Ninth St, Harvey

In about 1962 we moved south, from Kelmscott to the small dairying town of Harvey. With a population at the time of about 2000, situated on the coastal plain just west of the Darling Scarp and about 140 kms south of Perth. My parents, having left the Free Reformed Church in Armadale because of some disagreement, were looking for a new church home. A family friend, Bill L, had moved down to Harvey and was part of the young Reformed Church of Harvey, Collie and District – which was later to become the Brunswick Junction Reformed Church and is now the Australind Christian Reformed Church. He convinced Dad and Mum that the life in Harvey was good and that they might like to check it out. They did, sold up the property in Third Avenue Kelmscott, and moved to Harvey. From my 10 year old boy’s perspective it was a great move! I loved the more country lifestyle and the need for looking after yourself.

The first house we lived in was an old farmhouse on the corner of Ninth St and Korejikup Avenue, a couple of miles out of town. The house was old and rundown, but my memories of it are good. Once I was rough-housing with my brothers in the passageway. The walls up to half height were lined with solid Jarrah timber, which had been painted a blue colour. As we tumbled around the passage I thumped up against the wall and it just crumbled! It had been totally eaten by termites and only the paint was keeping it together. ‘You’ll get in trouble from Mum!’ my brother yelled. I didn’t, because Mum realised that it was an old house and that we were just being boys. For the rest of our time there there was a gaping hole in the wall of the passage. That house is long gone! Now all that’s there is an ornamental lake.

One sad incident of which I am not particularly proud happened when visitors came. I had been given a budgie which had a cage made of a wooden box with a wire mesh front. I looked after the budgie carefully and made sure it had food and water. Or I thought I did. I had a tray full of seed in the bottom of the cage, and looked at it daily. It always seemed to have seed in it, so I’d just put clean water in the water bowl and that was it. One day visitors came and I wanted to show off my budgie, but when I went to the cage it was lying dead on the bottom of the cage! In shock and shame I grabbed the budgie, ran out past the startled guests and threw the budgie out into the long grass around the house. The grass was Kikuyu grass which had once been a lawn but now was several feet high. I sadly took the cage out and put it out on the verandah. Cleaning out the cage I realised that what had seemed to be seed in the tray was only the husks of seeds. The poor bird had starved to death!

Just up the road from us on a farm on Korejikup Ave about halfway between Ninth St and Eighth St lived the M family. Sid and Jean and their children Barry, Gloria, Des, and Kimberley. An old farmhouse with an equally old dairy, but the family were great people who were destined to become friends. I was over there often playing with Barry and Des.

But more than playing was the wonder of visiting the dairy and being allowed to help with certain parts of the work of milking the cows. The first thing was to change the milk cans when they were full. The milk came from the cows via a vacuum pipe. As I remember the pipes were of chrome plated brass, rather than the now universally used stainless steel. I can still hear the ‘sheesshh thak!’ sound of the milking machine as it pulsed through the process of extracting milk from cows. From there it went into a large round tank, and from there, by gravity over a cooler and then into a long tray perhaps four feet long and six or eight inches wide, with an one inch hole at each end. Under each of these was a standard milk can which, if I remember correctly, held twenty gallons. Our job was to regularly check the cans and when one was full, put a rubber stopper in the hole above it, move the can out of the way and replace it with another, and remove the stopper.

At the end of milking we had to take the full milk cans on a little trolley out to the milk stand along side the road. The milk stand was just two layers of sleepers and was not much more than a foot off the ground. The trolley was a wooden platform with an axle and a couple of pneumatic tyres, with a wooden draw-bar and a piece of pipe for a handle. It too was about a foot or so from the ground, so transferring the milk cans to the milk stand was pretty straightforward. A truck with two decks, the upper full of empty milk cans and the lower filling up with full ones, would come and take away the full cans and leave replacement empty ones for the next morning’s milking.

We also used to take out the tractor to spread hay for the cows. The tractor was an old grey Ferguson tractor – a ‘Grey Fergie’ with a three point linkage with a tray. We would load three bales of hay on to the tray and Barry would drive the tractor around the paddock and I would sit on the tray and throw out slabs of hay all over the paddock. The cows would be arriving back from the milking and would follow the tractor until they came to a nice piece of hay …

© Willem Schultink