On the Way to a Catholic Ball | Great Australian Story

On the Way to a Catholic Ball

On the Way to a Catholic Ball



And other Stories


My father, James Matthew Baldwin, a Lands Inspector, was born at the front gate of Hanging Rock, down near Woodend. My mother's name was Jane Perron, and she was born in Seymour. Her father built the Canadian Hotel there, and a big hall. He wasn't a builder, but he supplied the money to build the Canadian. He was married twice.

There were 3 boys in our family - Clem, Jim and me. We came to Ultima in 1920 from Lake Boga. Our furniture came over in a horse and wagon - 2 horses pulling the wagon - and we drove over in a buggy. When we got here us three children went down to the shop owned by Smiths, a combined hairdresser's shop, butcher shop, grocer and drapery shop, and we all got a big bag of boiled lollies. 

The shops in Ultima at that time were big businesses. The main shop was Cuttle's, which is a well known name. Cuttles had a staff of approximately 30 people. Their shop became Malone's and it was pulled down not many years ago. In those days things were a lot easier as Cuttle would give credit for 12 months to customers. Today that is not done anymore. 

There was a butcher's shop in the same building run by W. Smith. They also had a big drapery shop, and a grocery shop. They employed a lot of staff too. There was another big shop, down there where the bake house was, until it got burnt down. The man who owned that shop was John Guy. They lived in a house at the back of it. We used to call it "Grandma's House," because that was where Peter O'Brien's mother lived.  

There was a Wine Saloon which was up where the Memorial is now. That was Brook's Wine Saloon. Brooks got to Ultima by travelling for all these shops, whose wares he had to promote and sell. He got married here, and got the Wine Saloon going.

The Post Office was across the road from the hall, and at the back was a Coffee Palace, facing the Hall, and a big passage running down the middle with a lot of rooms going off it. A lot of people boarded there. 

There was a hotel here in Ultima. I remember this pub getting rebuilt after the old one was burnt down. The other one was a wooden pub and it was about worn out, I would say. I can remember a fellow who was a bricklayer who helped to build it, a mate of Clem's.

When I left school I started to fix motor cars. I had always been interested in motorcars. I qualified with General Motors, part time here and finished with General Motors. I worked as a mechanic on motor cars all my life and have enjoyed my years as a motor mechanic, but it has got ahead of me now, with the electronics. You've got to be clued up properly. You see there's a little black box, just under the dash - it's worth about $2000, and with the likes of me, if only a wire falls off it - if it was no good when I pulled it to bits, it would be no good when I put it back together!  That's where they make the mistakes, it's got too complicated, you've got to be good, and you've got to have good equipment - expensive equipment. It was different working on cars then - today it is a much more complicated job. But what remains true is the best car to buy is the one that is selling well - a popular car. 

Clem did well here, selling Holden cars. They were a good car, because you could do anything with them. A Holden will always go, and they were a simple car.

Some of the Locals
I could tell you some funny stories about the Ultima Pub and Punchie! Punchie was a terribly kind man, I could always get a lend of his car - and Punchie always had a new car and we would go out around to the school dances. Other young men would say to me "How do you get Punchie's car?" and I'd say "I just go and ask him!" I could tell you stories of him and Mark Neyland.

We went to Manangatang to a Catholic Ball - Jim and I. I had a girl, and Jim had Elsie Donovan, who was at the Chillingollah pub. Punchie was about charged up when we got up there, and Elsie wouldn't go. Elsie came out and she said "I'm not going with him, Jack. He's boozed!!" So away we went. We were steaming up along the road in a brand new Chev. car, and we got away from Chillingollah, and Punchie said, "I'm going straight to the ball" and he grabbed the steering wheel, pulled it over and down we went into the table drain of water we went! Mrs. Oliver of Cocamba had the Post Office near there, and she said "If you go down there about 2 miles there's a fellow with some horses, and he might be able to get you out." So we walked down there, about 2 miles. My girl went in and sat with Mrs. Oliver by the fire , And then we came back with no horses! Mrs. Oliver said "There's a great big jack here, and a couple of logs, maybe you could jack it up, and put them under." So that's what we did. 

Punchie had been walking up and down the table drain, with his dress suit on you know. We got out, and we got to Manangatang. Punchie said to me "Come on, come on," And I said "No, I'm not going in." My girl wouldn't go in either, because I was nearly as dirty as Punchie. Anyhow, Punchie takes his coat off, turns it inside out and put it on again, and he said "Come on, I'm going in now," and in he went. He nearly brought the hall down. Then he started to sing some of those good Irish songs. 

Mark Neyland was a brilliant man. He was an agent, and by golly he had a mind on him!

Old Jack O'Brien, Peter's father and other people of that time were good people, and easy to get along with. There was Bendy O'Brien, a cousin of Jack, and he lived with him. He finished up at Lazarus House in Ballarat. At Christmas and Easter Jack O'Brien used to get a nine gallon of beer, and take it home and everybody would get a go at it and old Jack was finding that he wasn't getting any beer himself. In those days groceries and things used to come in big wooden boxes, so Jack got them to get a great big wooden box from Guys, and he got some hinges and a lock, and he got Bendy and a couple of fellows to put the door, the hinges, and the lock on the box and fixed it all up. And then Jack said "I'm putting the barrel of beer in here, and I've got the key!"

Before the beer was locked up, Billy used to be sitting down there with a tin and a stick, and if he hit the tin hard once, it meant that Jack was about, and if he hit it twice it meant that everything was O.K. and get the billy under the tap! 

Dad knew where there was a bee hive out in the bush, and of course everybody was accustomed to doing things in the bush, anyway this fellow wanted to go out and see the bee hives. So Dad took them out,'because he could handle bees'. Well, between Clem and the other bloke getting bitten, there was a hell of a commotion.