Tonight, we are in the town of Bombala in Southern New South Wales. This is a small rural service centre in the south east corner of New South Wales on the Monaro Highway between Cooma and Cann River. It is a quiet and peaceful town on the banks of the Bombala River and it is known for its icy conditions in winter. The agricultural area around the town is a mixture of sheep (fine wool), beef cattle and timber. The local rivers are recognised as some of the state’s best trout fishing destinations and are home to substantial communities of platypus.
Jill’s Grandfather, Frederick George Ruffels served here as a police officer almost 100 years ago. He joined the NSW police force at the age of 23 years in 1901. He served until he was 60 years of age and retired in 1939. He joined the police force in Sydney and was first posted to Gooloogong (near Cowra) and then through his career moved to Cooma, Bombala, Queanbeyan and finally Deniliquin. At the time that he was in Bombala, we think he had just become a Sergeant. He served in Bombala around 1926 for three years. We will visit nearly all these locations on this trip.
Our guide for this journey into history is a journal that Jill’s mother, Nancy, wrote in her later life. This is what she says about her family life in Bombala. At the time, Nancy was about 15 years of age.
We had a lovely home high up on a hill overlooking the town and railway station. We found it interesting watching the one and only daily train coming in at 11 am and going out at about 1 pm.
Schools were poor. My sister Elvy went to Bombala school only up to Grade Six. I had to find work as I was 15 years old now. I went off to the convent to learn typing and bookkeeping. It was a good education and I got a position after twelve months study.
We always had a dog, cats, even birds – magpie and a cocky from our Goolagong days, a pug, a sheep dog as well as some some Pomeranians.
Before leaving Cooma (Frederick’s previous posting) Dad bought a car. It was a second hand Essex with a running board. My sister and I would dress up and take the dogs for a ride in the car. He then had to learn how to drive (he was about 45 years old) and it was quite an ordeal for him to learn, but he got there in the end. He would pull up the old bus when going over creeks.I told him that it was because he was used to horses and he was doing that to give the car a drink. I actually think he had trouble with the gears as the car always seemed to stop in midstream.
How things changed in Bombala compared to our previous life in Cooma. There was no Saturday night shopping. My sister Elvy and I went to the local pictures at the Olympia Theatre on Saturday nights. Nine pence to get in to the tin shed that was the theatre. They showed black-and-white silent films. A local chap, Freddie Smith, played the piano for a bit of sound and when we kids got a bit noisy, he would stop playing until we settled down.
We had a telephone in both Cooma and Bombala. We rang the exchange for our numbers. It was run by a couple of local girls who knew all the gossip. We made a tennis court and had many happy days on the court. A gramophone was purchased and, boy did we give that a go!
The local balls were a treat, but those winter nights were cold and frosty. The Bombala River which ran through the town was frozen over and we always had to walk to the balls. There were only a few cars and we were always too late for the Dads to come and get us. We lived over the river and had to cross over on the stepping stones.
Dad got on well with his driving and later bought a secondhand Chevrolet. Very comfortable too, so we thought we were a bit of OK.
The Bombala Police Station