stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past
PLEASE NOTE: The oral history recording of Len Unger was conducted on his 100th birthday in his room at Rosedurnate Aged Care Plus Centre. There are activities within the building, including visitors for Len, and a ticking clock as background noises that can be heard throughout all audio files of this recording.
Len Unger was a remarkable man. He was remarkable in many ways. Not only was Len one of the Parkes Shire’s centenarians but he also:
Len Unger also has the distinction of living his whole life within the Parkes Shire. Apart from holidays – including a few overseas – Len spent all his life at Alectown before moving in to Parkes. His home in Alectown was “Rocky View”, which was the Unger family farm. Later years were lived in Talbot Street, Parkes before taking up residence in the Salvation Army-run Rosedurnate Aged Care Plus Centre.
Len was born Leonard Arthur Unger, the third son of Alfred Berthold (“Bert”) Herbert Unger and Pauline Selma Unger (née Salan). In the Unger Family Reunion: 100 Year Centenary Celebration Publication, Len recorded that:
I was born on the 27th February 1917 at Nurse Cock’s* Private Hospital in Parkes. I may have been intended to be born on the 28th as my father and his older brother (Uncle Fred) were born on this day.
L.Unger (2011) page 149
* Nurse Cock is Nereena Eleanor Cock. By 1931 her private hospital is listed in Bushman Street, Parkes Source: REGISTER OF NURSES FOR 1930. (1931, July 13). Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 – 2001), p. 2426. Retrieved October 22, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article220365694
Len’s father was the third child of Maria Elizabeth Miegel and Johann Friedrick Wilhelm Unger. Len’s mother was the second eldest of the fourteen children born to Carl Erdmann Salan and Caroline Pauline Peuker.
Len’s two older brothers were:
Both Herb and Ern married – Geraldine Elaine Bridge and Selma Ora Molkentin respectively – and had children. There are now many grandchildren and great grandchildren with the majority still living in the Parkes Shire.
Len shares some memories about his family
Writing in the Unger Family Reunion: 100 Year Centenary Celebration Publication, Len recalls his earliest memory:
My earliest clear memory, when about three years of age, is of being taken to the hospital for an enema. Out on the verandah the nurse had me in her grasp when I broke free and headed round the verandah. Like Maginnis Magee in Banjo Paterson’s poem The Bush Christening I did not fancy what was intended to be done to me, but unlike the former young victim, there was no hollow log handy and I was soon caught.
L. Unger (2011) page 149
Len shares some of his earliest memories including the jobs he and his brothers had to do before and after school.
LOOKING BACK – A NOSTALGIC VIEW OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Having lived through most of the 20th Century, it is interesting to look back on the remarkable progress made in that period, in science, technology and engineering in particular. Our generation has been particularly privileged to have witnessed the early development of a number of things now considered indispensible [sic] in everyday living….
…The draught horse was still the mainstay of farming. Kerosene burning tractors were still in their experimental stage, being expensive to buy and subject to mechanical breakdown.
Aviation was still in its infancy, having received a tremendous boost when adapted for military purposes during the war years when expense was not a consideration. Where we lived we saw on average 2 planes per year. When the sound of a plane was heard there was some competition to be the first to spot it, and it was watched until out of sight….
…The high-pressure tyres then in use [on motor vehicles] gave much trouble, mainly due to the high pressure (up to 60 PSI) which resulted in frequent blow-outs following damage on the rough roads of those days. Country roads were of gravel construction until tar sealing was introduced after World War 2.
In the early 1900’s telephones were then being connected to out-of-town areas by party lines. For economic reasons up to six or more subscribers were connected to a single line, the individual subscriber being identified by a Morse Code ring. They were connected to a manual exchange which operated only on a 9 to 5 basis, and not at all on weekends….
…By the early 1920’s most country towns had adopted electric lighting but the power lines were not extended to the out-of-town areas until the mid 1950’s….
Another more recent feature of modern living is the supermarket. Previous to this, when shopping for the week’s groceries the housewife would take a seat at the counter, pull out the shopping list which the shop assistant would take down item by item. Then the individual items would be assembled and priced. The docket with payment would be transmitted to the central office by overhead track and the change returned in less than a minute; there was no cash register at the counter. This was the procedure at the larger department stores.
All shops would shut for one hour midday. Wednesday afternoon was the half day holiday, later moved to Saturday afternoon, but now many of the shops are open for trading over the weekend.
L. Unger (2011) page 152-153
One of Len’s passions was researching and publishing local history booklets. These included:
Len was also a contributor to other local history books. These books include Centenary of Parkes Shows 1880-1980; Unger Family Reunion (a book produced to celebrate the centenary of Unger family moving from Victoria to Alectown) and also Parkes 100 Years of Local Government (affectionately known by locals as “the blue book”)
Len Unger explains how he first became involved in researching local history.
Len (at age 97 years old) in 2014 with nephew Don Unger and some of the books that he had researched and published. Photo: Parkes Champion Post website
During the interview with Len Unger, one of his clearest memories was of the 1926 Alectown Bushfire. Len was nine years old at the time but his sharp memory recalled many of the details. The newspaper reports that are included in this blog show just how good Len’s memory was.
Len Unger recalls the bushfire that raged through Alectown on December 10, 1926
The newspapers’ reports indicate how frightful the bushfire was. Len as a nine year old boy would have headed home from school wondering if there was still a home standing.
Len recalls some memories from his time at Alectown School.
Photograph taken on the occasion of Len Unger’s 100th birthday. Born February 27, 1917 Len has lived his whole life in the Parkes Shire. Starting at the family farm, Rocky Point then Talbot Street, Parkes and then Rosedurnate Aged Care Plus Centre. Source: Speelman, C. (2017, February 27). Century [Photograph found in Len Unger of Alectown turns 100, Parkes Champion Post, Parkes]. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from http://www.parkeschampionpost.com.au/story/4494353/len-was-determined-to-turn-100/ (Originally photographed February 27, 2017)
Parkes Shire Library would like to thank the following people and organisations for their assistance with this blog post:
If you have stories of Len Unger that you are willing to share please contact Parkes Shire Library via firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be shared and kept for posterity on this blog. Alternatively you may leave comments on this page.