This post was uploaded two years ago, however I’m reposting again now as part of the 52 week challenge, with a few updates. I interviewed Dad (Charlie) on 26 January 1992 at Mumby farm where he lived until his death, 18 October 2000. Some of that interview is reproduced here.
I also wanted to put this post up again now, as in two days time it will be Australia Day. Dad was awarded an OAM (Order of Australia Medal) on Australia Day, 26th January 2000.
Charles, Chas or Charlie, as he was affectionately known, was the fifth child and eldest son of Tom and Norma Cripps nee Lymburner. He was born at the maternity hospital in Geraldton, which was at that time, in Gregory Street. He was also the third generation of Cripps’ to run Mumby Farm situated north of Northampton, Western Australia. Charlie’s grandfather Charles Cripps originally purchased the property in 1893 by swapping a team of horses for 40 acres of land.
One of the first things Charlie could remember was kicking a football on the verandah at the old homestead when he would have been about 2 1/2 years old. A verandah had been rebuilt around the Mumby homestead and the kitchen added on. It was made out of cement walls the same as the Kings Hall in Northampton, which was built in 1927 by Pres Crothers. While the builders were building the kitchen the family shifted into Northampton for a time then spent a short time up in the humpy that was the men’s quarters.
The family used to go up to Sandalwood Bay for a fortnight at a time and camp there with Aunty Sally (Sarah Chisholm) and the Woodcocks. They used to rig up a tent, and the kids would sleep on the back of a truck. The working men would go up a couple of days beforehand and make some sort of tent out of tarpaulins or sheets. They would all go up in an old Chev Ford truck making three or four trips; a bed was taken up for their mother to sleep on.
One day Ernie and Charlie were trying to gather some eggs from underneath a chook at the wood heap. They couldn’t get the eggs out from under her, so Charlie said to Ernie to go and get a box of matches and they set the heap on fire. Eggs went everywhere, the chook, the box and everything. They both received a good hiding for this and causing the workmen to panic that day.
Later on after the depression part of the years, they had their first lot of pushbikes. These were bought from a shop in town. Ernie and Charlie picked theirs up at Barlows. It was very exciting to get two new pushbikes and they would do a lot of riding around the country.
Jimmy was away at boarding school at this time and eventually he got a smaller bike. He had polio when he was young and a bike was bought for him to exercise his legs. Ernie and Charlie used to make him work hard at it too!
There were private lay teachers or governesses brought out to teach the children on the farm. Some of the teachers were Lil Baker, Laurine Ahearn, Molly Burke, Miss Purcell and Ivy Elson who left not long after Charlie was born. She helped Dolo, Margaret, Norma and Phyllis with their correspondence and also helped look after their mother.
In 1938 Charlie went to CBC (Christian Brother’s College) more commonly known as St Pats, leaving at the end of 1940. He learnt to play football, cricket and tennis. Charlie’s favourite teacher was Brother Murphy and his favourite subject, arithmetic. At night time after study, Brother Murphy would be up in his room, and Charlie would pretend he couldn’t do a sum and would go and knock on his door and ask him to show him how to do it. It was just so he could look at his handwriting as it was beautiful, Charlie used to admire it so much.
In 1940, in the junior class Charlie was made a prefect and would have been in the first group of prefects ever to be nominated and CBC.
Everyone got on together and grew up a very happy family.
There was no pocket money but when their father went to town he would come home with a bag a lollies. One of the schoolteachers asked Ernie how many lollies would he get for threepence and he said a bag full. When they were away at school they would have a shilling a week to spend, 6d to go to the pictures, penny for a stamp and a cool drink would cost about 6d, so they had to wait another week before they got another cool drink otherwise they only had 5p to buy a drink with.
There was no gas and the copper had to be lit for everyone to have a bath. That used to be lit about five o’clock in the afternoon to get the water ready for each one to have their baths. Kindling wood was used to light the oven to keep it going all day to cook the family breakfast, dinner and tea. Sometimes there would be pinewood and hours were spent up at the wood heap cutting it into thin slices so it would burn nice and even.
The fire in the kitchen was kept going all day and it would go out of a night time after tea when everything was finished. It was lit in the morning to cook breakfast, and then bread would be cooked. Flat irons were put on the stove to heat to do the ironing.
There was no refrigeration system, so a Coolgardie Safe was used. It was a frame with flywire mesh around it with a Hessian bag over it and a tap dripping over the top to keep it cool. Butter was kept cool and the meat was hung inside just to keep the flies off. The meat was salted down and put into brine to help it keep.
Kerosene fridges then come in and a lot more things could be kept in it. The family would eat roasts and a lot of stewed, baked or braised rabbit.
There were 4 bedrooms, a lounge room, dining room and a verandah all around the house. Most of the time there wasn’t enough room in the bedrooms, so everyone slept on the verandah. It was much cooler to sleep there and in the winter if it rained they would pick up the mattresses and throw them on the floor inside.
When Charlie was about 18 or 19, he would be sleeping on the verandah and the rabbits would come up and eat off the lawn during the night so he would lay in bed with the 22 rifle and shoot at them in the moonlight.
Their parents were very strict but fair and if the children ever went out on the horses they had to be home by a certain time, as they wanted to know where they were. There was only one vehicle and they would go into town once a week. Sometimes they were given a hiding with an old skipping rope for not doing the right thing.
The Second World War had started while Charlie was at school and the working men would leave the farms to join up. The boys were ordered back home to do the work. Just before he turned 18 in 1942, Charlie wanted to volunteer to join the Navy. He had never been to Perth before so his first trip was free as he was going enlist. He had always wanted to join the navy and wear the big bell bottom trousers to make him look good. Phyllis went with him by train and they stayed at Aunty Nell Cripps’ place in Perth. They had to meet at Forrest Place, go down to Fremantle to check in and go to what they called a manpower office. The bloke took a few particulars then told Charlie to go home and work the farm. Working men were getting a bit light on in the farming community so he was sent home.
Later on, when he came of age at 18 he was called up, but as soon as he walked into the office again, this man had his manpower papers in front of him and told him to get back out. When the war ended in 1945 everyone rang each other up to let them know the war was over.
A significant time for Charlie was his 21st birthday. As his father wasn’t there to present him with his watch, Uncle Jack Cripps and Allan Drage came up and spent the afternoon going through the rams then afterwards Jack made the presentation to him. That was Charlie’s first watch and his first car was an Austin A40, similar to this one.
Charlie met Patsy at the Geraldton Yacht Club dance. Ernie, Rod Glass, Dudley Williams and Charlie used to go to the Yacht Club for dances and toward the end of one particular night he said to Rod Glass, that’s not a bad looking girl over there and Rod dared him to ask her for a dance. They had that dance and Charlie took her home afterwards and they never split up after that, until Patsy passed away suddenly from a heart attack, 3 August 1988, at just 59. They were married on the 4th July 1949 in St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Geraldton.
Charlie was a Foundation Member and Charter Member of the Northampton Lions Club and was a Life Member of the Northampton Angling Club. On the 26th January 2000, he was awarded an OAM (Order of Australia Medal) for his outstanding work in fundraising for community projects throughout the Northampton region.
Charlie died on the 18th October 2000 aged 76 years and is buried next to his Grandparents Charles Thomas Cripps and Margaret Haigh nee Williams in the Old Methodist section of the Northampton Cemetery. A memorial stone is erected on the Port Gregory/Kalbarri Road in his honour.
Further stories of Charlie’s reminiscences are in the book ‘Beyond the Horizon – Centenary of Mumby Farm, Northampton, WA’ 1884-1994 by Jenny MacKay. ISBN 0 646 179179
Stories in this article are from interviews with Charlie by Jenny MacKay
(c) Jenny MacKay 2017