In our last instalment of this series of blogs we finished up by touching on where the Lynch's had come from with Pat's parents moving down to boat harbour to set up shop after living in the hovels behind Nobby's during the great depression. Aina’s parents weren’t quite as local. Aina’s grandmother passed away when her father was just a young man in Finland. Her father Arynto Frisk (or Tony Frisk as he was known to most in Newcastle), found that he couldn’t get along with his step mother when his father re-married and so he ran away, stowing away on a ship and ending up in Australia.
Aina’s father served in WWI and was shot on at least three separate occasions in France. On one of these occasions he met Aina’s mother while convalescing in England before heading back to the front. After the war they married and headed to Newcastle to start their life together. Aina’s father became a dredge master in Newcastle harbour, she said this made them incredibly fortunate when the depression came because he always had work.
Aina and Pat first met at Cordwall’s dancing studio on Hunter St in 1947, they were 17. Later, the Cordwall's studio shut down and that was that. Five years later Aina was boarding with Mr and Mrs Ailing on Glebe Rd. She had no idea that the Lynch’s and Ailings were family friends. One day Mr. Ailing had been ill and Pat came to visit. Aina said she didn’t know who got the biggest shock when she answered the door, Pat or herself.
By the time Aina and Pat took over at the shop that first little shed behind the convict wall at the Perkin's street boat harbour was long gone and they had built their new shop which Aina said she always referred to as the “postage stamp”. The postage stamp is circled in the picture above and you can see exactly how much our foreshore has changed by using the railway signal house (which is still there) as a reference. This was because perched next to the Darks Ice and Cold Storage facility, that’s all it looked like (a better appreciation of this is shown below).
Perhaps “took over” is the wrong expression noting that Pats parents (pictured below with a friend) continued to work the shop with Pat and Aina. In fact Pats mother worked in the shop every day up to, and including, the day that she past away. Aina remarked that it was quite funny to regularly see a line of customers at this tiny little building that would stretch out of the door and around the corner, but then the way that most seem to remember Lynch's, the line was half the reason to go there. It was an opportunity to catch-up with other locals and have a chat, Lynch's was a focal point for the urban community in Newcastle. After all, as you can see in these images, there wasn't a lot of other reasons to go over to that side of the tracks unless you worked at Dark's or wanted to dangle a line in the harbour.
The “postage stamp” was fairly misleading though in terms of the scale of the Lynch’s operation. Pat kept three cool rooms in Dark’s Ice. One down stairs for freezing down product and two upstairs for storage. Aina remarked with a definite tone of pride that even though the river closed for 6 months every year, they only ever ran out of prawns once for a week before the start of season. “Everybody knew that you could always get some prawns at our place” she said. Apparently a fellow from council once scoffed at Pat for his tiny little business. Pat said, “mate I’ve got a cool room that you could drive your car around in and that’s one of three”. The council fellow turned up at Lynch’s for a pound of prawns for Sunday dinner and Pat spotted him. Pat insisted that the council gentleman pop over and inspect his cool rooms. A grand tour of the internals of the Lynch’s cool rooms followed which Pat apparently only brought to a conclusion when he thought the fellow was about a heartbeat away from being snap frozen himself.
Another story that Aina told me with pride was that they received a letter from the state rail corporation one year thanking them and telling them that they were the best tenants that they had ever had in a state rail building. One thing that struck me was how incredibly hard this family had worked. Aina said that Pat would quite often simply skip a night’s sleep when his prawners were fishing a night tide. During the season Pat would be up and out of the house at 4am to head to Tuggerah and buy cooked prawns. Then he would come back and open the shop, Aina would pop down and relieve him for an hour or so after opening so that he could go for a swim which he loved and tried to do every day. Then they would work the shop together through the day, sometimes depending on the tides Pat would scarcely make it home that night before the first call would come in from his prawners to come down to the wharf and collect their catch to be frozen down live on the floor of darks. Pat also operated a cab in later years.
With that, we will bring the second instalment of this story to a close. Stay tuned for the third and final part next week,