Donald George Bradman was born in the western NSW town of Cootamundra on 27 August 1908, fifth child of George and Emily Bradman.
Baby Don was the youngest of the Bradman children, with brother Victor and sisters Islet, Lilian and May.
The Bradman family lived in a slab hut on a property in the village of Yeo Yeo, about 25 kilometres from Cootamundra.
Some 2 ½ years later the Bradman family moved to Bowral for the cooler climate. It was thought the weather would be better for the health of Don's mother, Emily. The family moved into a weatherboard house in Shepherd Street Bowral, within walking distance of the Bowral School, where the young Don began his schooling two years later.
From an early age Don Bradman was a sporting and active youngster. There wasn't any organised sport or coach at school, and Don didn't have any children to play with in the neighbourhood, so he developed a ball game in his backyard. This unusual game involved throwing a golf ball at the round brick base of a water tank, and then hitting the ball with a cricket stump. This was not an easy game when the ball would fly off in all directions. Without knowing it, Don was developing his precise co-ordination and skill, which would serve him so well in the years ahead as an international cricketer.
Aside from school and backyard cricket, the young Don was a very busy boy, with piano lessons, choir practice, golf caddie and helping his father who was a carpenter and fencer. At this stage, Don believed his career would lead him to become a house painter. Don was also a good musician, and it was his sister Lilian who taught him to play the piano, and also helped to instil in him a great love of music.
As a young boy Don used to walk across the Glebe wicket (which was renamed Bradman Oval in 1947) to his school, the Bowral Public School which is located just a block away from the Bradman Museum.
HIS FIRST REAL GAME
At the age of twelve he was invited to play for the senior school team and in his second game on the Oval he scored 115 not out from a team total of 150, he also took 8 wickets.
It was about this time when Don Bradman's future wife, Jessie Menzies, came to live with the Bradmans for a year as her parents owned a property out of Bowral and she could not get to school. According to Sir Donald it was during this year that he decided that he wanted to marry her.
On weekends Don acted as scorer for the Bowral team which included his father, brother and two uncles. One day the team was short a player and he was sent in at the fall of the eighth wicket scoring 37 not out. For the return innings, the following Saturday, on the Glebe wicket (Bradman Oval) he scored 29 not out. As a reward for his fine effort a Bowral team member gave him his first cricket bat. Don's father had to saw three inches off the bat to suit the young Don. He later used this bat in his first full season in the senior men's team. This prize possession is now on display in the Bradman Museum.
As a teenager, he continued to be busy with sport playing rugby, tennis, cricket and competition athletics.
DON'S BOYHOOD DREAM
Don begged his father to take him to Sydney, in February 1921, to watch his first Test match, the Fifth Test between England and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The two day excursion so impressed Don, he vowed to his father, that he would never be satisfied until he played cricket on that ground.
GOING TO WORK
At the end of 1922, aged 14, Don left school and took a position with Mr Percy Westbrook, as a Clerk in a Bowral Real Estate Agency. Mr Westbrook played a very important role in Don's early career by allowing him the time to play cricket in Sydney when the offer came in 1926.
Don Bradman remembered this at a farewell function in Bowral, 1930..."After leaving school I spent five years with Mr Westbrook before going to Sydney. Everything lay in his hands, but at great inconvenience he let me go to Sydney. It was due to him that I got my chance in big cricket".
The Start of a Career
Now aged 17, Don had developed himself as a serious cricketer for the Bowral team. He continued to bat high scores, take wickets and hold catches, making an enormous impact in the Berrima District competition.
His mother, Emily promised Don a new bat if he made a century in the final between Bowral and Moss Vale. The match, held over five consecutive Saturdays, saw Don finish his efforts with a total of 300 runs, breaking another record in the Berrima District final. Don joked with his mother that perhaps his score deserved three bats, instead he gratefully received the one.
In October 1926, the State Selectors invited Don to a cricket trial in Sydney at the SCG. The Selectors were mostly looking for promising young bowlers, however the press of the day were to report ..."the practice produced a batsman, and a batsman from the country too". Because Don was used to playing country cricket on concrete and dirt pitches, his footwork was considered to be slow. He would soon adjust to the grass wickets.
Soon after the trial, he was invited to play for the Southern team in a Country Cricket Week in Sydney. During that week he agreed to play for the St George Cricket Club if they paid his train fare from Bowral. Each Saturday, Don had to get up out of bed before 5 am to catch the train from Bowral to Sydney, often not getting home until midnight.
Sheffield Shield Cricket
In 1927, now aged 19 years, Don was selected to play Sheffield Shield for the NSW team, touring the southern states. For his first trip interstate and his first match for NSW, Don travelled by train on the new railway line to Broken Hill, before going on to Adelaide. The players wore sandshoes in the match against Broken Hill which was played on a hard sun-baked red dirt pitch. To add to the challenge, a dust storm hit the game.
From here, Don travelled on to Adelaide for his first-class debut for NSW against South Australia, scoring 118 runs. Now known as 'The Boy from Bowral', he became the 20th Australian to score a century in his first-class debut.
The young cricketer returned home to Bowral after playing in Melbourne to a proud welcome. The Bowral community loved their hero, now affectionately calling him 'Our Don'.
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