GEORGIE SWIFT


2004-2005 ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEWS

GEORGIE SWIFT


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Collector’s note:

George Swift is a Sydney social institution. She is now in her eighties and the interview focussed on Sydney’s social life especially in the middle of last century. She has been married to advertising man, Snow Swift. For over fifty years. She was a member of the illustrious Black and White Committee that was so successful in the 1950s and 60s in raising the profile of needy charities, especially the Royal Blind Society. Georgie also worked in publicity and as a journalist.

Recorded Yarranabie Road, Darling Point. July 27 2004

TAPE 1

(tape starts about 5 minutes into tape for some reason however it is the actual start)

Born Mosman, Cremorne. Aged 80 + years

Discusses going to Japan with father as a young child. Father went to find a young Japanese girl. Georgie’s mother was French. Returned to live in Cremorne with grandmother and aunts.

“It was a big two-story house with lots of other people living there.”
Father disappeared back to Japan and was never seen again.

Grandmother had compo money so paid for aunts to have hat shops in the Strand Arcade in the early 1930s

Discusses Strand Arcade and sugar-almond seller.

Harbour Bridge hadn’t opened so went to city by ferry.
Recalls wool stores at Circular Quay.

Discusses David Jones and Mr Day the lift driver.
(Repeats some of this on tape 2)

Aunts opened a second hat shop and Uncle Marcel opened a millinery factory.

Discusses why hats were so popular “There were no hair dressers so you shoved your hair under a hat”

Discusses growing up in lower north shore of Sydney. Playing on Cremorne Point and how they collected condoms which they kept in a shoe box. “We were told never ever to touch them.”

Discusses living in Depression of the 1930s and how they collected empty beer bottles and cash them at bottle-o. Spend the money at Cremorne Wharf “As a child we never needed money. We had bikes and scooters”.

Discusses early Sydney street barrow sellers and boronia (in sprays) sellers.

Discusses buying sugarcane which the kids would suck for hours.

Discusses being a young girl at boarding school (Kambala) – I had been at Rose Bay College but left because naughty.

Hats shops were doing every well so moved to the Manar Apartments on Macleay Street, Potts Point. “It was so like Montmarte” with California Coffee Shops, The Cairo opposite Manar which became the Chevron Hilton.

Talks about how people dressed up and walked. Lots of fine, hire cars and taxi cars.

“The fountain on Fitzroy Gardens wasn’t there. It was the house of Robin Dalton’s paternal family” (she became the UK film producer)

(sound drops)

Discusses St Vincents School and how she had to go to a boarding college. “On the way to Rose Bay College mother saw ‘Kambala’ but didn’t read the ‘Church of England’ bit – but she didn’t care so that’s where I went to school.”

Discusses leaving school and studying at university. Studied Arts at Sydney.
Worked on Honi Soit – the university newspaper as a reporter with Donald Horne.

In university reviews (SUDS).

At university with Margaret Whitlam where she was studying social science. The Governor’s daughter was also there.

Discusses brother Morris who was “always joining up”. Saw four days fighting and five years on Burma Railway as a POW.

Discusses how she was working on Daily Mirror during war. She ended up (by default) pictorial editor until she got some photos in of Darwin that showed hospital tents – she arranged to paint red crosses on them because they didn’t have any.

Discusses how she got job because aunts knew Ezra Norton who owned paper.

Discusses The Witch Of Kings Cross and Bea Miles who was daughter of the Peapes family of the famous clothing store.

Discusses getting the sack from the Mirror

Talks about grand hotels of Sydney for lunch.
Australia Hotel.

TAPE 2

Talks about early Sydney and living in Darling Point.

Discusses young people.

Discusses architectural Sydney. “I must tell Harry (Seidler) how awful the new Theatre Royal is.”

Discusses seeing Roy Rene ‘Mo’ at the old Tivoli.

Saw Sir Lawrence Olivier and Vivian Lee in late 1950s doing School for Scandal and Richard the Third. Then last person she saw at Theatre Royal was Marlene Dietrich. Saw first ballet – Colonel De Basel or Monte Carlo – “I met one of the dancers about how they were stranded here …….” Social story of Grand Hostess during WW2. She gave money to ballet artists for Christmas.

Discusses how Sydney people entertained themselves. Role of radio.
“Everyone played cards – as a family we played rummy”
Discusses ‘electric gramophone’ listening to dance music, orchestral and ballet music.

Discusses visiting David Jones and being picked up from boarding school. “Everyone met at the glove department”.

Discusses lift driver and uniform “You spent a lot of time in David Jones”. “Lift drivers were very important to show you where to go”

Georgie worked at the publicity department for seven years with Dwane McCullough and Brian Walsh.

Discusses ‘society’ then and now.

Discusses Sunday Telegraph social column and Nola Deckevere.
“She could charm the birds out of the trees”

Discusses being a member of the Black and White Committee.

Discusses snobbery. “But, of course, it all depends what you’re snobby about.”

Discusses Jo and Judy Fallon as social party givers.

“I remember when the Lloyd-Jones would entertain. And also the Fairfaxs and Norton. There was an unwritten law that each other would not appear in each others newspapers”.

Discusses the hideous drinking laws and how that changed Sydney. Talks about working on newspapers and the ‘ladies parlour’

Discusses Prof Wilkinson who was a friend. He designed a house for George and Snow Swift at North Sydney. Discusses his own house at Vaucluse and how smaller rooms since people entertained less.

Discusses some of the nicest houses in Sydney. “Favourite is Sam Hordern’s at Bellevue Hill”

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