Hay Street and Hay Street East (1932-1933)
(In 1932) We lived in rooms 8 and 9 over the shops (Royalty Tea Rooms at 544 Hay Street), and we used the stairs in from Hay Street to come and go. That entrance is still there alongside the shopfront. There were offices upstairs and we came to know some of the people in them. There was a young woman named Louise Hawkatho who was a beautician. As I remember she was very good-looking and had long black hair set more in that Spanish style which was popular with some film stars of the 1930s. I can recall meeting her again when she came to Kalgoorlie with her beauty products. She could have stayed for a week or two. There was an Archie Campbell who had an office there and I keep intending to ask the modern-day Archie Campbell, footballer and broadcaster, if he is a relative. I simply forget to ask when we meet.
“Madame Zingara-Phrenologist” was the sign that caught my eye at the top of the stairs. Mum told me that a phrenologist read the bumps on your head (NOTE: phrenology is now a totally discredited pseudoscience and was often used to justify racism and sexism). Most boys who have managed to survive till thirteen have a few bumps on their heads. Madame Zingara must have thought I looked a likely subject for soon Mum had me up in the consulting room. I recall sitting there while Madame’s hands explored my head feeling the few bumps. What her forecast for my future was is unknown to me but it was probably all the usual things in this sort of pronouncement. She never predicted that I would be Prime Minister, an Olympic Gold Medallist or a millionaire, and in this regard she was right. I have never been any of these, but there may still be time for the last one if the Lotto numbers come out right, prediction or no prediction.
We moved from the upstairs rooms in July/August 1932 to a nice house at 300 Hay Street East, next to the Perth Mint. It was named “The Olives” and was a two-storey Tudor-style house on a big block that went through to Goderich Street. It was ideal for us. There was plenty of space to build stables and fence off two yards for the horses. After the stables had been put up we were able to bring the horses from Hay Street East. There were several good-sized trees on the block and one was ideal for putting up a big treehouse. We kept ourselves busy with this job for weeks. Two trees were almond trees and when the almonds started to ripen we could lean over and pick them from the treehouse. A Cash family next to the Mint may be newsworthy, but our closest to the money or the gold was the high iron fence with barbwire on top. The treehouse gang never got around to making any plans to take over the Mint.
There were several trotting stables in the vicinity of the Perth Mint. Across the road at Mrs Stephens’ house, the stables at the back were used by the well-known trainer, Hurtle Webb. His ability in the breaking-in of young horses drew the attention of many of the other owners and trainers. In the 1930s many pacers did not start their careers till they were five or six years old. Some of them started between the shafts of the carts of milkmen, butchers, or bakers.
There was a dentist, Harcourt Whipple Ellis, over at 317. He was a good double for King Edward the Seventh, beard and all. It was said that he himself told the story that he was a relative of the King. I had to go to him for a tooth filling and there he was with his white coat and “toothside” manner. It was my first visit to a dentist and I was in fear and trembling. No needle to ease the pain and no modern equipment. He used a foot treadle machine to power the drill and touched the exposed nerve first up. For me it was a case of “O Death! where is thy sting?” It was there in that room and it hurt. Next day I wrote a note to the dentist and put it under his door. It simply read, “I cannot come for the tooth filling tomorrow as we have gone to the country and are not coming back. Signed Douglas Cash.” Mind you we only lived across the road. One of my school mates heard about it and he helped me. Bernie Scott wore braces on his teeth and on his next trip to his dentist, Mr Alan Terry, in P and O Buildings, I went along for treatment. I thought you would never ask! It hurt but a bit less.
One day, when crossing from the house to the shops I had better luck. There lying in the gutter was a Log Cabin Tobacco tin. Boy being collectors like bowerbirds, I picked it up and opened it to find a ten-shilling note staring me in the face A fortune, consider the dole was then 7/- (70c) a week for a man, 14/- a week for a wife and 7/- a week for a child. I showed it to Mum and she said I should keep it and pay something off my bicycle. The bike was my pride and joy. I guarded it like it was the Perth Mint itself. It was bought for 10/- deposit and 5/- a week with a total cost of about eight pounds ($16). If I had been of the working age of over fourteen years I would have been getting 5/- a week. I was 13 and still at school so selling papers was the only way to go. Those were the days when if a lad wanted something special he had to go out and earn it. More later.
One day I parked my bike against a fence near the Sunday Times offices in Stirling Street and returned to find that the tyres had been let down. Someone had damaged my bike. Suddenly Jackie Stephens turned up from out of a laneway laughing his head off and indicating that he was the culprit. He thought it was a great joke, I thought different. I sailed into him and landed a couple of good hits, and then we were on the ground with me on top giving him a few blows. He started yelling out, “He’s gonna kill me”, and two men came over and separated us. There was no real harm done and only Jackie’s ego was bruised. He was a realist as from that day we were more friends than enemies. It was really a case of Jackie watching his step and keeping a civil tongue in his head. We used to see each other a lot as he lived across the road, but there was never any more trouble. A pound Dad invested in those boxing lessons had proved well-spent and it pleased him.
On one of these days spent around the foreshore we met “Nipper” who was a police tracker. He used to tell us a lot about the things that grew or lived along the river. Nipper showed us how the aborigines made a woomera, which is a throwing stick. It has a notch at one end to hold a spear which you hold flat against the woomera. When you execute the throwing action the spear is released by easing off the hand pressure. We made reasonable woomeras that threw a small spear.
Football and cycling were two of our main activities but we still found time for reading and listening to the radio. We grew up on the Boys Own Paper, the Champion, the Triumph, the Magnet, and sundry cartoon comics. Books like Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and Buffalo Bill were all under our pillows from time to time.
(1933) Dad worked on a solution to the problem (of producing income after they gave up running the Royalty Tearooms) and decided that we would go back to a farm life for a while. It seemed that he had the chance to share-farm and manage a property at Muchea for Miss Clara Spanney, a well-known landowner. The farm was near the 36-mile peg on the Gingin Road.
The move separated the family for the first time. Cecil remained working in Perth. Alice was in her first year at Modern School and Roly was settled in for the year at his primary school. Both kids were boarded out in West Perth. I was not yet fourteen and halfway through the Junior Certificate year but I had to leave PBS to go to the farm with Mum and Dad.
It was late in June when we set out for the farm. The other kids came up for a day. I can remember coming to the gate and looking down the track that led to the house, which was now our new home. It was a Sunday and Miss Spanney was there to help us settle in. She left before tea and we were then on our own. We soon finished unloading the small truck which had our personal things and bits of furniture on. A small herd of cows had to be milked before tea and the chooks fed. After tea we talked and turned on the radio. The excitement and efforts of the day soon had us in bed asleep.
Next morning we were up early for a good look about. The property was on the Muchea to Gingin road, four miles north of Muchea, and the Midland Railway line to Geraldton ran parallel with the road. The house on our farm met our needs for bedroom accommodation and there was a good-size kitchen where we always ate and listened to the battery radio. There may have been a small lounge room. The house was built of timber with a corrugated iron roof. There were a number of sheds for the farm machinery and other equipment, and for milking and stock feed, etc. There may have been a few hundred acres of land but it was only part cleared.
Dad took Alice and Roly down to Perth and brought horses back up. We put them in a ten-acre paddock to graze and be hand-fed when necessary. I remember being in the middle of that paddock when a botfly or something spooked them into galloping madly about. They headed for me and I feared the worst, but just as the mob were a few yards away Princess Royal cut across them and forced them to change direction. Horse sense or some good luck saved the day.
One horse that came with the farm was “Bobby”. I used to ride him into Muchea to get the mail and goods from the general store. He was kept in a small paddock behind the house because he was hard to catch and put a bridle on. No problem in saddling him up but getting anything over his head was the devil’s own job. The horse must have been belted about the head early in his career, according to Bill Brimson, Miss Spanney’s drover from her Gingin farm. I had more luck with Bobby than anyone. It was like one of those movies where if the hero could ride the buck jumping outlaw stallion he could have him. Bobby was made my problem and, though he cooperated sometimes, there were days when he made me swear and cry almost in the same breath. He must have had a sensitive spot that you could touch without knowing it. He would then break away and not let you touch him for ten minutes. After that he would let me bridle him and we would be friends again. We would soon be working around the farm or off to the Muchea PO. The carrier and mailman to and from Perth was Mr McGlew.
Bill Brimson brought some more cows down from Gingin and we then had to milk ten more cows each day. One of the cows was a big black and white Ayrshire. She had big horns, a big udder, and the biggest teats I have ever seen. Dad sometimes passed her on to me and I had to use two hands all the time to milk her out. We had several calves to look after and fatten up but they were a bit of fun as well. A couple of times I helped Bill Brimson take cattle up to the Gingin property, which was about twenty miles from our farm. I rode Bill’s spare horse on the drive instead of Bobby. We would follow the main road which ran alongside the railway line and camp overnight halfway to Gingin. The cattle would be put in a holding yard and then we would have tea. Bill was the cook and I had to gather the firewood and blackboy chips to get a fire going. I also had to cut enough green stalks or needles from the blackboys to make our mattresses for the night. This plant or grass-tree has a black trunk about as round as a telegraph pole. A single “spear” grows up from the centre surrounded by the long green needles which tend to bend outwards and then down. The tree is thought to resemble a grass-skirted figure holding a spear. After tea we settled down for an early night. Bill woke me at dawn and after a snack we soon had the cattle back on the road for Gingin. I stayed the night at the Gingin property and then caught the bus back to the Muchea farm the next day as my horse for the trip stayed with Bill. It was an adventure that I remember well. Life is really one experience after another. Some you remember forever and others you forget for just as long.
We set about clearing ground for cropping. I had the tough job of cutting out young gum trees and other new growth. It was called “sucker bashing”. Day after day I would swing the axe, getting the land up by the road ready for the plough. The people on the Gingin bus would wave to me and the driver would blow the horn as they passed by on the way to the city. That would be my brightest moment for the morning till I knocked off for a drink of cold tea and a scone or two. As the sun got up it would get hotter and the sweat would start to run and make me cranky. Out there on my own I would say a few words to the “suckers” but keep chopping away. The sun or my stomach would tell me when lunch was about due, and I would down tools fast when Mum hit the “gong” to tell us that lunch was ready. After a quick wash we would sit down to a good tuck-in and listen to the 6WF news and the country programme.
Sometimes in the afternoon we would do a bit of work in the house vegetable patch. We grew just about everything. There were carrots, cabbages, cucumbers, white and swede turnips, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, and beans. A few of these had been growing when we first went there, but we “kicked” them along a bit. Dad decided to put in a separate plot of corn and we sowed it by hand. After walking along the little furrows planting seeds by hand I felt like “the old man of the sea”. It was hard to straighten up for a while. When the green shoots started to show the kangaroos would jump the fence at night to eat them out. There were plenty of ‘roos and rabbits on the property. When the other kids came up for the school holidays we would go out to set rabbit traps and muck about at the warrens. There were times when I would put an arm down a hole, after digging around a bit, and try to get the young kittens. Luckily for me I never grabbed a brown snake, or any of its relatives, by the tail.
Our farm machinery was fairly basic when compared with today’s equipment but we managed to get by. One of my jobs was light ploughing with a single-furrow plough and one of the heavier horses. Sometimes things would go OK but now and then the horse would get cranky, and I would start having trouble in keeping the furrows straight. Most of my ploughing turned out alright and when the ground was seeded and fertilised, the crop results were reasonably close to expectations.
I remember “helping” Dad repair a bigger set of ploughshares one day, when the final task called for a feat of strength by him. He sweated and strained to lift a leg or arm of the machine into a position for me to put a locking pin through the matching holes provided. The holes would not match up and I did not have the strength to force the pin in. Dad could not hold the arm up anymore and had to let it fail. What he said was unprintable here. I really felt I had let him down. Luckily, someone riding along the road pulled up at the fence to have a chat and then he gave us a hand. One other job was picking up mallee roots and rocks from the cleared paddocks, on what we called a “stoneboat”. It had a wooden floor base and two metal runners. Bobby was the workhorse for pulling this around. It was one more chore but worthwhile when you sat in front of a fire fuelled with mallee roots, for they are hard to beat for warmth and glowing embers.
We had chickens and ducks, a dog, and a cat to occupy our time when we had nothing else to do. The dog, who was called “Tassie” for no reason I know of, was pretty harmless till he got in with the cows. He would chase them around the paddock and then jump up and grab the tail of one of them and hang on. He would swing from side to side, while the cow galloped flat out, bellowing as it ran. Tassie would suddenly get sick of his game and drop off in time to disappear before we came out to see what the trouble was.
Life was not all work and no play for me. There were many times when I took out my .22 rifle and went looking for kangaroos and rabbits. Tassie always came along with me but his barking would usually put the quarry to flight before I lined something up. We brought a few rabbits home from time to time. Riding Bobby to Muchea helped me to get regular breaks from working out in the fields. The trip there and back took a fair while as I would vary the pace on the way, with a walk here and a canter there, so we could be home in a reasonable time. When I collected the mail and handed over Mum’s grocery list I would look around at the things that interested me. Sweets and books always took any pocket money that I had. Sometimes I rode back with riders from other farms.
We were on the farm when many of the wildflowers were in bloom. I can remember them more for their being there, than for my going into ruptures about their lovely blooms as I might do now. At my young age Kangaroo Paws and Cats Paws aroused my interest for their shape and colour. The purple and pink Spider Orchids and the Donkey Orchids certainly intrigued me for their names seemed to fit nature’s design of the flowers so well. Wattle trees and Christmas trees were nice to see when they were in flower. The sweet-smelling Boronia and the everlastings grew everywhere on the uncleared land along with many other common species of native plants. In the stands of the big trees there were many birds. Crows cawed and kookaburras laughed. Black cockatoos screeched as we looked for rain. There were plovers and parrots, silver eyes in the fruit trees, magpies and mudlarks, and Willie Wagtails.
The metropolitan area was home to many species of birds till the 1950s but after that they started to be driven out by housing developments in every direction. As urbanisation spread to the hills and out to the beaches wildlife habitats were wiped out. The conservationists and the bird lovers are still fighting the battle as more wetlands are ravished by developers. Hardy crows and magpies, and the friendly doves, still survive. Rare as it is now, the sight of a cheeky little Willie Wagtail is a joy to see.
On the farm the days and weeks went by quickly, for we seemed to have just settled in when Mum and Dad decided to return to Perth. Miss Spanney had been up a few times to see how we were going and it may have been that Dad did not think there was enough money in it for us. We had been fortunate that we could live off the farm during one of the severest years of the Depression but the land itself was “hungry”.
At the end of the year (1933), just a little before Christmas, we handed the farm over to someone else who was sent up by Miss Spanney and we returned to the City. Mum and Dad and our belongings went down on the small truck but I rode my bicycle down.
Waterford and Vic Park (1934-1935)
The house was next to Clontarf at the end of a short road. There were no other houses nearby. The eastern and southern land on the block fell away quickly, so much so that the back verandah of the house was on “stilts”. We had to walk downhill to the paddocks where there were a few cows and a bull. Our horses were still up at Muchea. They were lucky, for there were more mosquitos on that property than ever I saw when serving in New Guinea and other tropical parts during World War II. The noise as they swarmed had to be heard to be believed. On most days you had to burn cow pats and walk around in the smoke clouds to keep them away. We did not work the land there and were simply caretakers.
We were there for only a few weeks which gave the family time to get together again. Alice and Roly came back to the fold from where they had been boarding but Cec kept his job in the country. He came up on his free weekends. The start of the 1934 school year saw Alice go up to Second Form at Modern School and Roly attend the local Primary School. The dog, Tassie, had been left at the Muchea farm but, three weeks after we arrived at the Clontarf house, the dog turned up. How he found us is beyond me but there he was as large as life. We expected Dad to explain it but he never did get time.
Parents have always had the task of providing for their families and during the Depression this was a difficult job. Hard work was the only answer and our Mum and Dad did plenty of that. Children never really understand how their needs are met by the labour and sacrifice of their parents. With hindsight, added to by our own later life experiences, we can realise what was done for us and how it all was made possible. Whether we expressed appreciation often enough, or to the full measure at sometime in our lives, is a question for self-analysis.
Mum and Dad’s answer to the money needs of the family was to take on the running of the catering and cooking for the Phar Lap Cafe (in 1934).
East Perth and Perth (1935-1936)
Our move was from Victoria Park and to 98 Wittenoom Street, East Perth. The house was near Claisebrook Road and East Perth School. The site of that two-storey house is now occupied by the centre section of the Department of Education building, right opposite Wellington Square.
We had now (in 1935) moved from 98 Wittenoom Street to live in vacant rooms in Smith’s Chambers, over the top of the “Queen of Hearts”. Mum and Dad and Alice had two rooms on the first floor. Roly and I had a big room on the second floor overlooking Barrack Street. Cecil had the next room back. For those days it was comfortable enough but we had only the basic essentials of furniture in them. The bare walls of the room were soon covered with many film star photos and posters for I was a real movie fan. I saw many movies and read most film magazines. We could put our head out the windows and peer down into the street or look up to the Town Hall clock for the right time. Looking to the North we could see the Beaufort Street bridge and the intersection of Wellington and Barrack Streets. Along here the fire engines, ambulances, and police cars would often weave their way through the traffic with lights flashing, and bells ringing or siren wailing. With no traffic lights to be obeyed it was the policeman on point duty who brought the traffic to a standstill in emergencies.
The weekly grocery needs for the “Queen of Hearts” included good supplies of tea and we were able to exchange the “Robur” and “Bushell’s” packet labels for bonus gifts. The sales promotion gift coupon schemes were statewide and people in the country used to save up bundles of labels till they headed for Perth at Royal Show time or on some other special or family occasion. The catalogues were supplied to local retailers or you could choose from warehouse shelves in the city. It was almost like a day out. For a “Robur” gift glass cloth you needed 8 11b (450 grams) labels, for bath towels 22, pillowcases 18 and tablecloths 60. The bonus gifts from the merchants included silk stockings, handkerchiefs, sheets, and, if you had saved and saved, household china sets.
My big chance came along when Lipton’s Tea introduced their new bonus scheme which gave double passes to city theatres. We then increased our order for Lipton’s and soon had a handful of free tickets. The family all shared in the movie bonanza but there were many spares. It helped my spending for the week when I could take friends to the pictures for free. I would usually have to hurry back to the shop to help out with the late rush of business that came after the pictures ended. People would have their tea and toast and then catch their trams home. It was a way of life.
Herdsman’s Parade (1936-1939)
We now (in 1936) moved out to a property Dad had bought freehold at No. 7 Herdsman’s Parade, Leederville (now Wembley). It had land running back to the lake with a normal width frontage. There was a house on the block but we had to build stables and other buildings for the horses. Limestone blocks were used for this and they must have come from the local lime kiln.
1937 was to be a year of change for me, not that change was anything new for our family. In the 1920s kids had the change of residence and schools as parents moved from job to job or shop to shop. It was the norm for us for years as my people were able to open up a business and make it profitable and then sell it and do it again elsewhere. In seven or eight years I went to nine or ten schools before going to Perth Boys School in 1931/32/33.
Back home in Perth there had been some changes out at Herdsman’s Lake for Mum and Dad had gone Youanmi to on the Murchison where the mine had recently started up again. Youanmi was in the East Murchison goldfield, and about 66 miles (110 km) south-east of Mount Magnet. The family friendship with Jack Baseden through a mutual interest in trotting may have been the contact that brought on the trip. Mr Baseden had spent some time in Youanmi and was well-known there. I think Mum and Dad went there to help reorganise the mine mess and the catering system. They were there for two months or more.
While they were away Roly, now 14, had the task of looking after the horses and the property. Cec was still working down South and Blanche (Alice) was boarding out close to Modern School where she was in her final year. Roly was going to Perth Boys School. He would ride home at lunchtime to feed the horses and go back to school. In the afternoon he would come home and attend the horses again after giving them some exercise. He would get his own tea, no easy take-aways then, and probably fall into bed tired out. We had been brought up to look after ourselves so he managed to battle on. The trotting stables owners nearby were happy to look in and see if there was any problem that he might need a hand with. The Flemings next door were always ready to help out. The kid was gutsy and this spirit stood him in good stead in the war years when he was the pilot of a Lancaster over Europe in WWII.
Roly wrote to me at Coolgardie with a story about his lone vigil out at Herdsman’s Lake. He had gone to bed early and during the night he woke up with a feeling that something was wrong. There was, for someone was in the bed with him. Gutsy or not he was scared. He finally got out of bed, no bed lamps then, and pulled the blankets back a bit and the mystery was solved. It was Cecil. Cec had arrived up from the South to help out while he had a bit of leave. Cec had found the house in darkness and came in quietly for there was no locking of doors then, and got into bed without disturbing Roly. Cec had got a lift up and arrived home at 11pm. It was handy for me because I had written home for my bike to be sent up to Coolgardie, so Cec rode it into Perth and put it on the train.
Our sister Alice (Blanche) had won her Leaving Certificate from Modern School and was soon to head down South to Collie to teach at an Assisted School. The AS school met the special needs of small farming areas. A farmer has five children and he wants them to be educated. If he can get other children enrolled to form a class of eight then government assistance is given. The farmer had to supply the schoolroom and board the teacher. Sometimes the farmers treated the teachers like servants. Alice only stayed the year for in 1939 she went to teach at a pastoral station near Leonora. Two pretty rough postings as it turned out, but that was life in those days. Teachers don’t know they are alive now.
My holidays were spent with the family at No. 7 Herdsman’s Parade and time was taken up helping with the horses. Kola’s Son was in work so I rode him down to Gloucester Park a couple of times and also worked some of the other horses. There were friends to see in and around the town and particularly in the Post Office. Perth was ever changing.
My visit home brought about a change of diet and Mum fed me up during the three weeks stay. There was plenty of time to have a good breakfast of bacon and eggs and toast or, for a nice change, a plate of American pancakes with golden syrup. We had all grown up on pancakes properly made; that is of the right mix and size. Mum made them about the size of a small bread plate and as thick as today’s slice of toasting bread. They were cooked on a wooden stove on the griddle or in a frying pan if we wanted to toss them ourselves. The delight of them was their lightness for we were able to eat 10 or more fairly easily. Today’s “pancakes” bear no resemblance to those we made then, for what you now get resembles a rolled up piece of thin dough or mixture filled with one fancy ingredient or another. The buckwheat pancakes you can buy now and then resemble our favourites but they usually arrive cold or just warm, and that is not good enough. Pikelets are a miniature form of the proper pancake but the mix must be right, and the hotplate must be hot but not too hot.
Man cannot live on pancakes alone so we always grew sweet corn in season. Some summer rain is necessary but being beside the lake we usually had enough water for the garden crops. Half a dozen cobs picked at the right time, cooked to the right minute, and then spread with butter, and there was a meal. Rabbit was a family favourite and I enjoyed a few meals of that during my vacation. All good things must come to an end and before I knew it the leave was over and it was time for more goodbyes. Soon I was on my way back to Kalgoorlie, a little fitter and a little fatter.
Holiday and sick leave added up to seven weeks off work and I had most of this in Perth out at our Herdsman’s Lake property. Summer was a good time to have a few weeks off and soon I was recovering out at the beach. Nothing like saltwater and surf to brighten you up.