Cooma – Our Family History

Our time in Cooma was spent looking around for places where Jill’s Grandfather, Frederick Ruffels, would have served as a policeman. We first found the gaol, that sat (appropriately) next to the court house and behind that was the police station. The building looked as if it would have been used in the 1920s when Frederick was posted there. I was given a brief tour by a young constable who showed me a photo that was taken about 1880 (40 years before Frederick’s posting there.. At that time, Cooma was a simple village. The jail is the large building near the bottom left corner.

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On our trip around NSW, we are visiting the towns in which Frederick served, although in a different order to those that he progressed through his career. Cooma was his second posting after starting at Gooloogong. We will eventually visit that town later on our trip.

Jill’s Mother, Nancy, wrote about life in Cooma in her journal:

Coming to Cooma from from Goologong, my Dad got a raise in wages from £3 pounds to about £3. 5 shillings per fortnight. It was a great move – a bigger town, lovely churches and great schools. I attended Cooma District High School. There were more more cars. We had an ice chest to stop food from perishing but there was no electricity. There were lots of big shops, parks, a local bank and sports fields where footy was played. It was most exciting.

The police here had an Inspector of Police, a Sergeant (Dad), several Constables, more horses and a very big jail . Unlike Gooloogong, where the lockup was outside our back veranda, this time, the jail here was about a quarter of a mile away. There were also black trackers. The police house provided us with free rent, so we were nearly well off!

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(The view, today, over the police station and courthouse from about the location of the Ruffels Cooma ome)

Dad had his vegetable garden. He was a born farmer after having had his own farm in Moss Vale where he was born. In Cooma, Mum milked goats and I rounded them up. We had fowls, duck eggs, and I helped to feed them all. Farmers were always good to Dad – always dropping in their goodies.

I went on with my music, my brother played violin, mandolin and trumpet and he was in the local band. He became very interested in cars as they were new at this time. He also ran the local picture show’s silent films. He was running the show when he was 14, and driving cars at 13 to 15 years of age.

We got to know a lot of people in a short time. Mum had lots of friends and afternoon teas were very popular. They called on each other in town to visit.

Dad became a Mason. Their balls were always popular and juvenile dances were held on the next night to finish up all the left-over food. Sometimes fancy dress balls were held for the children.

Mum took us to Sydney for holidays. It was exciting although we been on other trips to Wollongong over the great zigzag railway to Sydney. We did Sydney over, staying with mum’s brothers. We saw Taronga Park Zoo, the ferry to Manly, Coogee Beach and several pantomimes. We thought the big department stores were wonderful – Farmers, David Jones and Hordens. We often went to Bathurst and Wollongong. We were lucky growing up in a close loving family. My dad had a heart of gold and a caring nature, full of love and lived his motto – love one another.

School and education had to be thought of for us in Cooma. My brother passed his intermediate at 16 and went to go into the motorcar business. He did a motor mechanics course for five years and knew all about cars, but sadly, it all ended later when he drowned at 21 rescuing his girlfriend in a swimming hole in the Cotter River near Canberra.

I was in my third year of high school. I did Geology, French, History, Geography, English and Maths. I wanted to be a school teacher. That did not happen. Dad said no girl of his would head off to Sydney to a training college. He wanted us at home to marry early and become good wives!

However, just before I finished my third year of high school, Dad was promoted to Bombala as a second-class Sergeant. He was a third class Sergeant at Cooma. At Bombala, he had his own station and a little more money. Bombala was about about 60 miles from Cooma at the end of the railway. It was a smaller town so we left to settle in.

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Frederick Ruffels with family and returned soldier friend.

You can read about the families time in Bombala in my previous post here.

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