Reminiscing War Time Strathfield

Mrs. Madeline Knizer of The Boulevarde Strathfield has supplied these details of her early experiences within Strathfield and we thank her for her interest and information.

‘We moved to No. 154 The Boulevarde in 1937. My father, Carl Drayton, had this house built on the old Francis Crago estate. Daisy Crago, (Mrs. Howard Lee) was our next door neighbour, building in 1938. She was the wife of Canon H. Lee, the rector of St. Marks at Darling Point.

When war was declared in 1939 all the women of Strathfield joined the various groups to help the Red Cross, the Canteen Fund, the group making camouflage nets. We also formed a committee to raise $10,000 or £5,000 to forward to Mr. Churchill to buy a Spitfire aeroplane.

A short time after the war was declared, a meeting was called in the Strathfield Town Hall by Miss Wythes, the President of Strathfield Red Cross. My sister and I attended this meeting. The Town Hall was full. After Miss Wythes spoke of the great need that would come as a result of the war and how long it may last, a flag was placed on the floor and everyone was asked to place donations on the flag.

I was sitting near the front and was asked would I make out receipts for cheques being handed over. I have no idea how much was collected. I wonder if the Minutes of that meeting may still exist in Red Cross Headquarters.

Plans were made of what committees could be formed. One of the early ones I remember in which I had a hand was serving in a canteen at the site of the 113th A.G.H. before the hospital was built. Huts were built and across the road where the carpark is now some army tents were erected. Men were having a medical examination for those who were joining the forces. We served Morning and Afternoon Teas, probably assisted by other Red Cross branches involved.

We were given donations of scones and cakes from the local shops. I remember Mrs. Percy Arnott, Mrs. Wally Arnott, Mrs. Harold Arnott and Mrs. Beale amongst the women who helped. I buttered many dozens of scones! I do not remember when they commenced building the Concord Hospital. The local Red Cross made all the various comforts that Red Cross gave to the men and women.

By about 1940 – I think they had started a branch collection for the ‘Canteen Fund’.  My mother Mrs. Miriam Drayton and Mrs. Henry Herron who lived tow doors from us, used to be donw at 7.30 a.m. sitting at a table in The Village collecting goods and money for the Canteen Fund.  We were also involved in serving meals.  

Another active group made camouflage nets.  My mother, Mrs. Lea, Mrs. Marjorie Hornbrook who lived at No. 160 met with many Strathfield women at the Hudson’s home in Wakeford Road to make nets.  My mother had her own stand and worked on the nets every spare moment.  I loaned that stand for a display at the Town Hall a few years ago and it is still with Mrs. Doran. The Women of Strathfield made a record number of nets and received a special visit from officers of the Army.

The Physio Therapy Association commenced in 1940/1 and established the first training course of Occupational Therapy at Sydney University .I became one of the first students and continued to take an active role in Red Cross Activities where possible.

About the time of the ‘Battle for Britain’ Mrs. Henry Herron suggested that the women of Strathfield collect money to buy a ‘Spitfire’ and send the money to Mr. Churchill. My sister and I attended the meeting and as we had attended an Art School we came up with the idea of making large posters of a Spitfire and place them at strategic areas in The Village with a request the public cover them with ‘silver’. In addition Mrs. Herron and others wrote appeal letters for assistance. Finally we collected £5,.000 and this money was sent to Mr. Churchill from the ‘women of Strathfield’. I remember sitting on the floor of’ a bank near the station counting the silver.

As Strathfield station was the meeting place of Strathfield, Burwood and Homebush Councils with Concord close by on Parramatta Road, I did my share of writing to Councils.

Many of the young folk in those days actively supported the N .S .W. Society of Crippled Children or the Royal Alexandra Hospital and we raised funds with tennis parties and fetes at the different homes of our members, such as Tiptree with its extensive grounds from Wakeford, Kingsland and Llandilo borders. This property was later used by the Red Cross for  T .B .patients. Mrs. Beale was another generous lady who had a croquet green in her garden, later this became the first bowling green of the Strathfield South Bowling Club.

When we first built in Strathfield a milkman called and left his card with a bottle of cream!! And a note to say he would like the pleasure of’ serving us. His dairy was at the end of Coronation Parade along the river.

At war’s end and with the return of the service men and women, many of whom had been injured or prisoners of war and were in our General or Convalescent Hospitals in need of’ further care, the Red Cross decided to develop Rehabilitation Departments with various forms of crafts and other activities that would help to develop confidence to return to normal life.  I was asked by the Chairman of this scheme, George Patterson of the advertising company, to undertake the establishment of this new scheme. I declined but after a holiday I became a teacher of 0. T and worked in general hospitals as far away from war as possible. 

Written by Lucy Stone.  Published in SDHS Newsletter Vol. 24 No. 7 July 2001

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