Mosman Voices - oral histories online

Garrie Felsted Wells

Interviewed by Zoe Dobson on 24th July 2003

Garrie Felsted Wells. Yes, I think I was very aware that most of my school friends’ parents owned their own house whereas we rented so I felt that they were definitely more superior to my family because they had money to spend to buy a house. I think too I was then also conscious of being at a private school and there was a difference there with the way other people would talk to you. The other thing I noticed too was that there were certain areas of Mosman where the white collar people wouldn’t dream of living. I think that is a social comment. For instance where I live now the people in Military Road thought they were far superior to the people that lived on the Ourimbah Road side.

Zoe Dobson. And you were on the right side of the road.

Garrie Felsted Wells. Yes, and you shopped at Mosman, you didn’t shop at Spit Junction, and all the mothers wore hats and gloves. It was a very English background I suppose and also rather proper. I think in a way you looked at other families who were probably having a lot more fun than you were because they weren’t so strict and so rigid in their social contacts.

Zoe Dobson. Of course both your parents being English too, so did your mother maintain that sort of….

Garrie Felsted Wells. ….yes, definitely.

Zoe Dobson. And just being English she would have been accepted wholeheartedly wouldn’t she.

Garrie Felsted Wells. (laughs) I guess so.

Zoe Dobson. What about Mosman itself, the shops etc and the personalities.

Garrie Felsted Wells. I can remember Radford’s the delicatessen which was very popular and then there was Mrs. Booth’s shop which started off its life actually, I believe, as a tearoom and then she put in a library and it ended up being a very nice china and glass shop with a library at the back of it. As a teenager I went to work there with her dusting the shelves and doing things.

Zoe Dobson. Because they were private libraries only in those days weren’t they.

Garrie Felsted Wells. Yes, although I can remember the children’s library starting in Parrawee Road; that was in my school days. It was just a little lending library at the back of the shop that was quite popular. I was always in and out of the shop as a child because there were always pretty things in the window. I had a holiday job there which I loved. Mrs. Booth was quite a well known person in Mosman because if people wanted wedding presents and things like that they would go there because there again the only place where you had big shops was in the city, so you would have to go across by ferry into town, or you would look for something a bit different and a bit special so you’d go to Mrs. Booth’s.
There was Pistola’s the butcher, and Tony Lopez the greengrocer. I remember the elder Tony going home to Italy to bring his Italian wife back who of course was the mother of the Mayor of Mosman, and how excited everybody was when the bride came back. It must have been very, very hard for her because she spoke very little English. But it was a lovely shop and we always got our vegetables and fruit there.
I remember Northern Suburbs a very big grocer shop with a big island in the middle and they put the money and the docket into the air thing, pull a cord and it would go upstairs somewhere. It was a really big shop.

Zoe Dobson. Was it only groceries or was it haberdashery as well?

Garrie Felsted Wells. I don’t remember. I think they had wine there but I’m not sure. There was actually a funny little shop near Mrs. Booth’s which was a wine bar. Sometimes there would be people sitting in the gutter early in the morning when we were going to school (laughs) so that was rather off-putting, and there was the Buena Vista Hotel. I would get on the tram at the top of Raglan St. and there was Jewkes and Vespa the two chemists. One on Jewkes Corner is still there I think and Mr. Vespa was along towards where the tram stop was near Avenue Road. There were two tram stops, there was one near Jewkes Corner, and the other one was on Avenue Road.

Zoe Dobson. You mentioned that you went to Mr. Cornforth’s School.

Garrie Felsted Wells. Before Mr. Cornforth’s I went to live at Whiting Beach Road and that was one of my good memories – that was 1940 and 41. They were dredging Athol Bight so we were pretty sure something big was coming into Athol Bight and of course eventually the Queen Mary came in, so that was very exciting, as children, watching all that happening.
It was very exciting to be allowed to go into the Zoo. You went in the top gate and you came out again at the top gate, they saw you going in and they saw you coming out, you could ramble in the Zoo very happily for quite a long while, and of course we used to go down to the dungeons on Bradley’s Head.

Zoe Dobson. While we’re still at the Zoo – I think you said you went to get some sugar and things and therefore you didn’t have to pay to go in.

Garrie Felsted Wells. You didn’t pay and if you told the lady your mother wanted some sugar from the tearooms or something, as long as you went out by same gate and she could see you were going home they let you in and out, so that was good.
At the end of 1941 we moved house and we went to live in Stanley Avenue. In 1942 I left Winona at the end of second year. I wasn’t doing very well at school and I think my mother felt that when the Japanese came into the war that they might bomb the Harbour Bridge so I went to Mr. Cornforth who ran a Coaching College in Stanton Road Mosman. I enjoyed that very much. I found it was a lot easier – I went back to the beginning of things. I went back to learning French right from the beginning again and I remember being very cross with him one day and I said, ‘it’s all right for you you’re good at maths’, because I was hopeless at maths. He said, ‘it’s because I’m not good at maths that I’m able to teach maths because I can explain it to you’, which was very true.

Zoe Dobson. There were a lot of different little private schools around Mosman weren’t there?

Garrie Felsted Wells. Yes, there was Orana in Bradley’s Head Road which was an Infant’s School I suppose, and then the Garden school in Stanton Road. I remember going to a fete and they were all doing sort of Greek dancing out on the lawn.

Zoe Dobson. Do you remember the Principal of any of the…

Garrie Felsted Wells. ….no I don’t, I just know there were two elderly ladies that ran it. I think it was certainly for young ladies. And then there was Killarney too at the end of Heydon (sp) St. and Daulton (sp) Road. It was a kindergarten coming from school. They all had uniforms, but I can’t remember much about the Garden School except it was well known at that time.

Zoe Dobson. In a private house?

Zoe Dobson. Do you remember the Japanese submarines?

Garrie Felsted Wells. Yes, I remember very vividly the night they came in because my dad was by then a warden and we had a trench in the back garden and my mother was in the trench with the dog and the family silver, which wasn’t worth saving anyway, and I was wandering round watching all the searchlights and listening to all the noise. And I remember my mother calling out when my father came back to see if we were OK and saying, ‘tell that child to come down into the trench’ (laughs). I wasn’t at all interested in going down into this rather dank sort of slip trench in the back garden. I was much more interested in watching the searchlights.

Zoe Dobson. You had no fear.

Garrie Felsted Wells. No, none at all, but a few days later – I was at Cornforth’s then. We went to school in the morning and he wasn’t well so we all had the day off. We went round to Taylor’s Bay and watched them bringing the submarine up that had been sunk in Taylor’s Bay. We watched them bringing it up out of the water which was quite an impressive thing.