My father, John Dewhurst Smith bought the farm known as Tamaringa from the Charles Reginald Wiseman in 1951 (the transfer of title took place on 17 December, so we would have moved in before Christmas). I understand that part of the deal was an exchange, as the Wiseman got the house my parents had built a couple of years earlier in Hill Street, between Cross Street and Pacific Drive.
The farm comprised two parcels of land, one (approximately 5 acres) on the eastern side of Granite Street and the other (approximately 7 acres) on the western side. Herschell Street (between Granite Street and the creek) was a designated road, but was fenced off and included in the farm – we referred to it as the ‘long paddock’.
In the early 1950’s my father built a factory on the north-west corner of the portion on the eastern side of Granite Street and started manufacturing electrical soldering irons. As I recall, the company he formed to do this was named ‘Tamaringa Engineering Pty Ltd’ or something like that. Unfortunately, he was squeezed out of the market after only a couple of years and the business folded.
He subsequently sold a portion of the land containing the factory (with enough additional space for a house) to George Kerville, a carpenter and joiner. George used the factory to make furniture (including the dining table and chairs now owned by my sister Margaret). He also made the cedar stairs in the tower of St Thomas Church there. The factory and the house George Kerville built have since been demolished and replaced by townhouses at 74 Granite Street.
The eastern portion of the farm was divided into 3 paddocks, plus the lot containing the house. The paddock facing Granite Street (between the house and the factory) was used to grow peas and beans, but in May was always ploughed clear so that we could build a bonfire in the middle for cracker night (24th May, known variously as Empire Day, British Commonwealth Day, and originally Queen Victoria’s Birthday – and a half holiday from school).
The other two paddocks were mostly used to keep a cow for milking, though we did occasionally grow corn (maize) in one of the paddocks.
At one time we also had an old riding horse, Stella, but we hardly ever rode her, and at another time we had a draught horse, Dobbin, which was used to pull a plough that couldn’t be pulled by the tractor.
The western portion of the farm was used mostly for growing peas and beans for the Sydney markets. I do recall once growing cucumbers and on another occasion growing lettuce (iceberg), but I think these were only one-offs. The western portion sloped down to a gully and then up the side of Bellevue Hill and was steep enough to require a couple of anti-erosion banks to be bulldozed across the hill on both sides of the gully. All the furrows were ploughed across the hill also to avoid erosion.
We irrigated using water from the creek (the western branch of Wright’s Creek) on the eastern boundary of the eastern portion of the farm. There was a large waterhole in the creek and we pumped from that. The pump was driven by the tractor, which had to be driven onto a platform by the waterhole. There was an underground pipe running up the middle of the eastern portion of the farm, underneath Granite Street and then up the middle of the western portion of the farm (approximately where Tamaringa Avenue is today). Unfortunately, the water pipe was not buried very deep, and where it went under the road it was marked with a tomato stake which the grader operator would use as a marker to lift the grader blade. Occasionally the blade was not lifted and the pipe was broken.
Towards the end of the 1950s, growing beans and peas for the Sydney markets pretty much ceased to be profitable, mainly due, I think, to the introduction of mechanised picking on large scale farms and frozen vegetables.
As I recall, my father paid his pickers (and picking was back-breaking work!), threepence a pound. If the produce was sold in the Sydney markets for two shillings a pound, all was okay, but more often the price was sixpence a pound, which left nothing after paying the pickers, the agent at the markets, the freight and for fertiliser, seed and fuel for the tractor.
For a while, my mother helped out as an unpaid picker, but soon decided we were all better off with her working as a stenographer/receptionist at R V. Dulhunty & Son’s real estate agency (it helped that Roger Dulhunty and my father were first cousins). By about 1960, my father had given up farming as unprofitable and was working as a surveyor’s assistant with his cousin Roger Dulhunty (the survey firm later became Dulhunty & Tierney).
By about this time the first subdivision on Bellevue Hill had been done (Bellevue Drive from Savoy Street to Arakoon Avenue, Arakoon Avenue, and the eastern ends of Pappinbarra Parade and Bellangry Road), and in 1963 my parents sold the part west of Granite Street to a developer, who created Tamaringa Avenue. The houses at 91-101 Granite Street are on the street frontage of that part of the farm.
In 1965, two house lots facing Granite Street were sold and in 1968 most of the land east of Granite Street was sold for subdivision (which created Bangoran Place), my parents retaining a block containing 1 rood and 37 and a half perches on the corner of Granits and Herschell Streets. This block contained the old farmhouse, sheds and garages. They then moved the house about 20 feet east, brick veneered it, and totally remodelled it, and it became number 47 Herschell Street. In 1972, the land facing Granite Street was divided into 2 blocks and sold and the huge camphor laurel trees that we played in as children were chopped down. In 1979, four years after my father’s death, my mother sold the house and moved to a townhouse in Oxley Crescent.