Dad often told us how, when he was young, Bridles has the Genoa Post Office which was situated at the top of the hill above the township The Mail Car with it’s gravity-fed petrol system would have to back up the hill if it was running Iowan fuel and as a safety measure, trees saplings were pushed through the wheel spokes for extra ‘braking’ particularly in wet weather.
During my childhood, Angus and Ida Rankin (Neil’s parents) had the combined Post Office, Guest House and Mail Service. The building was near the site of the now closed Genoa Store, not far from the ‘old’ bridge. Later Blaxters purchased it and when my own children were young, the Orbost Farmers’ Co-op built the ‘new’ shop on the site.
Sometimes Dad would take us up to Bega for our medical and dental appointments and on those occasions, because we were bad travellers, we would beg him to leave the side curtains off the car so that we would be able to take great gulps of fresh air. Other times we would catch Rankin’s bus to Genoa, then Allan Grant’s bus to Eden; where we would stay overnight, catching Edwards bus to Bega next day. We mostly went NSW way because our Mother, like many other Mallacoota wives came from over the Border. In fact it was a standard joke between Otto Mattson, Ben Buckland, Dave Allan and Harry Bolton that despite living in Victoria they had to cross the Border to find their brides.
Allan usually arrived at Genoa about 11.30am. and waited there for Angus Rankin to return from Mallacoota with Mail and passengers It was a few hour’s wait and there was really only one place to while away the time; besides it was long before the days of .05! Sometimes it would take a couple of men to carry Allan out to the bus but once behind the wheel he could drive forever more. He was known on both sides of the Border for his wonderful driving skills and stories of him were a legion. forever more. He was known on both sides of the Border for his wonderful driving skills and stories of him were legion. Allan, who was Dad’s cousin, suffered cruelly from gout and whether it was to help him forget the pain, to cheer we children up because he always showed compassion for us being car sick, or whether it was the aftermath of that ‘stop over’ in Genoa, I shall never know, but I vividly remember him singing his heart out as we crossed flooded creeks, negotiated fallen trees and wound our way up roughly gravelled, pot-holed hills.
Every trip away we were subjected to the ‘latest’ cure for travel sickness, passed on by some well meaning person. Some advised eating a hearty meal before setting out, others advocated refraining from eating. I must have sucked on hundred of pieces of twisted barley sugar, swallowed dozens of junket tablets (to settle the stomach), had parsley placed in my clothes been externally wrapped in brown paper made sit in the front, in the back, had a handkerchief tied loosely around my wrist, and all to no avail. When we travelled with Dad, Mum always carried a flask of brandy and when we were passed being sick and our faces looked deathly white, she would insist that Dad stop the car so she could administer the ‘pick-me-up’ Ugh! I used resist to the last, whilst Dad, trying to cheer us up would say, “let me have it, Beat.” To this day, one whiff of brandy takes me back to those days and my stomach literally ‘turns over.’
The Mail Car went into Timbilica, where a profusion of old-fashioned roses on the homestead fence perfumed the air as only those old varieties could. We called at Narrabarbal too but in those days the Highway went on the other side of the farm builings. The days when it was a stopping place for Cobb and Co. were many, many years before.
When we reached the Wonboyn turnoff, we would beg Mum to let us out whilst the Mail car went in there. I can still feel the relief of puting my feet on the ground! of putting my feet on the ground! The smell of the eucalytus seemed to have a therapeutic affect on us, as we would stagger at first, then gather speed, intent on covering as much ground as we could. Allan was always astonished to find, when he picked us up again, that we had traversed so much distance.
To any traveller we would have looked a strange sight. A mother and two small children wandering along the Highway in the midst of the Australian bush, but I do not ever remember seeing a vehicle. Parrots kept up their raucous screeching as they feasted on the gum blossoms overhead and in the fern gullies the evasive bell birds tinkling notes would be heard. In the spring the bush was a mass of golden wattle and wild flowers grew thickly along the roadside. In the summer we would trudge along the dusty highway, ever mindful of our best shoes. The Post Office at Kiah was then amidst twelve and a half miles of twisting, turning road and the Old Princes Highway went around the back of the Nullica, not down towards the Mouth as it does now. As we passed along Kelly’s Flat, Mum would often point out the old homestead. A bit further along we would always see Mrs Lee descending the narrow path with it’s steps cut into the hill. Wearing a fur coat and carrying a small pomeranian dog in her arms. As an imaginative child, I always thought they looked alike. Mystery seemed to surround the Lees. Some folk believed that he had been a Doctor. In Grandfather Brady’s book ‘F3 book, “The Overlander -The Princes Highway” ad advertisement reads, “I.A. LEE. CONSULTING CHEMIST, NULLICA RIVER. EDEN”
Whether it was a pet animal or a sleepercutter with leg or arm injuries you could be sure they would be safe in Isaac Lee’s capable hands. It was to him Dad and Mum took me when as a 3-year old child; I was desperately ill with gastroenteritis. Years later, my late husband. Rod was to tell me how Ike saved his hand when it was shockingly burnt when an fire cracker exploded in it.
From tooth extractions to curing dogs, there were no limits to his skills and many a family in those early days, around the Border Country would have a story to tell of Isaac Lee’s magical “Nullica Water” cure. There were oyster leases at the Nullica and there were small ti-tree shelters with table and chairs where at the weekends, tea and buttered scones and jam were served while there was entertainment.
Leaving Nullica, we would wind up the steep hill and on toward the Boydtown turn off. Boydtown with it’s hand hewn door and handmade nails has little attraction for us we had a chance to recuperate again when the Mail car went in there. (Years later, Rod was to tell me that one of his first jobs after leaving school at thirteen, was to help make the road into the Inn. Whiters had just bought Boydtown and had commenced restoring it, a mammoth task as even some of the roofs were caving in. With pick and shovel the road was made out to the Highway and sharp spades were used to cut the thick grass. Rolling it as they went along, it was placed on sand around the buildings. Today it is called ‘instant lawn.’)
There weren’t any caravan parks at Boydtown nor Shad rack’s Creek in the ’30s. The latter was a farm owned by the Mick Fourter family. Sadly the home which was situated on the hill was destroyed in the horrific 1952 bush fires ..After travelling through miles of bush it was great to see Eden and the sea again. Our mother told us how she and her siblings who lived at Nethercote would travel, the girls in their long dresses, by horse and sulky to the dances and balls in Eden. When they reached the top of the hill near the turnoff, they would stop to breathe the wonderful sea air. It was a relief for us to leave those miles of winding road and travel down Mitchell Street. On the left hand corner where the· Highway turned towards Bega, the Post Office was situated, on the opposite corner was the Council Chambers.