History Parkes

stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past

Len Unger – 100 years in the Parkes Shire

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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:

  • did not need glasses, even after his 100th birthday;
  • completed cryptic crosswords with greater ease than most complete traditional crosswords;
  • had an excellent memory;
  • was extremely generous with his money to help others, but quite frugal when spending on himself;
  • wrote nearly twenty books on local history; and
  • collected over 1,000 books within his personal library throughout his lifetime.

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.

To read more about Rosedurnate click here

Len’s Genealogy

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:

  • Herbert Wilhelm Carl Unger, born 24.12.1910 and died 07.05.2012 at the age of 101 years old. He is buried in the Lutheran section of Parkes cemetery; and
  • Ernest Alfred Berthold Unger, born 22.08.1915 and died 02.05.2008 at the age of 92 years old. Ern is also buried in the Lutheran section of Parkes cemetery.

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.

Unger Genealogy

The paternal ancestry of Len Unger. Source: Unger Family Reunion 100 Year Centenary Celebration Publication (p.73)

Len Unger researched his family and this is his maternal side. The names in capitals were the names that they were called. So Len's mother was called 'Selma' and his dad was known as 'Bert'. Source: A Brief History of Carl Erdmann Salan 1856-1932

Len Unger researched his family and this is his maternal side. The names in capitals were the names that they were called. So Len’s mother was called ‘Selma’ and his dad was known as ‘Bert’. Source: A Brief History of Carl Erdmann Salan 1856-1932

Len shares some memories about his family

Three Brothers at Rocky View

From left to right, Herb, Len and Ern Unger at the family farm “Rocky View” in Alectown. Date unknown. Source: State Library NSW

Early Memories

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

Photograph taken by Albert Berthold "Bert" Unger of his brother-in-law Carl "Otto" Salan and his eldest son Herb Unger (Len's eldest brother) after shooting rabbits on the "Rocky View" property. Source: State Records

Photograph taken by Albert Berthold “Bert” Unger of his brother-in-law Carl “Otto” Salan and his eldest son Herb Unger (Len’s eldest brother) after shooting rabbits on the “Rocky View” property. Source: State Library NSW

Len and Local History

One of Len’s passions was researching and publishing local history booklets. These included:

  • Bushranging in the Parkes District;
  • Early Days on the Bogan;
  • Collected notes and Anecdotes;
  • The Town That Disappeared (The Story of McGuigans 1874-1876);
  • Aboriginal Activity in the Parkes District;
  • On The Home Front;
  • Stories of Alectown – Historical – Humorous – Tragic;
  • Early Days of Western Motoring;
  • Unger Family in Australia 1860-1988;
  • A Brief Biography of Carl Erdmann Salan 1856-1932;
  • The Butler Murder Case (1896-1897);
  • A History of Henry Parkes Museum & Pioneer Park Museum; and
  • Panorama of Parkes 1817-1977

Len was also a contributor to other local history books. These books include Centenary of Parkes Shows 1880-1980Unger 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 websiteLen (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

Len Unger's involvement with Parkes Historical Society was influential and he was part of the Henry Parkes Museum opening in 1969. The museum was officially opened by Cobden Parkes, Sir Henry Parkes' son. Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday, June 1, 2007 page 10

Len Unger’s involvement with Parkes Historical Society was influential and he was part of the Henry Parkes Museum opening in 1969. The museum was officially opened by Cobden Parkes, Sir Henry Parkes’ son. Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday, June 1, 2007 page 10

To read more about Cobden Parkes click here

1926 Alectown Bushfire

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.

"A day of terror to many farmers..." reports one newspaper of the Alectown bushfire that Len recounts. This excerpt of a report details how wind and dry conditions can add to "...another chapter of destruction, desolation and depression...". Source: Forbes Advocate Tuesday 14 December, 1926 page 2 To read the full article go to http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article218651828

“A day of terror to many farmers…” reports one newspaper of the Alectown bushfire that Len recounts. This excerpt of a report details how wind and dry conditions can add to “…another chapter of destruction, desolation and depression…”. Source: Forbes Advocate Tuesday 14 December, 1926 page 2 To read the full article click here

Excerpt from a more detailed report listing all the families who suffered loss during the Alectown bushfire of 1926. Families mentioned include the Ungers, Plowmans, Woods, Priors, Wards, Sheedys, Pattons, Morrisons, Edwards, Nashs, Helms, Kellys, Simpsons, Symonds, Marshalls, Dwyers, Gospers, Bartletts, Wilds, Schutes, Drapers, Bennetts, Jelbarts, Donnellys, Watts, Westcotts, and Daveys. Source: Western Champion Thursday 16th December 1926 pages 14-15. To read the full article go to http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113541154

Excerpt from a more detailed report listing all the families who suffered loss during the Alectown bushfire of 1926. Families mentioned include the Ungers, Plowmans, Woods, Priors, Wards, Sheedys, Pattons, Morrisons, Edwards, Nashs, Helms, Kellys, Simpsons, Symonds, Marshalls, Dwyers, Gospers, Bartletts, Wilds, Schutes, Drapers, Bennetts, Jelbarts, Donnellys, Watts, Westcotts, and Daveys. Source: Western Champion Thursday 16th December 1926 pages 14-15. To read the full article click here

School Days

Len recalls some memories from his time at Alectown School.

Photograph of Alectown Public School in 1893. While this photograph predates Len Unger's time at school, this was the same building that he attended school in the 1920s. Source: State Records

Photograph of Alectown Public School in 1893. While this photograph predates Len Unger’s time at school, this was the same building that he attended school in the 1920s. Source: State Records

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, 2017, from http://www.parkeschampionpost.com.au/story/4494353/len-was-determined-to-turn-100/ (Originally photographed 2017, February 27)

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:

  • the late Len Unger;
  • Ian and Marion Unger;
  • Ellen Forsyth and State Library of New South Wales for support and training in all matters regarding oral history;
  • my colleagues in Family & Local History based in public libraries around NSW especially at Macquarie Regional Library;
  • the staff of Rosedurnate Aged Care Centre Plus;
  • staff of Parkes Shire Libraries.

If you have stories of Len Unger that you are willing to share please contact Parkes Shire Library via library@parkes.nsw.gov.au so that they can be shared and kept for posterity on this blog. Alternatively you may leave comments on this page.

REFERENCE LIST

  • Unger, L. (2017, February 27). Len Unger 100 Years in Parkes Shire [Personal interview]. Stored in Parkes Shire Library Family & Local History Resource Room
  • Speelman, C. (February 27, 2017). Len Unger of Alectown Turns 100 [Digital image]. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from http://www.parkeschampionpost.com.au/story/4494353/len-was-determined-to-turn-100/
  • Cocks, B., & Michalk, D. L. (2011). Unger Family Reunion: 100 Year Centenary Celebration Publication: Dimboola, Vic. – Alectown, N.S.W. – 1911. Parkes, N.S.W.: Unger Reunion Committee. (p. 149)
  • 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
  • Cocks, B., & Michalk, D. L. (2011). Unger Family Reunion: 100 Year Centenary Celebration Publication: Dimboola, Vic. – Alectown, N.S.W. – 1911. Parkes, N.S.W.: Unger Reunion Committee. (p. 73)
  • Unger, L. A. (2002). A Brief Biography of Carl Erdmann Salan 1856-1932. Parkes, NSW: L.A. Unger. (p. 13)
  • At Rocky View, Alectown, NSW[Photograph found in At Work and Play: Images of Rural Life in NSW 1880-1940 #00078, State Library NSW, Sydney]. (n.d.). In At Rocky View, Alectown, NSW. Sydney, NSW: State Library NSW. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110304725
  • Cocks, B., & Michalk, D. L. (2011). Unger Family Reunion: 100 Year Centenary Celebration Publication: Dimboola, Vic. – Alectown, N.S.W. – 1911. Parkes, N.S.W.: Unger Reunion Committee. (p. 149)
  • Cocks, B., & Michalk, D. L. (2011). Unger Family Reunion: 100 Year Centenary Celebration Publication: Dimboola, Vic. – Alectown, N.S.W. – 1911. Parkes, N.S.W.: Unger Reunion Committee. (p. 152-153)
  • Unger, A. B. (n.d.). Rocky View, Alectown, NSW[Photograph found in At Work and Play: Images of Rural Life in NSW 1880-1940 #00073, State Library NSW, Sydney]. In Rocky View, Alectown, NSW. Sydney, NSW: State Library NSW. Retrieved November 20, 2018, from http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110304720
  • Byrne, R. (2014, April 23). Len Unger with nephew Don Unger and some of the books he has produced[Photograph found in Parkes Champion Post, Parkes]. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from https://www.parkeschampionpost.com.au/story/2233756/len-still-going-strong-at-97/ (Originally photographed 2014, April 23)
  • The Henry Parkes Museum opens. (June 1, 2007). Parkes Champion Post, p. 10. Retrieved July 9, 2018
  • On Parkes Side (1926, December 14). The Forbes Advocate (NSW : 1911 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved October 18, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article218651828
  • Further Bush Fires. (1926, December 16). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 15. Retrieved October 18, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113541154
  • Alectown Public School – teacher Arthur Yeo[Photograph found in Photographic Collection, Records NSW, Kingswood]. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2018, from https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/image/15051_a047_000108 (Originally photographed December 31, 1893)
  • Speelman, C. (February 27, 2017). Len Unger of Alectown Turns 100 [Digital image]. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from http://www.parkeschampionpost.com.au/story/4494353/len-was-determined-to-turn-100/

 

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on November 21, 2018 by in 1920s, 1926 Alectown Bushfire, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2017, Alectown, Cobden Place, Early Memories, famous people of Parkes Shire, General history, Len and Local History, Len Unger - 100 years in the Parkes Shire, Len's Genealogy, local historical articles, Oral History, Parkes Library Family & Local History Resources, School Days, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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