J. Caldwell Hat Factory

Eris Jolly’s aunt, Miss Dorothy Neal, came to Toowong in the 1930s to work for the Caldwell family who operated a hat factory.

Eris provided the following information about her aunt’s time of employment at the hat factory.

Dorothy_Eastaway_1938

Dorothy Eastaway (nee Neal) in 1938

My aunt, Dorothy Neal was born in 1904, and came to Brisbane with her parents and siblings from Blackbutt in 1920. They settled at Rode Road, Nundah. Dorothy was apprenticed as a milliner with the firm of Pettits in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.

Dorothy later moved to Overells Department Store which was also in the Valley — though it may have been known as Whincups Department Store, as I know the family were friends of Mr and Mrs Whincup.

Dorothy’s father was appointed as the caretaker of the Orient Line building and as a comfortable residence on the top floor was provided for him and his family, in 1930 her parents, along with their two daughters, Dorothy and Joan, moved from Nundah to a flat on the seventh floor of the Orient Line building in Eagle Street, City. Dorothy sought to change her employment to a closer position and she moved to Toowong to work for Caldwell Millinery, where she stayed until she married Wiliam Eastaway in September, 1938.

Dorothy was the ‘Head Girl’ and was in charge of the factory. She travelled by train from Central Station every day to her place of work. Her husband, William Eastway, worked as a porter at Central Station.

J. Caldwell Hat Factory was located just outside the Toowong Railway Station in River Road, Toowong. The Caldwell’s residence was situated in Coronation Drive, between Booth Street and Paradise Avenue, next door to the Brisbane City Council sheds. It was on high stumps and looked over the river. Mr and Mrs Jas. Caldwell had two children, a girl named Elsie and a boy whose name I don’t recall, and who both died of lead poisoning in the early 1930s. I know that Elsie died in 1931.

Eris thought that this was why Mr and Mrs Caldwell grew so fond of her aunt and she said:

The death of the couple’s children from lead poisoning was very sad. They were young adults when they died, aged in their early twenties. They kind of adopted my aunt, who became very close to Mr and Mrs Caldwell, and they came to regard my aunt’s family as a substitute family. They were very good to my aunt.

I have a signet ring, with an ‘E’ on it, which my aunt gave it to me when I was a child. It belonged to Elsie and Mr and Mrs Caldwell gave it to my aunt when their daughter died. Because my name starts with an ‘E’, my aunt gave it to me.

Eris shared this special memory of Mr and Mrs Caldwell from when she was a child:

Mr Caldwell drove a car and on the occasional Sunday would drive Dorothy to visit my mother (who was her sister) and father and our family at Eagle Junction. My mother’s name was Rene and my father’s name was George Bond. My father worked for the Queensland railways. My mother was the eldest in her family of five girls and one boy. Cars were a novelty to us children as we certainly did not own one and sitting on the running board to have our photograph taken would have been the nearest we ever got to travelling in one.

Jolly, Eris_family_in_carThe accompanying photograph was taken in 1935 or early 1936; my Aunt Dorothy sitting in the driver’s seat; my mother, Rene in the passenger seat; her brother-in-law, George Bond (who was my father), leaning on the bonnet and Mr Caldwell (or ‘Jimmy’ as he was called) being the photographer. There were seven children in my family, one being born after this photograph was taken. My eldest brother must have scampered off to visit a mate the Sunday morning this was taken. I am the girl in the middle, sitting on the running board. The original of this photograph has been donated to the John Oxley Library.

Recently, while she was visiting the John Oxley Library, Eris had a half hour to spare, so she decided to consult the Post Office Directories to research the entries for Caldwell Millinery and for the Caldwell’s residence.

These are her findings:

In the Post Office Directory for 1934, commencing at the Regatta Hotel and going towards Toowong, the entries read (with the original spelling and punctuation as is): ‘Regatta Hotel; Robinson A. Mtr. garage & ser. Station; Paradise Ave.; Barr Alex.; Caldwell Jas.; City Council sheds; Dunn Ben J.; Henderson Mr. M.; Booth Street; Toowong Swimming Baths.; Railway Station.’

Then Eris checked the entry for the hat factory in the 1936 Post Office Directory for Sherwood Road, and it read: ‘Right from Railway Station: Toowong Post Office; Cmth Bank; Amor Hat Co., Hat mfrs.’

To Eris, this 1936 entry came as a complete surprise, so now she ponders several possible explanations. Did the death of their children cause the Caldwells to sell out to the Amor Hat Company, and continuing on as managers? Or did they decide to limit the liability of their business in the event of possible failure in these times of depression by restructuring the firm to create a company? If so, were they the only shareholders?

Whatever the circumstances were, Eris is definite that her aunt worked at a hat factory which was located next to the Railway Station and also that her aunt worked there at the factory for the Caldwell family until she married in 1938.

Consequently, Eris feels that further research is needed, whether in the trade directories, the phone books of the time and in the Post Office Directories, to answer these questions. She concluded her covering letter by saying, Maybe at some future time, when time permits, I will complete the research, for my own satisfaction.

Then the whole history of the Caldwell family and their millinery factory will be known!

Thank you to Eris Jolly for providing this contribution, written on 17 May 2008 and published in 2008 by the Toowong and District Historical Society in ‘Toowong: A Tram Ride from the Past’, p.24. To order see details on the Publications page.

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