Weedon Family Writings By Marie & Bethney

A chance meeting happened in late 2013 whilst I was researching the history of the steam traction engines that worked in this district clearing land for the pioneers orchardists. Whilst interviewing Ted Garland, who had one of these traction engines, his partner mentioned she had relatives that were in the timber industry down south years ago. On enquiring as to their name, I was told it was “Weedon”. I said there was a family of Weedon’s at Barton’s Mill and asked were they related. She doubted it, as they were at Jarrahwood and around that area. But she said she would make contact with them and enquire.
The following day I had a phone call from a very excited 84 year old, Bethney Pilling (nee Weedon), who told me she had lived at Barton’s Mill and for years had been searching for info about the mill where she had spent her early childhood, but to no avail. Even a visit out to the original site showed little left but bush. She had searched everywhere and found nothing – history lost! I explained about our small Group and the research that had been done in collecting rare details, history and images of Barton’s Mill for publishing on the website. She was so excited and was eager to visit a family member who had a computer so she could access the website.
Next morning I had a very teary Bethney rang me to tell me about all the memories that had come back to life after viewing the website and what a difference it had made to her knowing it had not been lost forever. I had previously had contact with Irene White and Alan Berry both of whom were past residents of Bartons, so I asked Bethney did she know them. Of course she did, Irene was a girlfriend at school and she remembered Alan Berry. I passed on contact details and old friends were re-united and reminisced between floods of tears. This is what makes all the effort put into this website worthwhile.
Myrtle and William Weedon were married on the 2nd June 1926 at Bruce Rock. The newly married couple arrived at Barton’s Mill in 1927 where they started their family. Marie Valma born 15th June 1927, Bethney Joy born 11th August 1929 and William Ray born 20th August 1931. They were all born whilst the family was at the mill and lived there until the mill closed in 1939. Marie and Bethney both joined writers’ groups and became prolific writers. We are very privileged to be able to publish some of these very detailed and descriptive writings about the people that lived and worked at Barton’s Mill. This is recorded history at its best. They give a very wonderful insight into the life at Barton’s Mill during those early years.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I did discovering them and putting them here for all to read.

Gordon Freegard Webmaster

Mrs THOMPSON’S GARDEN by Bethney Pilling


Barton’s Mill Prison, belonging to the Department of Corrections, is 13 kilometers from Pickering Brook, along the winding tarred Canning Mills Road. Orchards of fruit trees, apples and pears, peaches and plums, line the road, lush and green, row upon row. Packing sheds perch precariously on the side of the hill right against the roadway. The houses, the older ones, tucked back behind old trees and gardens, the newer ones big and showy, facing, for all to see. I had never wanted to return to Barton’s Mill after we had left, and had always been concerned when we were driving in the hills, that we would just come upon it. I didn’t want to see a prison with high fences and barbed wire where once had stood rows of houses and a prosperous timber mill. But my father yearned to go and see if we could find any signs of our past, some 30 years later. So, with great apprehension and my heart beating very fast, Mum, Dad and I drove along the orchard flanked road up to the prison gates.

The guard on duty said we could park and walk down the side fence and were welcome to look around for any recognisable landmarks. We hesitatingly skirted the high security fence, with its buildings tucked in behind a pretty garden, amid acres of green lawn. We walked for several minutes toward a small clearing. Two neglected rose bushes struggled for survival, one red, one pink, with wild oats growing up through them. That was all that was left of Mrs. Thompson’s beautiful rose garden. We seemed to walk only a short way when we saw an ancient apricot tree that had been in ‘big’ Mrs. White’s yard. And then the bush loomed up ahead and enclosed us in that little clearing – great tall trees, heavy undergrowth wild and dense. All the old buildings had been demolished to make way for the prison. How a whole township could have fitted into that small area truly confused me. We sat on a burnt-out log in the middle of the little clearing for a long time, trying to grasp at least something of our past years there. But nothing came. We three clung together, arm in arm, as we walked silently, slowly, back to the carpark.

I remember many things about Barton’s Mill, some sad, though mostly glad and many times I think about our days there. I lived at Barton’s Mill from 1929 (when I was born) with my dear father and mother, my sister Marie 2 years older and my brother William 2 years younger. In 1939 the mill was closed, all the men were laid off and we sadly left. We moved to Armadale where mum’s two sisters, Hope and Val lived. I guess that was the logical place to go as their presence was of great comfort to my mother and to us all as we had often gone there on visits and holidays.

Mrs Thompson’s Garden

The road from Pickering to Bartons was 7 miles long, hewn through great tall trees which met overhead in many places. It was a gravel road, narrow and winding, made to go around a tree too large to fell. It was high on the crown of the road, with deep gullies each side to take the torrents of water in the winter. In the spring time, leschenaultia and hovea grew in profusion along the banks. There was an occasional orchard visible up a steep hillside. After leaving Hewison’s shop at Pickering and passing the sparse roof tops dotted in the few orchards, no other sign of civilisation was to be seen apart from the shiny railway tracks. They followed the roadway, disappearing ahead into the dense forest of jarrah and gum trees, often heavy with white blossom. Then, the forest thinned ahead and there it was, Barton’s Mill, one road in, one road out, with the houses high along the left side of the road ‘til it forked, making a second row of houses. Mrs. Thompson’s house was the first house on the right, beyond it the tennis courts and the Hall, against the vast stacks of sawn jarrah, and then the Mill, with smoke curling up from its sprawling dull iron roof.

The Thompson’s house was the best house on the Mill as he was the Manager. It had a big shiny kitchen built separately from the main house, though covered by a roof and enclosed on the south side. A little landing with steps led up into the kitchen. The boards of the lobby, the verandah and down the passage of the house were polished to a high sheen. Whether it was ‘Easi-Wurk’, a painted-on black varnish or Relax polish and elbow grease, I don’t know, but it was very dark.

On the little landing between the house and the kitchen were lots of potted plants, healthy and green. In her side yard, in a stoney gravel garden bed, grew a dozen beautiful rose bushes. Mrs. Thompson threw soapy water over them to kill the aphids and watered them individually with precious rain water from the big tank on the tank stand. Mrs. Thompson was very nice and always took us into the kitchen and gave us something to eat, bran sort of biscuits. She always wore a white apron and had a grown-up daughter named Florrie. I guess she was the oldest person on the Mill.

Millar’s Timber and Trading Company owned Bartons and my dad worked on the bench sawing up the long lengths from the huge logs. He always took great pride in his job, making sure the big logs were guided in straight against the huge saws, to cut the 3 B 2s and the 4 B 2s, as straight as a die. He was later promoted to the office as a tally clerk where his knowledge of mathematics and excellent book-keeping skills gained him great respect.

Our house, which was built for my mother and father when they came as newly-weds in 1926 to Bartons, was black, the boards weathered by the elements. I never did see one that was newly built and the colour of fresh hewn red jarrah. Our house, along with all the others, had a galvanised iron roof and it shone a dulled silver in the sun. Steps led up the front to a wide verandah with a rail along the edge. The left end was closed in with a cream duck canvas blind which my mother sewed on the machine. It came down to the rail and flapped in the wind like a sail of a ship even though it was anchored to the rail, or was it to the floor? In the summer we slept on the front verandah and in the winter the blind was rolled up and tied securely under the beams of the verandah. Next summer, when it came down, there were always jarrah stains in long streaks across it from the rain through the winter. Across the other end of the verandah was lattice work, with a pot plant stand made of jarrah planks, stepped up in several rows.


My mother’s pot plants were glorious – huge Angel Wing begonias with handsome heads of pink flowers hanging down like little angled lanterns. I can remember Mum being very sad when we left the Mill, having to leave her loved pot plants behind as there was no room for them on the truck laden with our worldly possessions. And as everyone else was leaving there was no-one left to water them. So, I guess, they, along with the Mill, slowly died. I can see her now, looking back at them as we went down the steps.

From the verandah we stepped into the front room in which the only things I can remember were a fireplace, the piano and a radio. Chairs we must have had, but I don’t recall them.The radio I remember vividly because it was given to my dad but it had broken valves and loose wires and wouldn’t work. The Test Cricket was on in England at the time and there were several men, along with my dad, desperately trying to mend the wireless to listen to the cricket broadcast. It was late in the night when suddenly the old thing spluttered to life and across the ocean came the crackling voice of the English commentator “And Australia are 2 for 104”. Well, the roof nearly lifted off our little house as the men cheered and they stayed with ears glued to the distant voice, ‘til the early hours of the morning. Some kerosene was surely burned in the Aladdin lamp that night.

Our Aladdin lamp was a thing of beauty. It had a delicate mantle and a glass chimney and a beautiful pearly glass shade suspended on four arms which came out from the centre. The kero was in a glass bowl on a stand which held up the shade. All care had to be taken when lighting or moving the lamp. My mother cleaned the glass regularly with crumpled newspaper as the smoke from the mantle made the glass sooty very quickly. It was lovely when the lamp was first lit, softly lighting up the room. It was carried very carefully only by my mother or father and when taken from the kitchen to the front room it left long shadows behind us as we walked.

The piano was the grandest thing in our front room. It was to go to Aunty Val but as Mum was married first and was an accomplished pianist we had the piano. And could she play it! We had many happy times singing around the piano and we learned all the old songs, especially when Gran came to stay- ‘In the Gloaming’ and ‘Loves Old Sweet Song’. Mum played for the dances in the Hall and until they got a piano, the men used to carry ours down the steep front steps to the hall. Mum always told us never to have food or drink on the piano as the crumbs encouraged the mice to eat the felt and the glasses marked the top which she kept beautifully polished with equal parts of vinegar and olive oil she kept in a jar.


Sometimes we went to the dances in the Hall and when we got tired or fell asleep Dad carried us home which was just up from the Hall and put us into bed. I can remember waking up one night and standing on the rail of the front verandah, looking back down at the Hall and hearing my mother’s wonderful dance music wafting up towards me. The Hall had big wooden sliding doors on the sides which were pushed wide open and I could see a great path of light shining out from the Hall almost up to our house. I stood on the rail and yelled out “Mum, I want you!” in a great big voice and Clarrie Catchpole, who lived in the single mens’ quarters in front of our house, heard me yelling and went to get Dad. My mother was very upset to think I had woken when they weren’t there. Our parents’ bedroom was on the left side of the house and our best furniture was in there. The suite was oak, with a lovely long oval mirror in the little wardrobe, the dressing table also had an oval mirror with two drawers that had blacky-brass handles which flapped down against the plate that held them. Their bed had four posts and the ends had six oak panels between rails. It was very high.

MARIE VALMA WEEDON Aged 2 years 10 months 15th JUNE 1927 #5

The front room led into the kitchen with our bedroom to the left off the kitchen. How we three children and often Gran Ray, fitted in there was a marvel. We had a frame wardrobe with a cretonne curtain across the front and a pyjama box made from a Watsonia butter box. In those days the pounds of butter were packed into neat small wooden boxes at the Watsonia factory for delivery to the shops. Sometimes the boxes were just chopped up for kindling, but industrious people like my parents made them into furniture. My father had hinged a lid onto our box and my mother had padded the top with an old jumper, upholstered it with cretonne and tacked a frilled skirt around the whole box. It was lovely.

But, underneath the pyjamas, which were dutifully folded each morning and put away in the box, was a piece of newspaper, and underneath the newspaper was ‘the strap’. My mother says now that that was not so. We were such good children we never needed ‘the strap’, but I can tell you I got it several times on the legs for being cheeky and answering her back. “Beth, address me properly” when I had stubbornly answered “No” instead of “No, Mum”. So I answered “No Mrs. W.J. Weedon, Barton’s Mill via Pickering Brook”.

The kitchen was a bit ‘L’ shaped, an ‘L’ on its side. The back verandah had been right across originally but my dad enlarged the kitchen which led into the wash house. The copper was bricked into the corner and what a good smell it was on wash day with the clothes boiling away in the suds from the Signal soap. The pot stick, which my mother used to poke down the clothes and to lift them out onto the draining board, was bleached yellow from the soap and boiling water and was almost ragged from wear. It was used for no other purpose as Mum took great pride on the ‘whites’ being really white as they flapped on the long line strung right across our backyard.

The sheets always went towards the outside ends of the line so that they didn’t flap against the prop in the middle. Great dexterity had to be used when letting the line down to hang small things near the prop so that the sheets didn’t dangle on the ground – disaster if the prop suddenly slipped and all the big things flopped in the dirt. After the washing was over, a full day’s work every Monday for our Mother, she would take buckets of the boiling wash water from the copper, With us kids standing well clear, she would throw the water along the boards on our back verandah. As soon as the water cooled on the wooden floor we would rush to stand and wait at the end of the verandah for Mum to throw the cool rinsing water with great gusto over the boards. We would tuck our dresses up into our pants, letting the lovely water splash up our legs and we would squeal with delight.

The sheets always went towards the outside ends of the line so that they didn’t flap against the prop in the middle. Great dexterity had to be used when letting the line down to hang small things near the prop so that the sheets didn’t dangle on the ground – disaster if the prop suddenly slipped and all the big things flopped in the dirt. After the washing was over, a full day’s work every Monday for our Mother, she would take buckets of the boiling wash water from the copper, With us kids standing well clear, she would throw the water along the boards on our back verandah. As soon as the water cooled on the wooden floor we would rush to stand and wait at the end of the verandah for Mum to throw the cool rinsing water with great gusto over the boards. We would tuck our dresses up into our pants, letting the lovely water splash up our legs and we would squeal with delight.


Outside the wash house door was our rainwater tank. It stood on a sturdy stand made from railway sleepers and next to the Aladdin lamp was the most precious thing we possessed. It was our life-line, as there was no ‘scheme’ water on the Hill even though we were tucked in between Canning Darn and Mundaring Weir. When the tank flowed over in the winter and water gushed out from the overflow pipe sticking out from the side, right at the top, it was a time for rejoicing. But as summer lingered on and Dad tapped the rungs to listen for the high pitch of the empty ones and the dull sound of the lower water-filled rungs, we knew we would have to be extra careful not to waste a single drop. We would tap the tank with our knuckles to listen for the ‘dull’ sound each time we walked past, hoping we would never get down to the last rung.

We had a dresser in the kitchen with all our plates and cups and dishes on it. The doors below had knobs of wood with a nail through the middle on which the knob turned, across to close, down to let it open. Over the Metters stove was a mantel shelf with cannisters which were painted Lactogen tins. My mother made mats the length of the mantel from newspaper with fancy cut-out patterns along the edge. They were beautiful. Later, we had green coloured oil cloth shelf covers but I liked the paper ones better. It was a lovely cosy kitchen and I liked to help my mother keep it tidy. I can recall tidying up when Mum was immobile with a burnt heel and Mrs. Wallis coming with me to check that I had tidied up well. Yes, it was very good, but I had left a shoe under a chair, hidden against the wall, and so blotted my copybook.

My mother had gone from Bartons to Armadale Hospital to have her appendix removed. The hospital was run by Sister Whitehead, a great friend of Gran Ray, and Dr. Streike. As Mum came out of the anaesthetic, Sister Whitehead had asked “How’s your tummy Myrt?” and Mum in great agony, had replied “It’s my foot Sister. What’s happened to it.” Sister Whitehead looked and in great alarm saw that Nurse Hand had put Mum’s feet onto an uncovered hot water bottle and one heel was burn’t completely off, down to the bone. What a terrible convalescence the poor darling had. Gran carne from Armadale to help us and to dress Mum’s ghastly wound, which they had packed with pulverised shell. Heaven knows what for! We all cried each time it had to be dressed, Dad standing at Mum’s head – Mum, Gran and us kids fearful to look at it. She walked on crutches for ages and it eventually healed over, but to this day has a hard drawn up scabby centre to her heel.

In the winter time, in one corner of the backyard, stood a glorious bed of chrysanthemums as tall as we were. They were yellow, white and brown, with huge heads of curled petals. There was also the little white pompom variety, excellent for picking. They were the type the Seventh Day Adventists pinned on our dresses and the mens’ and boys’ shirts, on Mothers’ Day. It has always amazed me that they bloom faithfully at the right time each year.

My father found it difficult to dig in our backyard. Over our left side fence was the school and huge dark green, feathery leafed wattle trees grew in the school yard. Their matted roots infiltrated our yard.

On the right side of us lived the Selkirks, who grew lucerne trees all down their side fence, their roots as bad as those of the wattle trees. Dad asked Mr. Selkirk to cut them down, but mean Mr. Selkirk wouldn’t oblige and I can remember the heated words flying over the back fence. Mr. Selkirk was grumpy. He wore heavy tortoiseshell glasses, smoked a smelly pipe and the smell wafted over our fence. Mrs. Selkirk played tennis in a short white pleated tennis skirt. They had one son, Noel, who at 14 was very mature, though not very tall, but he had a deep voice and should have shaved as he had a dark shadow of fluffy hair over his chin and upper lip, and would have looked much better if he had done so.


In the other back corner of our yard was the lav., or dunny, as the crude boys called it. It was the pan variety and always smelled very highly of phenyl which my mother poured in copious amounts from the bottle that stood on the ledge behind the door. But it was very hard to disguise the smell and I never lingered any longer than was necessary. Strung on string behind the door were neatly cut up pages from the Broadcaster, the radio programme booklet. It always seemed the best news was cut in half and the next piece I pulled off never followed on. The nightman emptied the pans. I never knew where he took the pans to empty them. I thought it was the most terrible job in the world having to dispose of other people’s poo!

The pans had flapped fitted lids which clipped back down when pulled out, so the contents wouldn’t slop over. A clean pan was then put in and that was the only time I was ever game enough to look back into the pan, when it was nice and clean with shiny tar on the inner sides. I was always terrified that the nightman would perhaps come when I was sitting on the wooden seat with the smooth edged hole cut out of the middle.

Sometimes Mum threw ashes in on top of the contents to subdue the smell and flies. All the lavs had little back flap doors which led out into a lane along the back of all the houses and I know Dutchie Oswald used to go along the lanes, opening the little flap doors, hoping to find someone sitting on the ‘throne’. He was a bully. He had reddish hair and scruffy clothes. He bailed Marie and me up one day in the back lane when we were coming back from feeding the chooks. (Our chookyard was outside our back fence across the lane.) We were really scared of him but he was a coward and cried easily when tackled by Noel Selkirk.

Against our fence on the school side was our cubbyhouse which Dad built for Marie and me. It was wonderful, made from boards from the Mill. It had an open doorway on the left, and the right side was of solid boards half-way up, with lattice work up to the roof. It had a real board floor and shelves along the sides.

In one corner the boards were scorched and charred, caused by Billy setting fire to Marie’s cane dolls pram. We played many years of hours in that cubby, along with Nerl and Mrs. Mapmee. They were our make-up friends and went everywhere with us. We had a little china teaset with little mauve flowers on the sides of the cups, with ‘Made in Japan’ printed on the bottoms. Nerl and Mrs. Mapmee always had their cup of tea with us.

WEEDON CHILDREN 1932: MARIE 5 years 3 months, BETHNEY 3 years 3 months, WILLIAM 15 months TAKEN OUTSIDE BACK FENCE AT BARTON"S MILL #12

We dressed up a lot in clothes brought up by Aunty Hil, Mum’s dearest girlfriend from her school days in Mt. Lawley. Aunty Hil was really exciting. She smoked, painted her nails and worked for a specialist ‘on The Terrace’ in Perth and always had lots of goodies for us. She would put our hair up in her rollers to make curls, but as I was always eager to take mine out before it was dry, it was never a success and just straggled down in loose damp spirals.

The dresses she brought were her cast off flimsy evening gowns and we thought we were really something, parading in front of the Chester girls. When we went to Armadale to stay with Aunty Val or Aunty Hope we watched girls learning dancing from Mary Davidson. When we returned to the Mill, we would don Aunty Hil’s gowns and flap around in front of the Chester girls, who lived next door to the Selkirks. We would tell them we had been in Mary Davidson’s Concert when we went for our holiday to Armadale and had worn those same dresses. I would leap up around Marie’s waist, hanging on with my legs crossed over at her back and she would wizzy around, me leaning back so my dress flopped right over my head. Marie would hold her dress out wide. The gullible Chester girls, four of them sitting in a row on the guildford grass carpet, gawked goggle eyed at us and believed that we truly had been the stars of Mary Davidson’s Concert.

Next to the Chesters’ was an empty paddock and then the Gibbs’ house. They had the biggest fig tree I have ever seen in their backyard and everyone on the Mill got figs for jam or just to eat. Under its huge canopy it was very cool and Mrs. Gibbs kept her cooler, her Coolgardie safe there. Under the tree was a heavy sweet smell from the squashed fruit under our feet.

Next to the Gibbs’ house lived Joanie Brown. She, along with Gloria Wallis were my friends. She had black hair and very skinny legs and that’s all I remember of her. Gloria Wallis belonged to Ruth and Dick and she had a brother, John. She was a year younger than me and she was little and frail with a pixie face and freckles across her nose. We played a lot together. They had quite a nice house and out the back they had ‘duck boards’, which really was a platform up to the backdoor, with one inch gaps between to let the water flow through. Mrs. Wallis was very fussy in the house and didn’t like any mud being tramped in, hence the duck boards. Mum and Mrs. Wallis were friends. She wore glasses with fine brown rims and was always critical of things other people did.


The Oswalds lived on the lower road, in front of the Wallises. They had lots of children, including Dutchie and Anna who was about my age. Mrs. Oswald found it hard to make ends meet and Mrs. Wallis was very good to them. She bought material and sewed many items of clothing for the children, including some pyjamas for each one. She apologised for putting old buttons on the jackets but Mrs. Oswald was thrilled with the lovely new things and didn’t worry about the old buttons.

On the far side of the Wallises lived Mr. and Mrs. Wignall. They had no children and were a bit older than my mother and father. On the 15th June each year, on Marie’s birthday, Mrs. Wignall always made her a copha cake. This special treat was fashioned from coffee biscuits set in chocolate, made from icing sugar, copha and cocoa. It was oblong and she would cut it into beautiful slices to show the striped layers of chocolate and biscuit. I can remember Marie proudly carrying it home, with Billy and me tagging along behind, pestering her for a slice, all the way home. Between Mrs. Wignall’s kitchen and front room was a beautiful curtain, made from toffee papers rolled onto string, with a coloured bead between each paper. It hung down in sparkling strings and clattered as we walked through it. Mrs. Wignall’s house was newer than the other houses and built in a different shape. It had a side verandah and entrance and was the last one in the top row of houses, on the road out to Karragullen. We seldom went along that road to Karragullen, only when we went to Armadale.


One of our most exciting Sunday outings was to walk to the Darkan. We found it by walking way past Wignell’s house, along old forestry tracks, through the dense bush and tall jarrah trees. I am sure my father was never quite sure we were on the right track because when we were getting deeper into the forest he would say “Perhaps we won’t be able to find it this time”. And then, out of the dense bush it would appear, great strange upheavals of huge black rocks. Nowhere else did those rocks appear. In the crevises between the boulders bloomed a profusion of pink and white everlastings, thousands of them. We would pick great bunches of them to take home for Mum to tie together and hang upside down on a nail on the back verandah to dry. Maiden-hair fern grew in the cracks and gullies between the rocks. We would run excitedly up and down the dark spewed-up rocks and sit on the warm surface to have our picnic lunch which Mum had prepared for us, sandwiches and little cakes. It was strangely quiet at the Darkan, very secret, a magic place.


Another of our Sunday outings was to walk along the shiny railway track. They never led to anywhere, only around another bend, but we always hoped something would appear. We would walk with one foot on the rail and one foot on the shale between the sleepers. It took two steps to get to the next sleeper which didn’t jar as much as the rough between them. Sometimes, we would take bigger strides and leap onto the next sleeper. We would walk as far as we could, ‘til Mum judged when we had to turn around. We then had the long walk back, which somehow never seemed as far. We never saw any trains on the track as our walks were always on a Sunday and the Mill was closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

The most handsome piece of machinery on the Mill was the steam engine – big, black and green and brassy. Its job was to pull the sawn timber from Bartons to Pickering Brook and bring back the empty rail trucks for re-loading. It was a thing of great beauty, with its many brass pieces polished a gleaming gold, and they shone to dazzling point in the sunlight. It seemed to have many brass bits, chimney stacks, plates on the sides of the cabin, hand rails up one side and down the other, a rail around the boiler, and pipes, knobs, hand wheels, caps, levers, and the whistle on top, all polished to reflect my face like a mirror.

Clarrie Catchpole was the engine’s maintenance man and he took great pride in keeping the engine in splendid glory. He was a skinny little man, who wore a grease stained skull cap which I guess kept the grease and oil from dripping on his head, as he climbed in around the great wheels. He used an oil can with a great long spout and even that was a shiny gold colour. Behind the engine shed there was a great heap of a thousand empty Brasso cans, proof of the polish. Next to the Brasso cans was a big sand pit, built up with sleepers and filled with beautiful fine white beach sand. This was stored in a box in the cabin of the engine and was released onto the railway tracks. The sand helped the wheels grip the shiny smooth rails when the engine was pulling a heavy load of timber up a steep hill, and helped the wheels to brake on the descent.


There were two engine sheds at the Mill. In the second shed was the poor sister, the real work-horse of the Mill. She had no glamorous shining bits, just basic black. This engine went out into the bush, to the forestry camps where the huge logs came from. The railway line was laid out into the deep forest and when that area was cut out, the tracks were taken up and the rails laid out in another direction. The logs were hauled by horse teams to a landing and rolled down onto the railway trucks. Great iron pegs were knocked in between each log and released one at a time, to allow each log to roll down the landing, into the cradle on the long rail trucks. The logs would be secured with great chains before being hauled back to the Mill. The men who worked in the bush camps were wonderful, hardworking pioneers, living a harsh hazardous life away from their wives and families, only coming home at the weekends when the camps were a long way out. Their transport to and from the job was on a kalamazoo, a trolley which ran on the railway tracks. It had a seesawing hand lever in the centre of the platform and moved along the tracks at a remarkable speed.

Harry Catchpole, Clarrrie’s brother, was the driver of the shining engine. One time when we had come back from Perth, up the Gooseberry Hill switchback to Pickering, we sat in the cab all the way from Pickering to Bartons. It was thrilling looking at the roaring fire through the round hole in the furnace when they opened the door to throw in more wood. As we steamed along, the trees flashed by us and as the roofs of the houses came into sight through the trees, Mr. Catchpole•did a ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo’ on the whistle.

He was a nice man, very quiet and I was very sad when his wife died. It was Royal Show time and on a rainy day Mrs. Catchpole took their kids, Mavis and Gordon down to Perth. She got wet and cold and took ill. She developed pneumonia and died. I remember it was terrible for her family and for everyone on the Mill. Theirs was a little house, on the lower side of the railway line, below the yard with its great stacks of timber. Across the front of their house, from one side to the other, was a beautiful rambling rose, smothered in white blooms, hundreds of them. Mavis, who was blonde and very pretty, was allowed to pick them to put in her cubby.

Her cubby really was a beauty. Built of jarrah boards, like just about everything on the Mill, it boasted a fantastic array of things on shelves around the walls. Lots•of old chipped plates and pieces of pretty broken china dishes and real cups with no handles and a teapot with no spout. She was lovely and let us play in there with her dolls and pram. Then, girls of 10, 12, 14 played with dolls.

Behind their house, in a cleared area, we used to draw out rooms on the ground with sticks. Then we would pick armfulls of blackboy needles and lay them thickly along the lines. These were the walls and we would leave doorways into each room and heaven forbid anyone who stepped over the walls into the next room! Mavis told us we couldn’t play if we walked over the walls. We swept each room with a piece of bush and we built up chairs and tables and fireplaces with rocks and made beds out of more blackboy needles. That the cubby had no roof didn’t seem to matter. They were happy days.

Up on the top road before we came to our house, Millars built a little Post Office and shop on a vacant piece of land, in between McCaskills and Mr. Cook’s house. The Post-mistress was Doris Grey, a sweet lady, not very old and always smiling. She had the ‘Penny Tray’ and the ‘Hapenny Tray’ that she would bring out from under the counter, upon request. They were a sight to see. With musk sticks, sherbert bags, licorice sticks, toffee suckers, lolly balls, aniseed balls, humbugs, all neatly arranged in flat trays with a flap down lid. We would take a long time to choose how we would spend our penny, while she waited patiently. On the counter was a brass bell, which we had to bang hard with the top of our hand. Doris lived through the door leading into the back of the shop, behind a floral curtain. She would come as soon as the bell rang. Sometimes Mr. Catchpole came out too. It was good, their being friends, when Mr. Catchpole had no wife to look after him.


While Mrs. Wignall’s house was the last in the row, the first on the top side was the Pommy Whites’ house. There lived Mr. White, Mrs. White, Lily, Reenie and Billy. They were all small and frail. They had the strangest contraption strung from their kitchen ceiling on which Mrs. White hung rows and rows of washing. So, they always seemed to be bobbing in and out of all sorts of wet garments, and the place was always damp and dark.  Lily White was a great friend of Marie’s. She was shy and very quiet and pale. One day she got very sick and died. I never knew how or why.

Next to our house was the School. It was one big room with all grades in together. On to the side of the School, nearest to our house, was a wide platform, built of sleepers, with steps leading up onto it. The entrance was around the other side with rows of coat hangers on the wall at the right side of the porch. Strange, the only thing I can remember of my years there was one day, when Marie told Mrs. Bowman, our teacher, that I could spell ‘Constantinople’. Our Dad was the finest speller in the world and encouraged and taught us to remember long words. Mrs. Bowman told me to stand up and spell it, which I did correctly. I can remember Marie smiling very proudly towards me.  Mrs. Bowman congratulated me and said I was a good example to the older children. I was very proud.

Mrs. Bowman was a lovely teacher, quite old, with faded red-brown hair, worn in a loose bun. She had a little husband who had slicked down, sparse black hair and was very frail looking. I think he must have had an invalid pension because he didn’t work. He used a walking stick and always wore checked orange, brown and black carpet slippers. He kept house. They had a pretty tortoiseshell cat named Cleopatra. When they went on holidays I was given the honoured job of feeding Cleopatra on minced liver and milk. One time, she had kittens while they were away and I proudly looked after her with even more care that time.

Mrs. Bowman, though a real gentlewoman, had plenty of spark. I remember one year when we had the Inter School Sports at Pickering Brook. Noel Selkirk was a strong boy for 14 years and though he wasn’t very tall, he was a good athlete. He had won all of his events and had picked up our team in the relay race to give us the ‘Shield’. At the end of the day, several officials tackled Mrs. Bowman and said she had got Noel out of the Mill for the day. She grabbed Noel’s hands and shoved them up to the officials’ faces and told them if he had been working on the Mill his hands would have been stained with jarrah. They begrudgingly gave her the Shield and we all trooped off proudly behind her, back to the truck to take us home. As we neared the Mill, we set up a chant – “Bartons won the Shield, Bartons won the Shield” – and people came out of their houses to cheer us home.


The 5th November was Bonfire Night and was always an exciting celebration. There was always a huge bonfire stacked up in a clearing past Chesters’ place, started months before, so it was good and dry by the 5th. A big Guy Fawkes was always propped up on the top of the pile and in the light from the great blaze we lit our crackers. Dad always had the crackers ready but hidden away until the great day. He stored them in empty Spalding tennis ball boxes. He was the treasurer of the tennis club and I remember thinking nothing looked as good as 12 new snowy white tennis balls, laying in rows of four, as Dad lifted the flap lid of the box. The wonderful smell of rubber wafted out like no other smell and I breathed in deeply each time the lid was opened. Dad saved the empty boxes to put important things in like photos, private papers and of course, crackers.

There were rows of Tom Thumbs with all their wicks entwined . Ones a bit bigger, about an inch, some about an inch and a half and a few penny bombs. There were Catherine Wheels and sparklers, snakes, Roman Candles and a couple of sky rockets. It was all great fun. Between our house and Selkirks, on the edge of the road, was a great sawn-off gum tree about 4 feet high. Mum and Dad would tack our Catherine Wheels on the side of the stump and we would wait with great anticipation for them to splutter into life, spinning madly around, shooting off sparks like the circular saws in the Mill. The top of the stump was like a big flat table and we would light our snakes on the top and watch as all the strange black stuff foamed out of the end. Next morning was just about as exciting as we searched around for duds and fizoggs and try to make them do something by bending them in the middle and lighting the remaining acrid smelling gunpowder that trickled out. Our hands would smell of crackers for days after.


Out past the lower row of houses, way out along the railway line, was the Recreation Ground, the Rec., a great area hewn out of the forest by the men on the Mill. All the sports were held here, football and cricket mostly. There was no lawn, only gravel. I best remember the cricket, everyone in their white clothes and Marie and me in our blue and white trobalco dresses with cape sleeves, and our floppy sun hats, and Billy with his button on pants.

Every year the Fremantle Cricket Club would come to Bartons for a gala cricket competition. Our father was the Captain of the Bartons’ Club and he was a good batsman. Don Bradman was everyone’s idol. Dad’s Aunty Ada was married to Alex Maru and they belonged to the Fremantle club. Uncle Alex was a bookmaker in Fremantle and Aunty Ada was very nice to us and showed us to all her friends, in their big tent, put up especially for the day. They always had lots of food and oceans of beer in kegs, so a good day was always had by all. The team came up from Fremantle in a Charabang, except for Aunty Ada and Uncle Alex, who came in their car. It was the sporting event of the year and Bartons didn’t disgrace themselves.


All the fences around the sides of the Mill houses were made of wide off cuts of jarrah, some beautiful and straight, with no knots in them.  I can remember my father, on one of the Cricket Club days, going along our fence with Uncle Alex and knocking off several well-seasoned boards with his hammer. Uncle Alex took them home to make into tables, I wonder if he ever did. Next day, Dad replaced them with new red ones from the Mill. We always had one picket missing off the side fence so we could climb through into the school yard. This saved us the walk around. We were always late to school and often the bell would ring as we were scrambling through the fence. I used to marvel at the Babidges who lived six miles away and came to school by horse and cart to arrive always at least an hour before. They were shy children and I sadly recall some kids calling out after them “Babidges sell cabbages, Babidges sell cabbages”, as they pulled away from the school fence, and I felt ashamed.


Another miraculous piece of machinery on the Mill, other than the engines, was Pet French’s car. His real name was Revel but apparently his mother had called him ‘Pet’ and the knickname had stuck. Pet had the only car on the Mill that I remember and he was, I guess, the local taxi service. When we wanted to go to Armadale, he would take us. It was a tourer car, big and square with a fabric hood and running boards down the sides. I often got car sick, so I would sit up front and it was good with the side curtains down and the wind blowing in my face.

Mr. Joins lived in a funny little shack on the way out to the Rec., up a steep path, on the left side of the road. He kept chooks. His shack had walls lined with pasted-on newspapers, turned brown from the smoke of his stove. We used to walk out to his place, Marie and Billy and me, to get eggs that we would carry home in a billy can. I can only recall him as a shuffling old man with grubby dark clothes and a grey flannel shirt. But Marie remembers him unpleasantly as the proverbial ‘dirty old man’.

In the time shortly before we left the Mill, Marie was found, by the School Nurse to have a ‘flutter in the heart’. It was a great worry to my mother and father, who took her to Perth to be examined by Dr. Gordon Hislop, the heart specialist of that period. He diagnosed a ‘patent ductus arteriosis’ and advised them to keep her in bed for 12 months. That seemed almost an impossibility but it was done and her condition improved. I can see her now, bouncing up and down on her bed on the front verandah, trying to see if she could make her beautiful auburn hair touch the roof. My father used to bring her Truffle Snaps as a reward for missing out on all the things she had to. Truffle Snaps were yummy runny caramel encased in lovely milk chocolate. I remember the taste so I must have got one too, or at least a bite of Marie’s.

MARIE, BILLY, MYRTLE, BETHNEY & BILL WEEDON Note: Battle scars on young Billy #26

The day Mr. Sanders came to the Mill was of great importance. He had a drapery shop in Fremantle and twice a year, winter and summer, he would visit all the out-back towns, lugging his bulging cases of goodies. He was a corpulent man with small black rimmed glasses, who perspired profusely and was forever mopping his brow with a big crumpled handkerchief. He would stagger up our front steps; a huge case in each hand and drop them, crash, on the floor in the front room. Then he would proceed to open them – they literally sprang open as soon as he took off the straps – then he would array their contents around the room. Everywhere dresses, shirts, work clothes, sheets, towels, material, singlets, underpants, cotton, lace, elastic; buttons, pins and needles were displayed. You name it, he had it. My mother would stock up on all she could afford. She would kneel on the floor, with us kids milling around, to make her selections.

Packing it all away was a great art. Mr. Sanders would meticulously fold everything so that it would fit back into his cases, then with one knee on the lid keeping it closed, he would attempt to do up the catches and tie the straps. Finally, he would succeed, and after a cold drink he would adjust his braces and hitch up his big black pants, and with his battered brown cases, would stagger down our steps to his next port of call. I wonder if he ever knew what a good job he did and the pleasure he gave to us.


The most beautiful dress I had was one that my mother had made for me, as she did all our clothes. It was pale blue organza, with little white flowers embossed on it. It had a full gathered skirt, puff sleeves, a Peter Pan collar and a big sash that tied at the back. She made it for me to wear when I sang in a concert on the stage in the Hall. Shirley Temple was all the rage at the time and I being of similar age sang her song:

“Evening is nigh

Stars twinkle on high

Purple shadows begin to creep

Close your eyes and start counting sheep

If you’re real good

And pray as you should

Snow white angels

Will watch through the night

For our little girl”

I held a big borrowed doll, whose I don’t know, in my arms and rocked and swayed as I sang. The dress was especially beautiful, made to fit me perfectly not to ‘do me’ for next summer. I was sad when my mother gave it away because it didn’t fit anymore.

The Flanigans were nice people, Margaret and Tinksie were two of the girls. They were very pretty, with brown eyes and black hair. Their father, Mick, was a friend of my father and I remember them talking about cricket and boxing. My father used to shadow box in the corner of a room, darting and diving, side-stepping, back and forward. He always said boys should be able to ‘put up their props’ and look after themselves.Each summer we would go to South Fremantle for two weeks holiday. In those times people in seaside places would let out rooms to families for summer holidays. It was always with great anticipation we awaited our holidays. Several years we stayed with the Goodes’ family in Walker Street and then with the Andersons in Chester Street. My mother always did a wonderful job, encouraging us to be quiet and well behaved while we stayed there. It was no small task looking after us all in one room. Sometimes we would sleep on a front verandah and had to share a kitchen. We always had to wait until 4 o’clock before going for a swim as Marie burned easily and the sun was too hot before then. I remember one year at Mrs. Andersons, Marie lying on the bed with Mum tearfully smearing cool starch water over her scarlet skin which still shone pink through the drying white lotion.

Our father was a strong swimmer and would take us one at a time, on his back, into the deep water. We enjoyed our holidays at South Beach, the Merry-go-Round and the sand castles, but I was always glad to get back to our cosy house, with our own things and we could be together again.

We seldom went to Perth, but I remember the time we all went to do some shopping. Dad took Marie, Billy and me to look around in Boans while Mum went off to shop alone. We were to meet her outside in Murray Street. We were waiting there patiently for her, on the edge of the footpath when suddenly Billy vomited up all the good things Dad had dished out to him and us girls. Dad told us to sit on the curb and Billy continued to be sick in the gutter. Dad was kneeling beside William when he just looked up into the vast sea of legs and bellowed “Myrt” and like an apparition through the seething throng, Mum appeared. She rushed to us and with great love calmy comforted William and proceeded to mop him up with volumes of something from her shopping bag. I think at no other time were we so glad to see our mother.

Sometimes we visited Aunty Hil in Mt. Lawley, where she lived with her old Mum, and sometimes we visited Aunty Molly, Mum’s oldest sister. Aunty Molly kept house for gentlemen and their families. Her home was in North Perth and like Aunty Hil’s was a lovely old place. Both had long passageways down the middle, the like of which we didn’t see at the Mill. Aunty Molly was always beautiful to look at, with fine smooth skin and bright lipstick. She usually wore a glorious wide brimmed hat if she came to meet us in Perth. She was always so very happy to see us and would envelop my mother in her arms.


My most frequent trips away were to Aunty Val’s in Armadale. I would suffer badly with homesickness even though Aunty Val was very much like Mum and Gran Ray was often there. Despite this I was happy there and always had a good time. Gran Ray went backwards and forwards to Uncle Jack’s and Uncle Harry’s farms, when she was most needed, during seeding, harvesting and shearing. She would also go to other branches of her family when a baby was due or sickness was about. She was an angel in disguise and we all loved her dearly. When the household tasks were done, she would sit with her crochet hook and out of her apron pocket would come another medallion, there always seemed to be one in there, and she would do a few more rounds on it. Evenly and slowly the hook would weave in and out, in and out. She achieved amazing results with that hook and worked many beautiful doylies, jabots, lace collars, table cloths, edges, mats, runners and altar cloths. Everyone in the family received something she had made.

The worst holiday I can remember was when I went with Gloria Wallis and her mother to stay at Mrs. Wallis’s mother’s place in Buckland Hill. Her name was Mrs. Shanahan. The trauma began when I found I had not bought my pyjamas with me. Mrs. Wallis said “Well you’ll just have to sleep in your pants” – how shocking – I have never slept in my pants! I was relieved that I had been promoted to elastic instead of my old button-onto-the-bodice bloomers. Elastic was thought to stop your growth, or circulation or digestion, or something. Anyway, after that I got homesick and wanted my mother. How I stuck it out those couple of days I’ll never know. I was O.K. during the day but as evening shadows began to fall, so descended my dreaded disease.

My mother and father were good tennis players and they played regularly on the courts next to the Hall. But, the most amazing tennis player on the Mill was John McCaskill. John was a young man who unfortunately had a hare lip and cleft palate, a crooked arm and one leg much shorter than the other. But could he play tennis! He would hold the ball in the crook of his bent elbow, tight against his body, and with good hand would raise his racket high and smash down a serve as good as any I’d seen. Then he would run, hobbled fashion, across the court rarely missing a ball. He would call out the score ‘Horty, Hurty’ for all to hear. I always felt he didn’t regard himself as being different. He was always friendly and outspoken and was well accepted. In later years I met him again, singing in a concert party that was from Rockingham, that had come to the hospital where I was working. He was as eager as ever and very glad to see me. He asked after Marie and Bill, and Mum and Dad, and said he would always remember us. He died shortly after that. I feel he was indeed fortunate to have started his life at Barton’s Mill.


There was no church on the Mill but every Sunday the Seventh Day Adventists would come from Carmel College and we would have Sunday School in the Hall. Everyone went, except the Catholics. We went to their College one year, to their annual rally, somewhere near Forrestfield I think. They had put up a huge marquee and we filed past a large sheet held out by four men, singing:

“Dropping dropping

Dropping dropping

Hear the pennies fall

Everyone for Jesus

He will get them all”

I never could work out how that could happen. The ladies prepared hundreds of lunches and they had plates laid out on camp stretchers in the tents. One lady followed the other, each placing a different salad on each plate with a big slice of buttered bread on top. We had only gone for the day but they must have camped there for several days. I still sing one of their songs:

“Pretty little pansy

Velvety and brown

On each tiny blossom

God is looking down

In its own sweet language

Saying unto me

Would you not be cheerful

And as helpful be”


Back Row:


Middle Row:

8. Mrs WIGHT?
10. Mr. WIGHT?

Front Row:





Back Row:

10. Mr. BUSHBY Sunday School Teacher

Middle Row:


Front Row:

1. Mrs. BERRY
7. Sunday School Teacher from Carmel




If we walked out our back gate, along Selkirks and Chesters back fence on the right, our chook-house and the dense forest on the left, we came to the stables. The horses belonged, I think, to Joe Brown, Joanie’s father. It always smelled good up there. Whether it was the chaff or hay or the manure I’m not too sure. We often wandered up there, hold William’s hand so he wouldn’t walk under the rails, made from long slender trees with the bark stripped off, and be trampled on. One big brown fellow was named Jarrah Jack. I don’t know if he ever won a race or saw a race course. But it was an exciting place to visit

Sometimes we walked down to the ‘yard’ with our father, up and down, in and out, between the great stacks of sawn timber, towering high over our heads on both sides. The rows appeared to narrow in the distance to form a little oblong window of sunlight at the end of each stack. Dad was always very proud of the sawn jarrah boards, lying in many different lengths and thicknesses and would slap his hand on them as we walked past. We always read the little slips of paper tucked into the end of each stack, with Dad’s tally numbers written in his distinctive style. There were many other families on the Mill but I remember only fleeting things about them. The lush passionfruit vines along the side of Scaborios’s, Woods’ and McCaskills’ houses. We had a poor one that was on the shady side of the house and never had much fruit on it.

The Woods had a grown up family, Dulcie and Norm, so I never went to their house.

Mrs. Berry lived well below the Mill, past a swamp where white Arum lilies grew. She was happy and plump and had a happy, plump boy named Alan.

‘Big’ Mrs. Wight in contrast to thin Mrs. Pommy White was always friendly and lived on the lower road, up near the Woods and Oswalds. ‘ Big ‘ Mrs. Wight had two boys, Ralph and Walter and a little girl named Beryl. At the end of the lower road, past the Oswalds, was a newer house with a young married couple who had a baby. They planted the whole of their backyard with clarkia and larkspurs and it was a wonderful sea of pink, cerise, mauve and purple.

Many times I think about my happy early childhood days at Bartons and often wonder if the roses are still blooming in Mrs. Thompson’s garden.

References Article: Bethney Pilling
Marie Smith

Images: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 31, 32, 37, 38 Bethney Pilling
21, 22, 36, 40, 41, 42 Irene Jenkins
28, 30, 34, 35, 39 Alan Berry
19 , 33, 40, 43 Pickering Brook Heritage Group

ASHES OF ROSES by Marie Smith

My Mum looked the prettiest that first Mother’s Day
In 1935, when she and the other mill mothers
stood before the Sabbath School congregation,
while one of the Adventist baritones
sang Mother McCree.
They had loaded the top of the black Beale piano
with vases of curly, white chryssies,
pinned small daisy ones on everyone,
even self-conscious fathers.
I wished that Mum had lipstick to wear
like Mrs. Wallis and the Roads girls from Pickering.

Next Mother’s Day we asked Dad
If we could buy her a present.
Dad said, “Well….” he’d seen what Mrs Berry had.
To call Mrs. Berry’s one room,
stocked mostly with bath soap and hankies, a shop
was stretching it, but since last year
she had put in a few special things.

The day before Mother’s Day,
the three of us waited at the front gate
until Dad got home from Scoborio’s
where he’d bet his allotted two and six
on his favorite from Belmont Park.
Mum never said anything in front of us
but we knew she disapproved of Dad’s gambling.
We didn’t look back at the house.
Mum might want to know where we were going.
We passed the single men’s huts,
crossed the loco rails, walked through the skids
that held freshly cut timber.

Mrs. Berry was a large woman, friendly.
She suggested soap, handkerchiefs and some
awful wooden brooches, that looked home made
with donkey orchids painted on them.
Then I saw it.
A green box, ‘Ashes of Roses’ printed
across one corner. In gold.
I poked Dad and pointed.
He asked to see it.
My heart felt like a honky nut scattering it’s seeds
when Mrs. Berry told him the price — five and six.
She lifted the lid. We looked at the bar of soap,
wrapped in green paper with dusty pink roses on it.
The face powder was in a green box with the same roses
and the cream in a pale green glass jar.
A loop of elastic anchored a tiny green case
that sheathed bright red lipstick.

I could hear Mrs. Berry raspy breathing, my heart beating,
while Dad decided.
“Everything smells like Ashes of Roses,” Mrs. Berry said.
That seemed to clinch the sale.
She wrapped it in brown paper,
tied it with string that fell from a spool
attached to the ceiling.

Dad let me carry it home.
No one said anything about the cost,
but we knew the favorite must have won
and wondered if he would tell Mum.


Dutchy was the middle child of seven
in the Oswald family. No one
ever called him Harry
except the school teacher and his Mum.
Tall for his age, his lank hair
fell across his face from the left side part.
It was sandy red like his English mother’s,
his face sunburnt, freckled,
his teeth large and prominent. He was
already one of the ‘big boys’ in Barton’s
one room school when I started,
swelled the enrollment to thirty two.
I’d run from my home next door
each morning, red curls flying, to stand
last on the girl’s line because I was the
youngest in the school. I hated
the accorded privilege of ‘ladies first’.
We were expected to march into school,
knees and chins up. There was no music,
the only cadence, ‘LEFT, right, LEFT, right’
from the teacher standing on the lower
of the four steps leading into
the open walled coat room.

Dutchy always marched with his knees
just high enough to hit my buttocks.
If I turned around, he’d pull my long
ribboned curls with each swing of his arms.
I would hope that ‘mark time’ was never called,
then he’d really take delight in knee pounding.
Few kids liked Dutchy.
He was different and a bully.
No one else on the mill had a Dutchman
for a father either.
I was different too.
I had deep red hair.
I didn’t fit in either.
Grown-ups always admired my red top
but children constantly tormented.
Carrots, blood nut, ginger, blue
followed me all my life,
but childhood taunts scarred.
Dutchy had only one redeeming feature
as far as I was concerned.
He was loyal to his family,
defending his younger brothers and sister
like a cornered ‘roo.
Cornelius was Dutchy’s younger brother.
We was called Connie.
A slight child with his father’s coloring,
his mother’s frightened, pinched look,
he never seemed able to please the teacher.

Rain slashed at windows,
school yard white gums
the day she chose to discipline Connie.
Her florid face, the result of too many years
teaching in the tropics, became purple
with anger as she called Connie to the space
in front of her table reserved for punishments,
took the dreaded cane in her veined hand.
Little kids screamed
as Dutchy rose like some Phoenix
at the back of the room,
sprang at the teacher, wrenching
the cane through her closed fingers.
“Leave my brother alone,” he yelled.
Connie cowered, his sister, Anna cried.
Shock quieted the rest of us.
Dutchy and Mrs. Bowman yelled at each other.
He went to the door, threw the cane so hard
it bounced off our fence into the skippy puddle.
He took Connie by the hand, headed for the mill.
The room had never been so quiet.
My head was down, third grade words burned
into each other, breath came in careful takes.

Five minutes, Dutchy’s father pounded
up the coat room steps.
I could see out the back door.
Dutchy was up by the boy’s dunny,
standing out of the rain under the blue wattle,
holding Connie’s hand.
Mrs. Bowman hurried along the room’s north wall
past the thermometer and the worn set
of encyclopedia, into the coat room.
They stepped out onto the playground.
We crowded the single south window, the back door.
“‘ope ‘e ‘its ‘er one,” Vincent Sala Tenna mumbled.
All the boys agreed. The girls looked in horror
at one another.
Mrs. Bowman dominated her charges,
ruled her school with an iron hand.
Big Dutchy Oswald restrained himself,
Just yelled. Mrs. Bowman yelled back.
Finally only Big Dutchy was yelling.
He left abruptly, Mrs. Bowman picked up the cane,
came in through the coat room door.
Dutchy and Connie used the back,
took their seats.
No one said anything.

Someone broke into the school that night,
hid the cane in the tiny space between
the big kids’ blackboard and the wall.
No one actually said it was Dutchy, but
we knew. No one gave the hiding place away.
It was weeks before a new cane appeared.
Connie and Dutchy never got the ‘cuts’ again.

I was glad when Dutchy was old enough
to work at the mill. His family was the first
to leave when the mill closed.
Five years passed
before I heard of him again.
I’d read the “Missing, Killed in Action, P.O.W.”
lists every day. Dad’s youngest brother
was in the Army.
I would hope never to see his name, but I’d look anyway.

It was raining the day I found Dutchy’s name.
Prisoner of War.
It was better to be killed in action
than be a Jap prisoner.
I have never been able to get
the picture out of my mind
of Dutchy dying on the Burma Road.

Why do I cry?

E. R. SANDERS by Marie Smith

His arrival on the Mill
heralded a whole day of excitement.
A huge man, I often wondered
how he ever fitted into his blue, Model T
loaded as it was inside,
and out on the running board, with suitcases,
its izing glass side curtains
always snapped shut.

There were no shops on the Mill.
Ed was an enterprising merchant, a clothier.
His bi-annual personal visits
to every Mill home were real occasions.
When it was our turn,
he made trip after trip up our front steps
until our front room floor
was packed with the brown suitcases,
reinforced with heavy straps, silver buckles.

Ed could have set up shop in the Mill hall
but he chose to visit each home separately.
Dad said he knew what he was doing.
That way he sold something to every woman on the mill.
Personal attention paid off.

I never thought Ed’s high waisted black pants
that seemed to fit so neatly over his huge belly
needed braces to stay up,
but he always wore them,
heavy with leather straps looped through
the elastic, long slits cut for the buttons on the
inside of the pants’ waistline.
Ed’s round, horn-rimmed glasses pressed
into his podgy cheeks.
By the time he had deposited all his goods
he was puffing and sweating,
whether the visit was summer or winter.
he’d rest in the cane chair by the door,
take off his glasses, mop his face.
Then clean his glasses with a fresh white hanky,
while we could hardly contain ourselves.
I wondered how many hankies he brought with him.
I never saw a soiled one.

Sometimes he let us unbuckle the straps
but he was always the one to snap open the locks.
He did it with a flourish,
like he was totally responsible for the delicious smells
of newness that drifted out.
Woolens, Irish linens, cotton towels,
the unbleached muslin sheets ——
which were the kind Mum always bought
because they lasted long.
It took dozens of washings, sunny dryings on the line
before they lost their scratchiness.

Ed would throw back the lids,
take out each piece of clothing or linen,
lay it out for Mum’s inspection.
We knew better than to ask for anything.
The longing, wishing and sniffing
the newness, was enough.
He never waited to be invited to unpack.
He unpacked everything, his legs at right angles,
leaning over his huge belly, breathing heavily with each bend.
We thought it was a waste of time to unpack.
Mum never bough much,
but he’d try to tempt her with items like
silky Celanese nightgowns.
She never succumbed
but I can remember her finger lingering
as she chose the unbleached sheets, practical cardigans and jumpers for us,
grey melange pants for Billie.
He’d try to tempt her every time by offering credit.
But Dad was strict.
No money, no goods.
Envy of others’ credit raised its head sometimes.
Dad remained firm.

The packing up was almost as exciting
as the unpacking.
Every piece had its own place,
its special order.
He’d let all three of us sit on each case
so he could snap the locks, buckle the straps.
We wished that we could go with him next door
to Selkirk’s, follow him to each greyed, weathered home.
But we respected every woman’s right
to have her hour with Ed.

GUGGA WALLIS by Marie Smith

Gugga wasn’t his real name.
I think it was short for grandfather,
but it was all I ever called him.
They took him to the Sanitorium when
I was ten, just after
he’d bought me another birthday book,
“Tales of the Arabian Nights” with
Aladdin and the Open Sesame Cave on the
front cover in full colour.
Ever since he found my birthday
was the same date as his departed wife’s,
he had brought me a book on that day.
He’d smile and I’d hug him.
“It’s like she’s still with me,” he said
one day to my Mum, a faraway look
in his pocketed blue eyes.

Gugga lived in one of the huts
for single men below our house,
the one near the big red gum
we played under each day.
I often wondered why he didn’t live
with his son’s family,
but I knew the young Mrs. Wallis.
I’d be happier living alone too.
Anyway, now he’d gone to Woorooloo
where the T. B. Sani was.
I knew he didn’t have it, T. B. I mean.
He’d be home in a few days.
But next year’s book came in the mail.
He had signed the fly cover, “Love, Gugga”.

Dad went to see him once.
He talked to Mum after they thought
I was asleep on the pashy vine end
of the verandah.
‘You’d never know him. So thin.
Shaved his beard. He’s thin, Myrt, so thin.”
Mum cleared her throat. “How long?”
I waited. Dad said nothing.
I could hear the shrug of his shoulders,
knew he ran his fingers through his crisp, black
hair. He always did that
when he didn’t know what to say.

No one talked about Gugga.
Days when I missed him most
I’d open one of his books
just to see his name in his own handwriting.
I could see him at night in the shadow
of the new occupant of the hut
when the kero lamp was lit.
Oh, I wish I had spent more time
visiting when he sat on his step at night
and smoked his old, rosewood pipe.
Most nights, though, Louis Zola would bring
his homemade wine. I’d listen
to their laughter on the summer air.
Mum said I couldn’t go as long as Louis
was there. He would always stay too late.

I think Gugga’s son visited him, but not often.
It was a long way to Perth
and then to Woorooloo.
They said altitude and fresh air
was the only cure.
But everyone knew there wasn’t one.
No one ever came home from the Sani.

Then I heard he’d been transferred
to the OLd Soldiers home in Victoria Park.
But they were right,
no one ever came home from the Sani.


Jimmy McGee’s mother’s grey hair was bobbed,
always a little greasy looking.
We never called her anything but Gee.
In a culture which demanded respect
to elders, addressing them Mr. or Mrs.,
it was strange. Parents never objected,
Gee accepted.

Her shoulders humped over her tiny frame
like she had looked down too long.
She wore bright, cotton dresses,
never without an apron
which she would throw over her head
in Summer and when it rained in winter.
She was missing several front teeth, her skin was a yellow brown.

Sometimes she went barefoot.
when she told us the long stories
of characters with unpronounceable names,
she’d curl her toes around
the yellowed gravel stones,
toss them one way, then the other.

Gee had a talent besides her story telling.
She played the accordion.
Not the large kind with the piano keys,
it wasn’t a concertina either, somewhere between.
She played it for kids to sing to after school,
when she sat outside her hut in the evenings
and for the dances in the old Mill hall.
Polkas, mazurkas, schoteze. She’d sit
on the edge of a stool, perch the worn instrument
on her knees. When the pace got her,
she’d play Straus waltzes and the mill hands
would twirl their ladies
across the candlewaxed, sawdusted floor.

When my mother couldn’t play for funerals
Gee played for them too. Her accordioned
hymns sounded like funeral songs should sound.
I would marvel at all the different sounds
she coaxed from that little box
with her long, bony fingers.

The mill closed for good in ‘thirty nine.
Gee came to see us off. She and Jimmy
were the last ones left. I wondered if they
would move into one of the houses now.
Our few belongings crowded the yellow truck,
gave space for us to sit. Jimmy stood tall
and straight, not saying anything.
I blinked tears, felt my belly ache.
Mr. Hill ground gears, backed the shiny truck.
“Gee, Gee!”
She threw her apron across her face,
buried it.
The apron dropped, a toothless smile.
She returned our waves until the bush hid them.

When I was grown I read an aborigine
Legend. Tumbled memories, Gee,
“Dad, was Gee an abo?”
“Yes, love, she was.”
An abo. Funny, I thought, I never knew.


Inches deep in cinders, black as his hair
but not as oily, Louie’s was a place
of miracles. Horseshoes to mill repair,
he worked metal, welcomed kids, let us grace
his shop, hand him tongs, swing from bellows, stare
excited as coals sparked, glowed red in space
of seconds. Pounding white-hot metal care-
fully, his hammer bounced to make
his anvil sing five or six clear belled notes.
Hot tonged metal hissed in the pail like snakes
I’d seen Dad chase once. Louie let us tote
the nail box, hand nails to shoe Herbie Jacques
Shires. In a bush town that found it hard to praise
foreigners, Louie never ceased to amaze.


Lucy was my father’s aunt,
eighty four when I sent my first letter.
I never saw a picture of her, nor heard her
speak, only knew her through sparse
writings on cramped, blue postal air letters.

War raged, buzz bombs terrorized Britons
and we sent food parcels
of tea and fruit, chocolate, biscuits
and rich, dark fruit cake.
Some parcels and letters from both of us
never reached their destinations. Twelve
thousand miles separated us.
U Boats, Lutwaffe patrols claiming shipping,
planes, but through those that made it
we learned to know, then to love one another.

In her bold, round hand
she opened her heart and I learned to
cherish and long to visit the isles
of my forefathers. Things she dared not
speak of to others, she spoke to me.

Though seventy years separated our births,
we found a mutual level.
I answered every crammed page,
saved my penny tram fares
to buy the sixpenny form from the Post Office.
Did she save to buy the ones
she filled and sent me?

She lived with her only son,
missed her beloved Jim, ached
to join him, yet prayed for safety each day
from the German bombs
that pounded her tiny isle.

In June the letters stopped.
A friend, Hilda Mitchell, wrote,
said Lucy couldn’t write anymore. A stroke.
My child heart ached, tried to bury
its hurt, writing scrawly letter still, never
knowing if they ever read them to her.

Another June. Hilda wrote again.
This letter contained a picture of herself
and her Corgi and the news that
Lucy died the last week in May.

MAGGIES by Marie Smith

Campbell’s Scotty could chatter like a cocky.
I wonder why all magpies didn’t talk.
I’d watch flocks of them land on our picket fence,
talk to them from the front verandah,
but they would only careen to
the school yard wattles
or the Lucerne tree in Selkirk’s yard
as if some silly little willy-wag-tail
was after them. Dad said they tried to rob the willy’s nests,
but I knew they were brunt of the willy’s jealousy because the
willys could never grow their black and white
bodies as large as the magpies grew theirs.

Noel Selkirk lived next door.
His voice was changing,
his legs looked out of place in short pants.
His face had changed too,
With long soft hairs on it
that moved in a breeze.
I wondered if I blew on them
if I could move them, too.
Noel was fourteen, I was eight.
He knew all about the bush, birds
and where to find bardee grubs
that we cooked on rusty tops
of kero tins on fires in our chook yard.

And it was Noel who told us
how to make a maggie talk.
He said he saw Mr. Campbell slit Scotty’s
tongue so he could talk.
We all felt like vomiting.
Jeannie Chester did.
We told him we didn’t believe Mr. Campbell
would do such a thing, that Annie Campbell
would NEVER let him do it.

“Don’t believe me, then.”

Noel was hurt to think we doubted him
after we’d eaten the grubs he’s cooked
and hadn’t vomited like we thought we would.

The Chester girls and I found Dad
digging Mum’s tomato bed.

“Make a maggie talk? Talk to him.”

Dad spaded the gravelly bed.

“First though, you have to catch him,
a real young one. Need a piece of meat
on a string.
Clip his wing feathers.”

We were feeling much better.

“Then you need a real sharp knife.”

MISTER CATCHY by Marie Smith

Clarrie Catchpole’s brother Harry,
drove the two mill locos.
Sometimes Clarrie fired them
with the red jarrah slabs,
others he left it up to Mick Kelly —-
the single, good looking, curly haired
Irishman most husbands wished had never
come there to work — and spent his time
servicing the stationary engine.

Of course, we never called Harry
by his christian name,
it was always ‘Mr. Catchy’.
He was proud of his locos.
In between trips to the falling landing
in the bush for the big jarrah logs,
taking milled timber into Pickering Brook
to meet the smelly coal train from Perth,
he would spend his time shining all the brass work in the cabs.
There was a four foot pile of empty Brasso cans
outside the engine shed.
Every valve had a handle to clean,
all gauges a bras collar,
the rungs on Mr. Catchy’s stool,
The fireman’s seat were brass,
even the big handle on the fire box.

Sometimes he’d let us climb into the cab,
give us a rag, our own can of Brasso,
assign a job.
It was always exciting to see
the rag get black,
the Brasso dry to a powder film.
We always used a fresh rag to polish.
“Be careful, no fingerprints,” he’d say.
Mr. Catchy always cleaned the numbers
on the left side of the loco himself.
I always thought it was pretty silly
to number the engines, as if one needed
a number to tell them apart. Twenty six
had so much more brass, and it had a red enamel plaque on the side where they
had put the brass numbers.

The Mill inspector came twice a year.
One visit Mr. Catchy asked us to help
polish Twenty Six. We couldn’t clean
the numbers, though. He did that.
It was too high for us to reach
from the engines steps, anyway.
When inspection time rolled around,
Mr. Catchy lined up the three of us
beneath the number. The inspector
marched in front of us
like some General inspecting his troops.
We quivered.
Sternly he snapped,
“Are you the Brass Polishers?”
We nodded. Mr. Catchy grinned from the cab.
“Hand inspection,” he commanded.
We held out our grimy hands.
“Good,” he said, “the dirtier the better.”
He never did dismiss us.
We stood, a timid group, until he left.
Mr. Catchy swung down
the ladder-like engine steps.
“Said he’d never seen brass shine
like old Twenty Six.” He rubbed Billie’s head.

We never told anyone what the inspector said.
Mr. Catchy’s pride was reward enough.


Mr. Bailey was an itinerant preacher.
We had no church, resident priest
or minister on the Mill. Mr. Bailey
professed no affiliations, packed a worn
red morocco Bible, he preached in the Mill hall.

He always stayed at our house.
Mum would wash, starch his only suit,
a white cotton duck. He’d wear
Dad’s work clothes while his were laundered.
His suit jacket sleeves were too short
to accommodate thin arms. Boney wrists, long hairy hands dangled from the sharp hem.
Though he had a white panama hat,
his face was always red, sunburnt from
long walks through the bush.
He wasn’t young like Mick Kelly or Herbie Jacques,
old like Gugga, somewhere between.
His brown hair was very straight, parted
in the middle. I think he used some of Mum’s boiled rice starch
left over from the suit, to keep it
in place while he preached.

He didn’t look like he was in the
same profession as the other visiting
priest and ministers.
I never saw the Catholic priest up close.
Flanagans and Woods’s were the only Catholics,
but I knew Reverend Cramp, the Presbyterian.
He always wore suits, black, well tailored
and cleric’s collar. I thought his name
Suited him. His face had that kind of look.
Reverend Halley, who christened me
at St. John’s Anglican, was handsome,
well fed, wore fancy, coloured vestments
at his services. He didn’t visit very often.
His life’s goal was to have twelve sons
he could name after the Apostles.
Only namesakes he ever had
were Peter and John.

Dad was a bit skeptical of Mr. Bailey.
Something St. Paul said
about filthy lucre. I thought
that was a bit unfair.
The reverends got paid too.
Anyway WE like Mr. Bailey
even though he had a speech impediment.
It made preaching hard for him, harder for his listeners.
He would preface each sermon
with the greatness of Moses, ten throw
in a bit about Moses’ speech problem,
tell how he wished he had an Aaron
like Moses. By that time, his congregation
would not dare have left.
My sister and I thought maybe his teeth
caused the problem. They were huge,
yellow. He couldn’t close his lips
without a lot of effort.
When he told us Bible stories
in the daytime on the front verandah,
what kept our attention more than
anything were his teeth. He would moisten
them with his tongue every few words,
run it up under his top lip, then across
his teeth again.

There was never too much
in the collection plate my father passed
around for him during the singing of the last hymn,
not when people like the Fergies instructed
their kids to bring home the change
from a shilling. Billie would leave
a penny for each kid, take home sevenpence.
I would think as Dad counted
the shallow layer of coins after the service,
no wonder Mr. Bailey only had one suit.

THE BOTTLE'O by Marie Smith

He came hot thirties’ summers,
a wobbly wheeled cart,
old skinny horse he urged
us to stay away from.
He’d loop a hessian nose bag of oats
while we bargained
for best prices on beer bottles.
He’d stand in the cart,
a small, grimy man
his ancient cap held in place
with safety pins,
bargained with kids from his kingly perch.
He’s only pay
if he couldn’t trade cheap Japanese trinkets.

Dad didn’t spend much
on Swan Lager, Emu Bitter.
There were few empties to sell,
most we found were chipped or smelly.
The Bottle’o whose name we never knew,
had certain criteria
when it came to accepting beer bottles.
He’d run a dirty thumb around the top
for chips, pass the bottle
beneath a bulbous nose, sniff for kero.
No matter how hard we tried
we were never able to conceal a chip, wash out the kero smell.

We’d hand up chipped ones
bottom first, keep our hands
around the chipped top as long as possible.
He’d smile a sideways smile.
Bethie would argue over a returned one,
pass it beneath her nose
challenge with blue, black fringed eyes,
a tossed, blonde, Dutch Boy bob,
declare she couldn’t smell a drop.
Her challenge unaccepted,
we’s turn for home, penniless,
wishing guiltily, that our Dad drank heavily.

THE DARKEN by Marie Smith

The Darken was a place best remembered
by children. Magic, bush buried,
No road let there. How did Dad know
just where to turn off the railway tracks?
I thought once it was at the purple hovea bushes,
another the splashes of blue leschenaultia clumps.
I was never sure.
We didn’t go there often,
only seldom Sunday afternoons in Septembers.

God tossed or Devil thrusted blue granite rocks
high enough to metamorphisize child to king,
hollow when small feet stamped,
to conjure dreams of underground worlds.
A brook eight year legs could clear,
red gum leaves so huge
one could twirl them into party cups,
fill with brook’s elixir.
Slopes pink with everlastings,
papered petals daisied
around soft, yellow puffs,
fanned out above the stream
like some jagged edged flower.

Our visits over too soon, we’d pick
everlastings until hands could circle no more.
We never wanted to leave.
Backward glances blotted out by new Jarrah stands.
The white of dog rose bushes, we’d
hold the flowers closely,
some lost as pickers jumped
from sleeper, teetered on rails.

We’d cram all we could
into the white teapot, circling Japanese ladies in red,
the spout broken, turn it to the wall
on the mantelpiece in the front room,
tie the rest in bundles,
hang them from the rain water stained
back verandah rafters till next spring,
bright reminders of fantasies.

Years into motherhood I mentioned the magic to my father.
“The Darken?” he seemed surprised.
“Wasn’t much of a place, love,
just a clearin’ in the bush.”

THE HA'PENNY BOX by Marie Smith

After Mr. Cook died, his wife gave up
being the post mistress. Mill bosses built
a one room place for the new post office,
living quarters separated by a brown, cotton
curtain. Doris Gray, one of the Hewison girls
from Pickering Brook, became our new post mistress.

Her blonde, golden colored hair, so curly
it made her bob inches deep on the bottom,
was the envy of all the girls.
First to get the mail, really get a good look
at her, were rewarded by a marvelous find —–
the ha’penny box.
It sat on the counter, low enough for kids
to scrutinize its contents, one of a kind lollies,
some wrapped, others their colors
tempting rainbows of sweetness.

No-one minded going to pick up mail anymore.
Even if we didn’t have a ha’penny to spend,
We’d go through the box,
plan what we would buy next time we had one.
When a new box was opened,
we did our best to scrounge a copper or two.

When I was seven and Mrs. Gray had disappeared through the brown curtain to get Mum’s parcel
I was waiting to collect, I sorted through the box,
without any intention or means of buying.
Temptation got the better of me.
I palmed two small lollies.
I was about to put them back when Doris parted
the curtains. She’d know I had thought of stealing them
if I returned them now.
My face crimson, I took Mum’s parcel from her, left.

I hurried home, delivered the parcel,
didn’t even wait to see what it held.
I had to hide the lollies from Bethie.
I thought of dropping them in the dunny
The next time I went, of digging a hole
in Mum’s chryssies, burying them.
But I made the mistake of licking on one.
I waited, ate them that night
after Mum thought I was asleep.
For a moment, sweetness clouded guilt.
When I was grown, I wrote a letter,
enclosed a shilling, then found she had died.
I wonder —- did she know?
Did she let a lollie starved child
get away with theft?

THE LAST TIME by Marie Smith

The April day they left the small bush town
she played last moments in the cubby house
her Dad has built; sturdy, not to be blown
by roaring westerlies, nor arouse
concerning when drenching winter rains crashed down.

He’d sheltered it beneath blue wattle shade,
Honeysuckled lattice front, lapped wood roof,
it held imaginations, dreams delayed
’til grown up, but played out by aloof
adult characters, only she had made.
Old smoked paintings, cracked cups, legless chairs sprayed
green with surplus kitchen paint, nothing new.

Her mother called. She turned for one last view.
All she could bear to glimpse was wattle’s blue.


This is the first time I have seen her
since we left the mill. I am grown,
traveling. She is seated across from me.
I cast sidelong glances at the florid face.
Hatted wisps of grey hair etched her cheek.
Will she remember me? Shall I speak?
Her presence still produces a clutching fear
and I think of the time she wrote ‘cheat’
across my arithmetic paper
when the acronym was not deserved.

Dad would say, ‘now, don’t put down
the carry forwards —– try and carry them
in your head’, and he would tap his high forehead. Dad was good at sums.
That’s how he transferred
from the picket bench over to the mill office.
Bookkeeping was his first love, but a man
had to take what he could get in the
depression days of the twenty’s and into the
thirty’s. I followed Dad’s advice.
Proudly took my pad to her table for red marking.

I never knew whether they were right,
though I presumed because with angry hand
she wrote ‘cheat’ in two inch penciled letters
across the page, closed the pad and handed
it back to me. She gave no chance for me
to explain how Dad had helped at home.

My pad remained in the slot on top of my desk
for several weeks. One day while I stayed after
to complete a job, she cleared her throat,
shifted her weight in her wobbly chair
and said quietly, “Bring me your numbers’ pad.”
My belly knotted like it always did
whenever she conversed with me at all.
I took my pad, slid down the long pine bench
with twenty years of old initials carved
in top and seat and walked four agonizing
steps to her right hand. She riffled through
bottoms of page, ran them under her thumb, until she came to the offending page,
tore it out, handed the pad to me.
“Now you can take it home.” she said. I wanted
to tell her, “Miss, I did not cheat.”
I wanted to tell her how my Dad had helped
me work, but my tongue stuck in my mouth.
I turned without a word,
drabbed my work and left.

Ten minutes from my destination,
her seat companion alights. As the bus lurches
I rise, slip into the vacant seat.
I feel my belly grab again, contract.
“Mrs. Bowman?” Oh, how old she looks.
Her hands, once so strong that wielded cane
to palms for punishment, are wrinkled,
veined, their fingers misshapen. Her shoulders
slump below mine. Was she ever as small as this?
She hesitates a moment, her forehead drawn.
Then her faded blue eyes lose their tired look.
“Why, Marie,” she says, “dear, Marie Weedon.”
I find it hard to think that I am ‘dear’,
or do I represent those stronger days
she yearns to live again with her Wil?
All through her short reminiscencing
I try to tell her, “Miss, I didn’t cheat.”
All that embarrassment I have carried
for fifteen years, now surges, chokes the words.

She gets off before I do. When I stand
to let her out, I see she uses a cane,
moves slowly down the aisle and needs help
in her struggle down the two high steps.
Her face beams as the bus leaves and she waves.
I am glad I didn’t say anything.
Perhaps she has forgotten? Perhaps those long
years before she had realized
her mistake, couldn’t lose face?

I settle back, long last her censure gone.

Reference: Article: Marie Smith