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U3A Writing: Life In Ultima

Jack Mott recalls life in Ultima, Victoria, during the war years.

We arrived in Ultima, Victoria, having travelled by horse and cart from Mildura via Balranald, Deniliquin, Echuca, Swan hill and Lake Charm, looking for work and accommodation for our large family. In Ultima we rented a house near the school.

I started work at Clem Baldwin's garage, Ultima, within a day or two of arriving in the town of about 600 people. I enjoyed the serving of petrol to customers from a hand operated petrol bowser, repairing punctures, looking after the battery charger, and other garage duties such as cleaning automotive parts and sweeping the garage floor. Opposite the garage in Dillon Street was the butcher shop. Next door was hairdresser, Bob Gundlach, who usually cut my hair and sold me cigarettes and other 'things' which a boy of my age may need. A ladies’ hairdresser, Bill Crisp, who played the piano at the hotel on some nights, came to the town about once a month. He parked his caravan next to the barber shop. On the other side of the butcher shop there was a general store operated by Englishman, Mr Deaville. There was also a clothing and haberdashery store run by the Nind's family.

The bank manager, where I had to go often for the lodgement of money from the garage ,was Mr Mehrens. The Post Office, which was the furthest business down the street, had Mr Lindupp as Postmaster in charge of the Morse code telegraph machine and all other important postal activities. Constable Neary was the local policeman. He was very popular in the town. One of his, daughters, I believe, later took over the Bendigo Fashion House in Hargreaves Street, Bendigo.

Late in 1941 the Swan Hill power station burned down. It caused great inconvenience to all of us in Ultima. Clem Baldwin who had an auxiliary diesel operated power supply for some of the tools and lights, modified it so that most of the garage equipment could be used. Households had no power at all. The nearest doctor and dentist was 32 Km away in Swan Hill.

Identity Cards were issued on15 March 1942 and tea was rationed from 20 March 1942, the day before General Macarthur arrived in Melbourne. He moved to Brisbane in July 1942 to conduct the Pacific theatre of war. Clothes rationing provided 112 coupons for each person and began in May 1942. Suits took 38 coupons, a shirt 15 and socks cost 4 coupons. It was based on the British system of clothes rationing. The Manpower Authority was established in January 1942, under Eddie Ward, although there was a de-facto control of labour for a year or more under the National Security Regulations. A person was not legally allowed to change employment without the approval of the Authority.


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