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.
Most of the streets that you see ‘round here, Hiles Street was a market garden, and they went all around the place with these market gardens and, of course, the poor old Chinese, as I say, they worked from daylight to dark and we as children used to really torment them. I can remember, I suppose I got three good hidings in my life, and one was for going over, pinching their vegetables, and brought them home very proudly and when I put them down my father said “Where did you get them?” I said “I pinched them off the Chinks”. He said “Don’t you know that those poor fellows work from daylight to dark and you go over there and just steal their vegetables and bring them home? Now I’m going to make an example of you” and he did. Now, other things that we did to those poor Chinese, they had a great big fat draught horse, he could hardly fit in the shafts, and the only thing that he knew was going from the market gardens down to the city markets; and on the way back invariably the poor old Chinese would go to sleep. And we did the wrong thing, [we] would turn the horse around and he’d go back to the markets. And on one occasion he [the Chinese man] got home, the horse was outside the sliprails, so we got in, we put down the sliprails, put the horse the other side of the sliprails and put the rails back and threw little stones at him to wake him [the Chinese man] up. So he went berserk. He couldn’t make out how the horse got one side of the rails and the cart was the other. So we done all these silly, stupid, awful things to people…. The Chinese farms went all over the other side of McEvoy Street and that area.