Life in Texas in Carrington during the Great Depression

When times are tough, people find nifty ways to get by. A tale from the Great Depression about a woman from Carrington reaffirms this truism.

We wrote earlier this week about a place called Texas… at Carrington. 

Texas was created in the 1930s in the suburb’s north. Poverty-stricken people lived there in humpies and shacks.

Elaine Darby, who lives in Carrington, told us about “Kerosene Kate”, who lived in Texas in an old shack made of tin and hessian bags.

“She used to cut the kerosene tin in half. She used one side for washing the dishes. The other side was her drain,” Elaine said. 

Elaine, now 81, was a child at the time. She lived in Young Street in Carrington.

Texas was more than makeshift houses.

“There were also people who lived there in beautiful homes,” she said.

Sounds like an interesting mix of rich and poor. Maybe not rich. Maybe working class and poor. Did we have the middle class back then? Apparently a political organisation called the Middle Class Party was formed in Australia in 1943.

But back to Texas. As we wrote previously, people used to have horses and stables there. That's why it was called Texas.

Elaine said the area also had greyhound and bicycle tracks.

As for the photo of a shack in Texas, Elaine said the man was Dick Maybury – “a minister from the city mission”.

She knew the woman in the picture as Mrs Laver.

“I couldn’t tell you her name because, in my day, we weren’t able to call adults by their Christian names,” she said.

Bacon and Eggs

During our yarn with Elaine, she recalled a Topics story about an attempt to cook an egg in a frying pan during hot weather in the Herald’s former car park in Bolton Street.

Former Topics writer Tim Connell wrote that piece four years ago. (Nothing wrong with Elaine’s memory).

“We used to do that when we were kids,” Elaine said.

The thing is, though, they didn’t use a frypan.

“We used to clean the footpath and cook our bacon and eggs and bread,” she said.

“When we were finished, we used to clean the footpath.”

How was it, we asked. “Lovely,” she said.

We could sense the joy in her voice.

Those memories of cooking in hot weather reminded her of long lost summers from Carrington’s past.

“When I was young, it was a lot hotter than it is now,” she said, despite the science of climate change.

“On Boxing Day you always had a terrible storm.”

She also reckons winter isn’t as cold as it once was. What do you think, people? Is she right?

And if you’ve got a yarn about Newcastle’s past, send us an email. We’d love to hear from you – topics@theherald.com.au.

Big Brother

Big Brother has been trawling through our supermarket purchases.

Big Brother has been trawling through our supermarket purchases.

Topics wrote recently about a “Big Brother is watching” moment when a Newcastle resident started getting ads for cleaning products popping up on his mobile phone.

When he got home, he found his wife had dropped a container of something on the floor at home and gone online looking for stain-removing suggestions.

It only took minutes for Google’s invisible intelligence to stalk him with ads.

Another reader has shared a Big Brother moment. A month or so ago, he bought Western Star butter. Then in a more recent shop, he bought another type of butter.

Before he knew it, ads popped up on his digital devices for Western Butter.

He reckons supermarket data miners were on to his change in shopping habits. It sure is a brave new world.

Where is it all going? In future, will we get ads for things we need, before we even think that we need them? Hang on a sec, in a way, that already happens.

Annoying Things

What annoys you? For us, it’s the fake hellos we get when entering a retail store. You know the ones we mean. We’re talking about the [sometimes] chirpy “hi, how are ya” that retail assistants give. They’re just being nice to sell us stuff, aren’t they? Are we being too harsh? Let us know what you think of that or other annoying things – topics@theherald.com.au. 

The photos in the gallery above have been supplied by the University of Newcastle's Cultural Collections with the help of the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund.

For more information visit https://uoncc.wordpress.com/vera-deacon-fund/ and to donate to the fund visit: http://libguides.newcastle.edu.au/benefactors/new 

The story Kerosene Kate and the Texas shacks first appeared on Newcastle Herald.

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