Welcome. Below is the story of Margaret Joan Cash as taken from her written life story. Some spelling, grammatical and factual changes have been made where appropriate, otherwise we have left Joan to tell her story in her own words and style.
I was born in Kellerberrin (205km E of Perth in the Wheatbelt region of WA) in April 1924, Margaret Joan Moore, only child of Lucie/Lucy (nee MacKenzie, b. 26 June 1898, d. 21 July 1986) and Arthur Edwin Moore (b. 1891, D. 20 May 1972).
Mum had to go to Kellerberrin to stay in hospital for two weeks before I was born as there was no way they would get the 30 miles to hospital in a hurry. In those days we didn’t have a car and a horse and cart would have taken a long while to get there. I was delivered by Dr Leedman who later became a well-known Perth doctor.
Mum and Dad had been living in Dowerin (156km NE of Perth in the central Wheatbelt region of WA) but the house burnt down while Mum was in the hospital having me. Dad left some ashes too near the house, so Jessie told me.
My Grandma (Margaret Thompson McMaster, b. 5 February 1865, d. 26 September 1955) and Grandpa (Peter Colley McKenzie, b. 19 July 1865, d. 3 October 1949) met at a 21st Birthday Party playing “drop the hankie“, how times have changed in 100 years. They were married in 1888 on 19th September, and I think they were both 21. Grandpa was born in Greenwich, England, and was one of 10 children. When old enough he had to go to work in a butcher shop where he got enough meat to feed the family. One of the customers was a plasterer but he used to drink a lot. He took a fancy to grandpa and convinced him to work for him. As he was often drunk, he taught grandpa to do all the intricate plaster work so that he could do it for his boss. Grandpa made a lot of money but when the banks closed in Victoria in 1893 (?) (1890s Victoria banking crisis) his bank closed and he lost the lot.
Robert Thompson McMaster was grandma’s brother who came to WA after the Boer War in which he fought (note it appears he moved to WA around 1890 and before the war). He took up land and convinced Grandpa McKenzie to come over to WA which he did about 1900. Grandma and the children stayed in Victoria till he had a house for them. They lived on the corner of Colin Street and Wellington Street (I think).
Margaret (Margaret Thomson McKenzie, b. 7 May 1891, d. 26 Apr 1906), the eldest, Percy (Percival Lloyd McKenzie, b. 16 May 1889, d. 4 September 1975), Jessie (Susan Mary Jessie McKenzie, b. 14 September 1893, d. 31 October 1990) and Lucie went to the Thomas Street school which is now Perth Modern School. Mum and Jessie went to a school reunion in about 1979. It was the closing of the school which had opened in 1904. Before the Thomas Street School opened they went to a school through the park near the subway to Roe Street.
Margaret was a very bright student but died about 15 from a brain tumour and her teacher said at her funeral “There lies my brightest student”. She was buried in Karrakatta Cemetery and grandma and grandpa are in the same grave.
After Margaret died they moved to Hines Hill (240km E of Perth). It was at that time the Refreshment centre and was to be the junction for the railways. It was moved to Merredin because Hines Hill was too near the salt lakes which were causing problems.
Grandpa was a plasterer and did quite a bit of the fancy work around Perth. Jessie said he worked on the Horseshoe Bridge (c. 1904) making the swans and also some of the work on His Majesty’s Theatre. I think he would have made more money if he had stayed in Perth and continued his trade, but who knows how their lives would have been if he had.
Robert Thompson McMaster owned, in partnership with someone else, Central Arcade, which ran from Wellington Street to Murray Street. He also had a large acreage of land on the corner of Berwick Street and McMaster Street in Vic Park, which was named after him (in 1918, formerly known as Hereford Street). On this land he used to train his horses and had stables there. He was also a Mayor of Victoria Park. When Kurt came over we did a search in the Battye Library and found evidence of this. I can remember going to a function in the old Victoria Park Hall about 1950 and there was a big photo of R. T. McMaster, Mayor of Vic Park. We tried to find out what happened to it but we didn’t come up with any answers.
The house is still there (at 105 Berwick Street) but it only has a large block of land around it, not the acres they had in the early days. Lorn told me it changed hands in recent years for over 1 million dollars.
Robert was killed at Gallipoli in the early days of the war (on 7 August 1915 at the The Battle of the Nek) after coming back from the Boer War safely. His wife, Emily Frances Holmsworth, and children were not treated kindly when he failed to come back from the war and moved to live in Mt Lawley for many years. Emily was the organist at the St George’s Cathedral for many years. She had three boys who all died under tragic circumstances. One was thrown from a horse and killed, another was loading hay when someone threw a pitchfork down and it hit him and killed him. The other was killed in a tractor accident. Their names were Ray, Alwyn and Eric, I’m not sure which had which accident. There were two girls, Nona and Lorn. Lorn married and had a family. Lord died at the age of 94, in 1997 I think.
Western Mail, Perth, p. 51, 25 December 1904 – Central Arcade. Source: Trove
Robert Thompson McMaster. Source: Town of Victoria Park Library / Rosemary Ritorto
RT McMaster. Source: AIA (WA)
I don’t think they were really cut out to be farmers although they spent 46 years there. Grandma was brought up at a private girls school and it must have been very hard for her. Her father was a Mines Manager and had retired before Grandma grew up. I can remember even in my younger years when the aborigines came to the door she always made mum go and answer as she was really quite scared of them and that was after at least 20 years of living on the farm.
During the depression (Great Depression, 1930s) there were always men with their swags knocking and asking if they could cut wood for a feed. Mum always gave them a meal and also a sandwich to take with them. One of my earliest memories is of going to Merredin with Mum and Auntie Jessie to the town hall where the ladies would make a copper of soup from the meat and vegetables supplied by the people which was doled out into their billies. There would be a very long line of men and ladies waiting their turn to be served. It is a memory that has stayed with me all my life and I’m afraid that I find it hard even now to waste things. At school the teacher would ask who hadn’t had any breakfast and they were given food. They were very hard times for a lot of people but luckily living on the farm we didn’t have much money but we always had plenty of food.
If they had a good year on the farm, Mum and Jessie would get a boat trip to Melbourne to stay with their many cousins over there. Grandma and Grandpa also went back when the harvest was good. I think Grandma missed her family and although a couple of them came over here to visit they felt that Perth was the end of the world. There are many photos of their trips in the old albums. Grandpa was always involved in the Roads Board and I thought he was Chairman of it at one time but haven’t had time to do the research. I do know that when Bert Hinkler came to this place in 1928 (31 March 1928) we went out to welcome him and were in the official party as I had my photo taken in his plane.
Life on the farm was a good one as we always had plenty of food with sheep and chickens, turkeys, pigs and cattle. The wheat was gristed on a machine much like a mincer but with a much bigger opening to put the grain in and large serrated plates which turned around with the wheat in between it was broken up to fine or medium grains. It made very tasty porridge which Grandma and Grandpa always had with a lump of butter and sugar instead of the usual milk.
We grew our own vegetables and had many fruit trees in the garden around the house. There were orange, lemon, mulberry, apricot, peach and almond trees. It was good if we could get the fruit before the many “Ring Necks”(28 parrots). They were around in great numbers and made life difficult for fruit growing.
We were on the main road with the railway line passing through the middle of the property. My Uncle Percy and Auntie Vi lived in a house on the other side of the railway line and I used to go over there to see them quite often. Auntie Vi had a gramophone with a big round speaker and she used to put this on and let me listen to the music. She had to wind it up and it would play a record and then had to be wound up again. I can remember the His Master Voice Dog (HMW) on the front of the records. My favourite was the Charge of the Light Brigade, it was fast and furious.
The water pipes to Kalgoorlie followed the railway line so we always had plenty of water but it was expensive so we had to be careful with it. We had several water tanks around the house which helped a bit.
Grandma was a keen gardener and spent most of her time pottering around the garden. I can remember one time on the farm Mum telling me we must be good to Grandma and Grandpa as they may not live too long. They were both in their 60s then and both lived to be 94 and 95 respectively. They had their 60th Wedding anniversary in September 1948 and had one grandchild, me, one great grandchild, Lynne and Pam was due on 3rd October that year.
When I was a child on the farm there was always something to do. If Dad was working in the workshop I would spend time down there with him turning the handle of the forge and always enjoyed watching the sparks fly. There were eggs to be brought in and cows to milk, not that I did much of that even when I was old enough. In the early days Dad had a team of horses so there were always things to do and watch. Dad used to shoe the horses and make repairs to the collars and other parts of the saddles and harness. I always told everyone that if it was broken my Dad would be able to fix it and usually he could. He was very clever with his hands and could usually get things going again.
Dad would take me out on the harvester and I used to love getting in and having the wheat pour on me. I guess it wouldn’t be considered good now but he was always very protective of me and I was only allowed to stay when there wasn’t much wheat in the box. It was fun when he had to stop and bag what they had collected watching it all pour out the spout into the bags to be sewn up. In the early days Jessie and Mum used to go out and help sew up the bags ready to be taken to the station to go to Perth to be sold. These were the days before bulk handling came to be.
When Dad was too far away from home there was plenty to do with Mum and Grandma and Grandpa around the house. I learnt to cook with Mum as she always gave me some ingredients to make my cakes etc which I really enjoyed. The only task I didn’t like was having to clean out the dust out of the carved antique furniture which Grandma had brought from Melbourne. It probably was lovely but I was sick of trying to keep up with the dust. Poor Mum, she would clean the house from head to toe and I mean getting down on her hands and knees to wash and polish the floors and sweep and beat the carpets when low and behold a dust storm would come from nowhere and it would look like it had never been done.
The house on the farm, of which we have an old photo, was built by grandpa of rammed earth with the walls about 18 inches thick. This meant that it was really a very substantial building and cool in summer and warm in winter. It was one of the first houses in the district to have proper floors as lots of the houses were made of hessian with earth floors. They had a piano which Percy used to play and Jessie used to sing. They always had people come down and have parties there. As there were no cars in the early days they would ride or take sulkies to go many miles and of course they would get home in the early morning just in time to milk the cows Jessie used to say.
There were many hardships on the farm but as a child I didn’t find too many. I can remember one year there was a plague of mice and when I went into a shed where they kept the wheat for the animals there were thousands of them in all sizes. The baby ones were like little pink blobs with hardly any shape. Just little heads and legs with pink bodies and no fur. I thought it was great fun to catch and hold them but the family was not impressed.
Mum used to go out with Bert Moore (Merle’s dad) before dad, Arthur, came back from the war. I don’t think they were too friendly when she broke up with him. Jessie said that Bert and his Dad didn’t come to the wedding and there were bad feelings but in later years we were all good friends. Merle was my only cousin in later years as Billie (Isabel) Moore died about 1950. She was the only child of Ernest and Flo Moore, dad’s eldest brother, who had a machinery agency in Goomalling. There were three boys Ern, Arthur and Bert and they all only had one child and all the three of them daughters.
In later years I learnt that there was an uncle in Moonta or Adelaide who also had only one girl. It seemed to run in the male line of the Moore’s. Dad had three sisters. Mabel died in South Africa and didn’t have any children of her own but I think she had a stepson. Isabel Laura had several children but I only caught up with her granddaughter in the 1980s. The other one was Ida Regina but she went East as far as I know and we didn’t keep in touch.
I lived in Merredin when I was a baby in the house on Fifth Street right next to the Methodist Church. Dad had a contracting business carting things from Perth on his truck but I think the roads were so bad that he eventually found that he was not making any money so he had to give up and go to work on the farm. Mum told of the many times when she went with Dad and they would get bogged on the water logged mud roads and he would have to unload the truck and get out of the bog and then load it up again. I was left with grandma and grandpa on the farm because it was too much for a small child to travel under those conditions then.
He worked very hard but it was just not a going concern. Dad was always a keen gardener and when they lived in Merredin he would grow lovely plants especially chrysanthemums. He grew them in kerosene tins out the back of the house and when they were in flower he would carry them to the front of the house and have an instant display of lovely blooms. There is a picture of them in the old album.
We always used to go on the Annual Railway Picnic. I can well remember the fun we had on the train as we knew lots of the people on it. It used to go to one of the small towns East of Merredin, Burracoppin, and then we would all get out and it was like a mini show with rides and games on an oval. Merle’s Dad Bert (my Uncle) always went in the wood chop and usually managed to win the prize. I can still see him hitting those logs with such precision to get it chopped down first. On the way home in the train it would stop at all the stations to let people off and some of the lads would head for the pub to get a drink. Getting them back on the train was a work of art! The train driver would blow the horn and pretend to go and nothing would happen until this had been repeated several times and he would really mean it. You would see chaps running carrying their beer supply trying to jump on the moving train. I don’t think anyone really got left behind and the driver never went really fast enough to hurt them. It was all part of the fun of the picnic.
One year was very sad as a young boy of about seven had a feed of peanuts which fermented in his stomach and he died of it. Naturally the children were all banned from peanut eating as a couple of others nearly choked from not chewing them properly. My memory tells me it was a doctor’s son who died but I can’t get any confirmation of this.
When I lived in Merredin I used to go to town with Mum to do the shopping and if I asked for anything I didn’t get anything. One day she had been talking and forgot about buying me something and when I got back home I said I didn’t ask for anything and I didn’t get anything! She had to walk back to the shops and buy me ice cream. The little cones in those days were one penny. Also the penny Nestle chocolate bars were about 2 ½” by 3” and very thin but often were my treat. They were always very tasty. In later years you could get them out of a vending machine.
Grandpa owned the house in Merredin and there was always one of the family living there. Mum and Jessie used to put things in the show and one day they were making toffee at the Merredin house and the chimney caught fire. Luckily it was brick. I can remember mum climbing up on the roof and Jessie giving her the hose to put down the chimney. Oh what a mess as all the coals were onto the floor. I was a bit scared as it was a bit of a panic. I don’t think they made toffee again. Of course in those days we didn’t have electric stoves, it was all wood.
In our early days in Kalgoorlie when we were newlyweds, Doug put a log with a hole on the open fire as he had shivers from malaria and the chimney caught fire. I immediately said let’s get the hose but luckily the chap next door yelled out don’t do that! Being a tin chimney and red hot the water would have made holes in the tin. ‘Get a lot of salt, throw that on it’ was his advice and luckily it worked. It really was woofing loud and strong.
Mum used to make lovely cream puffs in the wood stove and always won a prize for them in the show. She also made jams and chutneys, fruit cakes, small cakes and sponges. I can’t remember what else she put in but one year she won a canteen of cutlery for getting the most prizes. It really was a lot of work and it put me off ever entering the show although I have put a couple of knitted things in just to make up the numbers.
I can remember a fire in Merredin at the bake house somewhere over past the school and seeing the blaze in the middle of the night. It was quite scary. Everyone was out in the street to see what was going on. It was a fair way away from us but it still looked very bright.
Mum and Dad were still living in Merredin when I started school and some of the bigger girls used to come and pick me up and take me. One of the girls who took me to school was Peg Mills, later of the bowling club. School was really only in the next street but I always had lots of friends to play with. One was the son of the Principal of the school who lived opposite. I think his name was Alan Evans but I can’t remember for sure. There is a picture of me on my bike and him on his in the front yard of Fifth Street.
The Spargo Family were great friends of Grandma and Grandpa and Mum and Dad and Jessie. Granny Spargo lived just in the next street at the back of the church and we used to see a lot of her. She was a lovely lady. They had a shop in the main street which I think was a general store and sold most things. In those days the ladies had ‘At Homes’ (NOTE: These parties were typical of domestic social gatherings, particularly in rural areas, in times before sociable cafes were standard features of small towns.) every month and of course we always went. Mrs Spargo Snr was a great cook and I can remember going there one afternoon with the table loaded with cream horns, cream puffs, sponges and no end of goodies. When she asked me what I’d like to eat I said a crust of bread and butter. She was still our friend afterwards and we saw a lot of her and her family. She had several children and they were married and the same age as Mum and Dad so I always had children to play with. Doug and Keith, Margaret and Alison but can’t remember the younger ones.
Dulcie Shooter lived at the back but the other end of the street to Mrs Spargo. Her father was in South Africa and only came home once a year. I think he had something to do with diamonds but can’t be sure about that.
Mum treated me like a little doll when I was a baby and if I got a spot on my dress she would change me. Dr Shelmerdine who lived further along Fifth Street said to Mum “Do you want to rear that child” and of course mum said “You know I do”. He said if you don’t let her get a bit of dirt into her system she will not have any resistance to germs so for goodness sake let her get a bit dirty”. Poor Mum. I now hear on the wireless that they are saying that we are getting too conscious of hygiene and not getting our immune systems used to some bugs. He evidently was a wise doctor 75 years ago.
In the early days on the farm they used to light the copper to have a bath and have to carry the water into the bathroom. Of course everyone used the same water with a top up to keep it hot. It was quite a day when we got a chip or paper heater. We had a cat who used to like to get behind the bath which was on legs, and do its business. As I was the smallest I had the job of climbing in and cleaning it up. I was never impressed when the baths on legs came back into fashion. To me they were just trouble. I much prefer to have the ones which were completely enclosed.
She who so badly wanted to have more children couldn’t and neither Jessie or Percy had any either so I got shared about a bit. When Jessie was living in Merredin I lived up there and started school there. Then I went back to the farm at Hines Hill and went to school there. I can’t remember just which years I was where but I know that I was back in Merredin when I was about 8 as I have a photo of one of my birthday parties and all the children who were there.
When I was going to the Hines Hill School I had a horse to ride called “Polly”. I used to tie her up to a tree and give her some water and feed and she would stay there till I was due to go home. It was about 1½ miles to ride. One day I must have been careless or Polly got smart and undid the rope and went home on her own. Mum had to come and get me that day and I learnt to be more careful next time. One day I rode Polly under the clothes line and caught my head and came off the horse. To this day I have a bit of marrow causing a lump on my head. When I was about sixteen a doctor found it and did no end of tests but told me it was only marrow and wouldn’t give me any trouble.
While I was sick in 1996 I used to listen to the wireless to fill in the time as I was not able to read and heard about a reunion of Hines Hill to be held in January. I took down the number and when I was feeling better rang and made enquiries. It turned out to be Tom Dobson who answered the phone. He was in my class at Hines Hill and told me he had a photo of the class from the 1930s with me in it. He got some copies done and I really was thrilled as I had no record of my life at Hines Hill School. He reminded me that one time we had a couple of seagulls which dad brought up from Fremantle when we were down on holidays one time. It was really something unusual to have them 250km from the ocean!
It was the usual country school with one teacher who taught from bubs to sixth grade all in the one room, what an effort! The teacher was Miss Jean Herbert whose family were friends of ours. There were 16 children of all ages with twelve boys and four girls. When I got to 10, Mum and dad decided it was time for me to move so when Jessie went to Wyalkatchem, I went too. Jessie went to Wyalkatchem to work as Matron of a home where country people came to live before and after they had been in hospital, or to await the arrival of their babies. I went and stayed with her there and went to school in Wyalkatchem. I can remember while I was doing some sewing using the machine I sewed the needle through my right index finger – it is still a bit crooked.
There I was to meet Merle’s cousin Stan Hughes (father of famed Aussie cricketer Kim Hughes). I learnt to ride a bike there and can remember someone who was teaching me by getting me to the top of a hill and then letting go and me racing down the hill with the inevitable result of me falling off. I eventually learnt to control it and rode to school from then on.
Dad used to let me sit on his knee and steer the car for as long as I can remember and from there I learnt to use the gears with dad using the clutch and brake. Gradually as I got bigger I was allowed to drive on my own with Dad sitting beside me and I can remember the first time I drove into the garage I thought it was great. By the time I was about 12 I was really confident and one Christmas while mum and I were on the farm on our own we wanted to go to the Christmas Party in the hall at Hines Hill. I convinced mum to let me drive and she agreed if I promised to stop if another car was coming. There wasn’t the traffic around then so I promised. When we got there I parked and we had a great time. When it came time to go home all the men wanted me to let them back me out and get me on the road. I was most indignant that I could back out as I had been doing it out of the garage without hitting anything. Anyway I got in and with all the men offering advice I backed out perfectly and drove home without mishap.
When we came to Perth we didn’t have a car. There wasn’t any petrol as the war was on and there was petrol rationing so I didn’t get my license till Jessie bought a car when I was 28 and made me go and have lessons to learn to drive in the city. I took out my learners permit and when the chap took me for my first lesson he said “What a pity you have a learners permit, you could have got your license right away but now you will have to wait a week”. Dad had done a good job teaching me and when I went for my license I got it straight away (Joan would continue to drive until the age of 91).
In January 1936 Jessie took me for a boat trip to Nouméa (capital of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, about 1,500km NW from Brisbane). We went on the “P&O Mongolia” which was a cruise ship out of Melbourne. I think we went for about either three or six weeks stopping at Sydney, Brisbane and then to Nouméa and from memory it cost 36 pounds. I had a great time on the boat as I was only 12 there was plenty to do. We really had almost the run of the ship.
ssMaritime. Source: ssmaritime.com
P&O Mongolia ad, journal of the N.S.W. Public School Teachers Federation. Source: Trove
We shared a cabin with the Annear sisters, Ethel and Dulcie. They were West Australians and great companions. Jessie kept in contact with them for many years. They were really nice and lived in Darlington, I think. There was another couple who had a son, Alan Brooks was his name. He was about my age and we saw them from time to time when he got back. They lived on Shepparton Road, Victoria Park. There was always something to do on the boat deck, quoits, table tennis, shuttle ball etc, and always stewards and stewardesses to talk to. I was very lucky as the stewards used to be very friendly with me and had a game where they would let me freefall from one to the other and they would catch me.
We called in to Melbourne where we visited lots of relations as Percy, Jessie and Mum were all born in Melbourne and had been back many times. We went to the Zoo and Luna Park. What a great place it was, the highlight for me. I really thought the rides etc. were wonderful. The more they dipped and turned the better I liked it. There wasn’t anything like that in Perth and living on the farm it was a whole new world to me.
While we were in Melbourne, King George V died (20 January 1936) and all the shops had purple cloth swathed around the windows and inside the shop with pictures of the King with the purple all draped everywhere. It really was a big thing and every shop had some form of purple material around the windows.
In Sydney we went to Taronga Park Zoo across the harbour on the ferry. It was quite amazing how they had the animals in the open compared to poor old Perth where they were all in cages. It was really something for a young girl from the country of WA. We went across the bridge in an electric train which was completely new to me. The Harbour Bridge had only been built about 4 years earlier in 1932. We started in the underground and then emerged to go over the bridge and you could see the water and all the cars. It was quite an experience for Jessie and for me.
We went to Luna Park and I thought it was better than the one in Melbourne. Not sure why but that is how I remember it.
I can remember when we were coming into the Harbour on the Mongolia we had to go under the Bridge. When the ship got near everyone was on deck and it looked as though the mast would hit the bridge. We were all standing on the deck watching and when we went under everybody yelled and ducked but of course it was an optical illusion and we had plenty of room to spare.
In Brisbane we met Violet Arthurs, called Vilie, who is a cousin of Jessies and she took us out for the day and home for a meal. Her house was built on stilts to allow for circulation of air as were most of the Brisbane houses. She bought Jessie a lovely Tiger Lily posy which she wore on her dress. It had great big stamens with lots of brown pollen. Jessie kept smelling it and soon had the brown all over her face. We all laughed at her. There is a picture of Vilie Arthurs in the album.
We sailed around Lord Howe Island but didn’t stop and then onto Nouméa. It was hot and humid which we didn’t like. 1936 was a bit different to now. We were amazed at the toilets in the street – not very well protected from the public, men with baskets of bread with no cover walking on the street selling it with no protection from the many flies.
We sailed around Lord Howe Island but didn’t stop and then onto Nouméa. It was hot and humid which we didn’t like. 1936 was a bit different to now. We were amazed at the toilets in the street – not very well protected from the public, men with baskets of bread with no cover walking on the street selling it with no protection from the many flies.
Upon my return I started boarding at the Kellerberrin Convent which is about 40 miles from Hines Hill, what a change from travelling on the boat. I found life was completely different to the boat and of course I was homesick. It took me a while to settle into life there but in those days you just accepted that when mum said that you were to school there, that’s what you did.
The reason for this change in schooling was the fact the Hines Hill School where Miss Jean Herbert taught was a one-teacher school. She taught from bubs to grade 7. This wasn’t any problem as she was a dedicated teacher but the school had 16 pupils, 12 boys to the age of 15 and four girls. I think they thought that their only grandchild should go away where it was safer from the temptations which may have occurred.
Life at the convent was quite an experience for a 12-year-old who had always lived with the family and I soon found that I had to learn to fight my own battles and stand up for myself. The food was not quite what I had been used to but as there wasn’t anything else you learnt to eat up or go hungry. Breakfast was porridge and bread and butter. We all used to supply our own marmite, in those days I didn’t like vegemite. Lunch consisted of stewed sausages or meat and potatoes and sweets. I thought it was frogs eyes but it was really tapioca. It wasn’t my favourite dish and one day I swapped my plate with someone who liked it. Sister of course saw me and said “Joan, what are you doing?” and I said “I don’t like it” so she let me off and sometimes I got something else. Tea was sometimes soup but mostly bread and butter.
We slept in a bit of a dormitory of about 16 girls, just a bed and a cupboard next to it. I can remember that I was in the bed above the music room. And downstairs each night I went to sleep listening to the older girls practicing their pieces. I still love to hear some of the music that they played, it has stayed with me all this time.
My one bug bear was the music teacher, Sister Lucian. She made me cry every lesson because she said that I didn’t love my mother because I didn’t practice as much as I should and I used to get really upset. I was so mad one Eisteddfod I thought that I’d show her and in a duet with one of the girls we won first prize which was a 5 shilling piece which I still have. I am now sorry that I didn’t keep on with my music as I really loved it but there were so many more things that were easier to do than practice. I’m not sure if she put me off or if I was just lazy but I learnt on and off for many years but still am not much good. When I was in Darwin I did some study and was going really well with my music lessons but unfortunately the teacher, who was very good, left for Tasmania. The ones who followed him were not as good for me and I didn’t have the same interest. Still that’s the way it goes and I guess I’ll never make the time now to get any better.
I was allowed to go home for the weekend about every four weeks. I would catch the train in Kellerberrin and get off at Hines Hill. It was only about 30 miles and three train stops. Some of the girls lived at Doodlakine and they often went that far with me. I’d get the train Friday afternoon and come back on Monday morning. The Herberts lived on the Kellerberrin side of the Hines Hill station close to the railway line. On the way back to school, Mrs Herbert always came out on the verandah and waved to the train and I loved to see her there. It was the last familiar face I saw till next time. We kept in touch with the family and Iris Herbert and her husband Harry (I think) are in the photo of grandma and grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary. At this time grandma and grandpa had one grandchild, me, and one great grandchild, Lynnette. Pam was due in October and their anniversary was on the 19th of September.
At the Convent, although I wasn’t Catholic, I went to mass and benediction with the school. While I was at the convent I took religious lessons for my Confirmation in the Church of England given by the Minister who lived up the street from the convent. I used to be allowed to walk up there at set times on certain days.
Because I never liked the pictures when all the other girls would be begging Sister to let them go, I was asking to stay home. I don’t think that they really understood that I was scared of them and still don’t like them today. One day I had to take one of the younger girls to the dentist as she was due to have a tooth out. I was a great help when I saw the blood I fainted in the surgery. Luckily the girl was okay so we both got back to the convent safely. It was a great joke and I got ribbed quite a bit because of it.
There was a bit of a canteen which the sisters ran and only opened on a Sunday afternoon. It had a few lollies and toiletry things. The nuns kept our money and took it off our total as we spent. One of my favourite chocolate bars was made by Plaistowes and called New World bars and cost 2 pence each.
The school was mixed and had day-school-only children which meant there were boys in our classes. One had a crush on me and used to always be asking the others to tell me to meet him behind the school toilets. He used to bring me sweets and chocolates, but I can’t remember his name now. He was plump and had red hair and I wasn’t really impressed. I still got teased about him just the same.
We used to play tennis on the courts next to the convent. They were owned by the Hanley family and they used to let us use them when required. Vaughan Hanley used to be a very good violinist then and went on to make a name for himself in Perth. I enjoyed tennis but was only an average player.
One day a sister wanted someone to drown the five kittens the cat had given birth to. Coming from the farm it was no big deal to me as I had seen things killed when necessary. I eventually did the job putting them in a bucket of water. I don’t think I could do it now though.
I stayed at the convent for two years which probably did me the world of good as there was no one to spoil me there.
When Auntie Jessie married Alex Wiseman she suggested that I come and live with them in Perth. They had a room with a verandah and a small kitchen in Adelaide Terrace, just along from the RAC and on the same side. Mrs Murphy was the landlady and we all got along very well. She had two sons, Jack who worked as a station master and the other son, whose name I can’t remember, worked for the Police Department. One of his friends was Owen Leitch who went on to be Commissioner of Police. He was always at the Murphy’s place as they were great mates. There was a daughter who was a miliner but her name eludes, it could have been Polly. She married and went to live in a house in Mongers Lake and Jessie kept in touch with her for a long while.
Hotel Adelphi. Source: Museum of Perth
Alex was a chef at the Adelphi Hotel and worked long hours as all chefs do. He had very good credentials, learning his trade on one of the passenger boats before the First World War. Back then they had to learn the whole lot: butchering, baking bread, pastry cook etc and he understood every facet of food. When they had balls at the Embassy he used to do the food for some and would decorate little pigs with an apple in their mouth and flowers etc all over them. He also made vegetables into flowers and made the whole table look very attractive. He was always praised for his efforts.
I made some good friends at Perth College and kept in touch for many years with some. Educationally it wasn’t a good move for me. The Convent in Kellerberrin didn’t have a science lab so of course I knew nothing about this and found it all too difficult. I had only done good old fashioned English, History, Geography, Maths A and B. When you got to grade 7 you started French but when I came down to Perth College they had been doing French from infants so that wasn’t much fun for me. Changing schools in grade 8 wasn’t much fun and I decided I didn’t want to go back after the first year. Maths and English I could manage well but all the extra things they did were too confusing.
Laura O’Hara had a small newsagency shop on St George’s Tce and I used to go and work for her on a Saturday afternoon while she went home to have a rest. She had a phone to her flat and if I had a problem I could ring her. I really loved it and was always happy to do this. Of course I didn’t ever guess that when the war was over Doug and I would eventually buy her out and it would be our shop. Laura and her family were old friends of Grandma and Grandpa and she often came up to the farm for a holiday.
I ended up getting a job at Foys (Foy & Gibson, Melbourne department store located between Hay Street and St George’s Tce where Central Park now stands) carrying crockery from the basement to the ground floor. Poor mum when she heard this decided that she had better go and see the Staff Manager at Boans. The family had dealt with Boans for many years having things sent up to the farm by train. The result was that I was employed in the stationery department with Miss O’Neill.
I really enjoyed the work there as Jessie’s first husband, Harry Goodhill, (b. 1862, d. 1934) had a newsagency in Merredin and although I was only about 7 at the time I liked shops and people. I made many friends of the girls I worked with and photos of some of them still.
I can vividly remember while I was working in the stationery department listening to Robert Menzies speaking and saying that war was declared (on 3 September 1939). The radio department was just alongside the two old lifts which were open wire cages around the shaft of the lift. I think that Mr Peggs used to drive one of them in those days. He was the father of Gwen Corbett and Edna Grime (Hanson), what a small world it was in Perth especially in those days. Working there I soon found out that when you were 21 they put you off so I decided that I had better get some other skills I left there after a year to go back to Tech to get my Junior. The only catch was that I didn’t start till the fourth week of term and missed learning all the grammalogues.
The first test I got no end of them wrong and had to write out each one 50 times. This put me off shorthand for life and although I could write it I always had trouble reading it. I loved bookkeeping as working in the shop had taught me about dockets and credit and debit notes so it all made lots of sense to me. I would have liked to have done accountancy but had to do my shorthand again the next year to get my junior so by then I had lost the urge. To pass my shorthand I managed to remember most of what I had taken down otherwise I don’t think I would have made it. I never took a letter in my life for a boss and made sure that the jobs I had were more machine-orientated.
At Tech I made some good friends who I still meet all these years later. Betty Knight (Meredith), Shirley Loughridge (Exley) and Barbara Chisolm (George). After 58 years we still enjoy having lunch together and laughing and remembering the time we had together back then.
When we were financial we used to go over to Foys who had a lunch bar just inside the St George’s Tce end of the shop. Our favourite was a 3d salmon roll and a 3d apple pie which was 6d if you had cream on it. I can still remember how we used to buy them and then walk down to the Swan River bank and by the water and enjoy our lunch. There is no way you could get to the river now without crossing the freeway road. How things have changed.
Barbara went on to do her Accountancy and worked as an Accountant next door to our old shop on St Georges Tce. She was a great reader and used to always take home four books from the library at a time and always got good marks and her homework done on time. Betty at one time worked for the Liberal Party. She married Bill Knight who worked for the government.
Shirley married Johnny Loughridge who was a great footballer playing for West Perth. It was great because that was Doug’s team so I used to see Shirley when we went to the football each week. Johnny was a great player and won the Sandover Medal which was a great honour and which we rightly deserved. Betty and her mother lived with us in Victoria Square for a while when mum had boarders there. Shirley lived in Victoria Park and we went out there many times. I have a picture of Barbara’s 21st birthday party and remember that they lived in Ruby Street, North Perth.
In 1941 when I had finished school at Perth Technical College I went to work in Boans office. It was a very happy time there and I still have great friends who were my workmates there. Thelma Stacey was a couple years younger than I was but we became great mates and spent most of our spare time together.
We were working in the Dissection Department and our job was to add up all the dockets which were written out each day. We did this on a comptometer and I always loved the machine work. We had to be sure that they all balanced and if you had a problem you used to do it on the Burroughs Adding machines.
Thel was in the Concert Party and used to go and sing to the soldiers. Thel was always very talented and danced and sang very well. She included me in many of the picnics that the Concert Party had and there are photos of us at Araluen Park and at National Park with this group. Thel’s mother worked in Moores as she was a widow. Thel’s father died when she was only a baby and they left the farm in Kojonup and came to Perth to live. Conway, her brother, went to CBC and went on to become a lecturer at University.
Thel and I had many happy times and she was responsible for getting me to go to the American Red Cross to entertain the troops on a Sunday afternoon. It was really great fun and we met several very nice American sailors. As was common with all my friends they were always welcome at home. Poor mum always had a lot of my friends visiting often for meals at short notice. We met Hal French Cookie, Gil Leopold at the Premier Skating rink on the corner of Bulwer Street. Thel could skate but I was only a beginner but we had lots of fun. Hal and the other two went to Potshot the week after we met but he told me he had a brother Frank at Pearce and we met before he left. Of course Frank started to come to our place with all of his crew. Whenever they had leave from Pearce they called in and went for many Sunday afternoon walks from Victoria Square up to Jacobs Ladder and up to Kings Park. Cars were not a way of life then and we all did lots of walking which probably made us a lot healthier. We went to the pictures often and Frank would take me out to lunch at a place in Piccadilly Arcade but the name eludes me. During this time I met Murray Cash at Betty Meredith’s place in Cottesloe. He took me home and we used to go out when he was on leave. Being a pilot he was sent to …..
…. and that is where Joan’s story, as written by her, ended.
Joan married Earl Douglas Cash in 1946 and their first daughter, Lynne, was born in 1947 and second daughter, Pam, was born in 1948. They were successful business people with their newsagent, Doug would enter politics and first become a Federal MP and later State MP for the Liberal Party. They would find themselves living in Kalgoorlie, various suburbs of Perth and, for a period, in Darwin, Northern Territory. Instrumental with multiple Probus Clubs for many years and also with Rotary, together they lived a life of community and service. They also travelled widely, most notably to China (note the header image of Joan on a camel at the Great Wall of China) years before it was opened to tourists. Sadly Doug died in 2002 after 56 years together.
Joan spent nearly 20 years without Doug. Supported by her loving daughters and extended family, Joan was very independent, driving to knitting and social outings well into her late 80s and living on her own until her later years when she moved in with Pam and Terry.
Joan died on 22 August 2021 at 97. A life well-lived indeed.
For more on Doug and Joan’s life, read the Doug Cash blog.