I am sure the hardship caused by the war helped to produce a caring community – and a strong sense of belonging, among its members.
John Wiggins – Huntley
Our family association with Huntley began when we moved on to our farm about a kilometre from the Huntley railway siding, in September, 1939, only days before the outbreak of World War Two. Life on the farm was fairly hard during the war due to the rationing of most essential products, including food items, clothing, rubber tyres for vehicles and bicycles, fuel etc. Dad planted acres of peas and potatoes and oats, which were all harvested by hand, except for the oats, which were cut and made into sheaves by the reaper and binder, pulled by three draught horses.
Fourteen dairy cows were milked by hand twice each day, by Mum and Dad. The milk was separated into skim milk and cream in a hand-turned separator. The skim milk was fed to the twenty pigs kept for breeding and for sale at the local market in Orange. Cream was transported in milk cans, first by horse and dray to the Huntley Railway Siding, and then by rail to Blayney Butter Factory. In those days there was no electricity, no telephone, no running water, and only a horse-drawn vehicle for transport. I travelled to Spring Hill Primary School by pony for one kilometre along a dry-weather lane, and then another three kilometres on a gravel road, crossing the main Western railwayline, and then on to the school.
Huntley was a small community, having no post office, no pubs, or churches, and no stores. And yet everyone knew each other, and there was strong support for any who had particular needs. There were the Ginns, the Rodwells, Nicholls, Pauls, Rezkos, Ironmongers, Moads, Cullys, Bonners, Dudleys, and others whom I cannot recall at the moment. I am sure the hardship caused by the war helped to produce a caring community, and a strong sense of belonging, among its members.
Mutual co-operation was evident when my Dad would take his four draught horses and wagon to our neighbour’s farm for four or five days, to help cart and stack his oaten hay. Then our neighbour would bring his four draught horses and wagon, and help Dad cart and stack his hay. I’m sure no money changed hands; it was part of the local culture of working together for the common good.
Bushfires were a common summer threat to farmers who lived near the rail line. Steam trains would sometimes cause fires which could gain enough strength to cross firebreaks and become a danger to stock, fences and property. Charlie and Mabel Ironmonger owned an orchard near the Huntley Railway Siding and he, with his son Harry, organised a community fire brigade which could use his horse-drawn cart equipped with 200 gallon water tank, small engine-driven water pump, and hoses which would normally be used to spray the fruit trees. Other farmers stored knapsack pumps and other firefighting equipment, ready for an emergency. What today is the Spring Hill, Huntley Rural Fire Service, with modern fire station, very up-to-date equipment, and well trained volunteers, had its humble beginning in the 1940s.
It was Mr Ironmonger who visited us soon after we settled on the farm, and invited Mum and Dad to send the children to be part of the Sunday school program which was held each week in the closed-in verandah of his home. There was no denominational label; it was an open Sunday school and about twenty children of the families mentioned above would attend each week. We enjoyed singing, accompanied by their daughter Joan, who played the small pedal organ. I grew to appreciate the Ironmongers’ Christian moral, ethical, and spiritual concepts, for they were in accord with the values my father’s parents lived by in New Zealand and by the Christian values my mother’s parents lived by.
Interviewed by Alex Rezko