The Hobart

Ousing with History: How a Bakery Raised a Family

by Peter Carey
Ousing with History: How a Bakery Raised a Family

Ouse (pronounced Ooze, for the newcomers) in Tasmania’s central highlands might, to some, seem a sleepy hamlet, but it still boasts one of two schools in the municipality and a very well serviced health centre.

It also supports a general store and roadhouse. The Lachlan Hotel looks largely unchanged over many years (and serves great counter meals!). The town’s heritage is enhanced by a very motivated team in the history room, dedicated to its own special past, such as the families of the district. In 1835 the town served as a refuge for two escapees from the notorious Sarah Island.

Personally, I have a family connection to Ouse. It was the late 1950s, when my aunt and uncle, George and Merle Berry, moved from Victoria to run their own country cafe. In its day, it was a popular spot to dine for West Coast-bound travellers. Merle’s brother, Ray Carey, was a baker and soon after, moved to the town to establish a bakery, to service the a large population base of the Hydro towns. With his wife Zillah, his two sons Stephen and Glenn, and his parents Hilda and Peter (my paternal grandparents), he bought a house next to the community hall and built a bakehouse, originally with a wood fired oven. It still stands today, but it no longer serves its original function.

It’s a special place for my extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents and many cousins – we enjoyed many short family stays, with said cousins all bunking in a large room at the front of the house and my cousin Stephen repeatedly playing the Elvis Presley classic Return To Sender on his record player. In the summer we would swim or paddle in large tractor tubes on the Ouse River under the bridge. Sometimes our water play was enjoyed in the Broad River.

My father George, a motor vehicle inspector for the then Transport Commission, would often drop in on his two siblings and parents when travelling to the West Coast for work. Merle always seemed to be slicing ham for the café, while in the bakehouse. Ray was always whistling away while kneading the dough.

Ray was a brilliant baker and pastry cook. He would bake daily from an early start, before loading them into the EJ Holden panel van for delivery around the district. Locals would walk up to the bakehouse and purchase from the very room in which the baking was taking place (not like the shopfronts of today). My cousins and I would love to get in there too, if for no other reason but to savour all the wonderful aromas or to be surprised by some special bread shape that might have been especially sculptured for us with surplus dough.

A dapper George Berry.

Ouse boasts several impressive colonial homes. In particular, Lawrenny, an estate of approximately 160 hectares on the banks of the Derwent River dating to 1883. Now the site of a commercial distillery, the homestead itself boasts one of the most aesthetically amazing examples of colonial architecture I’ve ever seen. After World War 2, it was occupied by George Berry’s brother Alf and his wife Ethel as part of a land grant scheme. In 1963 when my grandmother Hilda passed away; the whole family converged on Ouse. On her funeral day, the cousins were taken to the estate for Ethel to babysit. My biggest recollection as a four year old, were the larger ponds in front of the homestead where a couple of us did fall in. It did come as a surprise many years later how small they looked through adult eyes.

In 1966, my grandfather passed away. Also, as the construction phase of the Hydro projects were winding down, so were the communities that were built around them, affecting the once thriving supply market. George and Merle sold the café (which was sadly lost in a fire many years after) and moved to Cremorne, while Ray and Zillah moved to Bellerive. Their ties with this special community never faltered; as keen golfers, they remained members of the Ouse Golf Club, travelling there most Saturdays. My cousin Glenn, a police officer, later spent time as the local constable.

All aunts and uncles have now passed away but the nostalgia we share as cousins, remains very special. Merle was keen on taking Super 8 home movies of family and community moments and years after her passing, one cousin had them digitised for us to reflect back on a very positive extended family childhood and the special close knit Ouse community. I recommend to history buffs, to drop in and browse the Ouse History Room behind the Library and Online Access Centre.

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May 2024

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