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.

One of the great people, councillors, in Newtown was the woman who was Mayoress of Newtown, was Lilian Fowler and she did a terrific amount of work around the district for people being evicted. See, people couldn’t afford to pay it, they didn’t have the money. What happened was that you got your dole which was seven and six (7 shillings and sixpence) a week; and you get thirteen loaves of bread for the fortnight. You’d have to go down to [wharf] 7 Circular Quay, pick up thirteen loaves of bread and that had to last you the two weeks. And then you’d go to the Benevolent Society in Thomas Street and you’d get bacon bones; soup or whatever you could make of them. You’d get the dole at St George’s Hall, St Georges Dance Hall, which is just down in King Street there; quite a lot of people on the dole. Sometimes you got two weeks in five work – relief work – and you used to have to go to Concord where they had the swamps out there, and you dug and made the walls and stopped the swampland from coming in.

Sue Rosen