Dorothy Boddy (1911-2005)

Line of Descent
Dorothy Mavis Boddy

John Boddy

George Boddy

Alfred Boddy

Alfred Charles Boddy

Dorothy Boddy

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14 August, 1911, Mitchell street, Stockton, NSW

Alfred Charles Boddy (1879-1968)

Lily Gordon  (1874-1946)

to Ernest Henry Sheldon, 21 October, 1933, Islington, NSW

Son (1938 -       )
Son (1944 -       )

7 February, 2005, Booragul, NSW

Nabiac, NSW


As a teenager, Dorothy's wish to follow her older sister into higher education was thwarted when her mother vetoed the plan, saying “one daughter had already gone away to become a teacher and she did not want to lose another daughter”.  But, as life turned out, several decades later, Dorothy was able to find a way to achieve her ambition, when she too finally became a teacher.

Dorothy had been born in 1911 in Stockton, a suburb on the northern shore of Newcastle Harbour, a ferry ride into Newcastle's CBD.  The family was living there while Dorothy's father, Alfred Charles, worked at the Stockton Cooperative Store.  Alfred Charles' work opportunities took him back to the southern side of the Hunter River very soon after Dorothy's birth, and Dorothy then spent most of her childhood years in and around the inner suburb of Hamilton, where her parents operated their grocery store.

Dorothy was an extremely practical person, who learned to sew and knit at an early age with encouragement from her aunts May and Ethel Boddy.
She learned to drive and played her part in the family business by delivering orders to customers, and as well, used her artistic skills in the photographic studio of her aunts.  May and Ethel had taken over the studio after their own photographer father Alfred died in 1913. The teenage Dorothy colourised the sepia-printed portrait photos produced there, a task requiring a very delicate touch.

Along with the rest of her family, Dorothy actively participated in Baptist Church activities in Maitland Road, Islington where in 1932, she married a young bank teller, Ernest Sheldon, she'd met while playing social tennis. 

right: Dorothy and Ernest's wedding day

Dorothy and Ern then settled in Goulburn, a town more than 200km south west of Sydney on the  Hume highway, where Ern worked for the ES&A Bank (forerunner of the ANZ bank). Part of his responsibilities included collecting the takings from the local movie theatres, resulting in numerous outings to the movies.

Her husband's family had connections in the Goulburn and Braidwood area, and Dorothy’s association with the Goulburn Baptist Church led to lifelong friendships. The family, by then including two sons, moved between rented houses nine times in the 10 years they were in Goulburn, but things changed significantly when Ern was called up for military service in 1942. He was required to move to Sydney and serve at the anti-aircraft searchlight post on Sydney Heads. This meant the family’s time in Goulburn came to an end. Dorothy and the boys stayed with the Sheldon grandparents in Dulwich Hill, and occasionally, Dorothy would go to Newcastle and stay with her parents in King Street, Adamstown.

left: Ernest and Dorothy with their two eldest boys in Sydney, 1943.

Ern’s military service was relatively short,. He was discharged on stress-related medical grounds in 1943 and returned to bank employment soon after. A placement at the Nabiac branch of the ES&A bank near Taree followed,  and country life began again for the Sheldons in this small town. It seemed an ideal location for the children, with regular visits to nearby Black Head Beach throughout summer and local dairy farms at other times. Family life was returning to normal and in 1944, Dorothy’s third son was born. Everyone in the town knew something was happening on that day because the locally-generated electric power stayed on all night so that the local doctor could see to perform his duties.

In early 1945, Ern suffered the first of a series of strokes. He spent much time in hospital in Taree and at home convalescing. Dorothy nursed him continually until he died on 12th April, 1946 and he was buried in the local cemetery at Failford.

Where to next? The family's doctor in Nabiac,  Dr McCredie, also had an orchard at Erina West on the Central Coast north of Sydney, and offered Dorothy the opportunity of living and working there for the rest of that year, an offer that the family always remembered with gratitude and thanks.  The next move after that came early in 1947, when the family moved to Fennell Bay on Lake Macquarie, to live with Dorothy's father and brother in Elizabeth street after the death of Dorothy's mother Lily in 1946.

Her school age sons attended Fassifern Public school while Dorothy herself, for a few months, took on the role of keeping house for her father, as well as at times taking care of her brother Geoff’s daughters, Deirdre and Robin.

At this time,  Alf and Lily's King Street house in Adamstown (right), which had been rented out during the war, became vacant. Housing was in critically short supply post-war and returning servicemen were given priority when a vacancy occurred. When the house became vacant, occupancy was necessary, so Dorothy and her aunt, Sadie Pater went in overnight and slept on the floor. As expected, on the following day a prospective tenant knocked on the door to inspect the property. Auntie Sadie met him and explained the situation and suggested that, if he insisted on occupancy, then it would mean he would be displacing a war widow and her children. He accepted the situation and left. So began Dorothy's residency of 34 King Street for the rest of her life.

It was fortunate that Ern Sheldon’s father had bequeathed a house to each of his children. Dorothy was able to sell that Dulwich Hill property and buy King Street from her father Alf. When built, the house had been named Ken-Dre-Mond (after three of Alf’s grandchildren: Kenneth, Deirdre and Raymond). Dorothy’s ownership continued for the rest of her life.

Dorothy's chance of further education came finally when she had the opportunity, organised through the Department of Veterans Affairs, to attend college courses in “Women's Fashion” and “Handicrafts”. These studies, and her subsequently attained qualifications enabled her to teach these subjects.

After her graduation, she was appointed to the Newcastle Technical College in Hunter Street (left), where she taught for many years. She undertook to be trained in special subjects that were only available at the Newcastle College,  because this enabled her to be retained as a teacher in Newcastle while her sons were young and living at home.

In 1950, Les was in his senior year at Newcastle Technical High School (later to become Merewether High) when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Surgery soon followed at Sydney Hospital. The family was separated again as Dorothy looked after Les and his treatment in Sydney while the younger boys were looked after by family in Newcastle. Constant supervision and family support was necessary after Les’ return home.

Dorothy kept in contact with her aunts and uncles and made regular visits to see them. Each Friday she would take on additional responsibilities and go to Fennell Bay to carry out necessary domestic activities for her father and her aunts, May and Ethel, who lived a street away from their brother Geoff. At one stage, she did not have a car and made the journey from Adamstown to Fassifern by train, to be picked up at the station and returned in the afternoon. Bicycles were the main form of transport for the family throughout the early fifties and continued until Uncle Ern Bailey stopped driving and gave Dorothy his Austin 7 (a 1930's model that if driven in the rain would spray water up through the floor!)

Sentimentality was evident when Dorothy arranged for the purchase of 82 Henry Street, Tighes Hill, the very house that her mother Lily was living when she married Alfred Charles in 1903. This became home for son Les and his wife Joy throughout their married life.

Transport improved over the years when Dorothy bought a Morris Minor, which was replaced by a Series 2 Ford Zephyr, then a Mark 3 Ford Zephyr. During this time, Dorothy became an enthusiastic caravanner, initially with a lightweight model and later with a much more spacious one. She enjoyed touring and in many cases holidayed on her own.

In mid-1968, Dorothy wanted one of the sensational new Holden Monaro coupes. She travelled to Sydney one day and visited a Holden dealer to buy a red one with the “307” automatic V8 5-litre engine. She got it that day, had a radio fitted the following day and then drove back home. It was the first Monaro in Newcastle! It surprised a lot of people to see this 'elderly' lady (57yo!) driving that glamorous red car.

Dorothy in the 1960s, with her three sons in the 1960s.

In the sixties, following the marriages of her three sons, a new phase in Dorothy’s life started. The arrival of grandchildren meant that she had a new group to support with knitting, sewing and entertainment.

Throughout this time she kept close contact with Islington Baptist Church and was involved in many activities. She continued her sewing and made many wedding dresses for many brides in the church.   Dorothy’s final years of teaching saw her travelling to different colleges. She taught in Toronto, Cessnock, Goulburn and Braidwood to name a few.

Her retirement from College teaching was the beginning of a new project. She started making reproduction antique porcelain dolls. These dolls are evident in every Sheldon family household to this day. She was also a member of the Maroba Nursing Home mending team that met each month to sew and repair items for residents. Her knowledge of the various machines meant that she quite often carried out mechanical repairs on them.
Dorothy and her two surviving siblings, Eric and Mildred, at her 80th birthday party in 1991

Dorothy stopped driving when she was refused a full licence at age 85. She handed her car (a Holden Commodore by this stage) over to son David and her transport needed to be arranged from then on.

The arrival of the first great grandchild in 1999 saw Dorothy travel to Manila in the Phillipines to meet baby Katharina Sheldon. When it was suggested that 88 years of age was a bit old to be travelling overseas, she responded “To meet my first great grandchild, it's not!”

Following a family birthday party at the lakeside suburb of Booragaul, she had originally intended to go back to her home at Adamstown, but changed her mind and stayed at Booragul. The following morning she was found slumped across the bed. She had suffered a stroke and was hospitalised at Toronto. From then on, she wasn't able to return home but was confined to a nursing home at Booragul where she died on 7th February 2005, aged 93.

Even though she had been widowed for almost 60 years, she always considered herself as married to Ern and she had suggested to her children that they lift a tile on his grave and put her ashes in with him. This was carried out and the headstone altered to show both names and her ashes placed under the headstone. A memorial plaque dedicated to her eldest son Les, who died in 1989, was also added.

As told by Raymond Sheldon to Anthony Boddy.

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