ALICE LATHAM. A short biography by Les Latham (son)
Alice was born at Laurieton on 13th October 1911 in the care of a Mrs Bell, a local midwife at that time. She doesn't know how her mother transported them from Herons Creek to Laurieton but it would have been by boat or horse and sulky. She was the last of eleven children to Harry and Susanna Wade, one of the pioneering families of the area at that time.
She was reared on the family farm down Bob's Creek, Heron's Creek and went to school at the Herons Creek School until she left and went to work doing domestic duties in Wauchope. She learnt to play the piano and organ in her pre-teen years. Her musical talent was later further developed when she decided to learn to play the steel guitar.
It wasn't long before she met a handsome young man, Steve Latham, who stole her heart and after a short romance they were married on 18th September, 1929. There were five children to the union Rod, Les, Valerie (deceased) Elaine and Marcia. Now Steve was also musical. He played the violin and Alice played guitar and together they would play old-time dance music for local dances. The young children would be rugged up and put to bed on the stage floor while they played their music to the pleasure of the locals. This was mainly during the 1939 to 1945 war years to raise money for the war effort and other charities of the day.
They lived the early years of their married life at their home on the 2 acre lot at Bobs Creek. Alice and her sister-in-law Florey shared a lottery win. This was enough to purchase their first car, a 1923 Essex. It served the family until about 1954, when the more up-to-date Vauxhall sedan was bought. The Essex was a great car and with 24-inch wheels could negotiate the roughest and wettest of roads and boggy surfaces seldom stopped it. Roads were bad in those days and sedan cars were not always able to go where the Essex was taken. It was a lifeline for the family.
In 1957 they moved up to the forestry cottage on the Pacific Highway at Herons Creek. This was a more modern style house with electricity connected, something Alice had not previously had the pleasure of having. (Flick a switch and the light would come on). By this time Rod had left home and was working away but Les, Elaine and Marcia were still living at home.
Steve and Alice were instrumental in getting the Forestry people to assist in the construction of tennis courts in the grounds next to the house. A Social club was formed, competition games were played there and it became a focal point in the community for many years.
Christmas day was a special time to get together with family and friends during their time at the forestry cottage. A marquee would be erected in the back yard where the traditional baked dinner would be served for family and friends to enjoy. Often about twenty people would be present to share the culinary delights, fun and Christmas cheer served with much love and gracious hospitality.
Alice was a keen gardener growing orchids, dahlias, roses, daffodils, carnations and just about everything else. She also loved the beach where together the family would holiday each year at Bonny Hills. Fishing was one of her favourite past-times and she has many interesting fishy stories to tell.
She was a keen sewer, making clothes and knitting garments for the children to supplement the family budget. Like most in their early married lives she was able to make clothes out of recycled items and it was not unusual then to see GILLESPIE in big blue letters on kids’ shirts. (Alice always bleached it out). She continued her sewing until recently, crocheting around hand towels and washers as presents.
As the years passed and retirement followed Steve and Alice moved into their home on Bobs Creek road where they lived until ill health caused Steve to go into care. He passed away on 1st January 2000 aged 88 years and 11 months. Alice continued to live alone at home for the next few years keeping busy gardening and helping with the church cleaning roster. She still drove her car until about age 94 when with losing her driver’s licence and deteriorating health, she was no longer able to live alone and entered aged care in 2007.
Her offspring now number, 14 grandchildren, 28 great grandchildren and 5 great- great grandchildren. She has seen many changes during her 100 years - some more significant than others.
- She saw the automobile replace the horse and cart and trucks & tractors replace bullock teams.
- the first steam train to travel on the north coast line from Sydney at Wauchope
- The construction of the new Herons Creek Public school in 1925.
- St. Mary The Virgin Anglican church Herons Creek opened and consecrated in 1927.
- Bitumen sealed roads to replace gravelled Pacific Highway in the 1940’s
- radio become available in the 1940's
- Longworth's paddle-wheel logs punt ceased operations from transporting logs from Herons Creek to the Laurieton mill. Log trucks were more efficient.
- the cessation of coastal steam ship trade out of the Camden Haven river
- Electric power delivered to Herons Creek about 1947.
- colour television supersede black and white TV, man on the moon, outer space travel, jet aircraft and more recently the computer and internet age revolutionize communication technology.
- The flushing toilet replace night soil pick-up. Town water made the water tank unnecessary.
- Decimal currency and the metric system caused a lot of confusion when first introduced in 1965. (Pounds, shillings & pence together with Miles, Chains, Yards, Feet and inches were so easy to calculate then.)
- The introduction of Supermarket shopping that replaced the popular local store, butcher and baker, etc. with their free home delivery service and the Indian Hawkers in there covered wagons and the rag trade people who also travelled door to door were sadly missed.
Future generations can only imagine how difficult it must have been for our forebears to endure such a primitive but simple lifestyle for survival in those bygone days. But despite all the modern conveniences we enjoy today together with the perceived affluence of our modern society it hasn't made the world a better place to live in, but it seems some things just never change - like growing old.
By Les Latham 2013
Poems by Alice Latham