‘When we came to Millers Point, we had been on the Maritime Services Board waiting list for some time. In those days you had to meet criteria – either through work or family to be eligible for housing. My father-in-law and two uncles worked for the Board and we were placed on a waiting list. We were delighted when we reached the top of the list and had the choice of three houses, two in High Street and one in Trinity Avenue. We decided on Trinity. The Board replaced floorboards in the hallway and put in a small sink in the corner of the kitchen – that was it. It was up to us to make it into a home, which we did. We painted, put in a hot water service, a kitchen, carpet, etcetera, and made it into a home.
‘The most pleasing thing about our move was the welcome we received from the Millers Point community. I’ve made many good friends here as have my children and the loss of this unique community is devastating.’
Geraldine Thomas has been a resident in Millers Point for 40 years. She was born and raised in Randwick and came to Millers Point when the houses here were managed by the Maritime Services Board (MSB). Her family worked for the MSB and met the criteria to be on the waiting list for housing in Millers Point. The family first moved to 22 Trinity Avenue with three small boys and, like many of the early residents, they set to to improve and repair their house. Her father installed an electric hot water service, painted the house and generally brought the residence up to a living standard.
Later in her life Geraldine moved to 25 Lower Fort Street with three boys to take care of. Again, she had to spend many hours renovating and improving the property, all without financial input from the government, although she notes that the MSB would do repairs of a significant structural nature.
A surprise resident of 25 Lower Fort Street became known as the house ghost. For nearly two years the family heard noises of someone going up the attic stairs and Peter, one of Geraldine’s sons, often heard doors banging up in the attic area. The family got used to this over time and decided that the ghost was not a threatening presence but was only looking for some attention.
Geraldine recalls the community in the ’60s and ’70s being a warm and helpful group. She met and became friends with many at the various garage sales held to raise funds for Darling House in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Shirley Ball was one character she particularly recalls who led the struggle to rescue the derelict house in Trinity Avenue and turn it into the Darling House Aged Care facility.
When she first came to Millers Point everyone worked who could work but that gradually changed as the Department of Housing took over the management of the houses. Further changes occurred when the Government started to sell off some properties but she was happy that the sales were on the basis of 99-year lease holds rather than the current freehold sales.
For many years Geraldine was the popular columnist in the Sunday Telegraph know as Molly Dye. At the time this was the oldest columnist page in Australia. It included picture puzzles, recipes, household hints, household giveaways and competitions. At times she would receive more than 27,000 letters in a week. Geraldine reminds us that the original Molly Dye was in fact a war correspondent who had worked for the Packers.
Geraldine ran the Molly Dye page for 20 years and worked on The Land newspaper for Consolidated Press. She also worked for a printing company in Surry Hills and somehow managed to get time to marry in 1964 and raise three boys.
Geraldine retired 11 years ago and has clearly led an interesting and productive life. She is one of the true quiet achievers having supported Darling House on the Board and been a regular visitor to Darling House to provide companionship to the residents. She has been a stalwart supporter of her local church and has provided communion to those who are unable to get to Mass.