A Westie in Vaucluse

Something got me thinking this week about how I ended up living in Vaucluse.

I was raised in St Marys, a Western Suburb of Sydney.

St Marys is just past Mt Druitt, in between Blacktown and Penrith.
As a teenager growing up in the early 1980's being a "Westie" had it's drawbacks and it was more than just our bad perms. We were instantly recognisable, especially the boys. Mullett haircuts, tee shirts, tight black jeans, unbuttoned checked flannelette shirts (flannos) and ugg boots. 

Yes. You knew a Westie when you saw one.

I went to Colyton High School and even though I was always in the top classes academically, my less than ladylike behaviour started to become a problem. I dropped out of school when I was just 15 to become an apprentice hairdresser. 

I cannot believe that was thirty years ago.

I cannot believe I became a hairdresser.

My albeit brief career in hairdressing was purely accidental. 

When I was in Year 10 it was compulsory to engage in a week of work experience. Our school decided it would be better for 'our development' to find our own work experience placement. 

At the time I thought I wanted to be a barrister. There was a solicitor’s office on the main street of St Marys so I decided to approach them. The office was on the second floor. 

On the street level was a hairdressing salon, 'Catch Hair Design', so named because the owner wanted something 'catchy'. Well, nothing like sticking to the basics.

At the last minute, I got too shy to walk up the stairs and walked into Catch Hair Design instead. The next thing I knew I had secured my work experience placement and managed to get offered a part-time job as the Thursday night/Saturday morning hair washer, hair sweeper, floor mopper, coffee maker and all round dogs body. 

My first pay was $15.00, which was given to me in cash in an envelope. Everyone got paid in cash back then. It was such a thrill to be handed that envelope. To celebrate I went straight to local fish and chips shop and spent $3.00 (20% of my entire pay) on potato scallops and chips with chicken salt and BBQ sauce. It's funny what you remember.

Applying for a job in the 1980's was quite different to how it is today. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Email or the Internet as we now know it.

You had three options:

A. Walk in off the street and ask if they were hiring.

B. Go through the Yellow Pages (two gigantic volumes: A-K and L-Z) and look for suitable employers and telephone them. 

C. Scour through the Classifieds/Positions Vacant section in the newspaper (and try not to be distracted by the 'Man Seeking Woman' or the 'Same Seeking Same' ads) and apply the old-fashioned way by posting a hand-written application letter.

Option C presented the biggest problem because naturally you needed to write your address on the correspondence.

The girl from St Mary's that went to Colyton High School?


The girl from money, I mean Vaucluse, that went to Kincoppal-Rose Bay.

You really couldn't compete with that.

Now this was quite unfair really. I had some wonderful teachers at Colyton High School especially our science teacher Mr Allen, otherwise known as Sharkman for reasons I can no longer remember. Another great teacher, Mrs Long, invited our entire music class to a pool party at her house (that sounds a bit weird now). Unfortunately the brother of one of the other kids tried to drown me causing a premature end to the party.

I was well aware that we would be compared to these kids from faraway lands (the Eastern Suburbs). I imagined their mansions, maids and swimming pools just like The Beverly Hillbillies. At the time that was my only reference point.

I hated being asked where I lived, and if I were I would answer in a whisper in the hope that they didn't hear me or had no idea where it was anyway.

Perhaps these days it doesn't matter so much where you come from or maybe it does but at my age, I don't care anymore. Back then it just seemed to mean everything.
The only wealthy suburb I could name was Vaucluse. All I knew was that was where the rich people lived. Who knew that some twenty years later I would call Vaucluse home?

Aerial View of my Street in Vaucluse

Now, when I get asked the same question, "Where do you live?" I struggle to say Vaucluse. It's very hard to say Vaucluse without sounding like a complete knob especially when the response is usually, "Oh. Vauclooze!" said with an exaggerated highbrow accent. 

Now I find myself defending this by saying, "But I grew up in St Marys!" like that makes everything okay.

And it usually does.

I hope.

So over the years I've realised that growing up in the west has really been a blessing. It has given me wonderful friends, a strong work ethic and a desire to make something of my life. I also appreciate everything I have. I've worked hard and saved hard and I think I can say I have been a kind and decent person with strong values.

So yes, while I will admit to living in Vaucluse, I have to say I am still one very big, proud Westie at heart. 

Never Forget where you came from.
It's what made you the person you are today.

Walking Caesar in Christison Park Vaucluse


  1. Very nice Sandy...wish I could say the same but I'm still in St Marys but aspirations to move North to Brunswick Heads

    1. Thanks for the comment Rick. Nothing wrong with that. I hope you do get to move to the coast soon. Life really is too short and one thing I learnt after having that brain haemmorage is that you never really know how long you've got. I now focus on making things happen now, just in case. So far it's working out quite well.

  2. A great blog, Sandy! Let me tell you (from 40 years' experience) that an Eastern Suburbs address does not guarantee that a person has had a good upbringing, knows how to behave, has a strong work ethic and is employable.

    There is 'Westie' and there is 'Westie'. I have worked all over Sydney, driving from the leafy suburbs of Rose Bay, Bellevue Hill etc to work at Parklea Markets (family business and compulsory weekend work), Hornsby and Ryde to teach at TAFE and pretty much all suburbs in-between.

    Everything you gained and learned from growing up in your family, in your family home, with your family values and work ethic, you have for life - no matter what the name of the suburb.

    Even though I readily admit to being an Eastern Suburbs Princess (and a Jewish Princess at that!), I also qualify my address with the statement that I live in a 'shoebox' - not in a mansion. I certainly don't want people to assume (as so often happens) that my suburb and my religion automatically qualify me for the billionaire's club. I like to evoke my family's strong work ethic and core values. No old money here - all hard-won and never taken for granted.

    You have every good reason to be proud!

    1. Thanks for the great reply neighbour. No wonder we get along! I have lots of memories of Parklea Markets too. I know what you mean about the assumptions people make about living in Vaucluse. I guess we all assume about a lot of things in life. Perhaps a good lesson.

  3. Wonderful words, Sand. Well done.

    1. Thanks Glenn. I know that you, of all people, will have memories of Catch. Good times.

  4. Hi Sandy, this is a very nice curriculum vitae :-) down memory lane. It's not the suburb that makes you, and it's not the wealth that defines you. It is your upbringing at home, your inner strength and conviction, and the believe in others and yourselves that determines in the end who you are and where you want to be in life.

  5. I remember telling people 'St Marys' and having them ask 'where's that?' then you'd have to say either Mount Druitt, Penrith, or Blacktown, depending on what you thought they knew about the greater Western Suburbs, as they were known. Your memories sound like mine, except replace hairdresser with electrician, and childcare worker with barrister. I did work experience with a childcare organisation that was more about the workers than the children, so I became an electrician. Be proud, wherever you are from. Be proud that you made it. Be proud that you have seen things that others have not.


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