Moruya’s CBD – Queen Street
This article, based on an interview with Mr George Chewying, has been taken from un unpublished work by Noel Warry (1922 – 2006) from her unpublished book Camp Fire Tales An earlier version of this story was previously published in the MDHs Journal, September, 1994. It has been republished in the MDHS Journal, September, 2013. The article is based on the recollections of George Chewying and his memories of a childhood spent on Queen Street, Moruya – a fascinating read! For over forty years, during the last half of the 19th century and well into the early part of the 20th century, Moruya’s business centre was in Queen Street between Page and Vulcan Streets. In those days the southern side of Queen Street was the business side. The northern side was mostly taken up by Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church and St. Mary’s School. Despite being so given over to piety, for many years the street also had two licensed hotels.
In its day Carden’s Royal Hotel (which became Holiday Haven and was burned down in 1996) on the corner of Page and Queen Street opposite the church, was one of the town’s most popular hotels and one of its most imposing buildings. The Club House was about half way along Queen Street. To balance things out as it were there were also two teashops.
That short street also boasted two general stores. George Chewying ran Chewying’s General Store and a Mr. Cheeseman ran the other one. At the lower end of Queen Street, on the corner of Vulcan Street, was Emmotts Beehive Store. These three shops carried just about anything any reasonable person could need.
Garnet Chewying remembered Queen Street well. In the 1920s when he was growing up it was the centre of the world. His parents’ store was there. His home was there. His church was there. His school was there. People came to Queen Street. Things happened in Queen Street. For a small boy it was a busy, exciting place to live. The fact that the street was unpaved, muddy in rain and full of ruts when dry, did not worry him.
The Chewying residence was next door to their general store. Next door was a carpenter’s shop run by Mr. Walter. There all sorts of fascinating tools hung neatly on the walls, many of them too precious or too sharp for small boys to even think of touching. Mr. Walter was also the town’s undertaker and sometimes nosy little boys could watch him making a coffin. This fitted in with another of their activities. They were fond of telling one another ghost stories, the more terrifying the better.
Down towards the other end of the street was the workshop of Mr. Hanscombe, the bootmaker. In the eyes of the boys of that time he had a greater claim to fame than being the mender of their shoe. In his back yard he had cages with chicken wire fronts in which he kept his collection of snakes. Small boys were forbidden, on pain of the most terrible consequences, to as much as set foot in that back yard. But if Mr. Hanscombe was in a particularly good mood, perhaps after a bout of extra polite, helpful behaviour on the part of small boys, he would take them down and show them his pets.
The street housed other businesses as well, rather boring places from a boy’s point of view. Mr. Mylott’s bakery, which was on a block one up from Vulcan Street, was mildly interesting, the smell of newly baked bread was tempting. The offices of the doctor, the dentist, the solicitor, the dressmaker and the real estate agent were a dead loss, as was the Kildare, an unlicensed hotel where visitors stayed and some people had offices. There was more excitement in seeing and thinking about the police station and the lock-up keeper’s.cottage at the Vulcan Street end next to the Court House and the police sergeant’s residence at the Page Street end
It was this positioning of the three police buildings which gave the young Garnet some scary but exciting experiences. His father had one of the few telephones in the town. There was also one at the police station although the authorities did not consider it necessary to install one in the sergeant’s house. The outcome of all this was that if the police sergeant was needed after hours people, including police headquarters, knew to ring the Chewying number – Moruya 13. Mr. Chewying would then switch the call through to the police station number. No matter what time of night, or what the weather was like, or if it was moonlight or pitch dark, it was always Garnet’s job, being the boy of the family, to go across and up the road to wake the sergeant. He would give the sergeant the message, always the same message – ‘There’s a telephone call, sergeant’. Then the young Garnet would scurry home to his warm bed. The poor sergeant would have to dress as hastily as he could, then walk the length of Queen Street to the police station, open it up, answer the phone and take whatever message the caller considered too delicate or too secret for civilian ears.
No doubt the sergeant hated those late night calls. Young Garnet certainly did. Those night-time excursions, although they did not happen very often, always terrified him. The distance between his house and the sergeant’s which in daylight was nothing, seemed at night to stretch ahead of him forever. And although he hated the cold, the dark, the lateness of the hour, what he was really afraid of were the ghosts. He just knew one was lurking somewhere close by. He felt sure that what he could almost see out of the corner of his eye was a something getting ready to grab him. The stories he had heard or told became all too real, making that late night walk across the street long and scary to a boy only half awake. There are still many businesses in Queen Street, mostly new ones. Mylott’s bakery enlarged and moved to the corner with Vulcan Street, and was there until 2009 when it closed and the Commonwealth Bank leased the building. The old Club House Hotel building is still there, the old Kildare is now a private residence. A medical clinic has been built where Cheeseman’s General Store used to be. Mr. Walter’s old carpenter’s shop building is still there, but is no longer a shop. Vinnies is partly on the plot where Chewyings General Store was and partly on the grounds of the old Royal Hotel with the new Southern Phone building on the corner. The northern side of the street is almost the same. The Church is there, the School is there, the Police Station is there – altered, renovated, changed, but still there. Down Memory Lane by AV Colefax provides an adult perspective on Queen Street in the early 1900s. These memoirs can be found at the museum.