December (1946) was the month for the renewing of ration cards and these had to be applied for by everybody at the official issue centres. The old 1945 food ration book had to be produced as the proof of identity, for not many people had passports or driver’s licences and certainly no credit cards which are today’s backdoor form of identification in a country which raised so much protest about a national identity card. Every one had one during the war. The new ration book was in three sections; meat ration card, food ration card, and the clothing ration card. The black books were for the main population group, 6 years and over; and the green books for children under 6 years. Petrol was also rationed until 1949/50.
My first Christmas back in Australia brought back memories of the earlier ones during my war years. 1940 back in Kalgoorlie during a four week break between my Army and Air Force service, 1941 at Geraldton with the Ernie Eaton family where I went often to see one of the daughters, Gladys, at their shop and house in Eleanor Street opposite the railway station.
In 1942 and 1943 it was with 14 Squadron at RAAF Base Pearce. As was the custom the officers served the lower ranks on this last Xmas day, I remember the day well for the newly arrived Beaufort bombers and their crews were with us. In our respective jobs we had done our best to make all the new chaps welcome and we were happy to sit down with them and enjoy a good lunch together. I was already friendly with some of them including P/O Bill Dimelow and his crew, Sgts Colin Saunders, John Arnett, and Newton Wilson. I knew Newton before he switched from groundstaff to aircrew. Two weeks later they were all dead. Johnny Taylor, another friend, was also killed. He had hitched a ride down to Busselton but the aircraft was hardly off the strip when it lost power and crashed near the base, its bombs exploding when it went in. The five airmen were buried at the War Graves Cemetery at Karrakatta. Their graves are side by side in Row C.
1944 saw me heading for New Guinea and I spent that Christmas somewhere along the way, probably at 2PD. When thoughts of Xmas came up late in 1945, after the war ended, I was still on Manus Island, north of New Guinea. In October we packed up all our radar gear and other stores and boarded the HMAS Ping Wo for Madang. Soon after our arrival our unit, Air Defence HQ, packed up and I was posted to No 2 MRS Madang where I had my 1945 Xmas celebrations. Turkey and ham, plum pudding, icecream, the whole “works”. One of the best wartime menus I had put away.
A year later it was a big Xmas spread at 21 Victoria Square where we were now living with Joan’s mum and dad and her grandparents. Everybody sat down to a tremendous spread and a happy afternoon eating our way through all the “goodies” and later talking and singing at the piano. No young family yet to buy toys for so we were looking ahead to February for the arrival of our first girl or boy but we had no preference. We had two sets of names ready. Joan was an only child and an only grandchild so there were no young ones anywhere in her families to give small toys to. On our side there were two with more on the way for both sides
Back on the home front there was an expectant air around the house for we all knew that baby day was near. We had much earlier decided on names for a girl or a boy. I had an expected reaction when I first suggested Penelope and Hardingham as Joan was not in favour of “Penny” Cash nor too keen on “Hard” Cash. We were both inclined to think it would be a girl and we were agreed on her name. Early in February we filled in the summer night with a trip to the trotting trials at Gloucester Park and sat on the lawns while we watched. We left before the last event and caught the tram back to Victoria Avenue and walked on up the hill to 21 Victoria Square. Early next morning Joan woke and told me that it was about time to go to the hospital. I went around to the telephone box on the corner of Murray Street, opposite RPH, and rang for a taxi. Away we went to King Edward (in Subiaco) (NOTE: Royal Perth Hospital might have been across the road but was not a maternity hospital), with her packed case, and booked her in. We went with the nurse to the lift and she took charge of Joan after indicating to me that the lift door was the place for my goodnights. That was that for a few hours.
At 10.50 that morning of February 1947 our daughter Margaret Lynnette was born. She was a lovely little girl and great was the joy in our hearts at her safe arrival. Joan had no real problems but had to stay in bed for a few days before getting up. Lynnette weighed 6lb 12oz (3kg) at birth and two weeks later the same at her first home clinic check. A month later she was 8lb 6 ozs. Our little baby had fair hair, dark blue eyes, and a fair complexion. She had Joan’s eyes and looked like me, more so when she smiled. We received many telegrams and baby cards from our relatives and friends and we still have them. It was a happy time for everybody, especially the Moores, the first time grandparents, and all the McKenzies for it was the first great grandchild of their line because Joan was an only granddaughter.
While Joan was in hospital and for a while before and after, we were helped in the shop by Norma McCarthy (Cruickshank) who I first met in Coolgardie in 1937/38 when she was a young student at the Convent. The girls used to collect the Convent mail each day and send their letters home to Menzies or wherever it was. I later came to know her older sister and her family in Kalgoorlie in 1939. During the war I took my RAAF friend Norm McCarthy home to Kalgoorlie for our leave break from Pearce air base and he met Norma for the first time when we stayed at the Cruickshank home. They were married early in 1947, and lived happily ever after. We see them from time to time and have many a yarn about the old days.
Margaret Lynnette had been coming along fine and gave us all the joys of parenthood. She had smiled at seven weeks along with such baby language as “Goo’’, and at 11 weeks played with the rattle and the mosquito net. Lynnette recognised her mother at 12 weeks but took two weeks longer to do the same for me. She gave us the usual quota of disturbed sleep and nappy changes but that’s par for mums and dads. At five months she weighed in at 17 pounds. On 6 July 1947 our baby was christened in St George’s Cathedral where we were married in May 1946. Dean Geoffrey Berwick was the celebrant. Joan’s aunties, Marge Moore and Jessie Wiseman, became the godmothers, and my RAAF friend Bert Cutten, the godfather. We were thrilled to be part of such a joyous occasion and Lynnette co-operated by enjoying the whole affair. Not a peep out of her even when the Dean dropped water on her head; she just looked up at him as if to say, “Why did you do that?”.
Tax return time had now arrived and I was glad to be able to add no more to the deductions side. I had earlier received my pay slip for my last 16 weeks with the PMG, 146 pounds ($292) from which 4 had been deducted under a PAYE type system. Tax was about 10% then and the country seemed to get along alright on that. The continuance of rationing of certain domestic goods slowed things up a bit but the restrictions on petrol sales hit post-war progress the hardest. Now that the war was over people wanted to spend the money they had saved up during the war when you could not buy much. The Labor Government was committed to its policies of increased government planning and direction and did little to lift the controls that were irking the voters from both sides of politics. All that was soon to be changed by the people.
After a busy Xmas in the shop we were glad to have a couple of days off to relax at home during the holiday break. Everybody had been busy cooking and getting set for a big Christmas Day dinner. Lynnette was now 10 months old and everybody’s little darling, so there were many presents for her to open, with a little help, and small toys for her to play with. She was able to walk when held by the hands and was starting to take off by herself soon after the New Year. Vocally she was now at the “Mum”, “Dad, Dad”, and “Nan” stage, and this made everybody happy to join in for a few repeat performances. Lynnette now weighed 21 pounds and in that other area of progress, her teeth, she was up to the normal timetable. Every day of your children’s lives are important to you but those early years of a child’s development as they move from stage to stage are among the most enjoyable times for the parents.
I was walking past London Court on the Terrace one day when a man stopped me and said, “Hello, John, here’s something for you”. I stopped dead in my tracks as he gave me a brown OHMS envelope, and I said, “This says John Bottomley”. “That’s right, it is for you”. My turn, “But I’m not John”. “Then you must be his brother”. My turn again, “No, I’m Doug Cash, I run the paper shop near Foy’s”. I handed the envelope back. He was astounded and told me that I was John Bottomley’s double. Famous for 5 minutes.
John Bottomley was a well-known Perth personality then, but it was to be ten years or so before I was to hit the headlines, and surprise myself and others. John’s popularity came from his radio programme, “The Man Who Comes To Breakfast”. John was a teacher with the Army Education Service and he gave a 5 minute talk every morning on the ABC. The talks were originally written for sick servicemen in hospital, but when the general public tuned in as well the session became a household word. John gave his 1000th talk in September 1946 when Il was still in Kalgoorlie. John used to go to the bush to talk with country people in the towns and on the farms, and see at first hand the problems of rural life.
I can understand the chap in the Terrace making his mistake for John was about my height (neither of us much good in the ruck). He had a receding hairline and like me wore horn-rimmed glasses. It was not to be the only time I would be mistaken for someone else and soon after the Terrace incident it happened again. I was in Gregsons the auctioneers in King Street (No.34) having a look at the items in for that day’s auction sale when a lady spoke to me. “Hello, Mr Bottomley, I’d like to say how much I enjoy your talks. I listen every day.” With the previous J B meeting fresh in my mind I never blinked an eye, “I’m glad you like to listen to the programme. I get many letters about it”. We talked on for a few minutes and I switched the conversation to the sale and what we were both looking for. Away she went happy at meeting with her ABC favourite. I was glad I had not embarrassed her for she was so sure I was John Bottomley.
A third man enters this little story now for I, and maybe JB, had in some people’s mind another double. One of my customers said to me one day that he saw me driving down William Street in my Rover car. Rovers were upmarket in those days and close to the top of the quality list. I had no hesitation in pointing out the case of mistaken identity. The driver of that car was well-known Doctor Jull, same height, same hairline, horn-rimmed glasses. It was not the last time when that mistake was made, but I was never asked to give a diagnosis or write a prescription. I have always taken the view that elsewhere in the world you could find a close copy of yourself but there must be a limit to how many moulds in which a human shape can be cast. When you travel in western countries you sometimes see someone you knew back in Australia on the same street as yourself. You are walking behind this “look-a-like” who is of similar build, the same walk, same hair and even style of clothes. You must make sure before you speak so you speed up a little, and look closer as you pass by. The strange face tells its own story. Sometimes you are right, it is someone from home.
One thing we did sell at the auction room was the ancient cash register that came with the shop. It was getting in our way and we preferred to use the cash drawer system. Gregsons sold it for 25 pounds which was the fixed price set by the Government. A sale by me at any other price would have been a “black market” deal. I steered clear of them. When the final bid reached 25 pounds the auctioneer put all the bidders’ names in a hat and pulled one out and he got the register. Today it would be a pricey antique.
The Gregson family have been in the auction room business almost since time began. The father, Bill?, was a treat to see on the job. He knew most of his customers well enough to joke with them, to cajole them into bidding a few shillings or another pound or two more. A big man he had a powerful voice that you could hear out in King Street but at the same time he could drop it down to sotto voce to make a point when bidding was lagging. John and Don were active then and took over later. Now Bob is the loud voice of Gregsons and you can see him in action in Beaufort Street at this time of writing. The stentorian voices of the Gregsons have long been silent in King Street being replaced by the sounds of the didgeridoo in the Aboriginal Art Gallery now at No 34.
Other regulars at the auctions were the carriers. For a sensible charge they would deliver any item to your address. Some took the smaller items and one of these was Peter Rattigan, a friend of my Dad. He was a trotting man and now one of the last of the horse and four-wheel dray carriers. He would have been in his sixties. The carriers had their rank at the Central Railway Station in Wellington Street. Usually they waited for clients under the station side of the Horseshoe Bridge where they parked in line. Most of them were motorised. On a slack day the line would be long enough to edge out into Wellington Street. Train passengers from the country used them when they had a lot of luggage. Some carriers like Peter Rattigan worked the auction rooms on sale days. Another with a truck was “Jock” Moore. We used him when we bought something heavy. He was not related to Joan’s family.
On the home front Joan was three months pregnant with company for Lynnette. We were all pleased at the news and all the relatives and friends were guessing whether it would be a girl or a boy. Names were being bandied about but we were not giving away any secrets just yet. The main thing was that Joan was having no problems so far. The probable date was early in October. Soon the knitting needles began to fly and booties, bonnets, and shawls started to appear. At Easter we trained down to Bunbury to stay with Jim and Eva Carroll, wartime friends. On the Sunday we drove out to Dardanup for a look around in a small Vauxhall car with a rumble-seat at the back. It was a smaller open-air seat behind the main roofed seat. Very comfortable with plenty of fresh air. The Carrolls were well-known people in Bunbury and had arranged our accommodation at the Rose Hotel when we married in 1946.
1948 was the year of the London Olympics and I take time here to mention the West Australian, John Winter, who contested the high jump and won the Gold Medal. John would have been in his early twenties then and he thrilled every West Australian when he easily cleared 6ft. 6ins (1.98m) at Wembley Stadium. Sporting fans were still basking in the euphoria of WA winning the Sheffield Shield cricket final at their first attempt and John’s great leap stirred their hearts some more. A few years later John and I were to meet for the first time and start a lifetime friendship. Around 1955 we did a “back-pack” down to Albany and then on to Esperance and up to Kalgoorlie before returning to Perth. He had taken leave from work and I took a break from the shop. John is still on deck (sadly died in 2007), and his photographs and athletics records can be seen locally in the Sportsmen’s Hall of Fame.
Early in October 1948 our second baby arrived, Pamela Dawn. Lighter than Lynnette but in good health, she gave no trouble and mother and baby were soon home. The grandparents and the great-grandparents were thrilled to see Pamela and along with the aunties and uncles glad to have another addition to the family tree. It was another special occasion for cards and telegrams and presents for the new arrival. Baby clothes topped the list as parcels were opened. Lynnette was now a year and eight months old so she was able to help with opening cards and trying out some of the toys.
Ours was not the only family building up the population. Elder brother, Cecil, and his wife, Mavis (Hoad), had started off with Terry (22/1/1943) then Kevin (2/12/1944). Younger brother, Roly and Joan (Sellars) made their contribution with Carolyn (11/5/1947) and Roslyn (11/6/1948). My sister Alice Blanche was married to RAN man Frank Andrews and their son, Leslie, was born on 6/2/1944, and their first daughter, Valerie, on 21/7/1947. A big family now.
Earlier in the year my ex RAAF friend Rex Marsh had proposed me into the Freemasons and after all due enquiries were made I was admitted to his Lodge, Adastral Lodge No 236 W.A. Constitution (in March 1996 merged into Combined Services Lodge No. 165). It was a straightforward initiation into their rules and rituals, and contrary to the stories that get around about the Lodges there was nothing like the stories so often told by non-masons. It was a case of listen and learn. I was pleased to find on my special night that the visitors included Joan’s grandfather, Peter Colin McKenzie, Past Master and Grand Lodge Officer, her father Arthur, and her uncle Percy McKenzie who were both Past Masters of their respective Lodges. Many of the men I had met in our shop and in the RAAF came, and that was a big surprise as their association with Freemasonry was not known to me. I was able to thank them for coming to the ceremony in my speech, my first ever to such a big group, in response to a toast to the newly admitted Brother. The members of Adastral Lodge were all ex RAAF or still serving. My acceptance into Freemasonry was one of the best things that ever happened to me and it gave me a confidence that was to stand me in good stead over the years that followed when my career took a sudden change of direction that was not contemplated in 1948.
Joan’s dad, Arthur Moore, was now looking for a new future for he was retired from the PMG’s Department where he had been working as a Linesman during the war. He had applied to rejoin the Army after leaving the farm but then joined the PMG. His job had been on the temporary basis system offered to ex-servicemen so he was not entitled to superannuation. Arthur and Lucie (Joan’s mum) decided to buy a small mixed business to ensure a steady income. The decision meant selling the tenancy of 21 Victoria Square.
It had been a boarding house before it became all family living there. It had six bedrooms and a large dining room downstairs. It was well-furnished with a five minute walk to Barrack Street so it was sold as an “apartment house” on 7th February 1949. The price was 1080 pounds ($2160) and it was sold to Dorice Marie Alcorn. The agents were the Swan Realty, Monash House, 23 King Street.