Beard Alice (Nee Hewison)

My parents were Helen and William Hewison, both were born in Scotland. My father came before my mother, arriving in 1897, when the gold rush was on. He was studying to be an accountant but when he heard the news of the gold rush he got itchy feet. My mother was working as a dressmaker in a factory in Scotland and did not relish the idea of coming to Australia. After some discussion with mother, my father decided to come alone and leave my mother and my oldest brother with her parents. She was to follow if things were alright here. Father found a job at Lions Mill, now Mount Helena. There is no longer a mill there. My father was always accustomed to office work, he was a genius with figures, and knew nothing about timber mills but he stayed there for two years before sending for mother and Robert to join him in 1898. My brother was six years old when he came and when he saw the house he was to live in would not step inside saying he would not step inside saying he would not live in a barn, but he had no option and eventually went in.

Dad had already put in for a transfer before mum arrived and a short time later they moved to Kirup, a small town in the south of the state. A little later that year 1899, my sister was born and three years later Doris was born at Bridgetown, a few miles from Kirup. Another three years later Flo was born at Bunbury. In 1906 the family left Kirup and came to another mill township, Canning Mills, near Pickering Brook.


Dad did not work there very long as he was offered an office job by a young couple who had bought out a mill owned by a family named Patterson. There is a road named Patterson where the mill once stood. They were closing down the mill but they instead sold to Alice and Alexander Barton-Bruce.

The mill was moved six miles to the east to the spot known as Barton’s Mill. My father was given the job of office clerk and a few days later mother arrived with four children, the youngest was Florence, aged three months. The mill houses, or huts, were made of bush timber with no conveniences whatever. However, within a short time father had settled into his job and mother took in dressmaking for all the mill families. Coming to such a place as Barton’s Mill was then must have been an ordeal for my mother because not only did she have four children to look after in the primitive conditions, but a year later she opened a little shop, attached to her house, where she sold hop and ginger beer and cigarettes to the workers. She brewed the beer out in the yard in kerosene tins which must have taken hours, but she did it to enlarge Dad’s pay packet which was fairly meager.

I was born at Barton’s Mill on 13th July 1909 – the day Alex Barton died. He had been badly injured in a mill accident two days before and as our house was the nearest to the mill he had been taken there. He must have known he was dying as he made mother promise to name her baby, if it was a boy, Alexander and if a girl, Alice, after his wife. Alice was my mother’s best friend and they continued to be friends until my mother died in 1943. Alice was the executrix of my mothers Will. When Alex was injured he was taken to the hospital in Perth on the train.

The Barton’s had two children, Jessie and Ken. Jessie married a Professor Massey, an American. Jessie came back here four years ago and I took her to the mill to show her where the old house was. As Mrs Barton had the children to take care of, she and her brothers decided the best thing for them was to sell the mill to the Millar’s Timber and Trading Company. Mrs Barton left the mill but my parents stayed on.


I can remember some of the families who lived at the mill. My son, Malcolm, married the daughter of one of the teamsters, Pam Gibbs, and I can remember the two boarding houses for the men. One was run by the Brown’s, who have two children buried at the mill. A daughter, Olive Baynton, still lives in Kalamunda. There was not much to do by way of entertainment but there were dances and football matches between the mill and Pickering Brook and Mundaring.

There were tennis courts there later. I was friendly with the Manager’s daughter, Florie Thompson, and still went to the mill to stay with her after we left. In the end there was a fairly large population and this was how my mother made her money really, dealing there. There was not much at Pickering until the soldier settlements came and the orchards started.

My three sisters attended the little school at the mill but my brother left school at fourteen and worked for the railways. His first job was as porter at Dumbleyung, in the south west. As there were no more boys in the family the girls had to be proficient at all the jobs around the place. I can’t remember much about my life at Barton’s as I was only four and a half when we came to live in Pickering Brook.

When the first world war broke out, I was nearly five, my mother was approached by a man named Lindley who had a little shop eight miles nearer Perth, at Pickering Brook. He had bought it a couple of years before from Mr. Humphries who had built it himself with timber from Barton’s Mill. Fred Lindley was keen to join up and although he had three sisters, Lucy, Ruby and Florrie, and a brother, none of them were interested in running the shop.

Mother agreed to buy the shop and off we set for this dear little place called Pickering Brook where there was only six houses including the shop. There were three in a row, the shop, the Humphrey family, the Lindleys and the Sextons, and a hundred yards away were another three houses, all belonging to the Weston families, who in 1876, were the first settlers at Pickering Brook.


There were five sons and four daughters in the Weston family. Their first son died when two days old and his grave is in the bush near Masons Mill. It was tended at first by his brother Greg. When Greg died his son Neil continued to care for the grave. Now the Historical Society cares for it. I can remember the day we moved very well. By the time we had driven the horse and cart to Pickering the horse was choking with thirst so we pulled up at the water trough, near the shop, to give him a drink. I had my prize cat in a sugar bag but I took him out and he promptly jumped out of my arms and ran into the bush. I set up a terrible din and continued crying until we went into the shop. I can remember the round oak table in the middle of the living room floor and the tin of boiled lollies on the table. I only stopped crying when I was allowed to eat the lollies.

When we came to the shop the living accommodation was attached to the shop. There were two big bedrooms, a very big kitchen and a tiny room at the end of the lounge room. There were two big open fireplaces that had to be cleaned with pipe clay and one little pokey stove in the kitchen.

The shop was just one room with a counter right up the centre. But it had a little room on the end that was later converted into a butcher shop. Right above it was a loft that was all padded with sawdust to keep it cool, there was no refrigeration as there was no electricity. We had kerosene lanterns. In our day the butcher who opened the shop was called Hummerston, he came from Midland. Hummerston and Watson had the first shop in Kalamunda opposite the station.

When I was eight I remember that my sister Annie became our second mother as mother was busy with the shop and post office. Mother always managed to get our dinner and breakfast until Annie took over. When she was eighteen Annie married Greg Weston who cut wood around Barton’s Mill area. He carried it by horse and cart to Pickering Brook Station to load onto the railway trucks to take to Perth. He continued to cut wood until they could buy a little property two miles from Pickering Brook where they built a four roomed house. Greg started a vegetable garden and orchard. They had two daughters and one son, Hazel, Merle and Neil.


When my parents first came into the shop at Pickering Brook they delivered to Barton’s Mill three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, mother did a smaller round. Dad went to the mill by horse and cart at ten o’clock in the morning. He started the delivery at the first house in the circle and continued all around the mill. He took butter covered with wet sacks but on the hot days it was just dripping by the time he got there. He got home late at night and then had to unharness the horse before he could eat. On these days mother had charge of the shop and post office. Mother’s round took in Karragullen and all around there. Sometimes the horse would get out in the night and she had to go up on the train taking all the orders in baskets. It was a battle to do the deliveries until we got our first “T” Model Ford.

As the motor car came into the area mother had a Plume petrol pump put in and sold petrol. Years later we had Plume and Shell until Shell bought Plume out. We had the first petrol in the Kalamunda area. Kosteras were second. We had to pump it all by hand too. When we filled fourty-four gallon drums for the orchardists it was hard work. As we filled one we put a stone on the ground to remind us how many we had pumped. I started to drive the “T” Model Ford when I was fifteen and used it to get firewood. But we had to get a boy, one of the French boys, from behind the school, to help us in the shop as the area grew and he could drive and do the deliveries. When cars came in only our family, Temby and Harry Catchpole had one, we had a “T” Model Ford.

As we got older we all had to help do the work, cleaning and washing and ironing. I was doing all my own washing and ironing at twelve. The washing was done in three big iron tubs under the big gum tree that is still standing. The tubs were on a wooden bench, one had the suds, one the rinse water and one the blue. The clothes lines were up in the bush – so were the toilets. We never had a toilet near the house until Bert and I took over and had the back of the house rebuilt and included a toilet. We did not have water or electricity either. We had some sort of carbide lighting, a kind of powder that had to be lit with a match, it was very smelly. All ironing was done by the old flat iron.

Before we had much variety in the shop most things came on the train from Midland. All the meat and bread came that way. Later, if we couldn’t get into Barton’s with the horse and cart we went on the little mill loco. After Dad had his first stroke, he died in 1943, we used the loco most of the time. Charlie Ellis brought meat later on.

When mother took over the shop she had fifty pounds to buy groceries with. She went down to D.& J. Fowlers. The only ones who would give her credit and bought six pounds of tea and a bag of sugar, enough just for the few families around. As she used that and made a little money she bought more. Of course, customers were few and far between then. It just grew from there. There was only one shop in Kalamunda and no one had transport to go far for shopping. To start with our shop only sold food and a few cigarettes but later we began stocking work clothes, leggings and boots for the men around. There was no grog for sale. The men had to go to Kalamunda for it. If the men wanted a drink they would catch the five o’clock train to Kalamunda, get their tummies full and catch the eight o’clock train back, carrying a sugar bag full of bottles.

Tommy Roads and his wife had twelve children. She died shortly after having their twelfth child, at Pickering Brook. They lived next to the shop where the people of Pickering Brook had built them a little house. He used to be on the Weston property in the early days but I think he had a heart attack or something and couldn’t work. They were very poor. Tommy Roads used to buy claret by the huge keg and he and Harry Hawkins would bottle it up.

I can remember my sister, Doris, had a very bad accident one afternoon as my father was taking her into Kalamunda in the horse and cart. Coming down Tate’s Hill the horse shied and she was thrown out. She was taken to Perth Hospital from Carmel by two sisters of the church, Methodist Deaconesses, Sister Rose and Sister Alice Rutherford. She was unconscious for a long time with a fractured skull. They took her down in their horse and buggy. There was only one doctor in Kalamunda. Dr. Ewell was the first one I can remember and Dr. Barber came later.


They said we had to attend the school nearest to us and that it was Pickering Brook. Mother was not having this so she borrowed a chain measure from Mr Owen and she and Ernie Mason made a track all the way to Carmel school and measured it. It came out to be the same distance to each. Mother was taken to court for sending me to Carmel but they decided as it was the same distance we could go there, they still fined her a shilling for it. Years later, about twelve months ago, I was telling all this to Ray Owen and he said “Yes, when I was building this house I wondered why nothing came out right with the measuring. Your mother took a foot off the end of the chain, to make the distance come the way she wanted”.

There were very few children at Carmel school. Just Molly Owen, Edna and Grace Wallis and me in one class, then other children were the Mitchell girls, Nellie Martin, Herbie Annetts, Mervin Blamire, Basil Blamire and the Loarings, Popsie, Barbara, Linda and Kevin. My teacher when I started was Reg Gilchrist, he taught the bubs, then Gertie Elson and later, E.A.Jackson. From Carmel school, when I was thirteen I went to Perth Girls school and had to catch the early seven o’clock train arriving at Perth at nine. I then had to cross the bridge to North Perth. I was always three or four minutes late for school. Jean and Peggy Shaw also went down to town with me every day. Jean worked in Perth but Peggy went to Perth Modern school. The Shaw’s had the orchard just up from Owen’s at Carmel. As well as school work I was learning music too, so after about six months my mother decided I should board near the school. I stayed with the parents of Roy Gray who later became my brother-in-law as he married Doris.

I did not like school very much but I did love music. All the school exams and music exams seemed to come at the same time. My mother could see I was not Progressing too well with school and asked me what I wanted to do. I said I felt I could not catch up with the other girls and I would prefer to concentrate on music. So I did not go to school any more after two years at Perth Girls. I just studied music and took my exams until I got my letters. By the age of seventeen I was playing for all the dances everywhere.


I started school at Pickering Brook, about a mile and a half from home. The school opened in 1915. My first teacher was Miss Seymour, a little old lady of over sixty. She walked to school from Carmel, near where the Post Office was later, in Union Road. She talked to herself all the way to school as she walked along the railway line. We often walked behind her to try to listen to what she said. She had to walk along the track as there were too many snakes to walk through the bush. There were only enough children attending Pickering Brook to keep the school open. There were three Frenches, three Hewisons and four Westons. This was the total. After the war there were fewer still. I had to send my son, Malcolm, to school when he had just turned five or they would have closed the school. The school was only one little room, just an unlined wooden shell with a fire place. When I was eight I went to Carmel School. Mother did not think we were making progress at Pickering so she wrote to the Education Department to ask if she could change schools.

When I was sixteen there was a big ball over at Roleystone with a talent competition. My mother said if I would sing in it she would take me and Doris to the ball. I said I would right up to the day then I said I wouldn’t. There was a terrible fuss from Doris as then neither of us could go. In the end I decided to go and sang “Memories” and won the competition. Afterwards the judge, Peter Roxby, said to Mother that she must get me trained so she sent me down to Perth to Hugh Torrence. I learned for two years and Doris was trained too. I won several competitions. I was not quite seventeen when I started playing for the dances at Pickering Brook. I was taught music for a while by Mrs Bevan who had a band of piano, saxophone and drums and played at Carilla a lot. She got me started with the band really.

One night there was to be a big ball and as she got out of the car she jammed her hand in the car door. She came into the hall with her hand all swollen and of course everyone wondered what was going to happen. She came over to me and said she may be able to persuade her old pupil to play. Of course I was very shy in those days and said no I could not. “Yes you can” she said “Look at my hand, I can’t play. I will stay beside you and stamp my foot to keep time. I shan’t go home.” She tapped her foot for me all night and after that I was alright and I went all over the place.


You couldn’t always get people up from Perth to play with you in those days as it was such a long way. I played for years for five pounds a night. I used to give the saxy twice what I got. I played for many things for free, every Christmas tree, every kitchen tea and wedding in the area. Most of the kids whose weddings I played at, have kids of their own now.

I played with a violinist to start with, old Augustus Kaiser, who had an orchard next to Owen’s at Carmel. He was the only one I could get to play with me. We played for all functions around here but as the place grew a bit, I got a friend of Molly Owen. She was going with a chap called Bill Kirkham from Perth and he used to play for a lot of dances down there. One day he came up to a dance I was playing at and Molly told him I was looking for a saxy. He said he would like to come up to play with me and it would earn him a few bob as well as let him visit Molly. Bill was my first saxophonist and then I got a drummer from Perth. I had them for a few years but for the last few years before I left Pickering I had the same drummer, my husband Bertie, and Ted Riggs was saxy. We played all over the place, Armadale, Perth, Cottesloe, playing for weddings. We had a lovely life. To start with I was only paid five pounds but by the end I got twenty pounds.

Every second Friday in the month I played for the Kosteras Garage dance at Kalamunda. The old man Kostera had the garage then. The dance was for all the drivers from the buses and their friends but anyone could go. Admission was two shillings. I never charged them for playing but they gave me lovely gifts. I still have some of them. The dances were in the big R.S.L. hall. I played for the ANZAC day dances there too. We disbanded the band when we sold out the Post Office in 1959.

Growing up in Pickering Brook was wonderful. There were Tennis courts opposite the shop built by volunteers on busy bee days, and we were always having surprise parties. They were real surprise parties too, no one would ever tell. We had many dances at Harry Westons house. He had married Lucy Lindley. When the Lindley family sold the shop, Harry moved their barn. It was originally near the shop but he moved it to the back of his place and this is where the dances were held. This was just over the road from where George Sprigg’s shop is now.


My sisters often walked all the way to Walliston to play tennis at the home of Fred Wallis. Sometimes the day would end in a musical evening. Mrs Wallis was able to play the piano beautifully and her niece next door, the Halleen girl, used to sing with my sister who was a trained singer. I was still going to school but sometimes I was allowed to catch the half past four train to Kalamunda and get off at Walliston. My sister would walk through the bush to meet me. Sometimes I was allowed to stay at Walliston, with Grace Wallis, for the weekend and then she would come to Pickering Brook to stay with me. The Wallis’ grew the most beautiful dahlias and flowers of all kinds. Grace (now Earp) and I are the same age and Edna (now Padgett) and Flo are the same age and we have been mates all this time. Charlie Padgett was a local boy too, his family came to Patterson Road, Pickering Brook, when the soldier settlements started after 1918. Charlie was a policeman. Another Padgett son, Eddie, worked at Barton’s Mill. Fraser went to the war in 1914 and Nell, who married a Neave, lives in Kalamunda, near Cheap Foods.

As Pickering Brook was such a small isolated place, it is no wonder the few families seemed to inter-marry. Ruby, the sister of Fred Lindley, who’s mother bought the shop from, married Fred McCullough and they ran the first Post Office in Kalamunda. Their cottage is now in the Kalamunda museum. Two of the Weston boys married into nearby families. Harry Weston married Lucy Lindley and Greg married my sister Annie Hewison.

There was another family a couple of miles down the road, the Owen family, who arrived two days after the Westons. When they first arrived their address was Pickering Brook but this was later changed to Carmel. When I met Bert, he worked at the Midland railway workshops but as it was the depression, they started to put men off if they were not married. We were not supposed to get married until the following year but to keep his job we decided to marry early in 1930. Anyway as it happened Bob Portwine from Kalamunda heard about us getting married and said he had heaps of work if Bert would work for him until he decided what he wanted to do permanently. Bob was a baker in Kalamunda and needed work done on his property, windmills erected and so on.


In the meantime, mother asked us to go back to the shop as she was getting too old to manage and was too ill. She died of cancer in the end. Dad was bedridden after having strokes. Mother had carried on alone as long as she could but in 1940 she had an operation and eventually died. In her will the shop was left to Bert and I. Florrie was married to Ray Owen by this time. We carried on at the shop until 1959.

The shop was always on water catchment land, on the opposite side of the road to where it is now, and we were not allowed to do much to it although we made it as nice as we could. We altered all the inside of the shop. We tried to get a ninety-nine year lease on the shop, from the water board, but that was not allowed either. When they started to resume a lot of land for a catchment area I was very concerned as I could see they would take the shop land and not give us any compensation, so we decided to quit.

Mr Bendall bought us out and then the Spriggs family bought it. The water people said the shop had to be moved then and the new one was built over the road. The old one lay dormant for ages and the vandals got to it. It was pulled down even when I was promised it wouldn’t be. It was then burnt. I cried my eyes out and so did the kids. All our memories are there, although there are still remnants left. The two posts from the swings are there and the rose trellis that Noel built when he was fourteen is still there and all the animal graves are under the trees. The trees were planted by Pam when she was six years old. She came home one day with two little poplar trees and she planted them next to the house. Their babies are still there.

I would like some sort of plaque at the site of the old shop like there is at many of the old places in Kalamunda. My family is remembered by the road name – “Hewison Road” – opposite the site of the shop but I would like an old photo and plaque on the place all the same.


When Mr Bendell bought us out we went to Toodjay to run the Freemasons Hotel. We were there for four years before coming back to Midland. Bert went to Broome for a holiday and I managed Lyle Portwine’s shop at Karragullen. This had been my sister Doris’s shop to start with. I stayed there until Lyle went away on his honeymoon. Then I went to stay at the Freemasons at Midland and began playing at the Woodbridge Hotel in the evening. Then, in 1966, I went to Carnarvon and found a job in a band on Friday and Saturday nights and the Sunday afternoon sessions. That kept me busy I can tell you. I did that for six months. I then came back to Guildford where Bert had bought a little house next to the pub. Bert was working for Bunnings at the time and I found a job working in a wine saloon.

One of the travelers came in one day in 1968, and asked me why I was working there instead of running a place of my own. He knew of a wine saloon in James Street, Perth, that was up for lease. I did not like the idea of James Street but he said it was a nice place owned by Nat Raspoli. He wanted to get out as he was into racehorses and so on. He owned the whole area between Lake Street and Bridge Street, where the big car park is now. I had known Nat for years as he used to come up here to all the dances.

In the meantime, in 1970, Bert had a transfer up to Northam, as he was working for the railways then and he wanted me to go up there with him. I worked at Spencer’s Brook for a while in the army store but then the wine saloon in Northam was up for lease so I took that over. I ran that for two years. My sons bought a big store in Kellerberrin and asked me to run it but it was very run down and took a lot of hard work to get it going properly. But in the end I built it up so we had three staff and it needed lot of work. It became too much for me so we came back to Pickering Brook. I have been in Pickering Brook ever since. I rented a little house at the end of Cunnold Road at first then I was offered a house by Virginia Della Franca. Her son, Hugo Della Franca, was building his new house near the cool store and leaving the old one, so, as it was much cheaper rent I took it. I was there when Bert died, in 1981, and stayed until my daughter Pam was killed in 1986. I now live in a little unit built in the garden of my daughter and son-in-law’s house in Cunnold Road.


Somehow during my busy life I managed to have five children, Malcolm born in 1931, Noel born in 1934, Lynette born in 1940 and twins Jenny and Pam born in 1946.

I recently celebrated my eightieth birthday and intend to stay in Pickering Brook until I celebrate my one hundredth!

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Reference; Article: Jenny Keast

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18 Lyn Poletti
17 Gretchen Forrest