Reminisces of Early Hahndorf by Max Nitschke (1921 - 2010)
The following reminisces of early Hahndorf by Max Nitschke were extracted from Reg Butler's computer files.
Retained are comments added by Reg to the reminisces.
c1930-1931 aerial super-spreading firm Robbies, possibly as a publicity stunt, conducted joy flights over Hahndorf in one of their 2-seater twin-wing Tiger Moth work planes. Flights took place between 11-2 in a paddock on Mrs Selma Nitschke’s farm, where Hans Heysen had painted the watercolour of her late husband Alfred Nitschke in 1921. The plane took off on the hill slope facing west, to take advantage of westerlies providing the uplift. Local wag Ernie Weyland wanted to take a stick of gelignite on his flight, but he wasn’t allowed to do that. Millie Jaensch went on the last flight (paid for by her future husband Doug Kingsley), when the plane left for Mt Barker.
On a beautiful day, Max saw the plane which took the winemakers on their fateful trip to the eastern states pass over his parents’ farm near Hahndorf while he was out wattle stripping.
Became a very important place after Hallensteins built their bark mill and wattle bark storage sheds there. A branch line led to the sheds to allow railway trucks to load bags of crushed bark to take to Melbourne to the Hallenstein tannery at Fitzroy.
Alf Newberry was the porter at Ambleside at this time and also did the work of a station master. He was so successful at increasing business that the SAR decided to appoint a stationmaster. Alf was transferred to Gawler to become a ticket collector on the Gawler-Adelaide line.
HR Curly Hancock – a bald man – became stationmaster some time before 1931. A rather superior man, he wore a hard headed hat, even to local dances where he did a good job as MC – Ladies on your toes for the King’s Waltz. Lance Faehrmann punched the top out of this hat as a joke at a Hahndorf dance. Police laughed and refused to act when Mr Hancock complained to them.
Was this Henry Richard Hancock who m Elsie May nee BROWN
No – Christian names reversed, but keep this information for working out Hopkins on shipping lists. Richard Henry Hancock (29/9/1895-//) Born Bangor SA. Father; Edward m 8/10/1925 St Augustine Renmark, Elsie May nee BROWN (//c1904-//) Parents – William Henry Brown & They still lived in Renmark by 1928, when their daughter was born.
Edward Cornelius Hancock (7/1/1857-//) Born Gawler River SA. Parents – John Hancock & Sarah nee HODGKINSON m 20/3/1879 Mr Wooton residence Canowie, Eleanor nee Hill (//c1858-//) Parents – John Hill & – shifted around a lot; Canowie by 1879, Hallett by 1883, Booborowie by 1885, Pt Pirie by 1892, Bangor by 1894
John Hancock lived at Tam O’Shanter Belt by 1849 Gawler River by 1853. Not yet found in shipping lists. Perhaps Eden 1838
After Hallensteins gave up their sheds at Ambleside Station following the disastrous 1939 bushfires, business at Ambleside Station quickly fell away. HR Hancock was transferred elsewhere, and the station reduced to being looked after by a porter/ganger. Gangers lived in the row of stone railway cottages next to the station – Their supervisor, Archibald Archie Monaghan, lived across the road at the back of the Balhannah Railway Station. Balhannah RS rose in importance, as it was the junction for the Mt Pleasant line and had sheep and cattle yards built there for taking stock away by rail. The Melbourne Express also halted there on request.
Ambleside RS gangers etc
The founder of Haigh’s Chocolates established Balcrest Stud – a large farm of up to 300 acres reaching up to Ravenswood and stretching over the hills from Junction Road to Jones Road. Haighs bred race horses with stallions imported from England. His son, Claude Haigh, who lived at Mt Lofty, took over the business in due time. Fred Jury the manager lived in a fine house on the top of the hill and had the stables at the back. Gus Nitschke supplied chaff every fortnight. A stable boy employed to help train the horses. Pat Williams, later Mrs Bill Faehrmann, worked in the house to cook and clean.
Eventually, Jim Haigh, Claude Haigh’s son, lived in the former James Williams residence facing Junction Road. James Williams’ widow, nee Louisa Pugh, moved to a house on a hill opposite her childhood home on Onkaparinga Road on the outskirts of Balhannah on the way to Ambleside Station. Her son, Stan Williams and his family, lived in a cottage opposite St Thomas Church. He worked as a porter at the Balhannah Railway Station.
Stan Peterson the 1st conductor.
Dick Ballard from Balhannah was conductor for a few years. Became very irritable because he had a bad heart.
Martha Jaensch gave land at the top of her long block adjacent to Pine Ave, for a band rotunda to be built. PBD architect and farmer Bill Hope Murray of Verdun designed a building gratis.
White smoke came from bushfires in grass. The smoke turned black whenever scrub was on fire.
The brothers set up their first mill to cut the timber out of Thorald Smith’s farm on what is now Birchmore Road – named after Birchmores who later owned the Smith farm. The Butlers used an 8HP donkey steam engine to drive the saw. Several things wrong with the site - the mill not constantly in the public eye and the steam engine took several hours to produce enough power again when started up each day. Moved to new site on the corner of Hahndorf’s main street and Ambleside Road. Electricity then drove the saws.
The Kramm family early became carriers in tandem with their general hardware and grocery store in Church St. Bill Kramm had only operated a store. Lawrie Kramm then carted vegetables to Adelaide three times a week, which his father grew in their vegetable garden behind the shop. Kramms also began carrying bagged potatoes for local farmers down to the Adelaide East End Market, as well as rabbit skins for skin buyers.
As farmers brought their produce, Bill Kramm’s son-in-law, Gus Gully Liebelt used to load the lorry in preparation for each trip – this used to continue far into the night. At first, Kramms used a 13cwt Dodge 4 truck, which besides the footbrake, also had a handbrake on the tail shaft, which Bill Kramm used to operate while his son did the driving. Later on, the family bought a 6 ton Dodge truck, as the business loads increased dramatically. Coming back, the truck carried all sorts of parcels and hardware both for the shop and Hahndorf’s inhabitants.
While the menfolk were away in Adelaide, their wives used to run the shop. Lawrie Kramm kept the shop open until 9-10pm, and the farmers and other local men used to gather there to yarn. He also conducted a greengrocer round during the day, in between trips to Adelaide.
Edy Paech had a truck to do carrying to and from Ambleside Station and around Hahndorf itself at a time when most local farmers still only had horses. Trucks for farmers to do their own carting became more widespread towards the end of the 1930s.
Dr Auricht and then JO Thiele had the first motor vehicles in Hahndorf. Most car owners only started buying vehicles in the late 1920s and early 1930s. These included Haebich, Curly Watson the Hotel Ambleside publican, EGP the baker, Ossie Faehrmann the carrier, Pastor Braun of St Paul’s an Austin 8 for going to his Lobethal congregation, Pastor Blaess of St Michael’s, Charlie Faehrmann the undertaker, the Kaesler Brothers – Studebakers, Kaesler workman Bill Molen owned a car. Hans Heysens had a car to bring their granddaughter Josephine Heysen to the pictures in Hahndorf. Jim Hicks the butcher bought an International truck and placed a butcher cart box on top to sell meat on his household rounds. Tom Shueard the greengrocer used a 1-ton traytop truck to bring his stores from Adelaide. Ken and Lou Petty drove a similar vehicle for their door-to-door grocery round. Their uncle Len Keefe did the same for his customers.
Farmers – Harold Thiele had a 1-ton truck with sideboards to carry bales when he was haybaling for district farmers. B & O Nitschke – Flying 4 Dodge for church. All the Braendlers owed a car.
Young men generally ran motorbikes, often with sidecar. Hugo Waltrowitz the painter got around with a motorbike complete with sidecar to carry his paint and brushes – he placed cayenne pepper on the wheels to stop dogs from messing the tyres. Jim Gommers drove a ute to his plastering jobs. Son Gallasch had a truck to move his beehives.
Most other Hahndorf families never owned a car before WW2. Labourers generally walked to local work and used a bicycle for longer journeys. Older prosperous farmers also never owned a car – Carl Nitschke got his son Gus to drive him to Adelaide and wherever else a vehicle was required. True unbelievers lived in hopes that horses would make a come-back – Ferdinand Liebelt bred horses on a farm he owned near Borchers at Balhannah in anticipation.
EGP Smith the baker became a GM agent to sell vehicles. When a deal had been struck, he drove customers down to the City Motors store in Adelaide, and the new owners drove their new vehicles back to Hahndorf. Cars had red boomerang tyres which often got punctured from all the horseshoe nails on the roads.
Car sales good during the late 1920s when the clover industry was buoyant. Some motorists forced to sell their vehicles again during the Depression. When rationing became universal and general motoring costs rose during WW2, owners put their vehicles up on blocks
Terrible adventures for some people learning to drive. Retired coach driver Gus Martin shouted Whoa whoa as his brand new car went through the back of his car shed.
Bill Black Paddy Haebich, a bachelor blacksmith, was the last to follow his trade in Hahndorf. Nickname came because his face always covered with soot from the forge. He lived in that small stone building next to the Pioneer Memorial Gardens and gave up his job in the late 1930s. Pommie Fred Williamson rented the blacksmith shop during the War years to operate a garage for car repairs and installed a couple of kerbside bowsers to sell petrol. Not a good mechanic – used the motor instruction book to try his hand at repairs. The business closed up after 4-5 years.
Fuel for Hahndorf’s first motor vehicles was imported in 4-gallon cans – two to a wooden crate – from the USA. EGP Smith sold this fuel and later installed Hahndorf’s first petrol bowsers (pumped by hand), while Kaeslers had a pump for their own use, and to supply their own customers. Later, Herb Wittwer installed a bowser at his fodder and wood business at the front of the family’s former flour mill – rumoured that he watered down the petrol with kerosene.
Dr Auricht used to mix his own medicines. When he retired, Don Webb, who had just graduated from University, opened a chemist shop in Otto Haebich’s house on the corner of English St and the Main St. Don rented an adjoining room to live in. Became very friendly with Jack and Lorna Knappstein who lived with her parents Jim and Addie Gommers in the adjoining property in English St. Don had a car and regularly took the Knappsteins to Clare to see Jack’s parents. On these occasions, Mrs Knappstein’s brother and his family used to be there as well. He was the manager of drapery store at Clare. [Was Mrs Knappstein’s brother Edgar Arthur Snashall?]
Eventually, Don married a daughter and went to live in Lou Paech’s home in Pine Ave. Don was able to buy the corner allotment of Mrs Hulda Nitschke’s land on the corner of Pine Ave and the Main St. Here, he erected a chemist shop which was the first building to have plate glass windows in Hahndorf. Knappsteins had wanted to buy the corner block, but made do with the first block on Pine Ave, also bought from Hulda Nitschke. Don used to play poker with Dr Crafter across the road. Eventually, Don Webb sold his business to John Pain, a fellow student at University and great mate of his in the Hahndorf Cricket Club, and moved to Yorketown. Like Dr Crafter, Donald Frank Webb died young – on 20/11/1963 near Woodville, aged 32; by then he lived at Angle Park.
After Amos Howard discovered subterranean clover on his farm at Blakiston, the advantages of this grass spread quickly amongst local farmers and beyond. Huge prices in supplying clover seed for sale locally and overseas.
Very slow and dirty process by hand at first. Clover mowed low to get rid of rye grass. Then raked to get rid of burr. Afterwards, put into rows after drying out. Clover carted to sheds to be threshed – loads not so heavy but very bulky. Ossie Faehrmann used a two-horse trolley to do the carting on Carlton and other farms. An 8HP Kaesler engine used to drive the thresher. After larger threshers were invented, 50-60HP engines used to drive these. Early machines produced 4 bags of clover seed a day. Larger machines could produce 1 bag of seed in four minutes. Uncleaned seed sold for 2/- a pound. Threshing was very dirty, dusty work – Arthur Braendler died from the effects of dust on the lungs. Main clover seed producers included Arthur Braendler, Ben Braendler, Paul Braendler, Ben Kramm, Fritz Mueller, Gus Nitschke and Jack Paech.
Kaesler Bros invented bigger machines to cope with the vastly increased demand which huge land clearance in the S-E and interstate brought about – waits of between 1-2 years for machines not uncommon. This boom finished in the 1950s when Horwood Bagshaw invented a machine one man could operate. Kaeslers then switched to making fork lifts, which they adapted from the start to fit the tractors of local primary producers and factory owners – other firms had combined tractors and fork lifts on offer.
Dr Auricht for many years. When he retired, Dr Kenneth Charles Crafter b 8/6/1916 Mt Gambier, son of Charles William Frederick Crafter wheelwright Wehl St North and Elsie Mary nee Gavens, came from a practice at Unley and rented the house on the right hand side of the Institute from Mrs Alma Gallasch. He closed in the end of the verandah to use as a waiting room and consulted patients in the adjacent room of the house. He had recently married when he came to Hahndorf (wife called Shirley Prosser – born 4/1/1923 Rose Park, daughter of Percival Howard Prosser and Adelaide Vera nee PANK, manufacturing jeweller King William St Adelaide and later Ellen St Pt Pirie, then orchardist Mypolonga then retired Murray Bridge). and his parents lived in the house with the Crafters. Dr Crafter then bought the house which John Mullin built for his brother Laurie Mullin on Pine Ave c1936 – owned by Horace Tidswell retired Hahndorf 1944 then Robert Tinney farmer Stirling 1947 then Crafter 1948. He built a consulting room on the end. Moved in 1950 to 146 Victoria Tce Hawthorn and had consulting rooms at 188 North Tce Adelaide – died young.
Dr William Randell followed from Penola 1950 and then Dr Joseph Roberts of Lower Mitcham 1951, who then moved to Glenelg 1955. Dr Lawson came next.
District Clerk Beckwith was very muddly in his work. Tom Altmann became Councillor and led the movement to get rid of him. George By Gox Weatherald, a Councillor, used to speak with a very loud voice which could be heard outside the Council chambers –he had the Co Durham burr. Used to drink George IV scotch whiskey with his Council lunch. Gox Weatherald and Jack Nuske used to ride a pony leading a stallion on a rope to take to farms for mating mares during the season.
Rebensberg was a farm of some 200 acres on the main farm and c60 acres across the road opposite Nitschkes’ farms. A quarry on the farm used to supply stone for the homestead and barns. Gottlob Hirte’s farm about 100 acres – water flows into Schroeder’s Creek and then into Ravenswood Creek and then into Hahndorf Creek to the rear of Victoria Creek on the north side of the township; this water feeds Carlton dam. Reg Hirte received 100 acres of steep rocky land on the watershed between the Hundreds of Macclesfield and Onkaparinga – water from his farm flows into Mt Barker Creek.
Families with vehicles before the war – only the more prosperous farmers and townspeople; other people relied on horse-drawn transport; labourers walked or rode a bike; young labourers used to have motor bikes.
Harold Thiele had a 1 ton truck with side boards to cart hay during the season.
Heysens had a car for family use and to take granddaughter Josephine Heysen to the pictures in Hahndorf.
Jim Hicks bought an International ute to deliver meat; he put the butcher cart box on the back.
All the Braendler farmers had a car.
Greengrocer Tom Shueard had a 1 ton tray top truck to bring back produce from the market.
Lou and Ken Petty conducted a grocery round from the back of a 1 ton truck. Len Keefe did the same thing.
Baker EGP Smith sold imported petrol from the USA – two 4 gall cans in wooden cases. He later installed bowsers. Kaeslers also had a bowser but only to sell to their customers.
Fred Williamson, an Englishman, leased Haebich’s smithy during the war years – he installed petrol bowsers and fixed motor cars. He had no skill as a mechanic and used to read instruction books for his information. Business lasted 4-5 years.
Herb Wittwer also installed bowsers – reputed to water down petrol with kero to make supplies last longer.
Joan Green’s father followed the carpenters and knocked in all the nails firmly on the floor of the main hall. Father-in-law of Committee member Mac Green.
Water poured across the main street from the vacant paddock between Jaensches and Posts, and emptied into Hahndorf Creek. Another lot of water entered the creek across country and down the Red Road from Paechtown further up. The Paechtown floods stopped when widespread clover growing absorbed the excess moisture.
Larrikans used to hoist traps on the corner pillar at the College as a New Year prank.
John Wilson, the Echunga DC foreman, and later, his successor, Ted Wittwer, the Mt Barker Council foreman, used to ride a push bike to light the carbide gas lamps in Hahndorf until electric light replaced this form of lighting.
After the clothing factory burnt down, cans with steam inside exploded for some time after the event.
Bennett & Fisher Mt Barker was the first country branch for the firm. Charlie Fry was the manager for the rest of his working life. Med Robinson his assistant took over as manager after Mr Fry retired. Cattle sold at Mt Barker, with sheep at Nairne.
Other stock sale yards at Gepps Cross, Strathalbyn, Murray Bridge, Naracoorte, Millicent, Mt Gambier, and latterly Dublin – took over from Gepps Cross.
After Gustav retired to Church St, Hahndorf, he sold his farm to labourer Victor Paech of Littlehampton (son of Dick Paech and husband of Melva nee Braendler and Mrs Clarrie Thiele nee Cora Petty). Vic Paech kept the farm for only a short time, because the terrain was too hilly scrubby and infertile for good farming. He sold to Neumanns who came up from Tailem Bend. Monica Neumann married Oscar Nitschke from the neighbouring farm. Vic Paech bought the general store and post office at Monarto South from the widow of Johnnie Hartmann and ended his days there. He also became a wheat agent who operated the Monarto grain silos for district farmers to take their crop after harvest. Vic Paech’s predecessor at Monarto was Ern Fox, who had formerly been the policeman at Ceduna. He married Hazel Paech, Vic Paech’s cousin. A very hot-tempered man.
Boob Martin was barman at the Tarcoola Hotel for a while and then returned to Hahndorf and worked as a Mt Barker DC labourer.
During the Depression and until several years after World War 11 when wattle bark lost its commercial value, gangs of Council employees sent to strip wattles growing on the side of the roads to sell wattle bark to Hallensteins per the Ambleside Station depot (until 1939) and Paltridge’s tannery in Mt Barker, in order to raise money to help pay Council wages. Stripped wattle wood sold as firewood to allcomers who wanted to buy some.
Council saved money from buying expensive road metal by loading Council trucks with cinders from Bridgewater and Nairne railway stations, taken from furnaces while the steam locomotive tanks were being filled with water from overhead taps. Cinders much less expensive to repair roads during wet winters eg Junction Road, Balhannah Road. At first, employees loaded trucks by hand using shovels, but changed to front-end loaders when these became part of Council equipment.
Anti-German feeling amongst Councillors. Gus Nitschke resigned first as Chairman and then as Councillor because pressure so strong. He had spent over twenty years as a member of the Echunga and then Mt Barker Councils. Publicans Jock Wallace and Curly Watson listened against windows of certain families to find out if families were listening to German shortwave station during the War.
Buildings – north side
Band rotunda 1935
Dick Borchers house – John Mullin builder
Don Thiele house – Gus Nitschke builder
Gwen Petersen house – John Mullin builder
Rex Kaesler house
Louis Paech house – Adolph Waltrowitz builder
Eric Paech house – John Mullin builder
Les Schubert house –
Laurence Mullin house – John Mullin builder
Bob Tilby house –
Vic Hill house -
Very bad local roads, except for a made road between the Ambleside-Balhannah road and Cowell’s property – that road became gravel again after the entrance gate. Echunga and Onkaparinga DC took gravel for local roads between Hahndorf and Balhannah from pits on the Nitschke farm at Carlton – one pit where the Hahndorf Golf Club House was later built and another between the homestead and the dam. At first, carts pulled by horses, and then Son Gallasch’s Bedford truck, used to take loads of gravel for shovelled road building. The combined Mt Barker DC then bought a good tractor to pull a grader just before the War, but this was commandeered for the war effort. Council had to make do with an RD6 3-cylinder Caterpillar tractor which had to be started with a handle and could not pull very well. Also a Diesel tractor with an RD4 2-cylinder auxiliary engine to start it. The Nitschke family used a little grader to clean out the roadside water table in spring and autumn each year in their area and the Council workers spread the soil on the roads. Max drove the tractor to pull the grader and the workers drove the grader behind.
In the 1920s and 1930s – young people found evening services popular; older people attended in the morning. Ben Kramm a popular lay reader – he spoke plainly and the service proceeded quickly. A great change from Fritz Mueller who mumbled slowly. Old Paul Braendler and Uncle Gus took morning services when Pastor Braun went to Lobethal.
All houses had outside pit toilets or can toilets – no running water to have septics. People cut up newspapers and magazines to make toilet paper. In the late 1930s, Dr Auricht, the public health officer, complained that people did not always empty their can regularly. Large families particularly filled cans in a short time, which then overflowed.
Mt Barker Council held a public meeting in the Institute, which Gus Nitschke chaired, to find out whether ratepayers were interested in having a nightcart man empty the cans. The meeting turned the idea down totally. Some wags of young men took August Jaensch’s 4-wheel trap without its hood on the top of the College stone wall –decorated the vehicle as a night cart and wrote a notice announcing August Jaensch nightcart man. Some residents photographed the sight. Ted Wittwer, the Council foreman, said that it took a group of workmen a long time to take the trap down.
Council decided to become much stricter after this meeting, and checked dangerous cans more often. Martin Kaesler installed the first septic toilet in the town. Other people who had bores on their land or large underground tanks followed gradually. Septics not universal until the town received deep drainage – even the Old Mill had pit toilets which emptied into Hahndorf Creek when the business was first established.
Bootmaker Paddy McLean – in the house below the footpath opposite the Hahndorf Institute. Each week, at the betting shop in the old Hahndorf College, he put 1/- on the horses. If he won, both he and his wife went to the pictures; if not, both stayed home.
Mrs Fry [nee Edith Isabel TONKIN] operated an icecream and lolly shop next to the Hahndorf Post Office. People believed that she gave better value for icecream, because she was too poor to afford a proper scoop, and instead used a spoon. Icecream came in wooden barrels with metal container packed with ice in the middle. Boiled lollies kept in large glass containers and placed in brown paper bags, when bought. Also sold licorice straps. Husband Alfred Joel Fry, a day labourer, nicknamed Happy Fry because he always looked so sad – used to say that poverty was no crime but was a damned inconvenience. Alan Fry [Alan Melville Fry b 20/4/1907 Callington], the son, was boots at Wallace’s Union Hotel. Later, he had a one-horse two-wheel sulky with rubber tyres, to take Hahndorf’s mails to and from Ambleside Station after Gus Martin retired from his coach operations. When Alan went into the Army, the mails went to and from Adelaide per the service buses.
Bill Kramm had a greengrocer shop in Church St. With a horse and trolley, he took fruit and vegetables to sell on his stall in the East End Market. Mrs Bill Kramm ran the shop – she specialised in hardware. For a lark, boys used to ask for striped paint and straight fish hooks – she had had some in stock but had sold out.
Post’s shop – opposite the old Hahndorf College. Sold tobacco and cigarettes in addition to sweets and icecream. Had a proper scoop to measure the icecream exactly, and so not as popular as Frys for that treat. [Gus Post m Olive nee ROSE – lived at Mt Barker first, briefly at Murat Bay, and then at Echunga late 1910s-early 1920s, before settling permanently at Hahndorf].
Shueard’s store – sold groceries, vegetables and cool drinks. Drinks sold for 41/2d – other shops in the town charged 6d. His brother-in-law AH Miller had his own shop just along the street. Old Miller sold groceries in addition to his hairdressing business after the saddlery making ceased. Millers also became agents for various newspapers, which his son Eddie used to manage – he wrote the names on permanent orders and had them out for pickup in the grocery shop. Olive Post was the agent for the Sunday Mail.
Bob Smiith the barber and hairdresser – had his shop where later Howard Hill had his boot repair business. Children Bob and Coralie Smith. Family shifted to Kingston S-E and Fred Balleine of Pt Adelaide took over – one son in the airforce and the other in the Army in WW2 – both got killed and Balleines left Hahndorf. Jack Zadow, AH Miller and Les Hill cut hair at night.
JO Thiele’s store – had lots of things for sale – much better than Kramms. Used to dress their many children in unsold stock after the store closed down in the mid-1920s. Made wedding bouquets and funeral wreaths in conjunction with the shop – for the silly and the dead. Crepe flowers as well as fresh flowers used. Used to retrieve old wreath holders from the cemetery to use again.
Also sold seasonal mushrooms in the big shed after the shop closed. Unsold mushrooms made into ketchup. JO took his children in the car to pick on the hills between Nairne and Callington. Tied cans on the side of the car to increase the number of mushrooms taken home.
Gum country in the Adelaide Hills and the Lower South-East often had stands of wattles growing amongst the giant trees. New wattles sprang up from dropped seed, a germination process hurried along by periodic bushfires. Wattles which grew too close together not suitable for stripping because the trunks were too spindly. Many Adelaide Hills farms earned much of their income from wattle stripping before WW2 – area stretched from approximately Mt Torrens in the north to Meadows in the south.
Wattle stripping went on between approx September when the warmer weather made the sap flow, and Christmas. Farmers kept stands of wattles for this work. Wattle stripping hard and dirty work. Wattle growers paid £10 for each ton for wattle bark, which took a week to collect. Strippers paid £2 for producing one ton of bark, or else paid 1/- an hour for working when it suited them.
Each farmer generally employed one stripper to work until all the suitable wattles on the property had been processed for that season. In the Hills, each wattle tree cut off at the base, but in the South-East, the tree was stripped about 4’ up from the roots and then left standing to dry out. The stripper laid the severed tree over a sturdy red gum beam supported by a tripod of three stick legs of wattle wood. A new tripod took about half an hour to make, and then renewed after the top beam had been hacked away after much use. With a short handled 2lb tomahawk, the stripper cut off any small twigs etc, and tapped the bark at small intervals along the trunk, while drawing the trunk over the beam. Loosened properly, the bark could then be removed from the trunk and piled up in heaps. The bare trunks piled up in other heaps, to be sold off as wonderful firewood and parrot nesting holes.
Bark laid out on two line supports of wattle wood poles to dry out for up to three weeks. Two thick leather straps used to bring the bark together into large 40-50 lb bundles 4’ wide which were tied together with binder twine. Growers then carted these bundles to Hallensteins’ storage sheds established at several locations in the Adelaide Hills.
Michaelis Hallenstein & Co of Fitzroy Melbourne operated the largest tannery in the Southern Hemisphere. Head office in Melbourne shared quarters with the Commonwealth Bank, a godsend for checking on interest rates etc world wide, from which current information the business profited greatly. Edward Teddy Hallenstein, Michaelis Hallenstein’s son/grandson, was in charge of the firm during the 1920s-1930s after his father died. Nothing wasted - byproducts from tanning used to make Davis gelatine and glue.
Hallensteins established their own wattle plantations on land at Jupiter Creek on the right hand side of the main road between Echunga and Meadows. A small crushing mill established at Mt Benson in the S-E, with larger ones on the firm’s Jupiter Creek plantation, and also at Ambleside Station, where a small branch line allowed railway trucks to be loaded with bagged crushed wattle bark inside the mill sheds.
Crushing began after carting had finished. Bill Bailey, Hallensteins SA manager, operated both the Jupiter Creek and Ambleside Station crushing mills alternately. His assistant, Harry Champion, weighed the bark as it was delivered and put piles under cover in large sheds. Four men fed the crushing machines, operated the crushers, and bagged the chips. This operation continued for some months until the storage sheds were empty.
As suitable wattles were chopped out, that land was cleared properly and turned into pasture. August and Arthur Spoehr owned 2 2-ton Holt caterpiller tractors which they joined with heavy wire cable to be dragged along the ground to pull the stumps out. Stumps took too long to dry out naturally. The men made a good living from going from farm to farm to clear the land of wattles. Land then ploughed and seeded with clover to build up nitrogen in the soil. The prepared land later planted with hay or potatoes.
If bushfires burnt out plantations, it took approx 10 years for the plantations to regrow. Widespread plantation destruction in the 1939 bushfires. Many young wattle strippers also enlisted for WW2 and no one to do this work during the war. Plantation land was cleared and used for dairying. Hallensteins bought their wattle bark from South Africa instead when the war was over. Hahndorf growers Benno & Oscar Nitschke continued to sell their wattle bark to Paltridges Tannery at Mt Barker for some time. This family tended wattles carefully, clearing away undergrowth and strengthening weak saplings. Wattle leaves raked together into heaps, under which wonderful worms bred for fishing expeditions. Bronze wing pigeons nested in the plantations, living off the plentiful wattle seed. After the plantations had been cleared, the pigeons disappeared from the region.
At the end of the stripping and carting season, Hallensteins hosted a party for growers and their families on the firm’s Jupiter Creek plantation in Feb-March. Teddy Hallenstein came over from Melbourne to oversee events. He brought a huge bag of 3d coins to throw into the air for children to collect. 3-legged races held and icecreams and lollies distributed. A marquee erected to hold trestle tables for the food.
Paltridge’s Tannery at Mt Barker had their own wattle plantations at Noolook near Mt Benson between Kingston S-E and Robe. Wally Lloyd and his family managed the bark mill about a mile from the trees.
Some 4-5 Paltridge employees went down to Noolook each stripping season. They stayed in quarters near the bark mill and the Lloyds looked after them. Each day, the strippers went in the mill’s 1-ton truck to the wattles, armed with pinch bars and sharp chisels. Wattles grew straight and tall – over 20’ high and with 6”-9” butts. Vertical incisions made in the bark near the ground at intervals around the butt. Then the strippers began pulling the bark away in strips from the butt. Came away easily when done at the right time. Strips folded back and forth into piles approx 4’ long. Each stripper kept his own pile and regularly put the prepared bark into bundles bound with binder twine. At the end of the working day, the mill truck came to collect the workers and take their bark back for crushing. Workers paid by weight of the bundles which each person produced.
Several times a week, Wally Lloyd took the men in the truck to the beach. By a 15’ diameter Aladdin lantern light, the party caught crayfish, and left them to cook while catching flatheads. Followed by a good feed of cooked crays etc. At the weekend, the truck again took the strippers into Kingston, where they placed bets with the local bookie and had a few drinks in the hotel.