Beryl Schaefer OAM, one of the Triangle area’s treasures!

My Triangle 2009.04

Beryl Schaefer has lived in the Triangle all of her life. She was born in Cobargo Maternity Hospital. The hospital, now a private house, was operating until the late 1940s under the care of a midwife; it closed on her retirement. Of course there was scant chance of getting to Bega in time in those days, most of the roads were unsealed and it would have been several hours’ drive in a horse and sulky.

The Triangle that Beryl was born into was a very different place to the area we know and love today.

Beryl lived with her family on a farm in the Yowrie district. She went away to school in Kameruka for a while and stayed with the headmaster, who was a relative. She also attended the Tanja School, travelling during the war years on the cream cart, or riding the seven miles there and back. Her later schooling was done by correspondence; this was no disadvantage to Beryl who excelled in History, Geography and Mathematics.

Cobargo Township had no sealed roads and no curb and guttering. There were, however, many more shops: two butchers, three general stores and two hotels to name a few. Beryl remembers how during the Depression the population plummeted as families had to go to Canberra to find work; this caused the closure of several businesses and she remembers the demise of the Yowrie football team.

Beryl’s family had a dairy farm. All the milking was done by hand and the milk was sent into Cobargo to the butter factory. Cream was picked up at the gate by the cream truck; the obliging driver ran errands for the farmers, bringing back goods from town. Trips to town for the family were only about once a fortnight. Beryl recalls tramps walking the roads carrying swags. They would stop at the farm to do odd jobs in return for food. The family had no telephone. There was only a single line into Yowrie and phone messages were left for people at the Post Office. Then of course, as time went on, the party lines were introduced. No secrets there! Beryl remembers riding into Bega in 1942 to compete in the Bega show. The journey took some five or six hours as the horses were not cantered to save them for the competition. It was apparently well worth the trouble, and amounted to several ribbons and a great day out.

Beryl is very community-spirited. In honour of the work she has done over many years she has been awarded both the Order of Australia Medal and the Badge of Federation of Australia. She was the first lady president of the Cobargo Show Society, a position she held for eight years, including the year of the 100th show. This was very timely as her great-great-grandfather had been the very first Show President. She has been on dozens of committees and has been involved with the fundraising by public subscription for such projects as the Cobargo Retirement Units and the Cobargo Swimming Pool. Another first was as Folk Festival President. Beryl has volunteered her time at The Royal Sydney Show for over 40 years and is an Honorary Life Member. She manages the Southern District Exhibit and has done so for 25 years; she is hoping that someone else may take over next year. Come on someone else!

Beryl is pleased to see Cobargo’s population increase and the town thrive again. She feels as if she is truly part of the town as one of her ancestors first settled the area. She loves the heritage and has been party to encouraging new building works to be sympathetic to the town’s history.

Her one concern is the lack of parking. She feels that people often drive straight through the town these days instead of stopping for lunch and that the lack of a proper car park is detrimental to tourism. Cobargo requires community solidarity to move ahead the way it should!