to Ernest Henry Sheldon, 21 October, 1933, Islington, NSW
Son (1938 - )
Son (1944 - )
7 February, 2005, Booragul, 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
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.
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
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!”
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
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.