Cliff Armstrong - Words of Wisdom
This week I caught up with a true gentleman, Cliff Armstrong. “At school I wasn’t real brilliant, even though I have done quite well regardless. I enjoyed myself always. I never put myself on a pedestal, I was just Cliff Armstrong, and that’s all I wanted to be.”
Where and when were you born? Orange, 1936.
What are your words to live by? Gidday mate.
What are the most important lessons you've learned in life? To be honest, like what you’re doing and to mix with people.
What is your favourite childhood memory? Christmas was always good even in the war time. I felt that Christmas was something special, when I got married that was another great memory. I was 24 and Yvonne was 22.
What was your first job? I was brought up on the Orchard at Nashdale (Mum and Dad owned it), I worked on it all my life, as soon as I was old enough to remember things, I was working on it... my first job was a bugger of a job, it was pulling or chipping blackberries out of apple trees. Blackberries were a big problem in those days, birds would sit on the tree and spread the seeds so blackberries would grow in between the trees.
Dad was a very progressive orchardist; he was one of the first to go into crawler tractors instead of horse and cart.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I didn’t want to go on the Orchard initially, I wanted to be a truck driver, we used to have trucks come and cart our fruit to Sydney, I got very friendly with the drivers, I used to go to Sydney with them. My Dad said, ‘oh that’s a terrible life- I need you’ and that was it, I stayed on the Orchard.
What big world events were the most memorable while you were growing up? I could remember I was only about five when the war was on, that was quite a challenging time.
My Dad lost a lot of good men called up to go to war, he was a part of the VDC which was weekends and night training, so along with that he was running an orchid, he was a very strong man.
The government controlled the price of fruit, when the war was on the fruit went up and they were encouraging the farmers to produce fruit to keep Australia fed.
They called the VDC up when things started getting a bit serious, they were worried about them coming to Australia, as they were in Darwin a few times, and followed a Manly ferry into Sydney Harbour. They took the men to make emergency airstrips, which were about two miles long.
I understood the war well.. at school they dug a big air raid tunnel. If we got bombed we would go into the tunnels about 6ft deep.. Mum wasn’t real happy about it because the kids used to get in it and get a bit dirty. *laughs*
Also Nashdale School. At school (Nashdale Primary) the Teacher walked out of the classroom talking on the phone, when he came in and said, the war is over kids, go home - that was about 10 o’clock in the morning, we were all real happy to go home.
What are you most proud of? I’m very proud of getting married and having kids.
How did you meet your wife? My relation said, ‘I’ve got a blind date for ya, I said.. alright then I’m doin’ not much’.., I played squash that afternoon with my mate and after I put a suit on, he said ‘where you goin’ I said ‘I’ve got a blind date’. Yvonne was from Sydney and soon enough I was going back and forth to Sydney, my dad said son.. you better marry that girl, so I did. *laughs* We used to work together a lot, we loved each other very much.
Who is the person who influenced your life the most? Why? My Dad, he taught me everything. There were blokes on the Field Days board which started it that I looked up to very much, they were very dedicated. They would have 30 odd voluntary members on the committee, it was amazing.
What did you get up to in your younger years? I was involved in the Orange City Pipe Band from the age of 16, I used to do drumming in Scouts, we used to travel all over NSW.. I taught children at Nashdale Primary School to play the drums for 2-3 years. I still love music. I was involved in a fair bit of sport, I used to love hockey.
I was also very involved in the Orchard Field Days, they actually made me Chairman, Ground Chairman, and then overall Chairman. That was a big job, I really enjoyed it. It was a busy life, trying to keep the orchard running, that was my main goal. I put a lot of time into it, and Yvonne did too.
They made me a life member of the Australian National Field Days and wanted me to keep the apple and pear organisations going. I represented NSW for 11 years, going to meetings all over the place.
When they made me a life member, I was very proud of that, I still go, they still invite me, I was very proud to be invited back, I haven’t missed a Field Day.