Mosman Voices - oral histories online

Marion Harding

Interviewed by Marlene Reid on 20 July 1998

Marlene Reid. How did you become involved in business?

Marion Harding. I didn’t become involved in the business until many years later. It’s rather interesting how the business became established. Mr. Harding had been working with Grace Bros, and Beard Watson’s, and some of the very big stores in Sydney, and he had thought of retirement several times, but Mrs. Harding couldn’t bear the thought of having him home so she encouraged him to stay on as long as he was able to. It was voluntary retirement in those days; you didn’t have to go at 65 or 70. The war came and of course, there was a shortage of men in business, as there were in the industry, and he was approached by a firm by the name of Buckingham’s. They asked if he would stay with them until the war was over, when the young men were returning to fill the positions. He agreed to do that, and of course, Mrs. Harding was delighted, because she still had her precious days to herself to do the things that she wanted to do. Not many of the ladies want their men home really, do they, they like to have time at home on their own. So he agreed to stay on at Buckingham’s and then as the young men were returning she was then well aware that he would be retired and he would be home under her feet. She must have given a lot of thought to this and she decided that if they bought just the simplest, starting-off bedroom suites, and young men would be coming back from the War, and they would need simple furniture, nothing too elaborate because they didn’t have a lot of money. So they set upon a plan – and as he had the contacts in the manufacturing industry – they had the plan of setting up a little store inside the house. I don’t know whether Mosman Council would have approved of this.

Marlene Reid. Where was the house?

Marion Harding. They had lived in Cross Street, but they lived in Milton Avenue, and she was well aware of the fact that the neighbours would not like a movement of furniture in and out of Milton Avenue, so she sacrificed that house and she moved to Cowles Road I suppose there’s a saying that the neighbours in Cowles Road wouldn’t be quite so fussy, I don’t know.

Marlene Reid. Do you remember who the neighbours were?

Marion Harding. Yes I can remember some of them. But anyway, they started this business in Cowles Road and they did a roaring trade, they were selling more than they could accommodate in the house so they moved to a tiny little shop front on the corner of Spencer Road in Cremorne, and established Harding’s Furniture there. It was in the days when it was difficult to get a telephone, so he didn’t have a phone to start off with. I’m cross with her for lots of things she did, but I admire her for this. If ever there was a phone call or a message she would beetle up Glover Street, or up Lindsay Lane at the back, and round into Spencer Road to take the message to him, and then take the message and ring the people back – she used to do things like that.