“During the war years the top playground was dug up for air raid shelters. They weren’t very deep and we used to laugh and wonder how we would all fit if ever we did have to jump in.”
Marie Hammond, Molong
After my mother died, I came to Molong to live with my grandparents so I could go to school when I was five.
During the war years the top playground [at Molong Public School] was dug up for air raid shelters. This was done mainly by the older boys at the school, as I remember. They weren’t very deep and we used to laugh and wonder how we would all fit if ever we did have to jump in.
At this time, at home everyone had to cover their windows at night and restrict any lights outside just in case Japanese planes might spot the township and bomb it. No such aircraft ever came over, I’m sure, but a couple of times there was an alert about Aussie planes needing to land at night which happened out at the Molong Showground.
People drove and shone their lights around the centre arena enabling the plane to land safely. When there was an emergency such as this, someone (usually Harry Connolly who had a very good and loud speaking voice) would stand on the back of a ute while someone drove and Harry would call through a megaphone and everyone would go outside at night and listen to the announcement and of course respond if necessary. The people of Molong always responded to calls such as this.
The other way we often knew what was happening was when a kid on a bike would ride around and yell out. When I heard, ‘The Japs are in town’, I couldn’t get on my bicycle quick enough and get down town along with many others where we saw couple of Army open-back trucks with Japanese prisoners en route to the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp. The army personnel had stopped at the local cafes for refreshments. Our expressions of dislike were varied from the ‘thumbs up’ sign over and over, to thumb on nose wriggling our faces with tongues poked out. Of course we called them names such as ‘swine’ which I told the other kids was the ‘worse word you could ever say’. They just sat there and looked at our performance.
There was again a night to remember when Harry, on the megaphone again, was driven around the streets warning of the breakout at the Prisoner of War Camp in Cowra and saying they may come this way and to be on the lookout for any escapees. I was terrified and imagined every sound was someone out there. Later that night I insisted that there was someone out there so my dear little grandmother (her Scottish blood stirring) picked up the poker from the fireplace and marched to the doorway while Grandfather (six foot tall) came behind and me following up with a small shovel from the fireplace. Of course there was no one there but the fear has never quite gone away and left me from that terrible experience.
We had an old battery radio in our dining room. It was a French polished, free standing piece of furniture with brown mottled cloth behind the wooden fretwork on the front. It was part of our nightly ritual that at 7o’clock we would all sit and listen to the news, always anxious to hear the progress of the war from the ABC, or sometimes we heard an odd broadcast from the BBC.
Eventually the kid was on the bike again yelling out ‘The war is over, the war is over’. You can’t imagine our joy to hear that, and like many others – kids and adults – the main street became a mecca for everyone to gather – people everywhere dancing in the streets, singing, hugging, crying, really all so joyful and exciting. Some people decorated their houses.
My grandfather, Samuel Evers, who had a fairly good singing voice, was fairly merry (from drinking, of course, as many were) and was hoyed up onto the window sill at the Freemasons Hotel at the bottom of Bank Street, to lead the singing as they shouted out, ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’ and ‘Roll Out the Barrel’ and so on.
During the war years the people of Molong had contributed much to the war, with women knitting socks, scarfs, jumpers, coloured squares from wool scraps, and many made fruit cakes which would last some months. All these were sent overseas to the soldiers.
One woman who remains outstanding in my mind was a Mrs Holt, wife of local solicitor Mr Rives Holt. She was a very cheery woman. She was never seen without knitting in her hands even if she was going door to door collecting, as she did for the Red Cross. She must have knitted dozens of these woollen socks. I always thought she was a lovely person but there were always awful mutterings that she was a Communist. I always wondered what one was.