MAX SOLLY 1918 - 2005
from Neville Solly
This article was originally published in the April 2008 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
When my uncle Max died, my cousin Deidre Solly found some tapes that her dad had recorded of his life entitled Profile of Max Solly. She transcribed them and I have re-arranged them into date sequence as he had recorded bits and pieces as he thought of them.
I was born on the 13th April 1918 and my name is Maxwell Dumont Solly. The place of my birth being a rather large house, the southern side of Grandmother Dumont’s (Martha DUMONT nee JENKINS 1864-1949) house at 20 Blight Street, Ridleyton, now Croydon. In these days it was not uncommon for births to be performed in homes with the aid of a nurse. These house blocks ran from Blight Street through to Government Road, very large blocks.
Max on tricycle
My Grandfather (John DUMONT 1861-1945) was a sand carter. He would fill up with sand from the River Torrens near the Southwark Brewery. This was all done by shovel and dray. He would load half a dray of sand, bring it up and tip it off at the top and return for another half load. Then he would shovel the half load at the top of the bank into the dray to make a full load. The load would be delivered to the sites. When he was not busy he would do the same and take it to his premises at 20 Blight Street and unload it, for occasions, when he could not get down to the river. Many hundreds of tons of sand were stored on the property.
Two horses were used in a tip dray and four horses were used in a wagon - trolley. On occasion he would harness up four horses and travel to Gawler, 25 miles north, for the special Gawler sand used for building purposes. This was a full day’s job starting at 2 am in the morning and returning late at night. No front end loaders those days. The teams of horses were kept on his property and at Roses Stables. He did this till he was 80 years of age when an accident happened unharnessing the horses from the tip dray. The horse left the shaft and with Grandfather still holding the shaft it tipped up. He tried to hold it but it went up instead. Of course he broke a leg and this put him out of action for rest of his life.
Grandma was also a hard worker. She did everything for Grandpa, even talking, telling him he had enough to eat. When Margie, his daughter (Margarite Bourgaise DUMONT 1898-1964) would ask him if he would like another cup of tea, Grandmother would say, "No Margie, He's had enough". They were hard times but good times. Grandma would always patronise the Salvos so we always had the “War Cry” to read. I am not overly religious but I think all the family girls, including my mother, went to a convent school at Hindmarsh although not being Catholic.
After a while my parents had a house built further down the road to the north and it was built by Cliff KENNETT who was a friend of Dad's (Reginald Guelph SOLLY 1891-1969). The whole family of Kennett’s were good builders. Cliff also raced pigeons in the Croydon Club for many years, same club as my father did. My Dad had a lock at the new house. I can still remember the lock. I was about 5 then. That was the first locking door I had seen. I can remember Mum's cousin Wilf FORSTER living next door. And his parents next door again. That was Ted (John Edward FORSTER 1864-1942) and Lizzie FORSTER (Elizabeth nee JENKINS 1861-1942). Lizzie was Grandmother Dumont's sister. Lizzie suffered a lot from Asthma most of her life.
Dad had a job at Woodson's (Adelaide) but was retrenched in the depression. He must have sold the Blight Street house and lived next to a row of shops opposite the Croydon School. He leased the grocery shop and the fruit and veg shop. The row of shops was owned by a Mr. JACKSON who was a baker at the time from Coglin Street, Brompton. Eunice (Eunice Irene SMITH nee SOLLY 1915-1946), my sister worked for them even after we moved to Victor Harbor. Eunice lived with my Grandmother at Blight Street during that time.
We had the house in Cedar Avenue three or four years before we moved to Victor Harbor. When in Cedar Avenue I raced pigeons with my brother Allan (Allan Guelph SOLLY 1921-) and my best mate Wesley CROSSMAN at Croydon, and also with another mate Max GRAHAM, whose father also had a grocery store at West Croydon. We had no clocks for timing our pigeons in, but ran to the church on Government Road and that was about equal for us to run with our pigeons. By the way Wes, as he was always called and his older brother Fred joined the AIF the first day war was declared, their numbers being SX246 and SX247. Wes stayed at Victor Harbor with us on a couple of occasions prior to the war before he was married. Fred was killed in New Guinea after serving in Tobruk. He came back to Australia and was sent to the islands. Wes married a Verna JOHNSON of Brompton.
I went to school at Croydon from Grades 1 to 6. In 1931 I went to school in Victor Harbor. In Grade 7 I passed my QC and went on to Victor Harbor High School for one term. I left when I was 14 as my parents could see I was no Rhodes Scholar and I worked on the farm.
In 1931 we moved to Victor Harbor and a mate of Dad's, George ROBERTS, lent him the money, £250 I think it was, to buy the farm at Victor Harbor and it was put in my name. I worked after school on the farm and we had pigs and I could go in the horse and dray with two 44 gallon drums and collect house scraps from the boarding houses and hotels to feed the pigs. In the early days when we were on the farm most of the sheds were made of boughs with seaweed put over the top to keep them dry. These were done mostly to the poultry shed and the pig sties. We had quite a few pigs at the time and a few cows so Dad started me off on a milk round. By milking our cows I would deliver by pushbike with a 3 gallon can to start with.
I found my customers had grown so Dad bought a 2 wheeled horse float from the REDFORD fellows who also had a milk round and were also renowned for their trotters. They supplied a pony which was a very nice pony except that when I was in a customers house and she decided that she was thirsty, she would leave me and go around a couple of streets to the horse trough, by the primary school. The trough was built, or rather the second one was built, in the memory of Bessie STOCK who was killed in a jumping accident at the Adelaide Royal Show. The milk delivery in those days was all bulk milk at the back door and my customers continued to grow and we purchased an old Rugby Buckboard and we'd use that to collect extra milk from Stan FRANCIS at Inman Valley. There were times when we would get SINKERSONS to help on the milk round. In later years when I was in the army my sister Eunice came home, with George SMITH, her husband, who was also in the army, and Eunice and Dad did the round while we were away. Jack ALLEN used to help with the delivery morning and afternoon.
By this time we had given the pigs away. There was too much to do. A lot of the milk delivery was done by motor then but it was very hard during the war to get petrol, but a friend of Dad's, Josh WARNE from the Buffalo Lodge used to give him surplus ration tickets. He had a wood yard and got ration tickets through petrol motors. A lot of the fuel used was power kero which was not rationed at the time. It was a tractor fuel and also Shellite but although it was expensive you had to have it.
I think that in those years spent at Victor Harbor from 14 to 18 and when I was in the army, Allan and myself along with Norm HENDERSON and Clive CANNON spent most weekends shooting, with ferrets and each had a dog. We would walk for many miles after rabbits and we could sell the skins for one shilling or one and threepence a pound. That was round about 5 or 6 skins. That would help to buy some more bullets and with the practice I became first class shot in the army and this was included in my pay book. The best shot was a “marksman” that was top shot in those days.
Another time I was out shooting with Allan, we had loaned our rifle to Clive CANNON and when he returned it he didn't tell us that the ejector spring was broken so I saw a rabbit, pulled the ejector spring straight back and it went off. As I was walking and I had my left foot in the way of course the bullet went into my foot. Allan said he was still going to school and he said don't tell Mum or Dad you shot yourself till I get to school, which I did and Dad took me down to hospital in the dray. That's when Dr. DOUGLAS operated on it.
My Dad started the pigeon club at Victor Harbor in 1935 and went into recess during the war years and started up again after. I gave it up after 50 years on account of the dust from the birds but I still suffer from all sorts of things so that wasn't all the pigeons fault, but I think I did feel better after. Allan was still racing in 1995 and he had been in the club for 60 years but on account of his health, it was his last. We both had success with our birds on several occasions having the fastest velocity in the state. A few races I can remember was a Benalla (Victoria) and another Oodnadatta, both races I beat Adelaide's velocity by quite a large margin.
During the late 1930's Uncle Fred (Frederick William DUMONT 1868-1938) and Auntie Florence nee MORRIS –1950) stayed with us for a few years on the farm. Uncle Fred was Grandpa Dumont's brother. They renovated an old shed and made it liveable from iron, carpet etc from the rubbish dump next to us, now the Council Works Depot. Uncle Fred also built a chimney on the shed and it was quite comfortable for them. Uncle Fred would sit for hours at a time smoking his pipe. He used to smoke plug tobacco and would cut it with his pocket knife.
Auntie Florrie used to help Mum and also she would do a bit of cooking. She was a station cook in her younger years at Blinman. I would go down to the slaughter yards and get what you would call bull fat and she would render it all down and make dripping out of it. From this batch she would make dripping biscuits for us. I can't remember where they went from there. I believe it was up to RAWLINS (Hilda Florence May RAWLINS nee DUMONT 1909-1994). They also had a couple of rooms on their property.
It was very hard in those days for water. Auntie Florrie and Uncle Fred and Dad had to load the copper in the dray and take it down to the Inman River. At that time we were leasing the part of the Inman River that faced the farm. They would do their washing down there, hang it out and wait for it to dry collect their washing and then come home again. This was done mostly during the summer when there was no water. We did have an underground tank but that would soon go. But that was the only means of water we had. And then for drinking purposes, after that, when there was no more water in the underground tank we would cart it from a couple of places past Allan's. A chap named Frank LUCY had a permanent spring and it was beautiful water. The Engineering and Water Supply later put a pipe right through from the top of Seaview Road, right through our property, through Allan's property that was then Mr. JACKSON'S, right through to the cemetery. That meant we had water laid on then. When the Inman River came in flood, there were lots of oranges that had fallen down from the orange orchards in Inman Valley. They got washed into the back waters by our farm. We used to get dozens and dozens of oranges. We used to go yabby catching down at the river there, on a string and a bit of meat, pull em up and catch them with our hand. At other times we made bird traps and trapped Waxbills, Diamond Sparrows and Goldfinches. It's illegal now to do it but we had a lot of birds. I put them in my aviary on the farm.
Frank and Norm HENDERSON used to do a lot of net fishing at King's Beach. They used to get a lot of salmon and they would always bring us up some if they had too many. This was after Uncle Fred and Auntie Florrie had gone. Dad used to put sawdust in the fireplace, that Uncle Fred made, and we'd scale and clean these fish hang them on rails going across the sawdust to get all the smoke. They'd keep for ages because of the smoke.
Lyal galloping Centenary Star late 1930's
Norm used to be a great one for blowing up trees. He'd bore a hole in a dry tree, plug it with gelignite and then blow the tree up. That's how he used to get a lot of dry wood. But he also went out to Kings Beach too on the rocks and one day I was with him and when he threw this plug of gelignite into the sea and the fish all come to the surface stunned. You've gotta get them in a few minutes otherwise they revive. So this particular day there was a big sea bream come to the surface and we couldn't lift him in. He was 15 pounds in weight and we only had dab nets and so we couldn't get him. So Norm jumped in fully clothed and got him. It's very dangerous there in amongst those rocks, there's octopus and all in there but once you've blown them up you know there's nothing there. But he got in there and he got out alright and brought this fish to us and we lifted it up. He had half of it and we had half of it. But it was a very dry fish. Mum cooked it but it was very dry, must be an old one I think. Course they'd hang you now if you were caught doing that. But a lot of that used to go on in these days. It was the only way of getting a lot of fish.
We had to pay £45 for our power to be put on from the top road including couple of poles. This was after we were married. Auntie Ruby (HOLLAND-BOATH nee SOLLY 1883-1963) gave us all a refrigerator and of course with no power we had to use kerosene. This was all right but it used to freeze up too much and everything used to freeze. But when we got the power on I approached Auntie Ruby and I asked her, I said, is it alright if we changed over to a power one, which we did and everything was alright then. We had power on right through the house then.
During my army career I first started off at the Warradale Camp. Then we were moved to Clapham, by Sleeps Hill tunnel then Puckapunyal Training Camp (Victoria). From there we were sent over to Western Australia, a place called Mullewa, then down to Moora and then down to Mingenew, then also to Geraldton. I came back from W.A. with Alf CHRISTIAN and Jack LEWIS on the MV Duntroon and I was sick all the way over. I was happy to get off the boat at Outer Harbor.
Max in Army Uniform
Then I got some pay from the army. I forgot what you call it now, after you've done so much time, they paid you out. With that money I bought a block of land which was Auntie Verna's (DICKSON nee DUMONT 1905-1980) and Uncle Scotty's (1900-1979), which is about 12 acres across the road from Allan's. I had that for a couple of years, more perhaps, and then after we were married we sold that and got a deposit for the house in Seaview Road. In the meantime we sold the bottom half of the farm to Frank HENDERSON. Then at a later date we sold the top half. That entitled us to have enough money to put a deposit down on the Seaview Road house which we paid £100, I think it was for the block, £200 pounds then. We bought all the stuff through the Amscol (Adelaide Milk Supply Co-operative) factory because they were suppliers at the time. We subcontracted and Ray and Doug COX did the building and also Doug did the carpentry work, all the roof and indoor carpentry, second fixing and all that.
Many times we had picnics out at Coorong Beach. We used to go shooting and fishing and stop there the night and Gwenda would bring Dudley's (Gwenda’s brother) wind up gramophone, the portable one. We'd play records out there and come home late at night. We would have a fire going and do our cooking there. Bill and Hilda RAWLINS used to come too to our outings out on Coorong Beach and I can remember on one occasion we didn't have any spare tyre, because you couldn't buy tyres at that time, this was just after the war, and we went out in the buckboard. We looked down and there was the tube sticking out of the tyre just like a red cherry sticking and we had to tie a tea towel around it and we came all the way home with that tea towel wrapped around the tube.
I used to ride the bike from Victor to O'Sullivan's Beach. We were down there a couple of months digging trenches and I used to ride with John ROTHE and Billy PROBERT. They were both from Goolwa and they used to meet me at Nangawooka and we'd go off and ride our bikes down to Christies Beach, via Beach Road then to O’Sullivan’s Beach. But since, I've been down there but I can't trace where we were. We used to leave our bikes in an old farm machinery shed. We got permission and used to leave them there while we were in camp. But I don't know what would have happened if we moved camp overnight. We would have had to leave the bikes there I suppose.
Just after the war I rode my bike out to Myponga. Somebody advertised an old car out there, an old Chev. It had the beaded edge on it like the same sort of tyres as the milk float and the tyres were reasonably good on it and I said, "Yes, I'd take it". I went back home and Eunice and I went out in the old buckboard and we towed it home. I drove the buckboard and she drove the old one, towed it because it wasn't driveable because we needed the tyres for the milk float. Coming down Old Nettles Hill Road (which was gravel) she had to put it in gear because the old car had no brakes and I towed it down in bottom gear, but it got away and run into the back of the ute. We had some old rope and we tied an old log that was on the side of the road to the back of the car that we were towing and that sort of helped to brake it coming down the hill, till we got to the bottom of the hill and then we took it off again.
Getting back to the army days, when I was first at Warradale, I used to get leave at night and go over to Eunice. She was living then with Auntie Ruby and she had a flat there. They had just been married, I think, and George Smith, her husband wasn't in the army at that time and he used to drive me back. But if I didn't have a leave pass you couldn't get in through the gate, you had to sneak in at the side fence on Adelaide Road otherwise you'd get landed.
Our recreation in the army was more or less to have boxing and my sparing partners were Ray WAYE and Darsy LINES from Middleton. But years ago at school it was Wesley CROSSMAN who used to get me into all sorts of fights. I can remember one time there was a big fat lad and they were all frightened of him because of his size. I saw him out of the front of the shop, but he saw me, so I went back in as I was big and bloody brave and Auntie May said, "What are you doing back here?" I said, "I gotta pick up some feathers, I want some feathers, pigeon feathers", but I didn't tell her there was a bloke down there waiting for me. When I come out he was gone and so I headed off home but of course he wasn't gone, he was just around the shop waiting for me. Barry I think his name was, yeah Barry. And anyway I come round the corner and of course he was waiting there for me. He slapped my face and said where's Wes, cause we were always together and of course he wouldn't pick on both of us. When he slapped my face that was all I could take. I done me cool cause I let out at him and hit him right in the jaw and he went straight down. Every time he got up I hit him down again. I knew if he got hold of me he'd crack me so I just hit him. An old lady coming along had a walking stick and she poked me with the stick and told me to stop it but of course every time he got up I still hit him. She went in and got the fellow out the shop and he came running out. He straightened us out a bit and sent us on our way.
When I got home cause I had my milange knickers on and a white shirt which was covered in blood. It wasn't my blood but I got in a hell of a row when I got home because it just shows you that size it was that frightens everybody. But I was a bit of a hero for a week I suppose. But after that Wesley used to pick on him to try to get him to fight but he used to back down so I mean it wasn't actually that he could fight alright but it was his size that they were all frightened of. The moral is the bigger they are the heavier they fall. Course you're not allowed to call them fatty anymore at all, you've got to call them slim deprived.
I used to get into trouble. Allan used to go to Sunday School but Clive Cannon and I, we didn't go to Sunday School. I used to go walkabout and rabbiting with my good clothes on. I used to have me milange knickers and white shirt again and this particular time we went up to an orchard. It was called Swain's orchard and they had a whole hillside full of strawberries. And of course we sneaked up there and I packed all these strawberries into me suit pocket. Of course when I got home they were all stained, everything was all stained. Gees did I get into a row that time.
In another part of our lives, Gordon Hurrell and I used to go out to Willow Creek. His brother-in-law used to have a farm out there, a property out there and of course there used to be kangaroos out there and we used to go shooting kangaroos out there on Arthur Lush's property. Now Gordon is down at Keith and also Arthur Lush is down there too.
I can remember one time I was home on leave and Mary (Allan’s wife) and one of Allan's mates was on leave and Gwenda, Eunice, Mary and one of Gwenda's friends that she used to work with in Adelaide, we all went up the Hindmarsh River in a rowing boat with Nat SAUNDERS one of Allan's mates in the army.
One time when we were coming back from Bendigo, with Dean and myself. He had that old Rover he had bought, and we had trouble coming all the way home. So I said to Dean it's no good going on any further, I said, because you'd only go a couple of miles and then it'd stop again. So I said we'd leave it at Gordon Hurrell's and we'll ring up Allan and he came down and got us. Dianne Humberstone's husband, John, went down there and picked it up. He drove it on choke all the way home. He took with him an auto wrecker's trailer in case he had to bring it on the trailer. That's how he got it home. John drove it on the choke all the way home.
After my discharge from the army I went back on the milk round and I couldn't sort of settle down again. Anyway we sold the milk round and I worked for the fellow that bought the round, Ern WIESE of Victor Harbor. He had a property out Cut Hill way and I worked for him for quite a while getting £6 working for seven days. Then I found a job at the bakers delivering bread. I was only on that for a while and they gave up delivering bread after about 12 months. I got another job then with the grocery store, Sal EDDY'S. I was there for 15 years till he sold it to Johnny and Syd KNIGHT, and I was with them for 5 years. To get a few more bob I used to do the milk round for Allan at that time when Allan had a milk round. My brother Trevor (1931-) and I used to do it every other day. That got a few more bob to help.
After the grocery store I went and saw Des DENT and got a job there delivering milk. I was with him a couple of years or more I suppose and then I leased a round from him. Things got a bit difficult with Dairyvale, when we had to send our money straight to them and they wanted to know everything, what your mother's maiden name was etc. So I give that up and went on the dole for awhile till I got to the age I could get the pension.
Max on Centenary Star Late 1930's
My interests I had were in horses and in pigeon racing for over 50 years. I had a horse, Centenary Star and my wife Gwenda (nee SMITH 1923-) and I used to go out before we were married. I used to borrow the milk float horse, Gwenda would get on that and I'd ride Centenary Star. That's how Gwenda learnt to ride a horse. Centenary Star won a lot of races at different meetings. My brothers Trevor and Lyal (1930-) and George WAYE used to ride it. Many a time we won doubles with it. A very good horse but very hard to hold and very quiet. Allan had Kenstral. He was another good horse. And Trevor, he had a pony too and this pony was unbeaten in the pony race. He was dead heated on one occasion at Normanville but was never beaten. Flicka was its name, a very good pony. He was very smart over four furlongs and was about 14 hands.
?? SOLLY, Margate, KEN, ENG ?????
Aaron Ambrose SOLLY b. Abt 1827, Margate, KEN, ENG, d. 28 Jun 1881, Adelaide, SA, AUS married Mary Ann RYLES b. Abt 1832, Bishop Wearmouth, DUR, ENG, d. 24 Aug 1913, Bowden, SA
Aaron Ephriam SOLLY J.P. b. 4 Sep 1855, Norwood, SA, d. 4 Oct 1925, Croydon North, SA and 12 siblings, married Bessie EDWARDS b. 4 Jun 1861, d. 31 Oct 1906, Port Road, Hindmarsh, SA
Reginald Guelph SOLLY b. 19 Feb 1891, Hindmarsh, SA, d. 31 Oct 1969, Victor Harbor, SA, and 3 siblings married Myrtle Ivy DUMONT b. 3 Apr 1891, Hindmarsh, SA, d. 16 Oct 1975, Victor Harbor, SA
Maxwell Du Mont SOLLY b. 13 Apr 1918, Ridleyton, SA d. 30 Sep 2005, Victor Harbor, SA and 5 siblings
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