Marlene Reid and her husband Jim, along with their young family, moved their business and home into a boatshed at The Spit in 1967 and spent the next 41 years at this picturesque entrance to Mosman. Marlene looks back on this time with delight and, despite the hard work, it was still a beautiful part of Mosman to live.
We were living at Eleanora Heights and we had an electrical contracting company and we were looking for premises to run that from because all the work that we were doing was in North Sydney and round the lower North Shore and going backwards and going backwards and forwards to Eleanora at the time was proving to be a little bit difficult. Jim saw this boat shed for sale and thought – that was a good idea so instead of just finding premises we ended up living in the boat shed and running it.
It was an existing business, his name was George Smith and he had owned it for quite some time from about the 1940s and he was getting on in years and he wanted to retire but it was his son that we went into business with, his son eventually sold out and left and there was just Jim and I but yeah they had – he used to sell – he was a real character, he used to sell boats and motors, all sorts of fishing tackle and they had hire boats and we just continued on – we had slip-way. But he was one of the old school he could tell how much people could afford and he never had a price on a boat and he’d look at the person and then say how much the boat was. They couldn’t do it today, but back then he could.
When we went there, there were several businesses that had changed over because opposite us originally there was Lyons and there was a guesthouse and they had a fire and the guesthouse burnt down and the council and the maritime wouldn’t let them rebuild the guesthouse and so they built what we now know as D’albora
It wasn’t quite as big as it is now, but they built D’albora and then they put a marina in and that was about the year we moved there in 1967, when they rejuvenated and rebuilt that. Along the other end – I mean, we had Bobby Ferguson who was next door to us, he was closest to The Spit Bridge, and he had taken over from his father. We were there after George Smith and then further along there was the volunteer coastal patrol and when we went there the volunteer coastal patrol was only a single-storey building and then they built a second storey on top of that. That was probably in about the 1990s when that happened.
And then there was the Skiff Club next door, there has always been a Skiff Club there, and then further along there was Jimmy O’Rourke, and Jimmy O’Rourke had the boat shed, a slip-way and he built – he was a shipwright, and at the side of his building, a part of his building was Laddies restaurant and everybody knew Laddies. And then next door to that there was The Endeavour, but The Endeavour had only been there – I don’t know how long when we got there, but not that many years, because prior to that it was Adams boat shed and it was a boat shed also, and then there’s the car park and then there’s the Middle Harbour Yacht Club. And then you go along to the amateur Sailing Club but that was where – along that area that was where the baths were in the early days.
Well most of them were still boat sheds for a while and with a restaurant sort of attached to it, but I guess the main reason was that – that was what the people wanted – was to come to such a beautiful area and to eat and relax. Not everybody wanted to go boating, and also the authorities, i.e. the Lands Department and the maritime, they made it very, very expensive to be there because they charged so much for the water and for the land that the building sat on, which you had to charge a lot of money to hire boats and things like that, so people adapted their building and put in what they felt would maintain their lifestyle
I think the weekends always started earlier because we had a lot of hire boats and outboard motors, and people came to use them and the fishermen used to come very early. It would be nothing for the doorbell to start ringing at 5 o’clock in the morning and then the boats would go out for half a day or sometimes a full day, sometimes people would just take them for hours and then they would come back and then they’d go out again, so all day the boats would be coming and going and people.
well as far as Mosman goes I felt it was neglected, not for any other reason, only because when there was any festival, any celebration, any special occasion, The Spit was never included and I used to feel, we were always the bridesmaid, never the bride, and it is such a beautiful area that I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t part of the community.
Yes, all the proprietors, Bobby Ferguson had gone at that stage and Brett McMullen was in Ferguson’s and we felt that we needed some advertising and some publishing of that area, and so we got together with Dalbora (sp) and the Yacht Clubs and the Skiff Clubs so we all got together and we ran a programme on the Saturday and Sunday. The Yacht Club had a sailing so that people could actually come down and try sailing. The Skiff Club did the same with the skiffs, the kayaks, and the canoes they also let people try them, so it was to get people to come to the area to use it and to see what facilities we had.
All the restaurants put on little things on the western side where the park was they had little tents and little areas where the restaurants were selling some of their wares so that they could taste them in just small containers and things. It was good, we had bands down there, and it was a great day. We were really lucky with the weather it was really good.
You could go there and there would be 50 to 70 fishermen on a Saturday and Sunday evening – Friday, Saturday really, and they used to come there. The problem with fishermen, the same as on the wharf and it’s not all fishermen, there are some very good fishermen but a lot of them, they used to come and they’d have their knife and their bait and they’d cut it up and then they’d make a terrible mess with the fish when they’ve cut them up and then you’ve got the mess to clean up.
And also on the wharf we had to stop them from fishing because they would throw the lines out and we had boats moored and if they got the line caught in the rope they’d cut it and then leave the hook in and then somebody would pull the rope and then you would end up with somebody with – around the fingers.
But yeah, the punt used to go across there, and there was also a ferry that used to take a tram – had a tram on it that used to go across there as well. When Ellory (sp) went there, which was a long time before we were there, over 100 years, because he was there in 1849, he had three acres over at Seaforth and then he used to row a little boat and he used to ferry people across by boat, and then went to a punt after that. But that bridge of course, is the second bridge and there was the other one, which was pretty horrible too.
During the time we were there – there were a couple of times when the police got word to say there was a bomb on it and they had to close the roads and we’d have the bomb squad and things down there. What they can actually do about it I don’t know because the geography of the area – that’s where the bridge would probably have to go if it wasn’t a high-rise like an elevated bridge from ridge to ridge, it would have to go down there and the water is very deep, and it’s very soft at the bottom, and that’s what they say about the soundings when you put the things down they’d have to go a long way down before you could actually build a bridge, but I’m sure if you can put a man on the moon you can build a bridge.
Well it was a nice time, I think the nice thing is, you meet nice people, we meet a lot of lovely people and that’s the plus, that was the plus on the job. Going around to all the different sporting groups and getting to know them, you know a lot because you live in the area your children go to school in the area you’re involved in so many things anyway. It was nice.
We minded our grandchildren and I used to take them for walks because that’s what my kids loved to do, they loved to go round to the park or wherever because there was so much there to see and do.
You learn about the starfish and all the fishes and all the little creatures down there as well as all the things in the tree, and you’d go round to Pearl Bay and there’s a kookaburra in the tree – I mean you’re six – what seven, eight, I don’t know how many miles from Sydney and you’ve got all this absolutely wonderland, and so we enjoy doing it again with our grandchildren. I used to take Alex up to Parriwi Point, we’d sit on the seat up there and watch the world go past, all the cars and all the boats.
If you live there for over 42 years or whatever it was, yeah, there’s a part of you that just doesn’t want to go and just because I think it’s beautiful, it’s just such a beautiful place, and I’d like more people to enjoy it.
My life at The Spit, I look back on it with delight. It was hard and we worked hard, but it was a lovely place to live. When somebody said, we’re going to move, Jim said, ‘I’ll have to take her to seven acres or something because she’s not used to neighbours’. That’s probably right. But if you had to live somewhere it was a beautiful place to live.
The Spit, yes the times I didn’t like it were two o’clock in the morning when the storm came and we were down there roping up boats and things like that, and that happened many times. Those days I don’t miss, and I don’t miss going out in the weather to tie up everything.
We had two massive storms and one where they lost Manly baths and you had a boat down Raglan Street, up Raglan Street – it lost its mooring, and we lost part of our roof that night and the water came right through downstairs in the boatshed it came from the back through to the street and then came up the side and out onto the street.
That was when all the damage was caused down at Manly and down at Balmoral, down at, all of us.
but if you bring any visitors down to The Spit you turn around Beauty Point and as soon as you turn around at Beauty Point they go ‘oh, isn’t it beautiful’, and it is just so stunning and I just can’t understand why Mosman doesn’t use that more than they do, and then if you go up across the bridge and go up Battle Boulevard up to the top of Seaforth and then look down and see – that is the entrance to Mosman. It is just beautiful.