Reader recalls gathering Jacaranda seedlings for Irene Haxton's maternity hospital

Memories: Jacaranda boy, Warren Callender. Picture: John Veage
Memories: Jacaranda boy, Warren Callender. Picture: John Veage

Warren Callender saw the jacaranda story in the Leader last week with its inevitable mention of Sister Irene Haxton — the woman said to be responsible for most of southern Sydney's jacarandas — and immediately set off down memory lane.

The lane was actually English Street at Woolooware where the Callender family moved in the late 1940s.

They bought a block of land from the Haxtons, right next to Jacaranda Private Hospital, a maternity hospital run by Mrs Haxton, and where the Haxton family lived.

Mr Callender, five years old in 1948 when his father finished building their house, became firm friends with Paul Haxton who was about the same age.

He does not remember why Mrs Paxton was so enamoured of jacarandas but he certainly did not mind being employed as a jacaranda boy.

Mrs Haxton rarely had time to do anything much, he says, but she always found time for the jacaranda seeds.

She would pile her son Paul and young Warren into the family car and drive for miles to places where the jacarandas grew.

"We would drive all over Sydney," Mr Callender said.

"There were a lot of trees on the Great Western Highway near Penrith. I don't know how she found out they were there but going to Penrith was like going to another country."

The boys would climb the trees, collect the pods and enjoy a picnic by the roadside.

"Afterwards we would go door to door to get empty jam tins — we'd put in some dirt and a few seeds and water the tins," Mr Callender said. "There was always a supply of jacaranda seedlings."

Mr Callender, a retired Qantas aircraft engineer, describes a scene where the dad would pull up in the family car to pick up mum and the new baby.

"Mrs Haxton would carry the baby to the car followed by a nurse who carried the mum's bag in one hand and a jacaranda tree in the other," he said.

"The jam tin with the seedling was the last thing to be packed into the car.

"It was likely that at least 90 per cent of the shire jacarandas came from Mrs Haxton."

Sadly, Paul Haxton was killed in a car accident when he was 18.

Do you have memories of Irene Haxton and her Jacaranda seedlings?  

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