Theresa Mason, PhD student at SCU.
Theresa Mason, PhD student at SCU.

Looking for flood of old stories

A Southern Cross University researcher is searching for older people living from Tweed Heads to Kyogle who can share their memories of the region’s early history.

Theresa Mason (pictured) has embarked on her PhD research project – an oral history of the Northern Rivers – and already has many a fascinating tale to tell, thanks to locals sharing their stories for her earlier Honours project.

Her interest in the region’s history began when she was editing and writing for The Village Journal, a local newspaper based in Rosebank, serving the areas around Dunoon, Federal and Bexhill.

“I came across all of these older people who had fascinating stories to tell,” she said. “Many of the stories around people’s experiences during the Great Depression and in times of war were particularly interesting.

“People who lived on the land told me how it became essential for them to learn how to make their own fuel, and all sorts of mixes were developed and tested in backyard sheds. Many people also self-converted cars, buses, trucks and farm machinery to run on coal gas. While there were some tragedies from explosions, many of the designs were innovative and worked quite well.”

Theresa also said a lot of people had great ‘flood stories’ to tell.

“One woman told me how, during the big 1945 flood, her father hailed the cream boat that went from Coraki to Lismore, thinking it could drop them on the other side of the river because their house was flooding,” Theresa said. “Instead, they were taken all the way to town where the boat was tied up to a hoop pine on the riverbank. Their family spent the night on board eating chunks of bread and cream, and early next morning, the waters had receded and they walked around town. The woman said the paper-mâché dress shop models in their beautiful gowns had collapsed onto the floors of the dress shops in the most grotesque attitudes, still with silly smiles on their faces.”

Theresa would like to gather as many oral histories as she can and is seeking 50 people aged 65 and over, living in the Tweed, Byron, Ballina, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Kyogle Shire areas, who would like to participate in her research.

She can be contacted on 6688 2387 or by email at theresa.mason@scu.edu.au.


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