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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

Go to: Eric’s family history | Bananas | Marie’s family history | The beginning of changes to the town | Transport and supply | Married life | Primary producers’ store | The Aquarius festival | The legacy of Aquarius | Changing Times

Marie’s family history

So can you just give me some of your background, me about your family and your history?

Marie: I was born in Lismore but had lived in Nimbin for—

Eric: All your life. You were born in Nimbin.

Marie: All of my life, until the ten years that we’ve come here. So I turn 70 this year, so I was in Nimbin from birth until 60.

And what is your family name?

Marie: My family name is Soward. There was Kevin as the eldest. My next brother, two or three years younger, is Neville. Kevin now still remains in Nimbin; my brother Neville lives in Lismore. I turn 70 this year and we’re happily ensconced here at Alstonville and, sadly, we lost my youngest brother, Alan, aged 52—-

Eric: 51, I think it was.

Marie: some 11 or 12 years ago, with a very sudden and instantaneous heart attack. So that was quite sad, so I was the only girl out of four children. My Dad was Charlie Soward, who was very well known and respected in Nimbin.

In my infant years he was a share-farmer, and then when I was about ten, his brother, my Uncle Jim who was suffering from emphysema from very heavy smoking, he used to work for the Council, and he was retiring from the Council and my Dad knew that his wage was a lot more than he was earning as share-farmer, so he went to the Council and said, ‘Look, my brother is retiring through illness. Can I take his job? I promise to work equally as hard as he does and more’ – which he did, so he was a Council worker after that.

And what age was that? What age were you when you came into town then?

Marie: We lived within a couple of k’s proximity of Nimbin all of my life. Like, when we were on the share-farm we were a couple of kilometres out in one direction, and when Dad worked for the Council we then went into a Council rented house on the Nimbin-Murwillumbah Road, so we were still two kilometres out of town, but in a different direction. Consequently, when I went to school I used to ride a push-bike in and out to school, and even when I first started working. Because my schooling was primary school from Nimbin through to what used to be the Intermediate Certificate, which was sort of equivalent to the School Certificate of today, which is kind of Year 9 and Year 10.

I was very fortunate when I finished school that one of the girls in the grocery shop in Nimbin, which is now the Nimbin Emporium, she was getting married, and back in those times, late ‘50s/start of the ‘60s, when women got married they automatically left work. So my family had been customers of the store for many, many years. I was best friends with their daughter. They knew my family in and out, they knew me in and out, and I didn’t apply for the job. They rang up and asked my parents would I like to work in their shop. So it was an easy thing, without even having to do an application, which is so different to what it’s like today.

And how old were you when you started there?

Marie: Fifteen/sixteen. I worked there until Eric and I married in 1962, and as the other girls before me, because I was getting married – you didn’t work anymore – so I left employment before our marriage in June ’62 and didn’t re-enter the workforce until our second child started school. By then it was kind of acceptable that married women went back into work, and so I resumed work then.

And what sort of place was Nimbin when you were working in the Emporium?

Marie: It was a wonderful place – I have such treasured memories of childhood, you know, growing up in Nimbin and how carefree and easy life was – just a real ball. Nothing was a problem. TV wasn’t in then to hear about all the shootings and the terrible things that happen every single day of today, but I mean, they weren’t as common back in 1962 as what they are now, either.


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