Les Fernie

This is My Life.

I was born on the 20th February 1913, our home at the time was in Kathleen Street, Osborne which was later changed to Swanbourne. I can remember there were only two houses in the street, when I say street, this was in name only, it was really only a sand track.

From our house to the sea was open country, during the 1914 – 1918 War the Light Horse Regiment trained in this area. Also between our house and the Station was also mostly open country.

Uncle Fred, my father’s brother joined the 16th Light Horse Regiment and left for overseas in 1914. My father joined the 51st Regiment and left for France in 1916. He served in several big battles and was wounded by shrapnel and was repatriated to England to recover. He came home in 1918 with a bad leg and knee, and was still receiving hospital treatment. Uncle Andy, my mother’s brother, was Postmaster at the time in Yalgoo, sent down some Goanna Oil to treat the wound, which I believe helped a lot.

LES FERNIE 12 MONTHS OLD #1

I don’t remember my first day at school, which would have been while Dad was away in France, but I was told later that my mother took me to Osborne school in the morning and was worried as to how she would get me home. I solved the problem by coming home at lunch time. I thought school was over for the day, I think I would have been under five at the time. I cant remember much of that school except for one episode. My Aunt Ada (my mother’s youngest sister) was the teacher of our class and I got teased a lot about being “Teacher’s Pet”. I came to blows with one kid and finished up with a blood nose.


During the time Dad was overseas, Mum’s older sister Janet and her two daughters Doris and Mavis stayed with us. Auntie Janet’s husband was also away at the war and was killed on the 12th October 1916 at Pashendaele.

We had several goats which had to be milked every day. I can remember taking the goats out on a leash to feed on the grass.

We had all the usual children’s complaints, Chicken Pox, Mumps, Measles etc., there were no vaccinations in those days. I even came down with Diphtheria and was told in later years they thought they were going to lose me.

From Osborne school we all moved to Eric Street school which was on the corner of Eric Street and Railway Street. Why we moved I don’t know, probably it was closer to home. One little event stands out in my memory, that was standing on the overhead bridge at Eric Street and dropping pebbles on the trains, perhaps we were found out and punished, which is why it sticks in my memory.

The school grounds were almost all bush with narrow tracks through the bush. One game us boys played was joining up one behind the other and played trains, we must have got ourselves pretty dirty in the process.

While quite young I had my tonsils and adenoids removed at Princess Margaret Hospital. It was almost a must operation for all children in those days. Coming out of hospital I was violently ill all down the entrance steps.

Before and after the war Dad worked in the “small goods section” of Boans Ltd. It could have been late in 1919 that Dad left Boans, sold the house and bought a shop on the corner of Forrest Street and Railway Street.

I now went to Cottesloe school and my brother Alan started school at the same time. Dad had a horse and cart for deliveries and a sulky for traveling. The horse was an ex trotter and very frisky, Dad would take a run round the block before any of us could get in.

One previous episode I forgot to relate happened during the war, I would be about four years old, it was a family picnic by the river at Mosmans, coming home I walked off and got lost. I finished up being taken to the Cottesloe Police Station which must have had the residence attached, because there were children for company with plenty of toys. When they eventually caught up with me, going home was the last thing I wanted.

The shop had a residence attached and about this time, August 1921, my sister Ada was born on my mother’s birthday. My mother got some help in the house, she was in her twenties and I thought she was quite nice. After a time she was dismissed. I did hear her being told off, but I was too young at the time to understand what it was all about. It appears she had a boy friend who was invited into her bedroom through a window which opened out on to the footpath. Mum lost her help which was never replaced.

One of my jobs was to mind the shop while my parents had a meal and if we had a customer I would yell out “shop”. One night I pinched a chocolate and took a bite and must have been interrupted in eating same because my father found the half eaten evidence. I got a hiding and made to pay for it out of my pocket money, which we did not have much of. I was given the half eaten chocolate and I ate it in front of my parents, (not a very nice act).

My Uncle Tom, husband of Ruby, one of Dad’s sisters, lived very close in Railway Road. Uncle Tom made a yacht with a hull about 2ft 6in long, complete with sails. I took a lot of interest in the building as it progressed and when it was completed he presented it to me. I was very proud of that boat and had it for many years.

Possibly about 1919 or 1920 My Uncle Fred bought a property through the Soldiers Settlement Scheme in Patterson Road. We used to visit them some weekends traveling from Cottesloe by horse and sulky, it was a journey of over two hours. Uncle Fred was not married but lived on the property with his Mother and Father (my grandmother and grandfather) also his sister Winifred.

We knew our horse as an ex racehorse, but looking back he was probably an ex trotting horse. As I said before it took about two hours for the journey to Pickering Brook which was much quicker than the train. The train was only once a day, to Perth in the morning and back at night, a traveling time of two hours and twenty minutes from Perth to Pickering Brook via Kalamunda and the Zig Zag.

Dad must have got the urge to go on the land, because he did a course of Agriculture Studies with the Ugly Men’s Association. Early in 1922 Dad sold the shop in Cottesloe and through the Soldiers Settlers Scheme took up a property in Pickering Brook of 22 acres. I often wondered if he realised how much work would go into the property before any money came in.

The Soldier Settlers Scheme was a Government scheme to open up the land and help ex servicemen. As you cleared the land, fenced the property and planted fruit trees you were loaned money by the Government, the rate of interest I don’t know. A Mr. Brinkworth was the Government Inspector who made visits regularly to offer advise and check on the work for any loans. Some settlers in this scheme were not able to keep up the payments and walked off their property. Our property had a permanent creek running through the property, a lot of trees had been cut down leaving stumps, we were told that trees taken from this area had been cut down leaving stumps. We were told that trees taken from this area had been used to build the Fremantle Harbour. The stumps had to be completely removed with all the roots. Dad used gelignite to blow up the stumps and then burnt most of it, but the roots had to be completely removed by hard labour. Dad had some of the area with the trees still standing, cleared by a tree puller. The trees were sawn into lengths and split up to make fence posts. The bark was also peeled off in sheets and laid flat, to be used for building. Any Jarrah which was not suitable for fence posts was split up for charcoal burners. Charcoal kilns were made up of split jarrah timber stacked up about six feet high in a special way and about twenty feet long, and the this would all be covered with branches and soil. Once the heap was set alight someone must be in attendance at all times to fill in any breaks in the outer covering,which could be about a week.

We first lived in tents, Dad and I think Uncle Fred quickly put up a more permanent structure. The framework was made of saplings, the roof and walls were sheets of bark. These sheets were six or seven feet long and two or three feet wide. The floor was white ant nests stamped down, which made a floor almost like concrete. Our beds were corn sacks stretched between a sapling framework and was quite comfortable. This structure later became a cow shed.

ORIGINAL HOMESTEAD BUILT ON THE SOLDIERS SETTLEMENT BLOCK #2

How long we lived in the temporary dwelling I don’t know. Dad purchased a pre-cut timber and asbestos house from Millar’s Timber and Trading Co. This house had three bedrooms, a very large kitchen with front and back verandahs. Being built on sloping ground, the front section of the house was high enough off the ground to allow a person to walk comfortably under the front section. Part of this was made into a workshop and a storage for a sulky. Dad and Uncle Fred put the whole structure together and they must have done a good job because it was still standing today (1999). To build the chimney a bricklayer was engaged. This consisted of a large wood stove and a big open fireplace. Whether the foundation was to blame I don’t know but it was not up long when it collapsed. I don’t know the details but I think the bricklayer would not take any responsibility and another tradesman was engaged to do the work and this chimney still stands today (1999).

Life was very hard for our parents in those early days, clearing was a very slow process. A horse drawn plough turned over the soil which was then leveled with horse drawn harrows. The fruit trees were then planted 22ft apart in those days. It would be many years before they would be bearing sufficient fruit to bring in any money. It was during the great depression days and to survive Dad grew vegetables between the young fruit trees. Cauliflowers, savoy cabbage, peas, beans and tomatoes were the main crops and they were top quality. Dad purchased most of the seed from Sutton’s Seeds in England. Prices for vegetables were often very poor and there were cases where the grower had received a bill from the markets instead of a cheque.

We had two cows, a horse for working the orchard, ducks and fowls for eggs and when killed and dressed sold as such, to complete the farmyard there were pigs. We had two incubators for increasing the poultry numbers. There was no electric light or telephone in those days, things we take for granted today. The two cows were organised to give birth to calves at different times of the year. The milk was boiled in a big flat fish and left to cool, and thick cream would form on the surface of the milk. When a bull calf was born it would be slaughtered for meat, some of which would have to be given away, because there was no way of keeping it for long. We did have a very large Coolgardie safe but it was not very good for keeping meat for any length of time.

Zamia palms grew in abundance in all the paddocks and it was found that the cows were eating them which caused a build up of fibre in the stomach. The cows were given a douche to get rid of the fibre. Dad was giving one of the cows a douche from a bottle when it went down the wrong way and the cow dropped dead. To get rid of the Zamia palms you speared down the middle with a crowbar and poured kerosene down the centre. This was one of my jobs.

As I mentioned previously Dad grew a lot of peas between the trees, and the picking of the peas was a most back breaking job, even at our young age. We did a lot of picking after school and weekends. We actually got paid about sixpence (5 cents) a kero tin full.

Dad bought a Douglas motor bike and the back wheel was driven by a belt from the engine. To start it you put it in gear and with the clutch in, you ran with the bike and by letting out the clutch the engine hopefully started, you hopped on and away you went.

Uncle Fred was not doing very well and to supplement his income he purchased a Ford T truck and started a carrying business, taking produce to market and back loading with fowl feed, chaff and anything else that was required. He later decided to sell up and he went back to working for Watson’s Supply Stores and in later years was the Manager of the King Street branch. His property in those days was considered poor quality and a poor water supply. Today with modern methods of fertilising and boring for water, it is now a flourishing orchard. Dad purchased the truck from my Uncle and carried on the business.

We were fortunate that we had a plentiful supply of water all the year. Later when more properties were using the water for irrigation it was a different story. Now it is necessary to build dams to store the water.

The bottom section of the orchard was all orange trees, higher up the slope were plums, peaches and nectarines, with vegetables growing between the orange trees.

Before this time and in order to bring in some money, Dad and my Uncle cut railway sleepers. The Forestry Department marked trees which could be cur down for sleepers, some trees would be cut down and found not suitable because of dry rot. The trees would be split with wedges and most of the shaping was done with the broad axe and the adze. The sleepers would be taken to Pickering Brook siding where they would be inspected and could be rejected for the slightest thing. The were worth about 2/6 each which today would be 25 cents. The sleepers were exported , I think mostly to India. I am told that London Underground still have sleepers from Western Australia. I was only told recently that some roads in England were paved with jarrah blocks as were a percentage of Perth streets

We first went to school at Carilla but later transferred to Carmel school. This meant a walk of about three miles mostly up hill going to school, it also meant going through our neighbours property which belonged to Wilson and Johns’. They were one of the largest nurseries in those days, the other was Dawson and Harrison, now Dawsons. The road through Wilson and Johns was considered public in those days and the gates were never shut. Lionel Wilson was in charge of the Carmel Nursery.

During school years and to make some money, we became Watkins agents and sold their products, which included soaps, perfumes, ointments and a whole range of products which we sold to most people in the district. We did very well with these goods and with the help of our parents we bought a bike each from Gordensons Cycles. This made it much quicker getting to and from school. We used to go at a fast bat down the hills and our parents got complaints that we were a danger on the road. We were told to take more care.

CARMEL SCHOOL #3

I liked school and found it easy. I never remember ever doing homework. Carmel had about 40 pupils all in one room. A monitor teacher taught up to 2nd standard and the headmaster taught up to 6th standard. For higher education you went to Kalamunda or to Perth by train. The cane was given for the slightest thing, could be only for spelling mistakes. I got the cane on many occasions, but can’t remember now what for.

I was never very good at sport, mainly because the big kids, as we knew them, dominated the sporting activities.

At school I stuttered chronically. First thing at school was to stand up and number off in turn. Many times no matter how much I tried I could not say any number. Stan Littlely, who sat next to me would answer for me, it was very embarrassing. After a time the Headmaster, a Mr. A. E. Jackson, decided to do something about it. He made me relax and then take a deep breath and then say my number. I improved a lot thanks to his patience.

Stan Littlely became a close friend. His parents had an orchard on the corner of Welshpool Road and Canning Road. There were seven children in the family, one girl and six boys. The orchard in later years was claimed to be in the water catchment area. The fruit trees were pulled out and replaced with eucalyptus trees. I presume they were compensated.

CARMEL METHODIST CHURCH #4

Stan’s sister married a chap who was caretaker of the Victoria Reservoir. This dam was the first to be built in Western Australia to supply fresh water to the city of Perth. Stan’s sister’s husband (Ken) thought he had cancer and in a time of deep depression murdered his wife and two children and committed suicide. Being the only girl of seven children, it was a tragic loss for the Littlely family.

When I was about 12 years old, the Headmaster entered myself and another youth in our class to sit for a scholarship to Modern School. The exam was over a period of two days. I am sorry to say I failed dismally. Coming from the country and in a strange place, was bad enough but on the second day Dad took me to the school and we were late. The exam room was changed, and by the time I found out where to go I was a nervous wreck. Fortunately the exam had not started and I was allowed into the exam room.

During school years we were sent to Sunday School at the Methodist Church in Carmel Road. Mr. Owen senior conducted the Sunday School and I truly tried to live up to the teaching. I still have a book presented to me for attendance.


It was also during this period that Dad traded in the Ford “T” truck and purchased a Morris Commercial truck, the very latest. It also had the problem similar to most vehicles in those days, which was they overheated going up a steep hill when loaded. Half way up Kalamunda hill was a horse trough and a tap and this was a common cooling off stop. Welshpool hill, commonly referred to as Lesmurdie hill, had a similar stopping place. Lesmurdie hill had a reputation for trucks and cars to have a faked brake failure, and run over the edge and either be a complete wreck or catch fire with the resultant insurance claim.

Lesmurdie hill was used for organised hill climb days for both cars and motor bikes and attracted large crowds. In later years a new road was built making Welshpool Road continuous from Albany Highway to Canning Road in Carmel. What we knew as Lesmurdie Road is now Crystal Brook Road and the hill section is not used much these days.

About 1925 or possibly earlier, a Grower’s Market was established in Eight Avenue, Maylands, and it could have been the first. This was open on a Friday, the grower paid a rental , the amount was dependant on the size of the stand. These selling places became very popular and several other suburbs also opened up. Perth opened on a Saturday and covered a large area in Wellington Street. I used to ride the push bike to Maylands after school and help on the stand. Two things I still remember was that very special cauliflowers sold for 2 shilling (20 cents) when the normal price was 1 shilling (10 cents) and tomatoes were 4lbs (2kg) for sixpence (5 cents). Friday night we would stay at my Grandparents home in Peninsula Road, Maylands.

After some years the Markets became more and more commercial and no longer a sole growers outlet and lost their popularity. Maylands close and Dad went to Mount Lawley, which was in Beaufort Street, just south of Walcott Street.

Our water supply for the house was a 1000 gallon tank which when it became empty as it did in summer, which meant carting water from the creek. Dad built a dam across the creek and irrigated all the bottom section of the orchard with a series of channels. The dam also made a first class swimming pool and we kids spend a great deal of our spare time making full use of it. When dammed you could swim quite a distance up the creek. Later Dad purchased an engine and pump which not only kept the house tank full but enabled much more ground to be covered by sprinklers.

A bath at night consisted of a tub in the middle of the floor and with hot water from the stove. It was a bath and of to bed. Later Dad built a bathroom off the back verandah complete with a tin bath and a chip bath heater.

I was still going to school when an English magazine called “Radio and Hobbies” became available and I subscribed from the first issue. From this magazine I made crystal sets suitable for our area which were complete with two pairs of ear phones in a nicely made case which sold for seven pounds (3 dollars 50 cents). I made and gave one to my Grandparents.

We boys belonged to a local youth group run by Jack Mavor. Jack was an ex Y.M.C.A. organiser. He bought a block of land between Pickering Brook and Barton’s Mill and quickly started organising a youth group and being a real leader, the group quickly became very popular. How Jack got all the equipment I have no idea, probably from the Perth branch of the Y.M.C.A. But we had horizontal bars, parallel bars, mats of all descriptions. We did all sorts of exercises on the mats which included building human pyramids in all sorts of formations. They could be up to four bodies high. Jack at times had members of Perth “Y” up for the weekend and they would put on a professional display in the Carilla Hall. At times this would include a strong man act, The admission money probably went towards buying some of our equipment. We also displayed some of our achievements.

Mr. Tom Millar, the Headmaster of Kalamunda School, had an orange and lemon orchard next door but one, to ourselves. Dad did work for him and we got the job of picking up all the windfall oranges. For this we got paid sixpence (5 cents) a kero tin full.

At thirteen years of age, my parents got permission from the Education Department, for me to leave school on the understanding I carried on school with correspondence lessons. I took four subjects and stayed with it for almost four years. At first I did the lessons of a night and worked in the orchard during the day but this was changed and I was given time during the day for most of my lessons.

My hobbies were radio, photography and learning all I could about electricity. I took lots of photos and did all the developing and printing. I had our bedroom set up as a dark room.

Dad purchased a valve radio set from Dobbico who were part of Wesfarmers. It had compartments at both ends for batteries. I well remember one stupid thing I did at this time was to check the battery level with a match. The resultant flash burnt off my eye lashes and eye brows and the front of my hair.

I built a short wave adaptor, which plugged into the main set and you could listen to short wave stations all over the world. Today with two way radio all this is made very easy. We could receive London and got the cricket first hand. Most of the stations were amateur radio and communicated in morse code. I purchased a morse code key and practiced for hours and hours but I never did master morse. Some of the amateur stations broadcast regular musical transmissions. Wally Coxon, manager of 6WF was one, also Jack Squires, who had a radio shop, was another. The thing was to listen to a station, write to them with a report on the reception and they would send you their call sign card. I collected these from all over the world.

About 1927 when I was 15 year old I built a portable radio. This was a thing unheard of in Australia at that time. It was only possible using two volt valves. The instructions for building the set was in an issue of the English magazine “Radio and Hobbies”. The aerial was wound on a frame inside the outer edge of the case. In Pickering Brook the volume was good ear phone strength. The two volt valves required a two volt accumulator. In England it was available with a jelly type acid which was not available in Australia. After a time acid fumes made a mess of the case.

LES FERNIE WITH THE PORTABLE RADIO HE BUILT #7

Working for my father was not very productive financially and possibly I was not pulling my weight because Uncle gave me a pep talk one day and finished up saying, “you know this could be yours one day”. Perhaps I was spending too much time on my own project, which was growing flowers. All the money from these I was allowed to keep myself. Also to earn some money I went to work at Illawarra orchard during the apple season. Illawarra paid good wages, we started work at 7.20a.m. and knocked off at 5.00p.m., Saturdays we worked to 12.00 noon, a 48 hour week.

Illawarra orchard was run by Hector and Wilfred Price and was considered to be the top apple orchard in this State. It was the first orchard in the State to have its own Cool store. Because there was no electricity available in those days, power was supplied by a suction gas engine driving an ammonia compressor. It also drove a 32 volt generator which supplied power and lights.

I also earned extra money doing wireless repairs in the district. I had an account with Atkins W.A. and bought at trade price. Batteries were always the main selling item which I bought in and charged with a small margin as in the country everyone is a friend.

My ambition was to get a job in radio and I even said prayers asking for help and you would be surprised at what happened. A lad I knew worked for a family in Kalamunda looking after a small orchard and doing odd jobs around the property. He told me his boss would like to see me and he also told me his boss ran a radio service and sales business in Perth. I went to see him and after asking lots of questions he asked me if I would like to work for him. I was about 19 at this time. The firm was Davies and Co., and the shop was in Hay Street, close to Milligan Street. The wages were woeful but I was in a job I really liked and learning all the time. I boarded with my Grandparents at Maylands and went home of a weekend. A magazine published at the time, called “The Broardcaster” contained the radio programmes and my boss also had articles published in it. They included a “build it yourself radio” and I wrote up point to point wiring. The shop supplied all the parts in kit form or they could buy it assembled. I was one of mostly six on the staff. A tool maker was employed and a number of parts required were manufactured. At first the only station was 6WF, the WF was for Wesfarmers.

A Mr. Du Thoit (not sure of the spelling of his name now) was the radio brains of the business. He was in the process of building a display test board which when completed would test almost all components in a set including valve emission. Anyone could bring their valves in for testing which we did free. During the time it was being put together, which was done after hours, he got two of us to come in and assist which we did all for 2/6 (25 cents) tea money. Mr. Davies, our boss, drove a luxury Fiat car with polished wood paneling and all the extras of the day. I was one of the privileged allowed to drive the car.

One big advantage of living closer to Perth was that I was able to go to night school. I took Trade Maths and Electrical, one and two, over a period of two years.

Some time, probably in 1934, Davies and Co., shifted from up near Milligan Street, to a larger shop in Hay Street opposite Foy & Gibsons. Trade did not improve with the shift and the wages were still not up to standard.

Going back to when I was about eighteen, a friend of mine by the name of Jack Thorley, whose father had a property in Carilla, wanted me to go to Nullagine to join him in a mining project. My parents were not in favour of the venture and after much discussion I agreed not to go. A little over three years later they returned and apparently had done very well. Jack bought a car and was very free with his money. We also went out together quite a lot.

Jack had a female relation in Millar Street, Victoria Park, and had asked her to go out with him and also asked her if she knew of anyone to make a foursome. The person she asked lived next door but one and her name was Freda Berle. This was just before my 21st birthday. My cousin, Doris had arranged a birthday party for myself in a hall and had invited many of our friends. I asked Freda if she would like to go to a party and she accepted and a little over three years later, we were married on the 24th July 1937 in the Wesley Church, Perth by the Rev. Jenkins. He also had married my mother and father, more about this period later.

Meanwhile work at Davies at the wages we were getting was not acceptable and when I approached him on the issue he said, “look Les things will get better and we will see you right”. Admitted this was during the depression years and you were lucky even to have a job. I knew that on the wages I was getting, marriage was out of the question, so I approached Illawarra and told him I was considering leaving my present job. And I was offered a permanent job and the chance of renting one of the cottages if we got married. Illawarra paid union wages. I accepted the position and gave notice to Mr. Davies. What happened to Davies and Co. I am not sure. I do know that Davies himself more or less retired from the business and Du Thoit took over and some years later Davies and Co. became non existent.

While I was working at Davies and Co. and boarding with my Grandparents, I built them a valve radio in a console cabinet. Uncle Fred paid for most of the parts and I had contact with a cabinet maker and was able to buy radio cabinets at a very reasonable price. When my Grandparents passed away the set was returned to me. But by this time it was out of date and not worth much.

Now working back at Illawarra orchard I mostly lived home with my parents and traveled to work on the motor bike. Some of the time during the winter months four of us batched in one of the cottages and some very funny things went on. I remember one of the chaps who was extremely frightened of snakes was the subject of a joke. One of the chaps coming to work had an accident on his motor bike and the handle bars became redundant, so these were put in this fellows bed. When he went to bed and felt the cold metal which moved, he sprang out of bed screaming “there’s a snake in my bed”. He never lived it down.

The only problem working at Illawarra was the distance traveling to Victoria Park to see Freda. I would often stay at their home of a weekend and if there was a dance at Carilla, Freda would come and stay with my parents for the dance. Jack Thorley moved with his family to Victoria and I never saw him again. Freda and I were going together over three years when we were married on 24th of July 1937. From our honeymoon which lasted almost a week, we came back to Illawarra to the cottage we had promised and a rent of 7/6 (75 cents) a week. We had previously purchased a kitchen suite and a second hand lounge suite. The house had no bath so we ordered a tin bath from Perth which I painted white on the inside and green outside. But until this was finished we bathed in the copper on the back verandah. I don’t know what size the copper was but it was luckily very much an over size one. We would fill the copper, light the fire and when it was hot it was bath time.

I forgot to tell you that Freda’s brother Jim, loaned us his car for our honeymoon. It was a “Whippit”, an American car and was very popular at the time. A little later Jim bought a six cylinder Chevrolet car and we bought the Whippit for 40 pounds (80 Dollars). I think the new price was around 160 pounds (320 Dollars).

 

Meanwhile life at Illawarra was going along very nicely. My job was mostly in the shed and during the main apple season I was relieving Cool Store attendant. The ammonia compressor was driven by a suction gas engine which ran on charcoal gas. The burner took about one kerosene tin of charcoal every 40 minutes. The main cool rooms were cooled in three ways, by cold air blown through the room in several ways, or by cooled brine containers mounted high on the wall, or by direct expansion coils also mounted on the walls. It was the attendants job to vary the type of cooling to maintain constant temperature over the whole room. During the off season the compressor was completely overhauled under the supervision of a Perth refrigeration firm of Henderson and Co. and I was involved with this. Also the condenser coils had to be wire brushed clean and repainted. All this maintenance work took quite a long time.

I once again became involved with Jack Mavor and the youth group. To raise money we held dances at Karragullen hall and when required I was able to supply the dance music. Every Saturday night 6WF relayed music from Government House Ballroom which was mostly “old Time”. I had speaker mounted on a large baffle and then hung overhead in the centre of the hall. This overcame some of the foot noise and made for better reproduction. Amplifiers, as we know them today, were non existent.

LES FERNIE AT GERALDTON 1941 #8


It was during this time that we got to know Les and Val Taylor which developed into a very close friendship which lasted throughout the years until they both passed on. I had known Val previously when she was Val Kinross. Her sister, Gladys, married Hector Price, one of the part owner of Illawarra. Les Taylor worked for Elder Smith & Co. and part of the year he would be stood down which was the busy time at Illawarra and so he was employed by Illawarra mostly doing office work.

Then came the big event in our lives when Kathleen was born.

As you all know Australia joined Britain and Declared war on Germany in the early 1940s. A great number of our friends were signing up for service in the forces. After much deliberation I decided I also would become patriotic and try to join the Air Force. I got character references from a friend of ours, who was a member of the permanent Air Force and I followed this up applying to enlist. When asked my preference of a trade, I said a Wireless Mechanic, which at that time covered mechanic and wireless operator and you were air crew. A little later I sat for exams and part of the exam was an adaptability test for morse. I passed in the radio section but failed on the morse. They asked if I would accept the Electrial trade and in October 1940 I was called up and went to Pearce for a Rookie training course which was all physical, mostly drill.

Before leaving Illawarra we stored most of our furniture in a room belonging to one of the cottages and Freda went to live with her parents in Victoria Park. The people of Karragullen also gave us a send off and something to remember them by.

After a month at Pearce our group was transferred by train to Sydney to begin an aircraft electrical course. We were billeted in the Sydney Technical School at Ultimo, not far from Sydney Central Rail Station

My Auntie Ada lived at Kirrabillie and said she would arrange accommodation if Freda came over to Sydney. Freda and Kathleen came over by train and we rented a flat very close to my Auntie Ada. I got permission to live out from the barracks. Our time in Sydney was very enjoyable, – train, ferry, tram and bus travel was free to service personal. We made full use of this by going to all sorts of places every weekend, and sometimes my cousin Sheila would join us.

Every endeavour has been made to accurately record the details however if you would like to provide additional images and/or newer information we are pleased to update the details on this site. Please click here to email us at info@pickeringbrookheritagegroup.com We appreciate your involvement in recording the history of our area.

Reference: Article: Supplied by John Fernie

Images: 1, 2, 5, 7, 8 John Fernie
3, 6 Peter & Helen Skehan
4 Kalamunda Historical Society