Back in time | Roy Klein: soldier, farmer and postmaster

Roy Melbourne Klein's first attempt to join the Australian army was rejected due to his German background.

Roy Melbourne Klein's first attempt to join the Australian army was rejected due to his German background.

It has been said that when the Nambucca Valley was first settled by Europeans you would be just as likely to hear the German language spoken as English. This could be attributed to the Eichmanns, the Franks and the Kings, just to name a few.

Roy Melbourne Klein was of German descent, having a German born grandfather, although his father Carl was born at Healesville, Victoria. The Klein family, at the beginning of World War I were located at Coramba. When Roy tried to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) early in the war he was rejected on the grounds of his German background.

By 1916 a need for fresh recruits arose and when he applied again he was accepted. He was at that time 23 years old. Roy must have been very anxious to get to the front for when he heard that volunteers for tunnelling units would be sent overseas immediately he put his hand up, even though he had never been near a mine. He was soon on his way to France.

Sadly, he was severely wounded in September of 1917 and was initially reported killed in action. At the field hospital he was not expected to survive. After being in hospital in England he returned to Australia and married Dorothy May Walsh at Paddington in 1918.

Dorothy and Roy bought a property of 63 acres at Deep Creek at Valla in the early 1920s. This property was from the estate of Andrew Buchanan.

Roy's wounds restricted his activities and caused him ongoing pain, but he still participated in sport by acting in administrative rolls of football and cricket clubs. In fact his farm was used as the playing fields for these sports and was also used for large community picnics. Locals would load cane baskets with food and enjoy a day of swimming, games and socialising. Roy and Dorothy had four children and were liked and respected members of the community.

Picnic Party on Klein's Flat c. 1920. Locals would load cane baskets with food and enjoy a day of swimming, games and socialising on the Klein's property.

Picnic Party on Klein's Flat c. 1920. Locals would load cane baskets with food and enjoy a day of swimming, games and socialising on the Klein's property.

Under the Returned Soldier Preference program Roy was able to take over as Valla postmaster. This was an important supplement to farming income. The mail came in daily by horseback, money orders were sold and cashed and it was the centre for the party telephone system. This system was a sharing of a telephone line where each subscriber had a call sign based on Morse code. If your call sign rang then the call was answered by you, although it was said by lifting the phone carefully it was possible for other subscribers to listen in.

Roy's health improved enough so he could work his farm with his son Roy Junior and the running of the Post Office was left to his wife Dorothy, and daughter Betty, who went on to work at the Macksville telephone exchange for 27 years.

Perhaps one of the best accolades to Roy and Dorothy Klein was their compassion to travellers or swaggies. These itinerants trudged along the road looking for work during the wars and were always assured of food or even a welcome to their dinner table at the Kleins.

Despite his wounds, Roy lived to be 80 years old, dying in 1972. Dorothy died in 1986 at the age of 95. They are both buried in the Nambucca Heads cemetery.

Sources for this article were the Klein family, the books Nambucca Anzacs by Trevor Lynch and Valla Memories by Brenda Gadsby, the Mary Boulton Pioneer Cottage and Museum and the Headland Museum Nambucca Heads.

Rachel Burns is a museum volunteer and radio presenter on 2NVR in the Nambucca Valley.

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