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White Family History

Edwin (Ted) George White and Bertha Agnes Smiley

Ted White and horse Sailor

Edwin (Ted) George White was the 3rd of five children of George and Myra (nee Egglestone) White. He was born on 15 February 1912 at Birchip, Victoria.

At the age of 26, he married Bertha (Bid) Agnes Smiley, 25, daughter of Thomas Alexander Ward and Marion Harley (nee Bunn) Smiley. Ted and Bid had four children - Robert, Jock, Marilyn and Margaret.

Bid died at Woolsthorpe, Victoria on 20 May 1983 when aged 69. Ted died in Melbourne on 29 April 1987, aged 75.

* * *

Memories from Bob, Jock, Marilyn and Margaret White

Dad (Ted) left Tempy school at age 12 to earn money for the family. He was out in the Mallee country of northwest Victoria digging dams with a team of horses led by one called "Sailor", and a scoop.

He did 'wheat lumping' at Tempy railway station, loading trains bag by bag, and taking any other job he could get during the Depression years of 1929 - late 1930.

Work was hard to find and it included shovelling gypsum, again in the Mallee. It was hot, dirty work out in the bush. Men were waiting in line for a job so if you slackened off, someone else would pick up your shovel.

This perhaps was when Ted had toothache and as a visit to a dentist was not an option, he cut out the tooth with a pocket knife.

We think he also worked on the Victorian Railways at some stage. He certainly had some wonderful stories about people who did - the track workers (gangers) out on their trolleys repairing lines etc when a large goods train would round the bend travelling at speed.
Edwin (Ted) White
Tempy had one of the big wheat silos which were a feature of the Mallee country and long goods trains would pass through, taking grain to Geelong to ship overseas. Bob and Jock would put their precious pennies on the line for the train to pass over and remodel.

Dad told of grasshopper plagues, huge swarms like dark clouds. The grasshoppers would eat anything green including the green stripes out of the canvas blinds that many people had on their verandas to help keep out the harsh summer sun. Not to mention the damage they did to the wheat crops which they could strip overnight and precious veggie gardens like Grandma (Myra White) had.

There were also mice plagues. Mice would be everywhere and would eat anything that wasn't locked away securely in tin containers. Some mattresses in those days were stuffed with straw so that at night Dad would feel the mattress moving under him.

Mum (Bid or Bertha) met Dad in Tempy, when Mum was staying with her brother Doug Smiley and his wife Gertie at their Tempy farm. Mum and Dad married in Melbourne in 1938.

At the outbreak of World War Two in 1939, Mum and Dad were living at Sunshine where they were buying their own house. Dad was working as an assistant furnaceman at the H. V. McKay Massey Harris factory. He joined the RAAF in 1940 and served as a turner until discharge in 1945.

They lost their house in Sunshine when he joined the RAAF. Accommodation during the war was very scarce so when Mum learned of people moving out of 24 Stewart Street, Hawthorn, she moved in the same day. When the rent collector came he told her she didn't live there. Her reply was "Well, I do now"!

Ted's service with the RAAF took him to Laverton, Tocumwal, Point Cook, Corowa and the Northern Territory.

Edwin (Ted) White Barry Goring, husband of Marilyn, recalls Ted telling him how he fitted aircraft control cables on Wirraway and Boomerang aircraft during the war. He then had to go on the first flight with the pilot just to make sure he had done it properly!

After five years away, Ted returned home to Melbourne and worked as a tram conductor on the Burwood line and he later told the tale about the convent on one side of the road and the rectory on the other and that if you listened carefully you would hear where a tunnel ran underneath that the nuns and priests used for visits! One of his sayings he often repeated to us over the years was: "End of the tuppeny ticket section, change here for the cemetery or the beach".

Eventually (in 1949) Mum and Dad moved to live at Tempy, living on a farm about 5 miles (8 kilometres) from the township.

The shift from post-war Melbourne to the Mallee must have been a huge shock for Mum - a weatherboard house, no electricity, no running water, no gas, an outdoor drop toilet, a rickety 1928 car, 30 miles (48km) to a doctor and 90 miles (145km) to a dentist. And all with three young children aged under 8 (a 4th would be born at Ouyen in 1951).

Mum told Dad when they moved to the Mallee she would put up with the difficult conditions including huge dust storms, grasshopper plagues etc but if there was a mouse plague she was back off to the city!! She stayed.

One day she was having a bath in the "bathroom" (that had no ceiling) and a mouse dropped from a rafter into her bath. The scream would have been heard for miles around.

Bob and Jock could recollect the starting of the Lanz Bulldog tractor that used crude oil as a fuel. Starting the tractor began by heating with a blow lamp on the front of the tractor for twenty minutes to heat the crank case oil. Then the steering wheel was taken off and used to turn over the huge flywheel at the side to start the tractor.

They also recalled the excitement of getting the new American Case tractor that ran on kerosene and had an "instant" starter for which petrol was used. Dad and Tubby (Ted's brother Harold Lindsay White) used to have competitions on the Case tractor on the way back to the shed on timing the turning from kerosene to petrol so the tractor was ready for starting the next morning.

Every year when ploughing the paddocks, yet more mallee roots (the hard, woody root systems of felled eucalypts) would be uncovered. These were collected and placed on the firewood pile. This pile became a submarine in our imaginations with lots of "brake" control levers made of the long roots.

There was also a wheat harvest when Mum and Mal (and Marg?) were away. It must have been school holidays and Dad took Jock and Robert to Lillburns where Dad and Uncle Tubby were working in shifts 24 x 7. It was pitch dark so it must have been 4 or 5am when Dad lit a fire and gave the boys planks of wood and lengths of No 8 wire. They put the wire in the fire until they were red hot and then burned holes in the planks to make letters.

They were allowed to ride in the harvester bin as the wheat came pouring in - along with the wheat dust.

Bertha, Myra and Edwin (Ted) White Dad made a sled from a big Y section of a tree and put a smallish tank on it to cart water (pulled by the tractor) from the dam to the house for washing etc.

Memories of the dam: treading water all the time so we didn't touch the muddy bottom. Jock and Robert learning to swim in this dam. Dad putting a long plank from the bank into the water for Mum so she would not touch the mud at the bottom when she got in and out.

Getting home from school (on bikes) on a hot day and going straight to the dam in bare feet over burning hot sand, and staying in the water for what seemed hours.

Getting up early before leaving for school for the annual filling of the dam from the irrigation channel network, and then disappointed on how slow the water was, and that it didn't reach the dam before we had to leave for school.

Dad was talked (again) into playing football, for Tempy in the green and gold at age 34 or so. Playing in the back pocket in one match, he broke his collarbone. He was out of action for 6 weeks and could not do the wheat harvesting so teams from the football club took off the wheat harvest for us.

Bob recalls one year when there was not much money he, Jock and Mal got a Christmas present of a parachute tent to share. He and Jock also used to trap and dig out rabbits. The traps were vicious devices and care was needed when setting them. They buried the trap at the front of a burrow and covered the plate with a piece of paper and sprinkled sand over the lot. It was anchored by a pin hammered into the ground.

Traps were set in the afternoon or evening and collected the next morning. The live rabbits were freed from the traps, often with a broken leg, and put in a hessian bag. We carried this back to the house and put the rabbits in a cage made of a 6 inch (10cm) section of a corrugated iron tank covered with wire netting.

We also used to dig rabbits out of burrows with a mattock, taking care they didn't run past us but usually we would dig until we could see the rear of a rabbit and then grip the back legs and pull it out.

Before the rabbit collection man came, we killed and gutted the rabbits (leaving skins on), spliced their rear legs together in pairs and hung them on a pole at the gate, covered in hessian.

Bob remembers graphically the first payment received - one pound and a halfpenny (a little over $2) - that Jock and he shared, an 'unbelievable' amount of money they had earned by themselves.

After the war, Dad applied for a Soldier Settlement farm but was told he needed more experience so in 1949 he and Mum moved to Tempy so Dad could farm with his father and brother.

After several applications and disappointments, he was balloted a Soldier Settlement block at Woolsthorpe and we moved there in 1952. Large amounts of land were acquired from some of the big properties in the district. Our farm was 452 acres and was part of Oblong estate.

Woolsthorpe, surveyed in 1852, lies on Spring Creek on the Great North Road from Port Fairy to the Goldfields and was originally carved out of three huge stations.

Most soldier settlers had to live in their garages while their homes were being built but we were lucky to have an old cottage already there that we could live in. Mum and Dad wanted to buy the cottage to keep but were not allowed and it was sold to another property in the district. Our nearest neighbours were living in their garage and used to come and have a bath on Saturday nights as they did not have one. It was 18 months before we had electricity.

In the early days, to keep some cash coming in, we ran approx. 8 dairy cows and separated the cream out of the milk with a hand-operated separator. It was sold to, and collected weekly by, the local butter factory (no refrigeration used).

Jock and Robert took it in turns to do the milking each evening, the worst job on the farm, particularly if you didn't securely hook the dirty tail and then received a slap across the face while fastening the milking machine. An associated memory was how the cows set their own order to enter the bale, and there was trouble if a cow tried to jump the queue. They were not required to do the morning milking but Bob remembers asking Dad if he could earn money by getting up before riding to school and doing the morning milking. He agreed to ninepence per morning.

The main farm income was the annual wool cheque and Mum and Dad were always careful to put some money aside in case of a bad season. In the early years, the shearers stayed in the Shearers' Quarters behind the house and Mum had to prepare all the meals. Every day she'd load up an old pram and take up food for morning and afternoon 'Smoko' and for lunch. To ease the financial burden, Dad and some of his mates bought big items of machinery to share between them.

There was great camaraderie in the district and farmers helped each other. In later years Dad used to enjoy playing bowls in Warrnambool. One day he and his friends were driving to bowls when they heard over the CB radio that a grassfire was rapidly approaching the property of one of them. They immediately turned around and got to the property as the fire was near the veranda of the house. They fought the fire still in their bowls gear.

Mum and Dad were both very active in the community. Mum was in Red Cross, Hospital Auxiliary, Mothers' Club, Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union and the Country Women's Association. The latter involved lots of flower shows, concerts and singing practice amid much laughter.

It was a great place to grow up, climbing big trees in the pine plantation at the back of the house, fishing for eels in the creek and catching tadpoles.

Mal and Barry Goring, and Marg and Linden Adamson, were married in Woolsthorpe Presbyterian Church and members of the Congregation painted the church specially.

Christmas was a great family occasion and we'd all converge on the farm with our children in tow. Mum and Dad had many visitors to stay over the years and Mum managed to keep everyone fed despite the major shopping town being some distance away and only visited once a week.

Linden recalls helping Ted cut down a tree that was too close to the machinery shed. After much strategizing about which way to get it to fall away from the shed, it went right through the roof!

Another time Dad went to shoot a pest in the garden but the ground was so dry and hard the bullet ricocheted into the water tank which was very quickly repaired.

Mum and Dad lived there until Mum died in 1983 and Dad then moved to Dingley to live next door to Marg and Linden. He died in 1989.

Timeline for Ted White

At the outbreak of World War 2, Ted was working as an assistant furnaceman in the heat treatment plant at the H V McKay Massey Harris factory at Sunshine, Victoria.
16th September 1940 enlisted in RAAF at Sunshine
1941: Leading Aircraftman, Laverton
February 1942: Trainee Flight Rigger, Tocumwal
May 1942: Turner, Point Cook
September 1942: Corowa
Served at Adelaide River Pell Strip in Northern Territory
1945: Discharged, Corporal 1 Personnel Depot
1949: Returned to Tempy
1952: Soldier Settlement block at Woolsthorpe (name appears on Soldier Settlement cairn in Caramut)
1983: Moved to Dingley

Photographs: Ted White and 'Sailor' at Tempy, Vic; Ted White wheat farming, 1928 or 1929; Ted White in RAAF uniform, World War Two; Bertha Agnes (Bid), Myra and Ted White.

Further information

Parents of Ted White (George and Myra White)
Siblings of Ted White (Hilda, Myra, Joyce and Lindsay White)
Bertha (Bid) Agnes Smiley (wife of Ted White)

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