Hodgson Hazel (Nee Weston)

Some of my Recollections of Pickering Brook in the 1920's and 1930's

By Hazel Hodgson (Nee Weston)

This article was written from a request by David Godbold shortly after the formation of the Pickering Brook Heritage Group

In the 1920’s and into the 1930’s there was still a lot of bushland in the Pickering Brook district with very few blocks developed compared with the present. Settlement had been proceeding fairly slowly since 1878 when Richard Weston (my paternal grandfather) had taken up 250 acres and gradually cultivated an orchard. Over the years more blocks were developed, a laborious enterprise in those days with no mechanical aids, and there was a slight boost to the population when the “soldiers’ settlement” scheme was introduced after the 1914-18 World War 1. My memories are all after 1920 and I can’t recall much of the Pickering scene before 1925 or 1926

In 1916 the first school had been built in the area known as Carilla. It was a one-teacher school and remained until 1930 as the only school in Pickering Brook. I began school in 1926, the teacher being Mrs. Miller, widow of a teacher and sister-in-law of Tom Miller, the headmaster of Kalamunda School. The school was a wooden building – very small – with a tiny porch containing a wash basin and rows of coat-hook, and with a ramp. There was a verandah roof but no floorboards. In the playground were two pine trees of good size, and once that I can remember (probably December 1925) there was an outdoor Christmas tree for the local children and the Christmas Tree was one of those pines. In succeeding years the Christmas Tree was in the Carilla Hall which was opened in September 1926.

A new school was built in 1930, just a few metres from the original school and nearer Millar’s railway line and the road. The superintendent {inspector in those days) was present as well as most of the mothers of the children attending the school. It was a morning ceremony so there were no fathers present. Mr. Henry Harris was the teacher having followed Mrs Millar in 1928. The numbers had grown and the old school was too small so a timber and asbestos pavilion-like building replaced it. It was a long building with a verandah each end and on one verandah was a small storeroom: on the other there were basins and rows of coat-hooks and a bench for seating. There were three large windows on each side of the room and a proper fireplace instead of the old black free-standing stove in the old school. That had been a bit like a small pot-belly stove, old style. I believe the 1930 building is now at Victoria Reservoir acting as an information and briefing centre for visitors.


In winter we used to bring glass bottles of tea, cocoa or milk and at recess time Mr Harris would place them in a half-kerosene tin of water and put it on the bars that went across the hobs and we would have a hot drink at lunch time. After a while I think the boys would attend to this job. The boys also used to clean and fill the inkwells each week – a good job for missing a bit of routine work and one they enjoyed.

While we were still in the old school but not long before we moved to the new one, Rose and Vincent Sala Tenna commenced school. They were the first children of the Italian community to attend our school I am fairly positive. There had been Italian settlers in the district for a while – usually men who were at first without their families – but as time went on the families came too. They were excellent settlers. As I look back I think Rose and Vin must have felt at sea with an alien group who didn’t understand anything about multi-culturalism. When I began a two-year period of teaching at Pickering in 1946, I think about two-thirds of the names on the roll in my group of Infants, Std. 1 and Std. 2 were Italian, but the children were born in Australia.

We had drill most days, standing in rows doing stretching and bending exercises on the spot, very stiff and formal. There were school sports each year with age races, relay races, egg-and-spoon and three-legged races, etc. Our main games were “rounders”, simple versions of cricket and football, various forms of hop-scotch, Red Rover and other team chasing games.

Along one wall of the “new” (1930) school was a battered bookcase and on its three shelves was the school library. As one of my ambitions when I learnt to read was “to read every book in the world”, I had no difficulty, and great pleasure, in mastering the contents of those small shelves. Among the books which I loved were a couple of books by L.M.Montomery, author of the “Anne” books, several by Mary Grant Bruce who wrote the “Billabong” books and “Seven Little Australians” by Ethel Turner.


A few plants were grown at the new school but I don’t think there was a school garden until Miss Lugg came in May 1932. Then there were three garden beds laid out , each ringed by stones, and each bed had its own group of children to look after it – dig and plant, and weed. I can remember my brother and I wheeling a little hand-cart of manure for our group’s plot. It was cow and fowl manure and I don’t think I did much of the shoveling.

The school quarters were at the far end of the school-ground, very small and cramped by today’s standard.

1929 was the centenary of our State and towards the end of that year there was a great inter-school sports day. Canning Mills, Carmel, Maida Vale Barton’s Mill and Karragullen Schools all competed, the sports being held at Pickering on the sportsground next to the school and hall. It was a level patch and quite a good natural ground which had been graded a bit. Our school colours were maroon and gold. There were glossy printed souvenir programmes and the combined schools sang several songs – the only one I’m sure we sang is “Australia” (“There is a land where summer skies….”. We had practiced these songs beforehand in our various schools with Alice Hewison (later Mrs Beard) playing the piano for us at each practice session. It is interesting to note she played for such events on many occasions and was still doing so during my teaching years at Pickering twenty years or so later. On the 1929 sports day she also played for us, the piano being moved to the landing at the side door of the hall and the children were in lines below.

The City of Perth was illuminated in the Centenary Year to greet the Duke and Duchess of York, parents of our present Queen Elizabeth 11. All the children of the district – most of them anyway – were taken by truck (usually called lorries then) with some of the parents to the city to see the lights which were beautiful, and especially so to us “bushies” who rarely saw an electric light. It was fairyland. There were souvenirs of the Royal Visit – their likenesses on tea-tins, mugs, etc., and also of the Centenary Year. All children were given a centenary medal which was bronze and much larger and heavier than a penny. 1929 was a gala year.

In May 1932 we had a new teacher appointed. Mr Harris had taken an active part in district affairs but teaching had lapsed a bit. Catherine Lugg, a 23-year-old, was a wonderful teacher and full of enthusiasm, and we learned like wildfire under her guidance. On me anyway she made a great impression and I knew I was making headway. At the end of 1932, I sat for the scholarship examination and my parents (who had always helped and encouraged me in every way), Miss Lugg and I were overjoyed when I was one of the fifty Scholarship winners for the State. This entitled me to attend Perth Modern School, a great honour, and I attended there for five years. Miss Lugg married Neil Grosvenor, a teacher, in May 1933 and I have met her on several occasions since, and in January 1995 she was still vital and energetic.

In the 1940’s the school increased its numbers and a monitor was appointed as well as a head teacher. The monitor system was a good one as it enabled students who had matriculated, after five years of high school, and who wished to enter Teachers’ College, to have a year in a school doing part of the teaching under the guidance of the head teacher and other trained staff. The moniter became conversant with the job and he/she and the Education Department could see whether they were mutually suited. Pickering Brook had a couple of monitors until by 1946 the numbers were sufficient to warrant another trained teacher, in addition to the head. Ian Cresswell was the head in 1946 and I was appointed as the second teacher – assistant was the title. Ian Cresswell was keen for me to be appointed because of my being local and the always difficult problem of board for the teacher thus being solved. So after five years of teaching in other schools’ I returned to my old primary school.

Once again the “old” school came into use and after twenty years I had returned to the same school room where I had begun school in 1926. I spent two happy years there.

The children in my room in Infants, Std.1 and Std .2 were especially likeable and I have always had a warn feeling for them.

In 1947 Mr A E (Bert) Williams came as headmaster – the first time he had had any staff – and he was very successful in our school and in many others afterwards. He had a distinguished career in education.

Later on, in the 1950’s, another new school was built – a pre-fab with a couple of class rooms. The 1930 school was still used for manual at least, and the original school dismantled. Later still the present cluster school was erected and is a far cry from the tiny 1916 building, and of course the staff had increased greatly.

Prior to 1926 there was no public hall in Pickering. Harry Weston, my uncle, lived fairly close to the Post Office and store, on the road to Karragullen, on a section of the original Weston property, Springdale. Next to his house he had a fairly big barn with one or two pine trees in front of it. Dances were sometimes held in this barn and I can just remember being taken to one there (children weren’t left at home), and also that when Doris Hewison was married (she was my Mother’s sister) the reception was held there. This was in 1925 or very early 1926. In those days everything was on a simple scale, do-it-yourself or nothing. It was not only that money was scarce for everyone then: transport was difficult and of necessity catering and amusements were provided locally. I remember Grandma making lots of jellies, etc. and the cooking would have been done by family members. Uncle Harry played an accordion for the dances: there may have been other instruments or players. His property must have been a social centre at the time as he had a tennis court down on the flat by the creek – he and his wife were keen tennis players – and relatives and friends played there regularly. All country children accompanied their parents to the social gatherings. Harry Weston was killed in a motor accident in April 1928, as he was returning with friends from a tennis outing in another area. The driver collapsed at the wheel and Harry leant over to steer but the car was off course and a stake on a bridge pierced his body. So an era of tennis and dances at his property was ended.


However, after September 1926 his barn was not really needed for dances. During that year the local people decided to build a hall where most of the settlers were then located. That was in the Carilla area of Pickering Brook next to the Pickering Brook School. Until then Carilla was more or less a name on the district map but that was the name given to the hall, thus making it more frequently heard. Money, ever a scarce commodity, was raised in various ways, some by sports meetings held either on the property below the school or on the level ground by the hall site which the school children used as part of their playground. The French family at first were on the property below the school then Mr Nicholls and Mr Taylor bought it. The local men had busy bees galore and the ladies provided them with tea between their labours. Dad’s brother, Louis Weston, was stationed at Busselton in the Forestry Department and acted as a guarantor for the money that had not so far been raised for the hall. He was born in Pickering, was single then and in a secure job. However, he was not required to produce any money as the local people raised the money very quickly by hard work and independent spirit, and by balls and dances once the hall was built.

On September 26, 1926 there was a grand opening. The hall was not fully completed and was partly roofless but it was the first of many highly popular balls and dances. The local ladies spent hours each week making crepe paper decorations. I think for the first ball there were pink peach blossoms as a theme. I can well remember on one occasion the rafters were festooned with mauve crepe paper wisteria trails – just beautiful. Pickering was a small and close community in those days and everyone worked hard for the district. There was a piano for the hall and the local ladies made a white calico cover for it and embroidered on it in royal blue thread: “CARILLA HALL, SEPTEMBER 26, 1926”

During that first summer when the roof was not complete the piano was moved by motor lorry to different homes in turn after each function. This was for safety and protection from weather. It went to Mrs Thorley first (her husband transported it each time) and to Holroyd’s and our place (Weston’s). Another fundraiser was to have euchre parties in each house in turn. Later these were held in the hall.

Carilla Hall was lit by petrol or kerosene lamps for many years. There was a supper room at the rear and the local ladies supplied supper – sandwiches galore and homemade cakes. The suppers were excellent. For bigger balls an additional box or two of cakes would be ordered from the “Premier Catering Co.” and railed to Pickering Brook. Outside the hall was a fireplace where kerosene tins of water were boiled for tea and coffee. My Dad, Greg Weston, always seemed to do this job.


For years the dances and balls at Carilla were packed. Cars became more plentiful and people came from surrounding districts. Also a bus from Kalamunda often brought a crowd. It was an immensely popular place of entertainment; good orchestras were engaged and a golden era was enjoyed. Mark Hayes was a local identity who acted as M.C. for the dances. He was a tall man of quite commanding presence and he always wore a bow tie and a button-hole to the dances which he kept going at a good pace – waltzes, fox-trots, barn dances and also sets of Alberts and Lancers which he conducted with great precision. Midway through the evening the floor would have an application of candle-shavings and the children would be allowed to slide on it to prepare for the next dance. Parents had to take their children with them in the country.The hall was used also for cards – mainly euchre parties – for school concerts, fancy-dress balls for adults and others for children, and for kitchen teas. The kitchen teas were for the local people and in those days the gifts were not like the lavish ones of today. In the 1920’s and 1930’s everyone was still battling to pioneer their blocks and plant crops and orchards and cash was always scarce.

Prices were low and a depression developing. Gifts were simple and useful: jugs, kitchen utensils, glass dishes, teapots and such like. The annual Christmas Tree was held in the hall and every child received a present from Father Christmas, a part often acted by Mr Selk. Money was collected beforehand from everyone in the district and other funds collected by way of a dance or card party.

By the 1940’s the hall was used for local events but the days of big balls, of crowds of people from other areas, had ended. There were other diversions and even local people tended to go further afield for entertainment. However, the dances continued for some years and were loyally supported by the local people. Alice Beard (nee Hewison) was a wonderful dance pianist – people said “when Alice played you had to dance.” Later her husband, Bert, played the drums and they formed their own band. Bill McCorkill was another local stalwart who took a turn at the piano.

Once the Pickering Sports Club was operating in its new premises the hall was used less and less. Eventually, probably about 1986, it was demolished, having been in virtual disuse for some time. A grand part of Pickering’s history disappeared.

The new club premises superseded the makeshift premises of the old club on the lower side of the store and station. In the 1920’s, about 1925 or ’26, there was a soccer ground there and maybe football was played later. Tennis had ceased at Harry Weston’s after his death in a car accident in 1928, and a court was formed at the recreation ground. There was a family picnic atmosphere about the old “rec.” on Sundays when everyone foregathered there, for sport and afternoon tea. A little later a couple of private tennis courts were built. In the early 1930’s the Shadforth family, who lived near Vinci’s present property on the main road, had a court and the local ladies played there mid-week. A little later there was a court at Padgett’s, in Patterson Road above Eagling’s property – Bechelli’s bought Padgett’s place later. A few friends in that area played there regularly, my mother being in each group. When Shadforth’s left the district the other court eventuated soon afterwards. Also, in 1946 and 1947 and for some time after that there was a court behind Carilla Hall where the local ladies played mid-week. Nita Niven, Trixie Smailes, Anne Weston, Mollie Weston, Dorrie Marchetti, Mavis Godbold, Nell Williams were among them. Whilst teaching there I was in the group also. A little later the tennis courts at the old rec. ground were rebuilt or upgraded and that was a flourishing venue until the new courts at the present club were operating.

Shadforth’s property was bought by Giglias and the Eagling land below Padgetts was next owned by the Travicich family, probably in the early 1930’s

Before 1914 there was a store in Pickering which was owned by the Lindley and Humphreys families. In 1914 my maternal grandmother (Mrs Hewison) moved from Batons Mill where Mr Hewison had been book-keeper, and bought the store and residence in Pickering. This was on the main road and opposite the railway station. An historic marker is now on the site and the road opposite is called Hewison Road. There are still a few ornamental trees and garden flowers growing there. I remember the store from the early 1920’s. It was the focal point of Pickering. At one end of it were two immense pine trees. The shop was quite large with counters all around the walls except for the centre wall where there was a passage entrance to the house. One side was used for the Post Office, with pigeon-holes for the mail and a desk below them for books and stamps, etc. The phone was on the wall just above the desk. The counter also held the piles of newspapers which were distributed from the shop. The wide counter on the other side was the grocery section and behind it were large bins for sugar, flour, etc. and above were shelves along the wall for tins of biscuits – all packets were packed in tins then – and jars of lollies, boxes of various chocolates and candy novelties and tins of toffees. Every commodity was stocked, bottles of cool drink, vinegar, sauces, etc. and on one end of the counter against the end wall were round cheeses and sides of bacon which were sliced as necessary to the customers’ requirements.


It was a general store and catered for all needs of the community – one section on the end wall of the Post Office counter side was for needles, cotton, patent medicines and so forth. Behind the grocery section was the office where Mr Hewison kept his ledgers and made out itemised accounts in a good copperplate hand. Accounts were sent every month, but individual dockets were given with each order and a carbon copy kept in the office. During the depression there was often a long wait for payment and at times I think, no payment. Mrs Hewison was hard working and a good business woman, but first and foremost was very understanding of everyone’s problems, financial or otherwise. It was a mark of that era that everyone in the small community was aware of, and helpful to, their neighbours. Goods for the store arrived by train and were left at the goods-shed or the verandah thereof. The boxes, made of deal in those days, were addressed simply: H.D.H. P.B.

I can remember an occasional trip to Perth in the 1920’s with Grandma (Mrs Hewison) and she would call at various warehouse offices to pay her accounts. She was always received with great respect and friendliness by the managers of such firms as Watson’s and D.J.Fowler and others. There was an air of dignity and formality in these offices and a personal bond between the firms and their clients. There were “yellow cabs” in those days and between offices Grandma often took a yellow cab.

For some time the store was lit by gas and the plant was installed behind the room at the end of the shop, referred to as “the bar”. This was a large room at the Post Office end, entered from the front verandah, and it was used mainly as a store-room. At one early period a butcher operated there, possibly only once or twice a week, bringing the meat from Kalamunda. There was an immense chopping block and a screened alcove for the meat. In the later 1920’s R.J.Nestor sent his van three times a week to deliver meat to Pickering and Bartons.

When the train came in at 7.10p.m. each night it brought the mail and many of the nearby residents would congregate on the shop verandah to collect their mail when it was sorted. There were three trains a day and the Post Office and shop were always busy at mid-morning train time too, but whether mail came on that train as well I don’t know. The shop was a busy centre and meeting place for a good many years.

About 1929 or 1930 a very small shop was opened and was managed by Mrs Camp for a Mr. Pearson. This shop sold sweets and cool drinks mainly but it did not continue for long. It was situated near Carinyah Road on Pickering Brook Road adjacent to Shadforth’s (later Giglia’s) and where Vinci’s now have their truck base (1955).

The lollies available then (1920’s and 1930’s) were fantastic – toffees such as milk kisses, chariot toffees and toffee-de-luxe as well as the minties, peppies, fantales which still survive. Besides these were dozens of kinds of sweets in the half-penny, penny, two penny and three-penny limes and lolly balls which were 4, 6 or 8 for one penny. I remember packets of candy cigarettes, “fried eggs”, silver Sammies, lamp-poles and Nestles chocolates in their distinctive red wrappers for a penny or threepenny each. There were many other sweets for children to choose from: sherbets, licorice straps, etc. The stores at Pickering had as good and varied stocks of lollies as available anywhere.

Jimmy Crabbe had small store in Kalamunda with ice-creams, smallgoods, etc. Later he developed it to a large supermarket. For a year or two about 1930 -1932 he used to deliver smallgoods, sweets and ICE-CREAM to Pickering and Bartons Mill, calling at the school as well as the homes. Probably this was the first time we had had the opportunity to buy ice-cream in Pickering Brook and it was a wonderful treat though it couldn’t be afforded every week.


From H. D. Hewison’s store at Pickering Brook deliveries were made three times a week to the local properties and to Bartons. At first “the round” was made by spring-cart, a full day effort. There would be a docket for all items delivered and these were entered on the monthly account. Fresh bread (from Kalamunda) and the mail and paper were also delivered with the groceries. The delivery as far as Carilla area was every day. It is strange to think that such a service existed in the 1920’s and 1930’s and is unknown now.

Some time before 1930 the spring-cart was replaced by a motor lorry delivery. For some time “the round” was done by Revel French, then Tom Thompson. Later on when Alice (nee Hewison) and her husband Bert Beard came to manage the shop, and later take it over, Bert did the deliveries. He was always a happy and obliging man; everyone liked him. Mr & Mrs Hewison both died in 1943, September 5th and 26th respectively.

Another item sold at the old Pickering Store was ginger beer. Mrs Hewison brewed delicious ginger beer in kegs; also hop beer, and for some years this was a refreshing drink to have before embarking on the journey home from the shop.

As time went on the local store lost its importance as a gathering place for the local people. Cars took them away from Pickering for pleasure and much of the shopping – the train service ceased – and mail was delivered from Kalamunda rather than Pickering Brook so there was not such a need to visit the store as often and thus meet many other residents.

The railway line to Canning Mills had been built by a timber company and opened in 1891, but in 1903 it was bought and operated by the Government as far as Pickering Brook. After 1910 Canning Mill was closed so the Government took over that line also and an extension to Karragullen was opened in 1912. Until the railway came transport was by horseback and horse and cart on very rough roads. The few settlers in the hills had difficulty in transporting their crops and timber and in obtaining goods they needed, so the railway opened up the hills district much more. To a certain extent the timber line was a great help to the settlers but it was primarily for the use of the mill at Canning with no guaranteed time or space for other users. The takeover by the government was sought by the hills residents and resulted in a more reliable service for them.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s I can remember there being three trains a day. One left about 7.00am from Pickering Brook, another about 10.30am and the last one which arrived at 7.10pm returned to Perth later, having done the trip on to Karragullen as did the other trains. Pickering Brook Station was for many years “Pickering Brook Junction” as Millar’s line from Bartons joined the Government line at Pickering. During 1933 – 1937 I often traveled to school (Perth Modern) on the Monday 7.10am and returned for the weekend on Friday night. People went to Perth for shopping for clothes and household goods, etc. and at stations from Kalamunda on, many traveled daily to work or school.

At Pickering there was a station and waiting room on the far side of the railway line, opposite the store, and on the side of the line nearer to the store was a goods shed with a verandah. This was where goods consigned to the local people were left, as well as the chests of tea, deal boxes of kerosene and of butter, etc., tins of biscuits (Mills and Wares were the ones then) and various canned goods labeled: H.D.H. P.B. for the store.

A long-time guard on the railway was Barney Gardiner, who became used to the local people and looked after their interests – and waited for anyone running the last few metres.

There were two station-masters in the period I remember. About 1926 or 1927 it was Mr Boff who had a daughter, Margaret. His taught a little group of Roman Catholic children the tenets of the Church in her home once a week. The next station-master was Mr Leeder (1931 – 32). He had five children, the youngest three being of school age and who attended our school. The station house was in Repatriation Road next to Dom Marchetti’s house and opposite Eatt’s house.


Local produce was railed to Perth – cases of fruit and tomatoes, bags of vegetables and many trucks of timber and sleepers. Some of the timber was railed by local residents but most of it was brought in by the “loco” from Bartons Mill on the line owned and constructed by Millars Timber and Trading Co. This line ran from Bartons Mill to Pickering through No. 6, No. 4 and No. 1 landings at the back of properties owned by Sala Tenna, Armanasco, Camp, Holroyd and Weston. Then it went up French’s Hill, in front of the school, past Jess Moore’s orchard (later Littely’s then Della’s) then over a crossing at the Carinyah Road turnoff, to Pickering Brook Station i.e. Junction. Number 1 landing was just about opposite the Weston block and the engine paused there to be fired up again. Sometimes a few trucks were left there if the load was too heavy for French’s Hill, and the loco would return after its first load and deliver them to Pickering Brook. Harry Catchpole was the driver for many years and Claude French the fireman. At really busy times when there was a stock-pile of wood at the mill, the loco would make a night trip and I remember watching the huge lights approaching No. 1 as we stood at the side or back doors of our house. It was quite magical in our quiet country night.

On its day-time trips as the loco passed the school we always gazed with interest either from our desks or the school-yard if it was recess time.

Occasionally we had a ride from No.1 landing into Pickering or once or twice to Bartons to visit someone, or for a picnic, a parent being with us for the trip.

Besides the train to Perth there was for a short time a taxi service was run by a local man and for a while there was a charabanc service run by Dave Anderson. These ended by 1930 and only lasted a couple of years. There were a few more cars on the road then though they were thin on the ground.

On several occasions there were picnics, either school or private, to Como Beach. It was usually a once-a-summer trip and I’ll always remember the thrill of our first glimpse of the water as we reached the crest of the hill and it gleamed before us. There were shelter sheds on the beach with forms and benches. The roof was of brushwood material. At that time the jetty was a long one with a bend at the end which formed a diving platform. Como was a lovely sandy river beach then and very safe for swimming. Across the road was Cassey’s Tearoom and that was a great attraction as we were able to buy ice-creams there – penny ones, in cones – and ice-cream was not often available to us. These picnics were in the 1920’s.


Once we went to City Beach – not a school picnic – and it was as usual on the back of a lorry. There was a portion of the road near the beach which was called “the switchback” and gave a thrilling ride. It was a well known feature of the early City Beach track.

In the summer about 1930 a few families went to Roleystone Pool for a picnic. It was a natural pool with a very slithery patch of smooth rock at one end. Dad entered the pool at that end, not realising how slippery the rock was nor how deep the water. He couldn’t swim much and I recall Mr Harris diving in to help him.

Most of our swimming – usually self-taught dog-paddle – was done in pools dammed back in the creek. We had a small pool near the fence adjoining Holroyd’s and the family and a few neighbouring children enjoyed it. My brother Neil made a canoe out of a sheet of galvanised iron, that being the standard model made by any boy in town or country who had access to pool, creek or river. Though our pool was only about a metre across, we enjoyed it and the canoe to the full.

Thorley’s, who lived over the hill from us in Bracken Road, had a bigger pool and Mr Thorley put a cement wall across one end, making it nice and deep. We were allowed full use of it and spent many a happy hour there with several other neighbouring children.

Mostly the residents were families who were developing their blocks and growing fruit and vegetables but, as in most rural areas, there were a few single men living in the district in their camps and working in the bush. As family groups were the norm we were aware of these lone individuals. Some names were Jack Burke, George Hill and Joe Permos. By the late 1920’s these men had died or left Pickering Brook. However, there were two men in the Carilla area who were permanent and lived alone in small houses and were very much part of the community. These were Mr Bob Selk and Mark Hayes. Mr Selk was a very good and well known cricketer in his younger days and had played for the State. He had been a post-master in a Perth suburb but came to live in the Carilla area on his block on Merrivale Road just past Lees’ property, building a couple of rooms there and creating a lovely garden. He planted a kurrajong tree next to his house and close to that a double row of vines which were trellised and then covered with mesh netting to foil the birds. Over his gate the name of the property was printed on a board: “THE EVELESS EDEN”. He died in 1940 and there was an article about him and his cricket record in “The Daily News”. His ashes were buried under his kurrajong tree.

Later his daughter lived on the property in another house, and later still his son and wife built there, but they left after a few years.

Mark Hayes was originally from Kyneton in Victoria but spent most of his life in Western Australia. He lived a little beyond Mr Selk in a neat camp of timber, having moved there from his first site about a kilometre away, on the road from Merrivale Road that joined the road to Carinyah. As noted earlier, he acted as M.C. for the Carilla dances from 1926 until a number of years afterwards. A great storyteller and with an inexhaustible store of anecdotes, jokes and real-life stories, he could hold his audience, adults and children, in thrall. He died before 1940, I think, a man without family but with friends in the area he lived.

During the 1920’s and early 1930’s there was much more bushland than in the present day and, of course, fewer settlers. Since then many more properties have been developed and the population has risen accordingly. It was still a pioneering era and clearing and planting were hard work with no machinery – just axes, hoes and crowbars, spades and horse-drawn ploughs. Perhaps because it was a struggle for everyone, there was a very close community feeling of mateship and helpfulness, and when the depression came about 1930 this was still evident. No-one was well off but everyone lived quite well for food and essentials and, as everyone was about equal in conditions, any lack of material things was not really noticed. Cash was in short supply and people in Pickering and everywhere else did without many items they would have bought otherwise. Prices for fruit and vegetables were very low and on some occasions, instead of a cheque from the market, a grower might even receive a bill for handling as the produce had sold at such a low price. It was soul-destroying after such hard work. Later in the 1950’s a slow improvement began.

A feature of the depression years was the appearance of “tramps” in rural areas. They came seeking work – a rather hopeless quest – and a meal to tide them over. Usually they would offer to chop some firewood, etc. in return or sometimes they tried to sell little items they had made as they were proud and did not like asking for hand-outs. The depression had many sad facets.

Housing was of simple style, usually built by the owner with some outside help, and jarrah weatherboard and iron roofing were the norm. Usually the houses were four rooms and a passage with verandahs added. I can remember only one brick house while I was at school at Pickering and that was one on Repatriation Road which belonged to Cadwallader and later bought by Mr Temby. Lighting was by kerosene and petrol lamps and cooking was done on wood stoves. Open fires were used for warming the house and those wood fires were a great comfort – and a lot of hard work. Electricity was late coming to Pickering Brook. There was no water scheme so there were always rain water tanks and, if they ran dry, the creek or a well supplied water. Country life was much harder then for both men and women with no machinery or labour-saving devices.

In spite of cooking in wood stoves the women achieved wonderful results, not only with meals, but in making jams and sauces and chutneys, preserving fruit, and in cake cooking. Pride was taken in turning out cream sponges, cream puffs and meringues filled with jelly and cream (angel’s breath Mr Selk called them when he tasted them at our home). Fruit cakes and pies and dozens of other cakes were produced for the family and for afternoon tea when the ladies visited each other. It was always a case of walking when visiting and adults and children took it as a matter of course. Men occasionally went on horseback and there were a few sulkies and spring-carts in use at times. We children walked to school, to the store or to other homes, then later a few acquired bicycles. When I was almost ten I was thrilled to have one and bike-riding was one of our pleasures. There were gilgies galore in our creeks and “gilgie-ing” was a great pastime. With a piece of meat or bone tied to a string as bait, a stone attached so the line would sink and a tin or bucket for the catch, we were assured of a very pleasant hour or two. Often a catch would be boiled in a billy and with salt and a piece of bread and butter would be eaten with great relish.

In those days there were not the organised sports and activities which are available now for children. Of course there was no TV and “wireless sets”, as radio sets were then called, were not common until well into the 1930’s. As there was no electricity, these sets worked on batteries which needed re-charging every so often – usually just when one was hoping to hear some special programme. However, there were always plenty of things to amuse us.


The girls played with dolls much more than they seem to do now, and making cubby houses and dolls’ clothes were great occupations. Playing schools or shops were favourite games and our ingenuity and imaginations were stretched in all of these as our props were very home-made and makeshift. Boys used to ride a horse or a bike around their locality and shooting with a “ging” was very popular. I well remember Niel shooting his first parrot – he was triumphant. Later daisy air-guns were reasonably common and small lead pellets were used in these. Going to play with a neighbour’s children was always a pleasant change and we always enjoyed going for walks in the bush or along the railway line used by the loco from Bartons.

I think we explored the surrounding bush more then and knew just where the orchids were most prolific as well as the other wildflowers such as hovea, leschenaultia, hibbertia, coral creeper and pimelia. Orchids were especially prized and we knew the best spots on each hillside for donkey orchids, brown and white spiders, cowslips, bird orchids and silky blues. It was not then considered a crime to pick wildflowers and, though we picked them carefully, we often went “orchiding” and gathered bunches of them. It was a great pleasure to have these beautiful flowers. There was much more bushland then but gradually more and more blocks were taken up so many of our wildflower spots disappeared.

Transport and communication not being easy then, our lives were more family oriented, most of our interests and activities being centred around our home and locality. Naturally, my recollections often refer to my own family members and relatives – they were the ones I know best. Ours was a very happy family with our wonderful parents, Anne and Greg Weston, always giving Neil, Merle and me love, encouragement and a sense of security, and setting an excellent example by way of kindness, honesty and high principles. They were well known and well loved in the district. The facilities in Pickering Brook today seem lavish compared with what existed then, but everything that was accomplished was done with a spirit of togetherness and a minimum of money and tools, and a maximum of personal effort.

Perhaps the main characteristic of Pickering Brook at that time was its sense of community and friendliness. With only a small population, there was almost a family feeling among the residents and that old bond persists in the minds of those who were brought up in Pickering Brook in the earlier days.

It was a very special place, and to me it still is.


“To me that spot is our valley in Pickering Brook”. Hazel Hodgson

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:       Hazel Hodgson

                     Images:    1, 2, 10 , 12   Hazel Hodgson  
                                     3, 4, 5  Kalamunda Library
                                     6   Pickering Brook Heritage Group
                                     7   Kalamunda & Districts Historical Society

                                     8   Lyn Poletti
                                     9   Tom Price
                                     11  Western Images