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.

Him and his brothers and his sister, the four of them, they ran all the SP [starting price, illegal] bookmaking in Erskineville. Well, I used to run the bets for them, and my brother, Jack and I, and Terry, we all ran the bets. Dad and mum, they operated out of Albert Street; my aunt operated in George Street; my other uncle operated in Charles Street; and my other uncle, he operated up where he lived at Auburn, but the other three did it all in Erskineville and we used to run around and get the bets for every race.

Was it fun?

Yes, it was serious, but it was fun. I know mum and dad bought Jack a pumped-up [inflated tyres] scooter. Well, I used to use that then to run the bets with. You’d go in; say I’d knock on your door, you’d have your bets written out, you’d have thruppence [threepence] each way or sixpence in those days, and you’d give me the bet on your slip, and give me the money and I’d put it in my pocket or whatever I had. Then I had a certain amount of streets to do because you had to be back before the race was run, and then you’d give them to dad or mum, and they’d look after the slips and then you’d take off again for the next race.

Sue Rosen