Freda Fernie

This is my life. Freda and her memories August 1999

In the year of 1913 my parents, Florence and Henry Berle decided to migrate to Australia. I was eighteen month old and my brother Harry just three months old, when on the 15th August 1913 we boarded the boat train from London to Tilbury Docks where we boarded the steamship Ajana and set sail for a new life in Western Australia.

After some weeks at sea and some rather rough weather we berthed at Fremantle on the 7th October, we were met by our Grandparents (Mum’s Parents) who had left England two years previously and built a home at 936 Albany Road, this road was some time later Albany Highway.


We stayed with my Grandparents until my father rented a house in Albany Road, two doors from Basinghall Street. Dad, a Gents Hairdresser, soon found work at a Hairdresser’s in Barrack Street, Perth. It was during this period on the 3rd of October 1914 that my brother Jim was born. Dad had purchased a quarter acre block of land for 35 pounds (70 dollars) at 17 Shaftesbury Avenue. This was later changed to Miller Street after a well known business identity living in the district. The purchase date was the 26th June 1914, a deposit of 16 pounds (32 dollars) was paid, the balance was three installments over a period of nine months with a payment of interest of 12/6 (one dollar & fifty cents). At time there was no road, no electricity and water had to be carried from a house near Albany Road which was quite some distance. Today we take all these essentials for granted. My father built two room which were unlined.

It was also during 1914 that war was declared against Germany. The hostility of some people to Germans was very evident and my father being of German origin suffered as a result. Customers and others made it very difficult, not only for Dad but also for Mr. Hawkins, the man my father worked for, who had no choice but to put him off.

Sometime later and one morning two officials called and told Dad they had work for him and to go with them. That night when Dad did not return home, Mum was extremely worried and went to the Police Station and was told Dad had been taken to Rottnest and interned. It must have been terrible for Mum, left on her own to cope with three children under school age. Mum was allowed to visit my Father which was a long day. A special permit was required for the boat trip and Mum would be away from early morning to after dark at night. We were left with neighbours on the day Mum went away. One family in particular were very helpful, a Mr. and Mrs. Hicks living at the top of the street were very kind and helped a lot. Their teenage son chopped wood and helped carry water for us. Some neighbours were very hurtful threatening to burn the house and later when I went to school, children would call out and say “your Fathers a dirty German” and all this hurt a lot.

Mum spoke to a Mr. Hall, a man who knew both my parents and when he heard the story how Dad was interned at Rottnest he was most indignant, saying “what right had they to act in this way and in such a secret manner without any previous warning”. He offered to stand as a bond, saying “he knew Dad well enough not to harm anyone”. About six months later he was released to come home to us. But sad to say all the worry had changed him from a happy person to a quiet bitter man, which lasted for a very long time.

Not long before I started school Mum was confined to bed for about a week and was very ill. Dad, still unemployed, now had a job to do looking after us all. For our midday meal it was just rice every day. This put me off rice for years.

One morning a few months later, when Mum was out, three girls older than myself from opposite in our street, came over and asked me to bring out my dolls pram. They knew I was not allowed. They kept on to me till I gave in. Getting the pram out from the bedroom I cut my leg on the bed just as my Mother arrived home and growled at me. The girls declared they had not asked me and it was what I wanted to do. I not only had a sore leg but was punished for telling fibs (most unfair).

In the very early days Mum mixed flour and water to paste brown paper on the unlined wooden walls to keep out the dampness.

To make enough money to live on Dad did all sorts of odd jobs, such as mending kettles and saucepans. He made a Kalgoorlie Cooler and when some Catholic neighbours saw it, they ordered one themselves. Then the Priest from the Victoria Park Convent also ordered one. Also my Mother caught a tram on a Friday morning to Perth, then on to the Metropolitan Markets to buy cases of fruit and vegetables at reasonable prices and had them sent home by carrier. They were then sold to neighbours which bought in a little extra cash and above all, we always had plenty of fruit and vegetables ourselves. Instead of lollies, like other children of our age were given, we did without. At the time we thought it a bit hard, but since have realised the benefits.

On Saturday we all had our jobs to do. Two of us had to clean the silver spoons and forks and one did the knives. There was no such thing as stainless steel in those days. When finished Mum would do an inspection. More often than not Mum would find then not done to her satisfaction, so it was back to repeat the job. I also did the dusting in our kitchen, dining room and lounge room (all one room). I also helped with the washing up and other jobs round the house, all for the sum of threepence (5 cents) a week.

During the winter months our whole family would sit round the table with the kerosene lamp in the middle of the table and play cards, mostly “Old Maid”, till 8.00 p.m. when the boys went off to bed. For me, it was sit in the corned and brush my hair for ten minutes, then have it plaited for the night. I felt very envious of my brothers not having the bother of long hair.

Dad built a sort of pagoda in front of the house for we three children to sleep in during the summer months. For rainy nights and for winter, Dad erected a room at the back of the house with a cement floor. Half way up the walls was made of fruit case wood with trellis to the top. Corn bags were opened up and hung up to keep out the rain. I can remember the lovely tomatoes Dad grew and I think some were sold to neighbours. We had fowls, ducks and later a horse named Dolly. One morning while Dolly was in her stable eating, Dad asked me to get a spade from the corner of the stable. He said just pat her so she will know someone is there. My little soft touch caused her to kick, which knocked me down. I screamed and Dad picked me up. The next thing I knew Dad was chasing the horse round the yard with a stick. Since then I’ve felt sorry for old Dolly, she probably thought it was a fly on her leg.

I started school on my sixth birthday at the East Victoria Park school. There were two rooms with three classes a room. Not long after starting school we were given slates instead of paper to write on. I licked my finger to wipe something out, and before I knew it the teacher used her stick on my hand. I got such a shock and did not realise I had done wrong till later.

Later the school put on a concert and I was picked for two items. Six of us had to wear our night attire carrying a candle and singing a goodnight song. Then on my own and holding a stuffed pussy cat I sang “Poor pussy cat your coat is so warm”. All this was performed on a platform in front of parents and visitors.

When I first went to school I caught all the diseases children get. Not being greedy I passed them on to my brothers, Harry and Jim. I joined the school swimming classes. We were taken by tram to Crawley Baths and on the way passed the Swan Brewery in Mount Bays Road. Sadly to say, the Baths have now gone, however two tall palms which were the entrance, still remain today. The Baths were divided to separate males and females, Gents to the left and ladies to the right. For a swim we occassionly went to Canning Bridge in our horse and cart, which was our only means of transport. No worries of skin cancer in those days, we were decked out in the modern bathers of the day, neck to knee, long sleeves and a cotton hat. Low shrubs and small trees here and there gave us sufficient shade. Our Grandparents would join us for a picnic lunch and a good day would be had by all.

One year we had the school “Fancy Dress Ball”. Mum with other parents on the P. & C. taught us the Barn Dance, the Three Step and with a set of eight to do the Lancers. Our fancy dress was the King and Queen of Hearts. We were all dressed in white with red hearts sown on here and there. The girls in dresses, the boys in jackets and pants to the knee and white socks, all made at home by the parents. We wore crowns on our heads. In the Grand March the girls carried plates of jam tarts, the boys carried gold coloured sticks.

About this time Dad bought a goat and before long, we had five. It was our job to take them each morning into the bush outside our back fence and chain them to banksia trees. Harry being chief organiser of the job.

I had my Adenoids out at the age of seven and Tonsils at the age of thirteen. The Childrens Hospital was very crude those days. We had to be at the hospital by 2.00 p.m. then stood outside the ward and waited till our turn came. Not even a chair to sit on. I was last on the list and now very upset, nor knowing what to expect. After the operation I woke with a very sore throat and ear ache in both ears. By 5.00 p.m. after seeing the doctor, once again we were off home. No cars in those days, so it was catch a tram which was full of workers on their way home. I no sooner got in than I was very sick, I guess the passengers were not very happy. After that I don’t remember any more as how Mum got me home, possibly just about carried me. After a week it was back to the hospital to have our throat examined, then to the ear Doctor, where he took out was and bits of rubbish. I was told it could have washed in during swimming, that was the theory, no more ear ache after that.

One Christmas Dad made a type of switchback consisting of two large planks of jarrah timber attached to the roof of the house and leading down to the ground some yards away. To sit on this was a trolley made of a flat board with four wheels. A ladder was used to reach to top. As you can imagine we were a very popular family, as children came from all round the neighbourhood. Not long after this Dad dismantled it for safety reasons.

One year in the school holidays, a friend living in Labouchere Road, two houses from Preston Street, Como, gave us the opportunity to camp on their large block. We really had to rough it, only a small tent for four of us. By this time we had cotton bathers which we practically lived in and often went to sleep in them. In the evening our friend would have the family home from work and they would take us down to the foreshore prawning. After a good catch, they cooked them on the beach. This ofcourse was all new to us. After a very enjoyable holiday, it was home and back to school.

In 1926 Dad now in regular work, had bought eleven acres of land at Forrestfield, then known as Maida Vale. A creek of lovely fresh water ran through the property. The wildflowers grew in abundance, the large red and green Kangaroo Paws, the lovely blue Leschenaultia in shades of almost white to dark blue, two types of Hovea and many more flowers two numerous to mention.

Dad built a humpy, a table from fruit boxes, three bunk beds for us children, a single bed each for Mum and Dad, a fireplace at one end, all this in one room. As Dad felled the trees Mum and I sat on the fallen boughs, picking off all the dead leaves, putting them in chaff bags, later to be used as a mattress for our bunk beds. We often spent weekends and holidays on the block. Traveling by horse and cart, Mum and Dad sat in front, while we three sat on the floor at the back, at least when it was empty. On the way home we sat on Mallee roots covered with bags to make our seat a little softer. These roots we used at home in the stove for cooking, hot water and for warmth in winter.

Dad back at his trade wore white coats. The ironing became a problem, especially in summer, with no electricity, flat irons had to be heated on the wood stove. After a time Mum purchased a second hand box iron which was filled with hot coals from the fire. With a small flat iron I stood at the other side of the table and ironed handkerchiefs and any small items, no such things as tissues till much later.

I left school at the age of 14, as most did in those days, hoping to do hairdressing only to find one had to be 17 to be apprenticed. I enrolled at the Cargill Street State School for night school. This school was opened in the year 1894 and is now being used as a Primary School, looking very much the same as it did in those early days. The subjects I took were English, Dressmaking and Millinary. The English classes were very interesting, especially the debates, Millinary was good, we made our own shapes with millinary wire, then covered it with material. Mine was pale grey and pink satin with a pink rose at the side. The dressmaking was a disaster and disappointing, the teacher laid my material on the table and cut it out, it was much too large for me. When Mum saw it she was very cross, saying the material had been wasted. Also, there was only one sewing machine for ten girls in the class which made it very difficult to get a turn and having a long way to travel, I left.

The trams in those days traveled as far as Mint Street from Perth. The causeway, a little different to what it is today, had a single tram track with a loop in the middle to allow for the other tram.

One particular day in the boys school holidays, we walked down through Victoria Park, so as to have the pleasure of walking over the causeway. On our way back I decided to ask at a drapers shop if they needed a shop assistant and to my surprise they said I could start the following week. When I told the great news at home, they laughed because I had no experience what-so-ever and to call myself a “shop assistant” (Well?). I worked from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. week days and 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. on Saturdays, all for 7/6 (75 cents) a week.

I worked sometimes in the drapers shop and at other times in their workshop helping to make eiderdown quilts, single mattresses and pillows. Never having used a treadle sewing machine before, I had to learn fast as Mum only had a hand machine.

While waiting to start hairdressing and when the boys needed a hair cut, Dad had me practicing using the clippers and scissors. I often thought since, the boys must have had patience sitting so long, those days one did not make a fuss,

Mum brought us up to be told ‘children were to be seen and not heard’. She was rather hard on us at times, however they went through some very hard times themselves and looking back, I now realise we were better off for the discipline.

In my early teenage years, Dad had plans drawn up for extensions to the house. Two more bedrooms, a lounge room, a new kitchen, a bathroom, a passage way from the front door and to finish it off, a side and front verandah. For the first time in my life I would have my own room. Fruit boxes stacked to form a dressing table with pretty cotton material draped over to make it look more attractive. Later when I was working I was given a bedroom suite, I felt really somebody.

Dad did some of the work extensions himself, one particular time I remember most. It was one hot Christmas morning, Dad and Harry worked away putting sheets of iron on the roof, it must have been very hot work, while Mum and I prepared Christmas dinner. Must say we spend that very special day differently these days.


Dad working in Hay Street, spoke of me to one of his regular clients who came in first thing every morning for a shave. He was in charge of two departments in Economic Stores right opposite on the corner of Hay and William Streets. Not long after I was told I could start work there on the Monday morning immediately. I gave notice at the drapers and left on the Saturday and Monday morning was ready to start in my new job in the haberdashery department. All black dresses had to be worn while at work without much colour trimming.

At fifteen I was the youngest of ten girls. The head was much older and took me under her wing, often sending me out to do odd jobs for her. After about six months it was stocktaking time, our head girl did most of this and asked me to help. My first experience of this. We all had our jobs to do looking after the stock and customers. I was allotted the reels of cotton, threads, Semco embroidery and stranded cotton. We stocked many shades of each colour. In and around Economic Stores were several dressmakers who sent their juniors to match their clients materials. I was given the opportunity to visit the warehouse and pick out the colours I felt were most needed. In the six and half years I worked there no other person, other than the boss, was given this job, made me feel rather important.

I often visited my Grandparents after I started work, it would always be on a Sunday afternoon. They were always pleased to see me and had me stay to tea and leave before dark to walk home about a kilometre. Granny, as she was named, heard of my interest in hairdressing and asked me to cut her hair. I must have mentioned it at work because the head girl asked me to cut hers. Thinking back I must have had more confidence than I have today and much more then, than when I first started work.

Years later when I was first unemployed, Grandad asked me to stay with Granny as she was far from well and he had one days work to do a week. I stayed the day until Grandad came home about 5.00 p.m.. She was quite bright all day telling me of all the antic she got up to before marriage. About midnight Grandad came knocking at our front door for Mum, saying her mother was ill. They hurried back, only to find Granny had passed away. Apart from Grandad, I would have been the last to see her. The funeral was the first I had ever attended.

In 1929 came the great depression lasting many years causing much unemployment. Now 17 years of age it was time to rethink once again of hairdressing. After making enquiries found that to get an apprenticeship was extremely hard to come by, as business was not good. With much thought and consideration it was decided I would possibly be better off staying where I was, especially as I was happy there and it was a job.

One of the girls at work invited me to their home one Saturday for the weekend as their family was having a birthday party that night. Next day they took me down to City Beach for a swim and I got my first glimpse of a surf beach. I stood at the water edge fascinated by the waves as they came rolling in, so different to the river I knew so well.

The next summer I joined the girls at Cottesloe Beach. I caught the first tram at 9.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning into Perth, then by train to Cottesloe arriving home before dark. During the winter months I went dancing in Victoria Park.

About 1931 came a bomb shell, Economic Stores had gone into liquidation. The Bank put in a Manager, some of the heads and buyers either left or were put off and replaced by Catholics. Myself, I lasted two years when I became a Senior and second-in-charge of our department. After eight months of Senior wage of two pounds and two shillings (2 dollars 20 cents) a week, I was given my marching orders never to get another permanent job.

The large departmental stores such as Boans, Aherns, Moores, Bon Marche, Foy and Gibsons would advertise for extra staff for their sales. It was apply 2.00 p.m. where long queues would stand for an hour or more, sometimes for just one days work, no “Dole money” those days. As the depression wore on married men got sustenance work, such as building the Canning Dam and Stirling Highway.

I had no trouble getting on at the sales, mostly in the ladies underwear department, sometimes only one days work, but two or three if I was lucky.

About 1930 or possibly later Coles Variety Store opened in Hay Street between Barrack Street and William Street. Their motto was “nothing over 2/6” (25 cents). I like many others bought a tea-set for 2/6 (25 cents). Late one June, I started work as a casual hand at Coles, working at weekends until November, then full-time to Christmas Eve, when we were paid off.

About 1932 Mum and Auntie Jessie together with the families (Aunty Jessie was Mum’s Sister-in-law) rented a house at Rockingham for the Easter week, this followed on each Easter till about 1936. Some of us invited friends. The first year we went by bus as far as Rockingham Town Site, as only a sand track went further on to Palm Beach where we stayed, and this meant we had to carry all our luggage to the house.

The house was the typical small beach cottage, situated close to the beach, only a road separated the house from the waters edge. The house consisted of a kitchen, bedroom and dressing room, also a front and two side verandahs (partly enclosed). The girls slept on one side and the boys on the other, and for Mum and Auntie it was the luxury of the bedroom.

The next year everything changed for the better, the Palm Beach road had been completed and we traveled by car. Mum and Auntie did the preparing and cooking of the meals and we young ones took turns to do the washing up, then it was off to the beach or into the township. Before the next year I had met Les and he joined with us. Easter Monday we all left for home, leaving Mum and Auntie there till we returned the following Friday night. Sunday it was pack up after a great time and back home again till the following year.

It was during 1934, six months after leaving Economic Stores, I was introduced to Les. The following week he asked me to a party at a hall in Redcliffe. During the evening I suddenly realised the party was for Les, his 21st organised by his cousin Doris. Les did not tell me the party was for him or that it was his birthday so naturally I did not have a gift for him. Much later Doris told me how sorry she was for Les because nothing had been arranged for him on his special day. No members of the family were present. Sometime later Les asked me and another two friends to a dance at Carilla, it is now included as part of Pickering Brook. After that outing he invited me to his parents home and I met his Mother and Father, brother Alan and sister Ada.


The family lived on an orchard of citrus and stone fruit in Pickering Brook. Following that episode it was every second weekend, often to dance at night put on by the locals and it was a great night. Quite a few folks came up from Perth, cousin Doris occasionally joined in with us. We would walk to the dance and Doris always found someone to take us home, it was a standing joke with us. Like all country places, Les was well known in the district.

The alternative week Les stayed at my families home. Some Saturday nights we would go to the pictures at the Broadway Theatre in Victoria Park. Sunday afternoon we often played tennis, close by at a neighbour’s court. Our tennis group consisted of a few friends, my two brothers, Harry and Jim, Les and myself. Les was always keen to hit the ball so much he often slipped over. Once he did a slide and his feet finished up under the fence, (but he tried). There again, none of us were champs, however we had lots of fun.

One night on our way to a dance in the Town Hall, Victoria Park and riding pillion on the back of the Matchless Motorbike behind Les, my long full skirt of my dress caught in the chain of the bike, ripping it away from the waist. I looked down at my lap and to my horror saw only my white slip instead of the red dress. Les pushed the bike to a street light to remove the culprit, it was then back home to change, but by this time it was far too late for the dance.

In June 1936 Les and I announced our engagement and married the following year on 24th July 1937. The day dawned with a clear sunny, cloudless sky, rather cold first thing in the morning and at night.

Our parents gave us a lovely wedding. We were married in the Wesley Church in Perth. The reception was held in the Masonic Hall, Victoria Park where about eighty guests sat down to the breakfast. My Mother made a three tier cake, iced by a family friend. A dressmaker made all the frocks, mine was white lace over a satin slip, two Bridesmaids were in mauve lace and a three year old flowergirl in pale green.

Our first night was spent at the George Hotel on the corner of George and Murray Streets in Perth. The George was demolished to make way for the Freeway. Next day, Sunday morning we traveled by car to Bunbury. The car was a Whippet loaned to us by my brother Jim. It was then on to Busselton for the night, next Margaret River, then on to Donny Brook. After a long drive through rain we arrived at Narrogin about 8.00 p.m. Northam was our last night of staying in Hotels. In Northam and Friday morning, Les went down to fill the car with petrol, to his surprise hanging on the petrol cap was a luggage label from the local butcher with the words “JUST MARRIED GOOD LUCK”? The strange thing was we did not see a sole we knew on the whole trip (how did they know?). However after that little episode it was back to 17 Miller Street where Mum had lunch ready for us. After lunch it was shopping for food and then on to Illawarra Orchard, Karragullen and to our first home of our own.

The house was situated on the property of Illawarra apple orchard, was owned and managed by two brothers, Hector and Wilfred Price. The property was left to them by their father Mr. Tom Price who had cleared and planted forty acres. It was the only orchard at the time to have a cold storage plant. They employed a permanent staff of about twelve which more than doubled during the apple season. Les in his early teenage days had worked at Illawarra during the winter months. He and several other batched in one of the houses on the property. There were six houses on the property, two of which were occupied by the Price families, the other four were rented to permanent staff.

Les, very keen to be working in radio was offered a job in Perth as a Radio Technician and he left Illawarra to accept the position. This was where I met him. Owing to the depression and no union for radio repair work, wages were very low and with no sign of improvement, Les decided to return to Illawarra and was offered a permanent job. After our engagement Les was told that a house to rent would be made available when required. At the time of our marriage Les was relieving engine driver on the cold storage plant.

The house we rented was quite cozy for our first. Two bedrooms, a lounge, a passage way and a nice size bright kitchen with two windows, a wood stove and an open fireplace in the large lounge room. A front and back verandah covered with passion vines that produced plenty of fruit in season and provided shade and privacy. All this for 7/6 (75 cents) a week, cheap you say? However there was no power, bath or shower, wash basin or kitchen sink. For lighting we used a petrol lamp, a small kerosene lamp in the bedroom, a petrol iron for ironing and for water there were two 2,000 gallon tanks. As soon as possible we purchased a tin bath and Les painted white on the inside and green outside.

I joined the Country Women’s Association in Karragullen. Their meetings were held once a month on a Wednesday afternoon. Mrs. Glad Price, wife of Hector Price, drove one or two of us to the meetings. Occasionally a dance was held in the Karragullen Hall and sometimes Les would organise the music. In those days every Saturday night 6WF relayed dance music from Government House Ballroom and this music was used by suspending two speakers overhead.

Now and then I would take the bus from Roleystone terminus to Perth for shopping. Les would take me to the bus before starting work at 7.20 A.M. There I would wait in the bus shelter till the bus arrived at 7.45 A.M. When going through Victoria Park I would leave the bus at Miller Street and join Mum with a cup of tea and chit chat. Later we would catch the tram into Perth. At 5.00 P.M. I would be back on the bus leaving St. Georges Terrace for Roleystone where Les would pick me up and it was back to Illawarra.

March 29th, Kathleen was born at Kensington Nursing Home, Subiaco. In those days one was confined to bed for ten days and not allowed out of bed at all, then four days convalescent, before being allowed home. You can imagine how weak we felt.

In 1940 World War Two was declared, and Les made the decision, like so many young people, to join the forces. In October he was called up to do a rookie Air Force training course at Pearce. This meant packing up all our furniture which was stored in a room in one of the houses at Illawarra. Some things like books etc. went over to Les’s parents place. I had no other choice than to go back to my parents in Miller Street Victoria Park. Just before our departure from Illawarra at our last dance in Karragullen and near the end of the night, Les and I were given a send off and a big thank you for all the help Les had given in supplying dance music. On the stage we were presented with a traveling rug for Les and a black patent leather handbag for myself. And to finish off the evening the people sang the song ‘Wish me good luck as you wave me goodbye”, the Vera Lyn song. I felt rather overcome and sad leaving after three happy years, but as the saying goes, nothing ever stays the same.

After about three weeks Les was posted to Sydney for training. This was the first Christmas we had been parted.

As luck happened Les visited Aunt Ada, (his Mother’s youngest sister) who was living in Kirribilli, Sydney. When she heard that I was keen to join Les, she found us a nice big bed-sitting room and kitchen apartment just walking distance to where she and her family lived. Les got permission to live out which meant he was home every night and weekends.

Kathleen, now twentytwo months old, could speak well and told everyone we met, how she was going to Sydney to see Daddy. One Wednesday in January 1941 with Kathleen we left Perth, traveling by train to Sydney. Arriving Saturday morning where Les was waiting for us and took us to meet Auntie Ada and family. They made a fuss of Kathleen. They gave her things to play with and among them was a large doll, taller then Kathleen herself, which she loved. So ever after when we called, the first thing was where was the doll.

After lunch it was off to unpack and settle in our new abode for the next three months. To welcome us on the table was a lovely vase of flowers. After tea and when dark, Les took us by ferry to Circular Key which was all ablaze with lights. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen, just like fairyland with the harbour bridge in the background. Every weekend we went somewhere different, either by ferry, electric train or by tram. Auntie Ada’s daughter Sheila (Les’s cousin) sometimes went along with us. During the week, as Auntie had to pass our place for shopping, she would call in and take Kathleen and myself, which I thought was very kind of her.

One afternoon Auntie Ada invited Kathleen and myself to join her for a tram ride to Bondi, where she owned a block of flats on the beach front. One of the units had become vacant and she decided to take the opportunity and paint the bathroom cupboard ready for the new occupant. Another afternoon Auntie took us to Balmoral beach, a lovely ride by tram especially as we approached the beach which was much lower than the road. To overcome this, a road had been terraced all the way down to a lovely sandy beach. Kathleen, like all children, loved to play in the sand.

On the 29th of March Kathleen turned two years old and as always talked a lot and was rather active. Then about the beginning of April, Les was posted to an Airforce base out from Melbourne. We of course stayed where we were, and naturally I missed Les a lot. I felt like I had when he first joined up. How lucky I was to have Kathleen, not only for company but it kept me busy and something else to think about. She was mostly very good now she was older.

Sydney Royal Show was around Easter time Sheila asked me to go with her leaving Kathleen with her Mother (Auntie Ada). At first I was very reluctant leaving Kathleen all day, but she assured me she would be okay. The first half of the day I enjoyed but as the day went on I was ready to go back, but Sheila wanted to see everything. This was the first time I had left Kathleen for so long. However when we finally did get back, Kathleen was very happy. Aunty Ada said she had been no trouble at all.

At the beginning of May Les returned to Sydney to help with the packing up, then on the train to Melbourne. This time we stayed at another Auntie of Les’s Rather. After about three days we were back on the train for Perth and Les for Geraldton. We were very fortunate in that we were both booked on the same train. Les could not believe our good luck.

Approaching East Perth, I could not help notice just how shabby it was after Sydney. Over the years it has all changed for the better and today many later, the district has been modernised and looking beautiful, something to be proud of. After being away for three months, we were back in Perth and were met at the station by my Mother. For Kathleen and myself it was back to my old home and parents in East Victoria Park and Les up to Geraldton. At this time every house and building had to be blacked out at night and not any light to be seen from outside. People were advised to build themselves an Air Raid Shelter in case of trouble. Dad and I think my brother Harry put one in the back yard, fortunately we never had the trouble of using it.

Quite frequently air raid siren were heard, which meant we had to stay inside till the second siren gave us the all clear. Mum and I watched through the curtains in her bedroom as the air raid wardens would clear the street of anyone loitering.

Les, now settled in Geraldton, made enquiries about finding a place for us. Owing to the influx of Airforce personnel, houses were extremely short in supply. Then to our good luck, Les met an old friend and he said the lady where he boarded had decided to visit her son, a Librarian working in Canberra and needed someone to take her place for three months, to look after her husband and himself rent free. As soon as I heard I booked a sleeper on the train which Kathleen and I shared. Eventually we were settled in at Geraldton with Les able to live out. I had plenty to do looking after three men plus Kathleen and myself. I quite enjoyed the change, especially as we were so close to the beach. Les often on early morning shift, gave us the opportunity to take Kathleen to the beach. But to try and get her into the water was another thing, however she loved to play in the sand. In November Mum came to visit us for two weeks, as she had never been to Geraldton before, we were able to show her around. At the beginning of December our three months was drawing to a close, time for us to leave and look elsewhere as the lady of the house was expected back any day.

A retired Italian couple living next door offered a room in their house with the use of the kitchen when needed, we ofcourse accepted. After the coming and goings through the year, it was Christmas Day. Les invited two of his friends from the Airforce to share Christmas dinner with us. This I cooked during the morning, they were very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in a home cooked meal.

March 29th 1942 arrived, it was Kathleen’s third birthday. We gave her a three wheel tricycle. Then came the fun of teaching her to ride it. Having nowhere but the public footpath to practice on, but once she got the idea it was all go. Whenever we went shopping, Kathleen was able to ride instead of walking or wanting to be carried when she was tired.

In April came the news Les was posted back to Melbourne to do an Electrical Fitters course. On completion it made him eligible to remuster from an electrician to electrical fitter. Once again it was pack up and back to live with Mum and Dad and there to stay for some time as I was expecting our second child in August.

Les’ sister Ada was to be married and this gave us the opportunity to attend the wedding just before Les departed for Melbourne. Les wrote often and always a few lines and drawings for Kathleen.

We were all issued with food and clothing coupons, and expecting mothers were granted extra so as to procure baby layettes etc.

At the beginning of August and waiting to hear from Les as to where he would be posted, instead I had a letter saying he was in hospital with a broken leg. It so happened a few of the class decided to go ice skating the night before their final exam. At the end of the evening, Les, in his final round slipped and broke his leg in two places. This meant several weeks in hospital on his back with the leg strapped up high with weights on the leg, this being the method used in those days.

It was at this time and on the 30th August 1942 our son John was born, a seven pound baby. This meant two weeks in the Nursing Home. Mum brought Kath in to see me and her little brother. She wanted to nurse him but this was against the rules of the hospital so she had to wait till we came home.

While in hospital my brother Harry and Nancy were married. Naturally I was disappointed not being able to attend the wedding but they did call in and see me later on in the day, for a few minutes. I remember feeling rather sad missing their big day and not having a husband to visit me like other patients in the ward. Later when the babies were brought in to their mothers and as soon as I looked at John, I felt proud that I not only had a daughter but also a son and how lucky I was to have two lovely healthy children.

It was six months later, Les was still in Melbourne and waiting for the doctor to give him a clearance for a posting. And just before lunch one morning, Les appeared at the back door. You can imagine our pleasant surprise after all those months not seeing him. John was sitting on the floor when Les first set eyes upon him. After all the excitement of Les coming home, John looked quite bewildered at all the fuss going on.

Once a week I would push John in his pram and Kathleen riding her tricycle, to the Victoria Park Post Office to collect my airforce allotment. We stopped on the way home at a little park so Kathleen could have a swing, then home again after a nice healthy outing. John, now at the crawling stage, was most unhappy on the wet days having to stay indoors. At the first opportunity he would be out crawling on to the wet footpath and it did not worry him how wet he got. Whenever he saw Kathleen on the tricycle he would crawl as quick as he could after her and pull himself up. It was not long before he was riding the bike himself. As John was a little shy Kathleen always mothered him by taking his hand when on occasions we would walk to the corner shop.

On the 30th of December 1944 Dennis was born at six pounds. He was more lucky than John as he had a father to see him and get to know each other. Les, now at Cunderdin, worked for two weeks, then had four days leave and was able to come home. At the crawling stage, Dennis was never happier than when he had the hose with water spouting out and not always on the garden either. He never liked to leave his play when he had to get dressed to go out. I often went to Perth and no sooner would we get off the train and start walking up Hay Street, he would say “when are we going home Mum?”


One day Mum and I together with the three children went into Perth. It was in the middle of Murray Street that we discovered John was missing. He was under school age at the time. I phoned the Police Station and thankfully to my relief was told he was there waiting to be claimed. I felt sorry for John as he was always so good and never wandered away from us.

Later when John was about ten years old he took on a little job at a chemist shop washing medicine bottles, after school and Saturday mornings. This went on till he went to High School.

John started school at Patricia Street Primary School and not turning six till the end of August and being very shy, made it hard for him. The Head teacher always maintained that children’s brains were not ready for school till they were six years old. During his time at this school, the teachers said he was the best behaved child they had ever had in their classes. From there he went to East Victoria Park and did very well under a Mr. Elliott.

With Kathleen it had been different. When she was three and a half years old I made enquiries at the Lady Gowrie Kindergarten to enroll her, but to my dismay was told she was too old, apparently they liked them at two years old. As there was nothing else we could do but wait till she was nearly six years old and start at the Primary School at East Victoria Park. at the time I made enquiries about Lady Gowrie there was no Pre-school classes or Kindergartens. As far as I know Lady Gowrie was the first of its kind in W.A. and was a trial which proved successful. When Kathleen had been going to school a period of time she was picked to compare children of the same age with those who went to Lady Gowrie. At last World War Two came to an end and peace was declared. Les was discharged in the 19th of November 1945 and then went about looking for work, which he soon found, working with refrigeration.

Soon after this we purchased a block of land at 38 Oats Street, East Victoria Park. Before we were able to build we had to apply for a permit as building supplies were very scarce. An inspector called at my parents home and saw how crowded we were with two adults and three children in one room. Soon after a permit was granted to build a home no larger than twelve and a half squares. Our house was started in 1947 and we were able to move in during June 1948. Cement was so scarce the supply was restricted to a path from the front verandah to the footpath. It was thick sand at the back door, however Les soon got busy and planted lawn and garden. He also made a car drive consisting of two gravel tracks with lawn in the middle.

When Dennis was six years old he started school at Patricia Street, and this meant both boys were now at the same school. I felt very free while they were at school, though I looked forward to the school holidays and having them home.

The boys with two of their friends would amuse themselves down in our long backyard among the banksia trees and low scrub. One day they bought sausages, borrowed a frying pan from me and cooked their lunch down the yard as though they were camping. No television or computers in those days but they were just as happy doing their own thing.

Early in the year 1950 my mother was very ill and although she was in and out of hospital, the doctors failed to find the trouble causing her illness. Later in Royal Perth Hospital and a bigger X-Ray machine they found she had cancer of the liver and too late to do anything for her. On the 8th of May she passed away and was cremated on the 10th of May, eighteen days before her sixty-sixth birthday.

Dad had just retired from work so was lost for quite a while, always said Mum had nothing to do, but to his surprise found it a different matter when left to look after himself. Later he had a well put down and produced a lovely garden which Mum would have loved to have seen.

Dad passed away at eighty-eight years of age in Royal Perth Hospital with a heart condition and was cremated on the 22nd of September 1972.

During all the war years when I lived back at my parents home never once did they complain about the noise of the three children.

One morning a man appeared at our front door with two packets of biscuits saying these were to replace the damaged ones. He must have thought I looked bewildered not knowing what he was talking about. Then I heard the story how the boys had put their money together and bought a packet of biscuits which had two pieces of string embedded in several biscuits. Together the boys had compiled a letter of complaints and posted it to the firm.


On 7th of October 1953 came a big surprise, another daughter for Les and myself and a sister for Kathleen, John and Dennis. After much thought we named her Carol Anne. Although she was only five pounds at birth she soon gained her correct weight. Kathleen was so pleased to have a sister, she went to Perth and bought some pink wool and knitted Carol a lovely jumper. Kathleen, now at Girdilstone High School in Perth, sat for her Junior Certificate and passed well. She then enrolled for nursing at Princess Margaret Hospital and started her career at the age of seventeen. During the waiting time she worked at the X-Ray Clinic in Victoria Park. Apart from that, she takes after my Mother with her beautiful crocheting, knitting and sewing.

John, finishing school at East Victoria Park went to Kent Street High School. Nearing the end of the second year, John found himself a job and left school with the understanding the attended night school. After a short period of time he was signed up for an apprenticeship in woodwork. During his teenage years he did quite a few jobs for me such as replacing the old wooden steps at the back door with concrete. He then put down a strip of concrete beyond the steps which I appreciated very much. Les did not have much time, he was so busy at work during the day and more work at home and also of an evening.

John has always worked hard all his life but it has really paid off for him.

When Dennis was about nine years old he was run over by an R.A.C. van No.13 on the 13th of March while on his way to the Saturday matinee show at the Savoy picture theatre in East Victoria Park. The R.A.C. driver took Dennis to P.M.H. while a policeman called and told us the news. Les and I at once made a hurried trip to the hospital, leaving Kathleen and John to look after Carol who was only six months old. We were interviewed at the hospital by a female doctor who told us Dennis was being prepared for surgery for a suspect torn liver and they would not know for three or four days as to how his condition would be. We were allowed to see him for a few minutes before the operation. Next morning we called again to see Dennis who was not looking so good with all the tubes etc. Next morning he looked so much better as all the tubes had been removed. In a few more days we were told he was out of danger and doing well and would be able to come home in a week to convalesce for another week, then back to school.

Dennis passed from East Victoria Park school to Kent Street High where he went for three years. During this time he made a coffee table and stool which he left for me, which have been in use ever since. It has been useful and is still in good condition. After leaving school he found employment doing welding and soon after was offered an apprenticeship. Dennis, like John, went on to better things, worked hard and still does.

Carol’s arrival to our family meant extra work, not as much as I expected as I had built-in baby sitters. The family were very good in helping with the minding of Carol. When Carol was able to sit up, Dennis would push her round the loungeroom in her pram while listening to the radio. He not only amused Carol but I think it amused him too.

When Carol was eighteen months old we decided to join our very dear friends Val and Les Taylor to camp at Meelup Beach for the Easter break, which in those days was Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The beach was ideal for children, it was safe and very clean. We all enjoyed it so much we went every Easter for about ten years. We only stopped because the Busselton Shire closed it for camping.

In the meantime Carol turned six and followed John and Dennis in that she first went to Patricia Street school and then on to East Victoria Park and then Kent Street High. When Carol was about ten, the East Victoria Park school put on an “Open Day” for parents to see work the children had done during the year. That very day I caught my hand in the wringer of the washing machine and finished up in hospital having a skin graft on the hand and so I missed the day. I felt very sorry for Carol as she said she felt left out seeing all the parents there while she had no one.

Later after leaving school at Kent Street after three years and hoping to do hairdressing and contacting many hairdressers, found it a very bad time. Then came the opportunity of an office job. After three years of office work she took on the job of teaching Ballroom dancing at Arthur Murrays. Like her sister Kath, she is good at sewing.

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Reference: Article: Supplied by John Fernie

Images: 1, 5, 6, 7 John Fernie
2, 3, 4 Library of Western Australia