In the excerpt below he remembers the various kinds of technology employed in the GPO in the 1950s.

  • Joyce Feeney

    Joyce Feeney

    Joyce Feeney was born in 1932 and lived in Millers Point until the late 1980s, when she moved to the NSW Central Coast. In her interview she talks about kindergarten, girls’ education,
    Millers Point’s negative reputation, employment; tourism and pub crawls, and the many friends and neighbours who have left the area to live elsewhere. In the excerpt below she recalls social divisions between Protestants and Catholics in the waterside community.

  • Warren Cox

    Warren Cox

    Warren Cox was born in 1947 and grew up in Millers Point. In his interview he talks about school, childhood, sailing, swimming, fishing, billy carts, hotels, changing demography and many other aspects of life on The Point. Like his father before him he worked as a wharf labourer and he talks at length about working conditions, safety, and unions on the wharves. In the excerpt below he recollects both noxious trades and serious health hazards associated with waterfront work.

  • Millicent Chalmers

    Millicent Chalmers

    Millicent Chalmers lived on Sydney’s north shore in and came to Millers Point in 1990 with her adult children after she purchased the lease to operate a boarding house in a large old residence. In her interview she talks about the social mix of the area; resident action group activity; excessive alcohol consumption; tourism; establishing Darling House for aged care; and newer residents in high rise buildings. In the excerpt below she recalls the state of her boarding house when she took it over after several years of neglect and occupation by squatters.

  • Dawn Caruana

    Dawn Caruana

    Dawn Caruana was born in 1946 on a dairy farm in northern NSW and trained as a nurse before moving to Millers Point in 1968 when she married a foreman stevedore whose family was part of the waterfront community there. In her interview she talks about working class life; Maritime Services Board; hotels; schools; children; fundraising; the traumatic death of her husband and son; and community reaction to the planned selloff of her house and others in the late 1980s. In the excerpt below she recalls her children’s Catholic infants’ school and two nuns who were identities in the local community.

  • Teri Carter

    Teri Carter

    Teri Carter moved to Millers Point when she was six, with her mother in the 1960s. They lived with Teri’s grandmother, who ran a residential, and her husband. In her interview Teri recalls the life of an only child with a working single mother and hands on grandparents, the several houses she has lived in in Millers Point; conditions, circumstances and strategies for accessing Department of Housing accommodation; friendship, generational change; increasing wealth and developmental pressure in the area and many other topics. In the excerpt below she remembers the experience of living on the edge of Sydney Harbour as a child and as a teenager.

  • Russell Fitchett

    Russell Fitchett

    Russell Fitchett was born in 1948 and grew up in Millers Point. In this wide-ranging interview he recalls roaming with his grandfather – who lived on Observatory Hill – around the area, old trades and occupations, an adventurous 1950s childhood, traditions and conventions of working class life, and his career as a seaman. In the excerpt below Fitchett recalls another cottage on Observatory Hill which was instrumental in guiding shipping through Sydney Harbour.

  • Shirley Fitzgerald

    Shirley Fitzgerald

    Shirley Fitzgerald is the former City Historian and the author, with Christopher Keating, of Millers Point: the Urban Village. In her interview she discusses her personal background, her career in history, and, at length, the history of the Millers Point area and the many factors which have influenced its development. In the excerpt below she analyses the government response to the appearance of Bubonic Plague in Millers Point in 1900.

  • Bill Ford

    Bill Ford

    Bill Ford was born in 1929 and spent his childhood in Millers Point, following on from earlier generations of his family. In this wide-ranging interview he talks about wharf labouring, coal lumping, the reshaping of the local topography for international shipping purposes, housing resumptions, sport, commerce, industrial relations and his own unusual trajectory into a career as an academic. In the excerpt below he talks about the narrow range of job opportunities generally available to local boys of his generation.

  • Des Gray

    Des Gray

    Des Gray was born in 1944 and grew up in Millers Point as the son of a wharf labourer. He describes the life around the area, hotels, SP bookmakers, schooling, ferries and the house he grew up in. In the excerpt below he recalls one aspect of an adventurous childhood.

  • Gaylene Harkin

    Gaylene Harkin

    Gaylene Harkin was born in 1962 in Millers Point, one of nine children, and lived most of her life there. Her family boasts six generations of waterside workers. In her interview she talks about her childhood, waterfront work, women running boarding houses, the cat lady who lived in the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylon, tunnels, being moved from place to place by Housing NSW, Green Bans and other community actions, and her nostalgia for the area now that she lives elsewhere. In the excerpt below she talks about her grandmother’s treatment for her childhood ill-health and the array of pets available in the waterfront location.

  • Chantelle Shackleton and April Harrison

    April Harrison and Chantelle Shackleton

    April Harrison was born in 1990 and Chantelle Shackleton was born 1986. They came with their parents to live in Millers Point when they were little girls. In their interview they give young people’s perspective on living in an historic neighbourhood and talk about kindergartens, playgrounds, school, teachers, strong relationships between the local children, celebrating New Year’s Eve, drug use, sport, their involvement in RocksFest; and mentorships. In the excerpt below they talk about outsiders’ perceptions of The Rocks and Millers point as it undergoes demographic change.

  • Brian Harrison

    Brian Harrison

    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.

  • Frank Hyde

    Frank Hyde

    Frank Hyde was born in in 1916 and grew up in Millers Point. He went on to become a famous rugby league footballer and radio and television commentator. In his interview he talks about aspect of life in the local community, his family, education, the depression, hotels, and his career.
    In the excerpt below he recalls one of the hazards of an adventurous childhood spent around the Sydney wharves.

  • Cathie and Janet Farley

    Janet and Cathie Farley

    Janet and Cathie Farley are mother and daughter born respectively in the late 1930s (in Scotland) and in the late 1950s in Millers Point. In their interview they reflect on their lives as mothers, workers and as part of the local community. They discuss housing in general including living in boarding houses, employment, demographic change, and the ‘separation’ of Millers Point from The Rocks and Dawes Point nearby. In the excerpt below Janet talks about the various local cleaning jobs she did to survive in the 1960s and ‘70s which included the now notorious period of excessive drinking associated with early closing of hotels.

  • Alice Brown

    Alice Brown

    Alice Brown was born in 1917 in The Rocks and grew up in Millers Point in Sydney. She left the area in 1956. In her interview she describes her family’s long association with the area, the maritime locality, neighbours, hawkers, local businesses, recreation and many other topics. In the excerpt below Mrs Brown recalls her mother’s death during the influenza pandemic of 1919.

  • Fiona Campbell

    Fiona Campbell

    Fiona Campbell was born in 1979 in Melbourne and purchased her house in Millers Point in 2003. In her interview she discusses the social makeup of the area, getting to know the locals, changes in use of historical buildings and her membership of the local community action group.
    Interviewed in 2005, Fiona talks about the then anticipated changes to Millers Point, especially former industrial harbourfront land then called East Darling Harbour (now a major commercial and residential development under construction called Barangaroo). In the excerpt below Fiona discusses the effect of uncertainty about the future on public housing tenants.

  • Kath Burgess

    Kath Burgess

    Kath Burgess was born in the 1940s and has lived all her life in Millers Point. There her mother ran a residential (or boarding house) which accommodated seafarers and other local working men. Her father worked further afield in a brewery. In her interview Kath recalls her childhood in Millers Point, supervised playgrounds, her work, travel to Europe with her adventurous mother; Green bans; and the transition of management of local housing from the Maritime Services Board to the Department of Housing. She regrets the many changes she has seen in the local area. In the excerpt below Kath recalls the many local shops of her childhood.

  • Betty Borg

    Betty Borg

    Betty Borg was born in 1930 and lived in Millers Point for 55 years. In her interview she talks about many aspects of life on The Point: childhood, school, teachers, entertainment, women’s employment, changes in the built environment, commerce and industry, shops, hotels, many neighbours, department stores, and the houses she’s lived in. In the excerpt below she recalls the famous event when Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour in 1942.

  • Michael Armstrong

    Michael Armstrong

    Dr Michael Armstrong was born in 1951 and spent his early childhood in Millers Point where his family had a long association with the well-known Palisade Hotel. He talks about his family’s Irish roots, upward mobility, and hotels as places for meetings, social life, golfing clubs and more. In the excerpt below he talks about the necessity for preservation of the built heritage of Millers Point whilst the area undergoes dramatic change.

  • Amanda Barlow

    Amanda Barlow

    Amanda Barlow was born in 1943 into a wharf labouring family and has lived all her life in Millers Point. In her interview she recalls childhood, local playgrounds, women’s domestic work, school, hotels, unions, the various houses she lived in, life as a single working mother and changes in the built fabric and social mix of the area. In the excerpt below she recalls action taken by local residents with the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation of New South Wales to prevent demolition of historic buildings and new development in the early 1970s.

  • Lawrie Anderson

    Lawrie Anderson

    Lawrie Anderson was born in Victoria in 1927. After stints in the Australian Navy and being a private driver for VIPs he bought a sandwich shop with his wife in Millers Point and lived in the area for many years. In his interview he talks about the ‘magic’ quality of life, local families, deep community networks, crime, landladies, and unwelcome demographic change. In the excerpt below he discusses men’s occupations in this waterside community.

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    Michael Cuomo

    “If you put a hundred per cent into it, Redfern itself will turn around and put a hundred per cent effort into supporting you, Redfern itself will do that”. So says local business owner Michael Cuomo of the inner-city village he has supplied with fruit and veg since around 2010.The side-by-side fruit shop, deli and flower shop which bear Mickey’s name have enlivened what used to be the shadowy corner of Pitt and Redfern Streets. In this oral history interview, Michael talks about Redfern with fellow resident Geraldine O’Brien: its character, its demographic mix, and how it has evolved over time. In the entertaining excerpt below, Michael describes one of the colourful regulars at the shop.

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    Kathy Ingram

    Kathy Ingram was born in 1945 and lived much of her life in Waterloo. In her interview she talks about her childhood and life around the inner city of Sydney; entertainment; school; ethnicity; Aboriginality and other aspects of life in the 1950s and ‘60s. In the excerpt below she recalls the proximity and ready availability of factory work in Waterloo in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, a time of full employment and flourishing industry.

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    Grace Schwebel

    Grace Schwebel was born in Newtown in 1916. In her long interview she discusses a very broad range of subjects including: middle class life, multiculturalism, religion, sectarianism, orphanages, factory work, home births and abortion, illnesses and death, racism, marriage breakdown, the depression, political movements, and her fleeting contact with (one-time suffragette) Adela Pankhurst Walsh. In the excerpt below she talks about the widespread early twentieth century practice of letting out rooms to boarders.

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    Dean Ingram

    Dean Ingram was born in 1975 and grew up in Waterloo and Redfern. In his interview he remembers many aspects of life in the area; playing, after-school care, unhappiness at school, childhood haunts, his paper run, and land rights marches in 1988, Australia’s Bicentennial year. In the excerpt below he recalls his involvement as a teenager in a community project promoting sex education for young people.

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    Jane Lanyon

    Jane Lanyon was born in 1920 in Chippendale and moved to nearby Redfern when she was six. In her interview she recalls many facets of her childhood: local industry, poverty, midnight ‘flits’ to avoid the landlord, and many other survival strategies. In the excerpt below she recalls the ingenuity employed by local children to gather free food during the Depression.

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    Harry Brennan

    Harry Brennan was born in 1949 and came to Alexandria, inner city Sydney, when he was seven. He grew up in family of twelve children, another four having died in infancy. In his interview he describes working class life and his father’s early death. He also recalls his widowed mother’s political involvement and her work as a barmaid and factory worker, and many aspects of childhood including entertainment, Cracker Night, the Speedway, and children’s paid work. In the excerpt below he remembers selling newspapers as a boy at the workshops at the Eveleigh rail yards, which once dominated the local landscape.

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    Robert Hammond

    Robert Hammond was born in Alexandria in 1927. In his interview he talks about domestic work and industry; childhood work including helping his father with a milk run; local betting, sly grog, criminals and characters; World War II and American soldiers and many other facets of life in the ‘30s and ‘40s. In the excerpt below he recalls household refrigeration and shopping patterns in the 1930s.

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    Beverley Hunter

    Beverley Hunter (former councillor on South Sydney Council) was born in 1935 and grew up in Chippendale in a house occupied by five generations of her family. In her interview she talks about her wharf labourer father’s war-related Tuberculosis; daily working class life in the area; childhood entertainments; factory work; social life in hotels; friendship; and the swallowing of the suburb of Darlington by the University of Sydney. In the excerpt below she discusses the convention of shopping on ‘tick’.

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    Bev Karonidis

    Bev Karonidis was born in Redfern in 1936. In her interview she recalls many aspects of life there including close family relationships, the experience of World War II, the Methodist Mission, ethnicity, children’s work, the Australian Labor Party and household entertainments. In the excerpt below she recalls the excitement when Wirth’s Circus came to town.

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    Vivi Germanos Koutsounadis

    Vivi Germanos Koutsounadis was born in Greece in 1946, came to Sydney’s Glebe in 1954 and moved to Redfern three years later. In her interview Vivi talks broadly about the experience of migrant families new to Sydney, the sea voyage, factory employment, schooling, social life, food and long hours in her parents’ milk bar. In the excerpt below she recalls her family’s support for the Aboriginal community in Redfern.

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    Ted McDermott

    Ted McDermott was born in Redfern in 1925 and spent most of his life there. In his interview he talks about many aspects of working class life including men’s and women’s employment, domestic work, family life, childhood haunts and games, and Cracker Night. In the excerpt below he recalls the culture of men fighting in and around hotels in the inner city.

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    Betty Moulds

    Betty Moulds was born in 1925 and grew up in Alexandria. Her coal carter father was a strict disciplinarian, and as the oldest daughter she was removed from school to help her mother with the most recent baby. She recalls horses, trams and a lack of residential utilities; men’s and women’s industrial work; local shops; her father’s WWI-related ailments; protected tenancy; sport and marrying against her parents’ will.

    In the excerpt below she recalls the children’s methods of stretching the family finances.

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    Maureen Oliver

    Maureen Oliver was born in 1926, the oldest of a large, loving and volatile family living in Erskineville. She recalls music, singing, magazines, poetry; her mother’s taste, high standards, concealment of poverty and the ‘order man’; her father’s work; the influence and education of the Catholic church; childhood games; discipline; ‘slums’ and difficult lives. In the excerpt below she recalls her family’s involvement in the illegal but very widespread practise of betting with SP [starting price] bookmakers.

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    Bill Schwebel

    Bill Schwebel was born in 1910 and grew up in Erskineville. In his interview he talks about many issues associated with working class life in the early part of the twentieth century including his father’s work as a hod carrier; extreme poverty; hunger; childhood deafness; his mother’s assistance at homebirths; politics; the influenza epidemic; and vaudeville, amongst many other things. In the excerpt below he recalls stealing handkerchiefs and flags in the wake of the return of Australian troops after World War I.

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    Sir Nicholas Shehadie

    Sir Nicholas Shehadie is a former Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney who grew up in a Lebanese family in Redfern. In his interview he remembers his childhood and many aspects of inner-city life including social life, sport, Orthodox and Maronite churches, and local characters and businesses. In the excerpt below he recalls an experience of the Great Depression in Redfern.

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    Cliff Noble

    Cliff Noble, (a former Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney) was born in Alexandria in 1918, where he has lived all his life. In his interview he traverses a wide range of topics including wakes, the Irish, Lebanese and Greek communities, politics, various notable local characters, children’s games, skylarking, school, food and local government. In the excerpt below he recalls Chinese people who worked in the local market gardens in the 1920s.

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    Loretto Thurgood

    Loretto Thurgood was born in Newtown in 1919 and grew up there and in adjacent Erskineville. Her father was a painter and her mother took care of the house and family. In the excerpt below she recalls Newtown theatres and entertainment.

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    Kate Dunbar

    Kate Dunbar was born in 1923 and came to Australia from England a few years later. In this interview she talks about her home life, her parents’ unsatisfactory marriage, her mother’s shop and her father’s unreliable employment. In the excerpt below she remembers the Depression of the 1930s.

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    Frank Altoft

    Frank Altoft came to Australia from England, aged 10, in 1925. He recalls life during the Depression; entertainment venues; shops; street vendors; gangs; the fate of single mothers; and his working life.

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    Anne Ramsay

    Anne Ramsay was born in 1914 and grew up in Redfern. In this interview she talks about her childhood, her parents, and life in inner Sydney. In the extract below Anne recalls childhood entertainment in the 1920s.

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    Richard Mewjork

    Richard Mewjork grew up in Surry Hills in a Chinese family. In this interview he remembers his 1930s childhood, his mother’s work as a seamstress and cafe proprietor, and his stepfather’s work at the produce markets. Richard also discusses his own varied careers in newspapers, milk bars, door-to-door sales and the car industry. In the excerpt below Richard recalls his brief career as a ‘professional’ wrestler, entertaining the crowds at the Redfern velodrome.

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    Mick Green

    Mick Green is the son of Fred Green, for whom Green Square is named. Fred Green was a Labor MP and Mayor of Alexandria. In this interview Mick describes his childhood and working class life and politics in South Sydney in the 1930s and ’40s. In the excerpt below he discusses his parents’ affection for their children and the impact the Great Depression had on family life.

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    Henry Brown

    Henry Brown grew up in Erskineville in the 1920s and ’30s. In this interview he talks about religion, children’s paid work, recreation, sport and many other aspects of working class life in that period. In the excerpt below Henry describes the joys of transporting ducks and fowls on trams.

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    Gavin Harris

    Gavin Harris has lived in Kings Cross for many decades. In this interview he talks about the history of Sydney’s best known precinct, its architecture, characters, and engagement with the arts of all kinds, as well as its darker underside. In the excerpt below Gavin outlines some of the Cross’s many personality traits.

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    Dario Lo Schiavo

    Dario Lo Schiavo grew up in a Italian household in Potts Point. In this interview he describes his middle class extended family, his parents’ cultural and political pursuits, and schoolboy life in the 1920s and ’30s. In the excerpt below he refers to his artist brother, Virgil Lo Schiavo, and his contact with notable film stars and artists of the period.

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    Nick David

    Nick David owns a convenience shop in Woolloomooloo. In this interview he talks about his Lebanese forebears in the area and further afield, business interests, and the local community during and after the demolitions and redevelopment of recent decades. In the excerpt below he describes the hippie community which occupied the empty houses in the interim and the vibrant street life they brought with them.

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    Giovanni Lo Surdo

    Giovanni Lo Surdo grew up in Woolloomooloo’s Sicilian community in the 1960s. In this interview he talks about the life of the professional fishing community in that suburb; his mother’s work as a seamstress, and his sadness at the loss of the old Woolloomooloo community. In the excerpt below he describes a now disappeared street scene.

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    Sydney Fennell

    Sydney Fennell grew up in Alexandria, a once heavily industrialised inner city suburb. In this interview he talks about his childhood, family, friends and employment in local industry. In the excerpt below Sydney recalls the work he did as a child to earn pocket money to save for Christmas.

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    Michael Toohey

    Michael Toohey grew up in Waterloo, a once heavily industrialised suburb in inner Sydney. In this interview he talks about his family, childhood, work, industry and local connections. In the excerpt below Michael mourns the disappearance of ‘old’ Waterloo people through the process of urban regeneration.