Page 45 - Working on the Sydney Coal Piers
ISSUE : Issue 44
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1987/1/1
Mrs. Eva Lewis: (Mrs. Lewis, was cleaning Pier clothes rougher than your normal laun? dry?) Oh well, look, if you ever could have seen my hands after I'd wash. You'd go outside, in a big washtub. You never got it all out, but they had to be washed. The last few years, I did them every week-- the last 10 or 15 years he worked. (That was overalls....) Shirt, and a sweater. Even the socks that he wore used to be--I used to wash them every other day. (And no mechanical way of washing?) I suppose we could, but it didn't get all the coal oyt, as much as you can get by hand.... At the last, I would take them outside, lay them on a flat piece of pl5rwood, and scrub them with a scrub brush. To get the coal out. And even then, you didn't get it all. Enough that they were clean enough to wear. He didn't wear them in the house, be? cause he had his other clothes that he wore'to the Pier--these were just Pier clothes. David Lewis: I'd bring them home now and again to get washed, you know. Mrs.Lewis: To wash for a man working at the Pier was like washing for 2 or 3 men. David Lewis: I had a lot of dirty clothes, because on the farm I'd have another set of dirty clothes. ( I guess the farm clothes never got like the Pier clothes.) Mrs. Lewis: Well, they were just as dirty, but it was--farm dirt. (And you washed all that, too.) Still do. But it's all in a day's work. David Lewis: That's what they call love, when you have to do it. (Did you think that's what love was?) Mrs. Lewis: No, not at the time I got married, no, no.... They would have to be washed. They were always done, they were always done, don't have to worry about that, (The Pier clothes.) And the farm clothes, and the dress clothes, and everything else.... David Lewis: It's like everything else--everybody has to kind of bail in to make a go of it. Abbie Neville: (How did you find out there was a fire at the Pier?) There-was no ship? ping in that day, and it was a hot day. And I just live here. And I was talking to the foreman. I was telling him about a boat due the following day. I looked down the Pier--we were just out on the road-- everything was fine. The next time we looked out, all we could see was flames. It just seemed to go up like that. So then, I ran. I had to run down, get the tugboat. At that time we had what you call a fire department for the Pier. It was very small, you got $25 a year, you know. You'd run down and go aboard the tugboat and blow your whistle: say, 5 whistles was a fire. Give your alarm locally. Whoever's around would hear it. But anybody else just living, they'd go aboard the tugboat too, if they thought they could help. Any? body volunteered. So, we got the tugboat, and then the city fire department. So the tugboat got on the outside of the pier. the city fire department was on the inside of the fight the fire. I was on the tug. She had big pumps, and she could shoot the water up. But then they landed me in the front end of the pier. We had hose out the front end, firehose, and I could stay in the front end. Two of us got up there. And the tugboat'd be trying to get on the side of the pier. But see, they couldn't do much because the pier was burning so bad in the centre. You know, the chutes would fall in the water, and everything was going. I think it was July 29, '63. It was a big fire. It lit the whole of the city up, pretty near. There was so much coal dust, and the weather was so warm. And you know how the coal dust would build just in little cracks. And underneath, there were a couple of transformers--they could have been loaded with oil. Whatever started it, it went so fast. It went too fast. (Nobody knows what started it?) No. (45)
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