Marg Moments: Hard times in good old days

Dandenong in earlier times.

By Marg Stork

NORMA Stokie of Dingley has, like I do, lasting memories of the Great Depression – the suffering of the poor, but their kindness to others and above all, their honesty.

Norma’s parents came to Australia in 1924. After they were married they lived in Springvale. Her mother milked the cows, her father started a dairy, bought a horse and cart, and began delivering fresh milk using billies and ladles on his milk round.

As a child, she joined her father on his round, which was sometimes a rocky ride on unmade roads.”Everyone knew their neighbours in those days,” she said.

I too grew up during the Depression on a dairy farm at Lyndhurst and used to milk cows before going to school at Hampton Park.

The alarm was always set for 4.45am and we regularly had ‘swaggies’ – swagmen – humping their ‘blueys’ (bed rolls) and, with blackened billies, calling at the door for food and shelter.

Dad used to let them sleep in the workmen’s cottages. Never once were we robbed or have problems.

They were all honest and would offer their help to my mother – “cut some kindling for you, missus?” Some of them were professionals: doctors, dentists, architects walking the roads to find work.

The changing face of women

I have been privileged during my long career to work with a number of talented and prize-winning journalists and photographers.

I will always remember the assignments I shared with the late Graham Southam when we attended emergency calls.

I accompanied Graham, a former Argus newspaper photographer, on days when we got bogged during floods, attended fires and car crashes.

I can recall, vividly, attending a drowning tragedy in the grounds of the Springvale cemetery.

Until March 28, Greater Dandenong residents and visitors will be able to view free of charge an exhibition at Dandenong’s Heritage Hill museum, featuring some of Graham’s work.

The changing face of women exhibition examines the evolving role of women from the late 1950s until the late 1980s in and around Dandenong. The graphic photographs cover a period of extraordinary social upheaval.

For further details, call Heritage Hill on 9793 4511 or

Do you have a milestone, memory or question for Marg? Email or post submissions to A moment with Marg, c/o Greater Dandenong Weekly, PO Box 318, Dandenong 3175.