was born in Nowra Private Hospital on 5th
February 1937. My parents had lost their first child at the age of 11 months and
I was a very welcome arrival as they had suffered a great deal of pain over the
death of my elder brother who was called Wayne. I was probably spoilt a great
deal before my sister, Kay, was born. At that time Mum and Dad had the Sussex
Inlet Post Office and I remember being told of many occasions when Mum was on
her own in the shop that I would pinch lollies by the handful from the shelf. I
would run off with them while Mum, Isabel, was breastfeeding sister, Kay, and at
the same time operating the switchboard (such a thing would not happen today).
They were the tough days Ė we had no electricity or
city water and buried the dunny in the garden. To supplement the income from the
Post Office, which was the princely sum of 18 shillings a week, Dad in his spare
time would professionally fish or catch beach worms to sell in the shop.
The population of Sussex Inlet averaged probably no more than 90 during 1939 to 1945 and therefore the majority of businesses relied on tourists, who came to Sussex for their holidays. Sussex was renowned for good fishing and shark-free swimming and proved in later years to be one of the South Coastís most popular holiday resorts. To describe Sussex as one of Australiaís greatest waterways is not hard to do as it is certainly unique.
Sussex Inlet is located 28 miles south from Nowra and 128 miles from Sydney. The Inlet itself fronts a beautiful white sandy beach which extends approximately seven miles. It is very popular with surfers, fishermen and surfboard riders. The river runs from the ocean beach for four miles to St Georgeís Basin, which is one of the most beautiful lakes in Australia. It is approximately 60 miles around the foreshores and is completely shark free. Tremendous catches of fish are taken regularly from the ĎBasiní as it is more commonly known by those of us who frequent it.
You must be asking yourself: ĎHow come itís shark free?í Well, thatís a good question. The Sussex River, where it meets the Pacific Ocean, crosses a sandbar, which is one of the shark deterrents; they do not like shallow clear-water areas. If a shark does cross the bar into the river it is impossible for him to hide or remain unseen as the river water is crystal clear and not unlike looking into an aquarium on a fine morning. While boating along you can see fish darting around, crabs crawling on the sandy bottom and the old man flathead sleeping on the sand.
Therefore, a shark has to venture into surroundings completely out of character for him to eventually arrive at the Basin, where he would probably be safe until he wished to breed. During the summer period and warmer months of the year it is not uncommon to see 100 or more people swimming in the river completely free of worry from sharks.
My grandmother on Dadís side was born in Denmark in
1872. She came to Sussex Inlet with her parents when she was 15 years of age.
Dadís father was born in Germany in 1868 and he came
to Sussex Inlet at the age of 24 where he met and married my grandmother. Since
those very early days my family were always in some way connected with Sussex
and its fishing attributes.
It was the year 1936 when my Dad purchased his first motor car. It was a tremendous decision for him to make as it was to be financed by his father-in-law, George Masterfield Senior, who of course was my grandfather. Pa, as I always called him, took Dad to Harrisons Garage in Nowra, where they inspected a 1927 Dodge ute complete with rear-vision mirror and fog lamps. After considerable bargaining, for which my grandfather was well renowned, they obtained the vehicle for the mammoth sum of £15. Before Pa actually paid over the £15 he demanded a full tank of petrol to see him on his way. When the salesman picked himself up off the ground Ė and I am told it was only in a state of shock Ė he agreed to fill up the 16-gallon tank with petrol. I donít know if I should mention this but I donít think Dad ever paid back that £15.
I was always very good mates with Grandfather
Masterfield. He was a bloody larrikin and was always being chatted up by my
grandmother. Actually, they were pretty good at it. They used to have some of
the best fights Iíve ever seen. However, they always made up quickly and were
very close until Pa died in 1952 at the age of 76. Gran lived a number of years
alone until it was agreed that our family should build on to her house and move
and live with her. That was the reason for us moving to Leppington, where I
remained until I married, then moved to live in Liverpool. (I will fill you in
on my first home later on.) The accommodation we shared, that is my new bride
and I immediately after our wedding, was bloody terrible compared to todayís
standards, but was quite acceptable in those days.
Things have changed tremendously since I was a kid. Can you imagine any sane father today allowing his son to own a rifle at nine years of age? One day, I was visiting a family friend who lived about two miles up the road at Sussex Inlet (the road those days was a bullock track). This chap was named Fingernagle and I called him Uncle Jack. He still lives in the same place at Sussex and probably will until he dies. While talking to him on this occasion, which I remember very well, he asked me if I could shoot straight. I stated that I could shoot very well and advised him that the thing I wanted most was a gun. He then produced a .22 single-shot rifle from a cupboard and told me it was mine. He didnít need it and even gave me a few bullets to use. I was flabbergasted and terribly excited as I headed home with my present. Of course, I couldnít wait to use it and I used up five bullets on my way home. Bullets were very hard to get and I soon learned not to waste them shooting at trees.
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