Historical information

This oral history interview was conducted with two sisters, Mrs Elva Hill and Mrs Mary Martina. They describe growing up in Beechworth, living a fairly well-off life compared to others around them. Mrs Martina in particular talks about going to school, becoming a teacher, and helping to set up Beechworth Secondary School. She talks briefly about gender roles for girls in the classroom and how teaching has changed over time. Mrs Hill and Mrs Martina describe the Beechworth community as friendly, including towards migrants, and suggest they were not particularly involved in political movements except for protesting after the dismissal of the Whitlam Government. They discuss visiting the Albury Show.

The sisters briefly discuss 'them pushing the wheelbarrow to Mt Buffalo'. This refers to a publicised wager between garage proprietor Tom Parkinson and Post Office Hotel licensee Tony Evans in 1935. Evans challenged Parkinson to push him in a wheelbarrow for over 80km (with an elevation of 1000m) from the Beechworth Post Office to Mt Buffalo in just eight days, with the winner awarded twenty pounds. A brochure was published with official rules, and the incident made international news in the New York Times.

They briefly discussed that their parents worked at the 'Mental Hospital', the full name of which was the Mayday Hills Mental Hospital, known at other points as the Beechworth Asylum and the Beechworth Hospital for the Insane.

This oral history recording was part of a project conducted by Jennifer Williams in the year 2000 to capture the everyday life and struggles in Beechworth during the twentieth century. This project involved recording seventy oral histories on cassette tapes of local Beechworth residents which were then published in a book titled: Listen to what they say: voices of twentieth century Beechworth.

These cassette tapes were digitised in July 2021 with funds made available by the Friends of the Burke.


The statement captures a personal perspective on the teaching profession and education at rural schools during the mid-twentieth century, with a focus on the experience of young girls and women going to school. It specifically discusses the establishment of Beechworth Secondary School. Mrs Hill and Mrs Martina also provide insights into the social dynamics of the town, as two girls from a well-off family discuss how they believed people from different backgrounds interacted with one another. The interview also puts Beechworth into a wider social context, as the women discuss how they were perceived when they went to College and how they interacted with wider politics.

This oral history account is socially and historically significant as it is a part of a broader collection of interviews conducted by Jennifer Williams which were published in the book 'Listen to what they say: voices of twentieth-century Beechworth.' While the township of Beechworth is known for its history as a gold rush town, these accounts provide a unique insight into the day-to-day life of the town's residents during the 20th century, many of which will have now been lost if they had not been preserved.

Physical description

This is a digital copy of a recording that was originally captured on a cassette tape. The cassette tape is black with a horizontal white strip and is currently stored in a clear flat plastic rectangular container. It holds up 40 minutes of recordings on each side.

Inscriptions & markings

Mrs Elva & Mrs Mary Martina /