Ruby Barnes (nee Manly) – Community Stories 2020

This week’s story comes from a letter written by the late Ruby Barnes in 2016 from her home in Texas to her relative Barbara Manly.

A Tough Start

Ruby was the seventh child in a family of ten. She had seven brothers and two sisters. Her mother also took in two young orphan brothers, Bob and Tom Wilson. Her father died when she was young and she spent most of her early years helping her Mother run a dairy farm with her sisters. Balancing time between school and work was a challenge and often homework was completed by candle light or oil lamp.

Sunday School was held in the Rowsley Hall next door to the family home. After completing eighth grade, Ruby commenced work like so many other girls at that time. She undertook a number of local jobs until she was lured to Melbourne. That didn’t stop her from returning to Bacchus Marsh on weekends for the Saturday dances and helping out on the farm.

The Americans come to Bacchus Marsh

American Army Men stationed at Darley Military Camp walk down Main Street Bacchus Marsh.

Two unnamed American soldiers stationed at Darley Military Camp, walk down Main Street Bacchus Marsh.

Taken During World War II (1939-1945).

Courtesy of Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc.

When the American Army came to Darley Camp they were regular visitors to the local dances. This often led to invites to visit the farm and escape the riggers of military training and camp life. Private Harold Barnes of the US Army, became a regular visitor to the farm and quickly grew fond of the family, the farm life and Ruby.

“He helped Mum on the farm and was teaching her to cook American food! Then he would join us at the dances if he was on leave, so we four were on the farm at weekends”.

Ruby Barnes

Cupid at Work

The arrival of hundreds of single young American soldiers had an immediate impact on the local community. Cupid was at work – the result leading to a number of loving and lasting relationships.

An excerpt from the article titled Bacchus Marsh Surrenders – US Troops Here that was published in the Melton Express on Saturday 21 March 1942 on page 1.

Courtesy of TROVE.

“Harold seemed interested in me, so we were married in Bacchus Marsh one September day”.

Ruby Barnes

The Rowsley Correspondent’s weekly review provides a detailed obituary for Sapper Leonard Moser. A World War I soldier (V18092), along with an update on the shearing season. At the end it announces the kitchen tea that will be held in the Rowsley Hall on Saturday the 26 September 1942. The purpose of the occasion being to celebrate Miss Ruby Manly’s marriage to Private Barnes of the US Army.

Published in the Melton Express on Saturday 19 September 1942 on page 3.

Courtesy of TROVE.

Public notice announcing the kitchen tea in the Rowsley Hall on Saturday the 26 September 1942 for Mrs. Barnes (nee Ruby Manly).

Published in the Melton Express Saturday 19 September 1942 on page 2.

Courtesy of TROVE.

Ruby and Harold’s lives became fairly disjointed after their marriage. Harold moved interstate and then finally to the Islands with the American Army. During this turmoil, Ruby worked various jobs and gave birth to their first child.

The Move to America

In February 1945, Ruby and their son John began the long journey from Rowsley to Kansas, USA, via Sydney and New York. Harold thankfully survived the war and re-joined his family. The family expanded over the years and settled on a farm in Texas.

“I have had a wonderful life, have four sons John, Tom, Robert and James who lives on our old farm in Texas, where I worked for 37 years…. A great life”.

Ruby Barnes
The Barnes family on their rocking chairs at their farm in Texas, USA.
The Barnes family on their rocking chairs at their farm in Texas, USA. Left to Right: James, Ruby, Robert, Tom and John. Courtesy of Ruby Barnes’ Private Collection.

Read the complete story of Ruby’s experiences as the bride of an American soldier – Rowsley to Texas. Check out our Facebook page now.