A Penshurst Bakery

LMG 16-190 Trompp Bakery delivery van, n.d.

Gladys Trompp was born in 1905 at Redfern, daughter of Sylvester and Eva Trompp. She married Robert Pearsall at Hurstville in 1922.  In March 1988, she was interviewed for Hurstville Historical Society by Jean Scott. Mrs Pearsall died on 19 November 1988, aged 83.  Her lively reminiscences of bygone Penshurst are worth revisiting.

     “Both of my great grandparents arrived in Australia during the 1800s; the maternal side of Darby, originally from St Neots in Cambridge, England, sailed into Port Jackson with two children in 1849.  Though from a farming background, the first work offering then was for fettlers required in the construction of the new railway line to Goulburn, south west of Sydney Town.  It was here, when the work finished, that my Australian lineage began with the Darby family making their home in the newly opened country, where another four children were born.

     Nine years later, in 1858, John George Tromp with his wife and two small children, left their native Wurtemberg (now a part of Baden-Baden) which is situated in the Black Forest of Germany, to seek a new life in the southern continent.  This was the gold rush era and the prospect of reaping wealth had brought many immigrants to Australia, but whether this was in John’s mind when he chose to settle in Goulburn or simply because he’d been a farmer in his homeland, we are unsure.  However he was working on a property in the district during the early days when the noted bushranger, Ben Hall, paid a visit to the homestead.  After ascertaining that nobody was at the house, he stole some money and a horse.

     To begin with there seems to have been some confusion about the name of Tromp as some of the luggage they brought from Germany was marked ‘Drump’.  Now whether this was the original spelling or a mistake on the part of a clerk who misunderstood the pronunciation remains a mystery; however, when John was naturalised the spelling was entered as Trompp, and from that time onwards, anyone born in Australia with this name is a descendant of him.  The family was increased with another three and their own home established within the Goulburn community.

     These two families reared their children who married and began their own families, and in a further generation the Darby and Trompp names were linked.  Sylvester William Trompp was born in 1879[1] and Eva Jane Davidson was born in 1881.

     My parents were married in Goulburn in 1902, and though my father had been apprenticed to the baking industry, it was to the growing city of Sydney that he took my mother as a bride where they were in residence at Bullingham Street, now Renwick Street, Redfern.  This was where the trains began and ended their journeys in those times but a new Central Station was being built closer to the city, and it was on this project that my father was employed when I was born on 4 January 1905.

     About two years later while at work beneath a parapet which collapsed, my father was seriously injured to the spine, which hospitalised him for many months.[2]  Under the care of Sir Hubert Maitland he gradually recovered, but was unable to continue working on the railway, so with the money paid as compensation he bought an existing bakery at Penshurst.  On 6th August 1907 we began a new way of life.

     The bakery was built on the wider section of an acre of land on Victoria Avenue while our weatherboard house faced Austral Street.  Only three other houses were in the street when we arrived; our next-door neighbour Mr Merrin and his two sons were the local lamplighters who made their rounds of the streets twice a day.  The folk who lived well away from the railway line used to bring lanterns to leave at the station so that they could light their way home each evening.  Imagine doing that today!  Some wives drove their husbands by sulky to catch the morning train, just as many do now by car.  It’s nice to know some things have remained the same.

     We had the water laid on to Austral Street but those living in the surrounding streets had to rely on tanks and even ours could be restricted in the hot weather when it would be turned off between 2 and 9pm.  This meant we had to fill saucepans and buckets for use during these times.  Luckily it wasn’t winter or we may have had to share our bathing water.  Mother used to put a large tin tub in front of the fuel stove in the kitchen and we were always allowed a full kerosene tin of hot water each.  I remember my father saying to my brother, who never wore shoes, ‘Your feet aren’t too clean, my son.’  And Harry would reply, ‘You just wait till I wipe them dry!’, which I’m sure didn’t please my mother very much.

     Around 1910 or 11 we had just a few shops in the district.  There were two dairy farms I recall, one at Peakhurst was Gorman’s[3] and the other at Penshurst was owned by people named Mangan.  It was mostly open land as far as where Roselands stands.  Our closest butcher was at Mortdale or Bexley, until Clissold’s opened near Packham’s bakery on Forest Road.  Most storekeepers delivered, such as the grocer’s, the fruit and vegie man brought a basket with a display of what he had to offer, an egg and butter man called, the old rabbitoh and fishermen with their catch covered with wet bags.  Travelling salesmen made visits about every three months bringing cloth, pins, needles, embroidery pieces and wool in the winter.  Wholesale commercial travellers called each month to the bakery and gave discounts for payment made by the end of the month.  So it was seldom we needed to leave the house to shop and those tradesmen brought news with them too, and we looked forward to their visits.

     Of course, if we needed new clothes or furnishing goods, we went into Anthony Hordern’s by train for eleven-pence return fare, or drove by sulky to Sweet Bros in Newtown for shoes.  Even these goods would be delivered by horse-drawn wagons though it may only be a broom costing sixpence.  You know, it was possible to drive to Cook’s River in half an hour over a dirt road then, and now by car it takes thirty-five minutes, which doesn’t say much for progress.  Still, one must take into account the amount of traffic on our roads today and those red lights holding you up along the way.

     The only dentist I remember was Mr Hewett at Carlton who attended to some of our family’s teeth at his surgery, but Dr McLeod never missed to visit his patients, even in the bad weather when the roads were almost flooded.  He had a driver for his sulky, as often he’d have to leave it and make the rest of the way on foot through the mud and slush.  He was a very dedicated and well-loved man.[4]

LMG 15-768 Bennett’s horse-drawn bus, 1913

     Our family had increased to include my two sisters and three brothers and the younger ones began their education at Peake’s School on Forest Road, Peakhurst, where Mr Gallagher was the teacher.  We drove in Bennett’s horse-drawn bus costing a penny each way until Dad bought a pony trap for our use.  However when the next child came of school age, the extra weight was too much for the pony to carry.  Three of us transferred to Dumbleton School on Stoney Creek Road and walked each way daily[1], but of the others, one of my sisters attended the newly-built school at Penshurst, while the other two caught the train to Hurstville.  Between us we had quite a mixture of teachers.  The boys played cricket and the girls vigoro, taking part in weekend competitions between the various teams of the suburban schools.  Prizes given in those days were certificates, or books for the school library which were usually about the life of famous figures of history such as General Gordon.

     The Trompp Bakery was well established and a full family concern, with each of us, even as children of eight years, becoming involved.  We were given the delivery chores to make, either by horse, push-bike or foot; three times a week we’d carry eight loaves in knapsacks on our backs to the poultry farmers, Smithers and O’Reilly who lived at the Devil’s Hole, as we called it, at Oatley Park.  In the latter years we had as many as eight horse-and-carts, then vans, with deliveries covering the area from Peakhurst to Beverly Hills.

     As we got older some of our leisure time on Sunday afternoons was spent walking to Lugarno Punt, riding across to Illawong and continue to the point where the Menai Reactor is built.  Then we’d have to make sure we were back in time for tea or it was woe betide us all if we were late.  We swam at Oatley Bay, a very popular spot, or hired rowing boats and picnicked along the river.  There was a community hall which was used for meetings, dances, the showing of lantern slides and church services until the various churches were built.  Even weddings were part of our entertainment, I suppose, because when we heard of someone getting married we’d all dress up and go along to see the bride arrive.  Like most homes we had a gramophone and a huge record collection, thanks to our father who used to buy them from the second hand stores, or if there was a deceased estate selling up, he bought the lot.  It was possible for us to play ours for three days without repeating the same record.  When I think of it now, I wonder we didn’t suffer from stiff arms from winding the machine’s handle!

     The next innovation to interest my father was the crystal wireless and he made dozens himself, so that we each had our own and when we were all listening there had to be absolute silence.  The slightest jar or movement displaced the ‘cat’s whisker’ and it took ages to get it back onto the crystal again while everyone would fret over what they were missing of the programme.  Dad always read the World News and often told us of the forthcoming predictions being made by scientists or inventors.  If he was still with us today, he’d have seen many of them come true that we doubted then.  My grandmother’s favourite saying was, ‘You may as well try to do that as fly though the air.’  It’s taken for granted now, and men have been to the moon and sailed beneath the sea for days without surfacing.  What great wonders are still waiting to be achieved by the coming generation?

     I’ve lived through two depressions which brought a lot of trials to many people and probably my parents felt some of the effects of the first one with a young family to raise, but happily we were a healthy lot.  As for the 1930s, it was disastrous for my new husband Robert and myself.  He had just completed his apprenticeship as a book-binder, but there was nothing offering for him in his trade, so the first twelve months of our marriage was spent living with my parents.  In the early days he used to walk to the city to sign his union card for which he received £1/10/- unemployment money.  Now and then he managed to get a labourer’s job building houses at Rockdale.  Eventually we moved into a rented house at Mortdale and for the next three or four years he was getting one week’s work, with two off, and bringing home £2/9/-, which didn’t go far after paying our rent of 17/6, the gas, wood and coal, his union fees and tax, our Lodge health fund, and Bob’s weekly ticket to the city of 6/4 – this was cheaper than replacing worn shoes.  It was a time when most people took turns to visit each other and play cards or have evenings listening to the gramophones and dancing in the front room with the carpet rolled back, perhaps singing around a piano.  Few could afford to dine out or go to the theatre.

     I’ve known two World Wars as well.  Both brought great misery and many restrictions to everyone, but fortunately we were spared any loss of loved ones during these dreadful years.  My husband, Bob, was working in his own trade as bookbinder in 1939, and the industry was protected, which meant he was not required to enlist, and besides, he was already in his forties.  We were living in Ocean Street, Penshurst at this time, with two young daughters of our own.

LMG 16-495 Trompp bakery premises, Victoria Avenue, Penshurst, 1962

     The Trompp Bakery was sold on 2 July 1962 and the land divided.  Then in 1976 these units were built[1], so we sold our home and moved into this one, on the same block of land where our old house once stood.  Here we are eighty years later, still paying rates to Hurstville Council, a full circle.

     In 1982 we made a trip to Western Australia to call on all the relations living there then later those in NSW.  Except for one cousin, I managed to meet all of our descendants.  The changes I’ve seen over the passing years have been immense, and as I’ve recounted these past memories to share with those who care to read my story in later years, I can’t help but wonder what yours will hold when it is your turn to look back.  I trust it will be filled with interest and challenge, but most sincerely within the circle of a loving family which has been my good fortune to have known.”

[1] The St Elmo units at 35 Austral Street, Penshurst.

[1] Gladys Trompp passed the Qualifying Certificate Examination in January 1919, making her eligible for passing to the seventh class.

[1] Died August 1940, Penshurst, buried Woronora Cemetery.

[2] Goulburn Herald 3 December 1906, p2 reported the accident.

[3] There was a Gorman’s dairy at Oxford Street, Mortdale.

[4] Dr James McLeod (1862-1925) worked in Hurstville from c1893 onwards.

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