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.

White Wings [company] used to have their flour mill on the corner of Balfour Street and Meagher Street. Being kids we used to pester them and they used to give us bags of flour and cake mixes and all this business. And another thing, Vitabrits [breakfast cereal] used to have a big factory up in Shepherd Street and we used to go to Blackfriars School and on our way home or going to school we used to call in the Vitabrits factory and they used to give us big bags of broken Vitabrits. And then in Abercrombie Street near Cleveland Street used to be a saveloy factory – it’s marvellous how the kids know where to get something for nothing – and they used to give us all the broken frankfurts and the saveloys and we used to think it was lovely, take it home to our parents. And then the Aeroplane Jelly [factory] was in Cleveland Street and they used to give us little bags of Aeroplane jellies and we used to sit there and eat the jelly crystals. And there used to be Allen’s lolly factory up in Shepherd Street too and I’m afraid they got many a visit from us kids from the Blackfriars School. The Sunshine Club in Abercrombie Street, they used to give us a free meal – it’s marvellous that the kids know where the free meals are – right opposite St Benedict’s School, we used to go there. Certain days they had this free meal on and then the Sydney City Mission used to be in Meagher Street, they used to have what they call a soup kitchen, and all of us kids used to go up there, used to get a bowl of soup and you used to get two slices of bread. And then after school if we took our billycans there they used to make the soup in a big gas copper [mainly used for washing clothes] and any soup that was left over us kids used to get it in the billycans and take it home to our people. Things were tough; you wouldn’t do it now, but in those days it was necessary.

Sue Rosen