‘Complete darkness and cattle on Red Hill’: Life in Garran in 1966

Posted in Uncategorised April 16th 2019

It was Christmas 1966, and young newlywed Audrey Schultz smiled as she drifted off to sleep to the sound of cattle bleating on Red Hill.
She and husband Ron had just moved into their new build in the brand new suburb of Garran – where streetlights had yet to be installed and their mission brown brick home was the ultimate in modern style.

Audrey and Ron Schultz met at as young public servants at Lawley House, Barton.

The couple was “beyond happy” – their friends, however, were mortified.
“People said to us, ‘What on earth did you buy land out there for?’,” Audrey laughs.
“It was the outer edge of Canberra at that stage and they couldn’t believe we didn’t buy a block in Watson or Reid.”

The house at 3 Ham Place in Garran was the Schultzs dream.

There was a reason the Schultzs opted for the south over the “flat as pancake” blocks in the inner north – they wanted a view. The newlyweds both hailed from Brisbane, and had grown up overlooking the city and a valley, respectively, in the sunshine capital.
The block on the hill at number 3 Ham Place, Garran – with a view out to the Brindabellas – was perfect.
“Ron bought the block at the very first Garran auction at Albert Hall,” Audrey recalls.
“It cost just over 1000 pounds … we were so happy.”

The house today.

When it comes to love stories, the Schultzs story is almost more Canberra than Canberra itself.
In 1964, Audrey was a stenographer at the Prime Minister’s Department at Parliament House while Ron was – wait for it – a computer programmer at the tax office, where the computer took up the entire basement of the building.
They smiled at each other in the hallways of Lawley House, a hostel in Barton for young public servants who’d moved to Canberra from interstate.
Audrey remembers “getting up early to avoid the queue for the shower” at Lawley House, heading to the movies at Manuka or Civic after work, playing tennis, and taking a tech course in interior decorating at nights. She fell in love with Ron’s intelligence and gentle manner.

Ron works on the back privacy wall in 1967.

When the loved-up couple was married in 1966, Audrey was forced to resign from the public service. At the time, employing married women was against public service policy.
It meant she had to give up a job she loved – working as a stenographer for then Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies.
“It was an honour and a privilege to work for him,” Audrey says.
“He was a nice man, he was good to the staff, you knew where you stood with him.
“He was a master of the English language, if you took dictation from him he didn’t um and ah, he’d give you the dictation at such a speed that you could always keep up with him.”

The family Valiant in the driveway in 1970. The car regularly took Audrey to the Garran shops to buy dresses from Megs of Garran.

Audrey sometimes accompanied the prime minister on business trips, flying aboard his Viscount VIP aircraft and staying at Kirribilli House to assist with correspondence.
When Ron and Audrey married and moved into the new house at Garran, life became about family and community for Audrey. Kristine was born in 1967 and Steven followed in 1970. Both attended Garran Primary School, the then Woden Valley High School and Phillip College.
As Woden grew – a new hospital was built and a fancy new mall named Woden Plaza opened – the Schultzs added an extension to the Ham Place house to cater for visitors and growing children.
Ron sadly passed away in 1993 and now, after almost 53 years in the Ham Place house, Audrey is selling.
“I’d love to see a family move in,” she says.
“It’s just such a good area, it’s always been a good area and it’s so central to everything. The neighbours are just wonderful.
“I’d love the new owners to enjoy the house as much as we have.”
The home at 3 Ham Place, Garran, will go to auction on Saturday 27 April at 12 noon. To view the listing, click here.