When we arrived in Yerrinbool in 1957 it was a complete contrast to life in Sydney. Our home was about half a mile from the one and only General Store, but my mother would put on her hat, gloves and heels and walk up the stony road to get the newspaper and collect the mail. The Post Office was housed in the General Store although it had opened in 1919, two years before the store was built
There was a corrugated iron village hall used for monthly church services, Sunday School, Progress Association and Bushfire Brigade Meetings. The local community had banded together to build this in 1938. It is now painted cream and green and has a few additions
The railway station, opened in 1919, was built beside the new line which replaced the Picton Loop Line. It was constructed from weatherboard, painted pale blue, with white gravel platforms and a profusion of fuchsias hanging in baskets from the awnings. The stationmaster took great pride in its appearance and it had won awards for being one of the most attractive stations in the region. His house was one of the more substantial buildings in town and even boasted a tennis court.
The first land sales in Yerrinbool were in 1919 and 1920 as a village was laid out after the opening of the railway station. The area had been known as “Little Forest” but the new town was named Yerrinbool, which was Aboriginal for “wood duck”. Nearby was the notorious “Bargo Brush” where, in the 19th Century, bushrangers would hold up the stage coaches travelling along the Great South Road.
Another half mile on from the station was the public school. The acre block was covered in bush except for a hard packed, stony playground at the front. Two toilets were situated some distance from the school building and from each other. On 20 August 1922, the school was opened with 30 students enrolled. Not far from the school was a service station which supplied the milk for the children, collected each day in a billy can by a student. In 1962 it closed its doors forever.
Less than a hundred houses made up the rest of the township. The waterhole opposite our property was an old gravel pit and was reputed to be very deep. The water was used by anyone who needed it and was much appreciated during a drought.
There were four large apple orchards at each end of the village and a poultry farm. The rest of the population scraped a living from small farms or lived frugally on pensions in tiny cottages that lined the gravel roads.
Our teacher, Mr Scott, boarded with a family running a small farm. The daughter of the household was a few years older than me and used to handwrite all the school reports in her neat printing. She later became a teacher so it was good training.
At one end of our property was a viaduct running under the railway where the Hume Highway took a sharp turn in order to meet the railway at right angles. Every few months there would be a crash and we would see another semi-trailer come to grief. Sometimes the driver would be killed. Once a truck unloaded its contents of milk all over our paddock, killing all the grass and turning it black.Another time a truck caught fire and the large TOTAL sign written across the viaduct was blackened and ruined, never to be replaced.
Yerrinbool was a one horse town. The horse was named Sovereign and his owner, Mr Dowsett, used to take him to the Easter Show and ride behind him in a sulky around the Parade Ground. Great was our excitement when he trotted by us one day on our way home from school and offered us a ride. We would walk past Sovereign on our way to school and offer him handfuls of grass. To own a horse was my dream but it was not to be.
In what was a very ordinary little village there was something unusual. It was a Baha’i summer school. Looking for something to do one summer holiday, I wandered past and was asked if I wanted to join in. They were having quite a jolly time with singing and dancing so I visited them quite often and was impressed with their inclusive attitude towards other faiths.
The Bush Fire Brigade was an essential part of living in the middle of a forest of gum trees. Apparently there were bush fires the year we arrived although I can’t remember them. The 1950s were unusually wet but the extra vegetation must have meant that when they came the fires were even worse. Reading the history of the Yerrinbool Brigade I can see the familiar names of all the major families in the town, working together to provide trucks, equipment and storage facilities, while the Ladies Auxiliary ran street stalls in Mittagong an effort to raise money to buy a fire truck/tanker.
Sadly the numbers at the school declined, the Progress Association meetings, Christmas parties and Sunday School all stopped and only the Bush Fire meetings and once a month church service continued. It seemed everyone was getting old and no younger people were coming to live .
Since I left in 1968 things have changed considerably. The nearby coal mines brought new people and houses to the area. Although the population is now over one thousand the school was never reopened and children are bused to other towns.The school became a private residence and burned down in 1970. The railway staion is a shell of its former self.
The Waterhole is fenced off and the pump is rusting. Even our twelve acres at “The Waterhole” was subdivided, although our house is still standing beside the old and dying pine trees .
- General Store taken by Linda Curry 2016
- Yerrinbool Hall taken by Linda Curry 2016
- Railway station firstname.lastname@example.org 1988
- Yerrinbool School Berrima District Historical and Family History Society 1930
- Tennessee Orchard http://www.touristlink.com/australia/big-apple/overview.html
- Viaduct Image © Paul Rands 2006
- Fire Service HQ taken by Linda Curry 2016
- Waterhole taken by Linda Curry 2016