“Molly’s Story” –
One of the Thirroul Hardie Rubber Factory “Girls”.
Television “soaps” often paint the past very nostalgically – happy families, Dad at work and Mum at home looking after the kids. However that was not every family’s reality – in the 1930’s there were marriage breakdowns or women were widowed over the decades.
These women had to become breadwinners, during all too often troubled times like the depression years or during wartime eras of World Wars I and II. Often untrained for a career, they sought work where they could. Thirroul’s Hardie Rubber Factory employed not only young single women, but also older single mothers like “Molly” Mary Constance Callcott, from the post WWII years.
Various articles have been written of how women worked at the Hardie Rubber Factory, until 1968, before it burned down in a mysterious and spectacular fire in 1973. There was talk of some wild Hardie Rubber Factory staff Christmas Parties at the Thirroul Leagues Club in the early 1960’s – whether this is deserved or not is unclear? And Migrant women worked at the Hardie Rubber Factory too – briefly documented in an official Migration Heritage study report – see pages 6-7 . Ultimately the factory was replaced by the Thirroul Plaza Shopping Centre.
This is the story of one of the women who worked at the Hardie Rubber Factory. It is not a story of great deeds and achievements by a woman of Thirroul – but instead of a Thirroul woman’s going out to work and surviving during adversity, in the tough years of the late 1930’s, through to the late 1950’s, when her health finally succumbed.
“Molly” Mary Constance Callcott (nee Joy) was born in 1906 and lived in Thirroul at various times in her early life, and also for the twenty years before her illness, and subsequent passing, at Garrawarra Hospital in 1960. Her second eldest granddaughter, Kerrie Christian can just remember Molly, at Soudan St Thirroul, at her parents Redman Avenue Thirroul home, and at Garrawarra Hospital – Molly died during Kerrie’s first year at school in 1960.
Molly would have enjoyed a comfortable and happy life in her early years, when her father John Charles Joy, worked in the legal field. She lived with her father, John, mother Edith, and brother Kenneth Charles in the family home at Penshurst, which was quite large. Molly seems to have visited and lived with her grandmother Mary Ann Hicks (nee McKenzie), widow of former North Illawarra Alderman/Councillor & Captain Henry Thomas Hicks, at “Everest” in Seaview Terrace, Thirroul, at various times prior to Mary Ann’s passing in 1930.
Molly’s maternal grandfather, Henry Thomas Hicks JP, had presided over the opening of the Thirroul Public School in 1889. Like his father, James Hicks, Henry had been a passionate advocate for establishing schools in the northern Illawarra – at Austinmer, Thirroul and Bulli. As an Alderman, Henry had also lobbied for both the creation of the Bulli Shire Council,and support for the local dairy industry. One of Henry’s sons, Molly’s Uncle Alexander Henry Hicks, later became Shire President for the North Illawarra Council, and an advocate for Bulli Shire Council being established. Alexander was a coal miner and one time President of the Illawarra Coal Mine Employees Association, which would later become the Miners Federation. Two other of Henry’s sons, ie Molly’s uncles, George and Henry Thomas Jnr, were Captains in the Army in WWI. Her Aunt Ida’s husband Arthur (A F) Webb was one time President and Vice President of the NSW Master Builders Association – including at the time that the Federal ALP were seeking to ban Communist Party members from holding office in Trade Unions in 1950. A most diverse family it seems ?
Perhaps the first challenges in Molly’s life were the deaths of her grandfather Henry Thomas Hicks in 1909 and that of her father John Charles Joy in 1910. Her mother, Edith Florence Joy (nee Hicks), was widowed with Molly only four years old, and her brother, Kenneth Charles Joy, seven years old. Nevertheless Molly seems to have had a happy youth. Her brother Kenneth joined the Navy in late 1917, putting up his age by at least a year, and Molly studied Music, becoming a Piano Teacher.
Marriage to “Russ” Louis Russell Freeman Callcott came in 1929. There seems to have been great love between Molly and Russ at that point.
The Thirroul Dressmaker known as Miss Nelly Parr was Molly’s bridesmaid – Nelly would go on to make many, many school uniforms for girls attending Thirroul School – right through until the 1960’s.
Russ Callcott was a Railwayman, like his father, Alf, and so the family moved around NSW with his work.
Along the way Molly and Russ came to have five children – Ian, Joan, Enid (Bubby), John (Joe) and Joy. Joan recalled happier moments in the earlier years according to Joan’s daughter, Kerrie. Joan would remember how her parents both loved and played music – of how they were going to be a musical family. When asked by Kerrie how Molly and Russ got together, Joan’s brother Ian suggested it was probably a common love of music. And Russ’s mother, Lucy Callcott, had trained to be a music teacher like Molly. However Lucy had never actually worked as a music teacher, although she was the church organist at St Davids Anglican Church, Thirroul, for many years, prior to her death in 1954.
By 1937, not long before the birth of the youngest child, Joy, the family had returned to Thirroul to live in Harbord Street, near to Russ’s mother, Lucy Callcott. They lived near the family of Laurie Kelly Jnr and his father Laurence Kelly Snr – both former NSW ALP MP’s. And LG “Peter” Chamberlain, nephew of former Wollongong City Council Deputy Lord Mayor, Rube Hargrave, was another neighbour. (More on Rube Hargrave)
There seems to have been tension in the Callcott family, and Molly’s marriage broke down. Her husband Russ took off across to the other side of Harbord Street Thirroul,to live with his mother, Lucy Callcott.
Lucy, Molly’s mother-in-law was the eldest of the ten children in the Midson family – her father, William Midson, and great grandfather, James Bradley, were apparently Methodist Preachers. William was also an Alderman on Dundas Council, as was her Uncle and her brother became an Alderman on Windsor Council. And Lucy was also the great granddaughter of three First Fleet Convicts – John Small, Mary Parker and James Bradley; as well as of a Third Fleet Convict, Sarah Barnes. Lucy seems to have been a tough woman according to recollections of some of her grandchildren. Perhaps she had to be, as real estate agent – landlady for tourists and permanent tenants from 1915 until her death – including the cash-strapped English writer, DH Lawrence, and his wife Baroness Frieda Von Richtofen, cousin of the WWI Bloody Red Baron of the German Luftwaffe. They had rented Wyewurk in Craig St Thirroul while DH Lawrence worked on his novel, “Kangaroo“.
On Molly’s marriage breakdown, she began to teach the Piano to support her five children, as financial support from her estranged/former husband was not always reliable and ongoing. Paying to put food on the table, and to clothe her five children, was an ongoing struggle, of which her daughter Joan would share with her own children. Molly’s children spent a lot of time on Thirroul Beach, swimming and fishing.
Among Molly’s students in Thirroul during the 1940’s was Pat Bowyer, future wife of fellow teacher Ken Bowyer and mother of Wendy Akhurst. Pat was studying to become a junior primary school teacher and needed to learn to play the piano. Later Pat, would teach Molly’s granddaughters Kerrie and Julie Adams at Thirroul Public School, and her daughter Wendy would become Bulli High School Captain, and a teacher herself. Coincidentally, two years after Wendy, Julie would also become the Bulli High School Captain and also a teacher.
Molly and her children moved to her mother’s new home in Soudan Street, Thirroul in the late 1940’s. She intended to move the piano with her and continue teaching, to support her family of five children. However former husband Russ Callcott and his mother Lucy somehow “reclaimed” the Piano on the day of moving.
Thus began Molly’s working life in the Thirroul Hardie Rubber Factory.
Molly would work at Hardies for perhaps about 5- 10 years at the most, but long enough to see four of her five children settled into jobs and some married. During this time Molly continued to live with her mother Edith Joy, at Soudan St Thirroul – where Edith’s sisters Christina Woolley and “Jummy” Ida McKenzie Webb would visit.
However all the challenges and stress finally claimed Molly’s health, a stroke and then dementia. So Molly moved to ultimately live for a while with eldest daughter Joan, a young mother with two pre-schooler daughters, Kerrie and Julie. Molly’s mother, Edith Florence Joy, also experienced poor health, and moved to live with her younger sister, “Jummy”, Ida McKenzie Webb, and husband Arthur Frederick Webb, in Sydney, before passing away in 1958. Later, as Molly’s illness progressed she was admitted to Garrawarra Hospital, remaining there until her death in 1960 aged 54 years.
Really, Molly was so very young,and had so very little time to enjoy her own grandchildren prior to her death in 1960. There would be fourteen grandchildren in total, four born before her death – Mary, Kerrie, Virginia and Julie.
Kerrie can remember before Molly’s death, that Joan would bundle Kerrie and Julie onto the train at Thirroul Station. They would travel to Waterfall Station, where they would get in a large black taxi cab to drive over to Garrawarra Hospital.
Molly’s mother Edith had lived to nearly 80 years old, her grandmother Mary Ann was 90 at her death – her oldest daughter Joan would live to 80 years – Molly’s death was at 54 years. Molly was buried at St Augustine’s Anglican Cemetery in Park Road Bulli. Her niece Margaret recalls that there was a bit of bother, as there wasn’t supposed to be enough room left in the cemetery to fit in Molly’s grave. However given Molly’s family’s involvement with St Augustines spanning back to the 1880’s, a space was found – near to the Cemetery fence, and to other Hicks – Joy family graves.
Perhaps it was Molly’s tenacity in such struggling circumstances that inspired her eldest daughter, Joan Adams, who would work so hard in so many of areas of community service over the following 50 years – War Widows, Legacy, Laurel Club, Red Cross, Stroke Support Groups, as well as Tennis Club, School Mothers Club and probably more. And perhaps Molly and Joan would also inspire Joan’s daughter, Kerrie Anne Christian,to be a fighter for her community, in her years as an Alderman-Councillor on Wollongong City Council.
See also Photo Gallery of “Molly” Mary Constance Callcott nee Joy : click here