A London story: You could see the spitfires fighting

We have been lucky enough to speak to an absolute gem of a lady, who was born in 1923 and has lived her whole life in England, both in London and the countryside.  We spoke about her experiences during WWII in London and do hope you enjoy the result!

I don’t think we really understood the immensity of the declaration of the war, actually.  Because we were English, it never occurred to us that we wouldn’t win in any case. Never ever.  There was no doubt about it. Didn’t matter what happened, we were going to win.  And that was said all the way through the war.  Very strange actually, looking back.

 I remember the utter contempt that we had for people who just gave in on the continent. When we heard people just capitulated on the continent, we used to think “We are English, we’re not them..” . We always thought people in Great Britain are quite different from people in Europe, and as young people, we didn’t understand anything about their history and upbringing or else we would have understood what we now know.

 I was going to be called up, and I certainly didn’t want to go into the armed services, I could never imagine myself fighting anybody. They were desperate for nurses at the time actually, and I applied to go to Middlesex Hospital and was just very fortunate. It was a very good hospital. Built near Foley Street, just here near Tottenham Court Road station.

There were lots of air-raids while I was on duty.  I just got on, it didn’t really make that much difference.  You need to get the job done, quick as you can, because there’s another patient waiting. You can’t get yourself emotionally caught up in it. I think the saddest thing of all is when you get a person in, say they lived in Tottenham Court Road above a shop or something, and the rest of the family had no home, so they were being put up somewhere. That was upsetting because the patient didn’t know what was left of their home.  I can’t remember the patients individually, but I do remember that sadness because it was hard for them, very hard.

The nurses’ home was in Foley Street, which is just behind the hospital, and we had an underground passage so we never had to go over ground.  So, (a) you could never be molested and (b) no matter what was going on in the sky or anywhere else, you could always get on and off duty. 

I do remember, we used to stand on the street, look up and watch the dog fights; cheer like mad when one of them came down.  Of course we always assumed it was a German that came down, but you could see spitfires up there, fighting.  It was incredible. Never, ever took shelter.

I think there were times when we were really anxious, though not afraid.  Now what were they called, buzz bombs, doodlebugs.  They came at an alarming speed and you could hear those, you see,  as there was the “zzzzzz” noise, but you could not see them.  When their sound cut off,  you knew they would explode, but it always seemed an eternity before they blew up.  It couldn’t have been long, it could only have been seconds, but it seemed ages - where did it land, you know.

The other things I remember watching in the daylight, because you couldn’t see them at night: land bombs that were on parachutes. And we used to say if you see one coming, walk towards it and get underneath and beyond it before it touches a roof or anything. Because they did have a devastating effect; they’d touch a building or touch a tree, and they’d blast the whole roof or tree. They must’ve come in whichever way the wind was coming I suppose.  You’d see them coming down very slowly, that’s the difference, and they were silent.

When the war was over people had tea parties in the street! Where they got food from, God only knows, as rationing meant food was very restricted.  I must’ve been at a tea party because I remember seeing tables all along in the middle of the road, Union flags flying, and stools or something for the children to sit on. I don’t remember adults sitting, I remember adults serving us.  One had never eaten in the road before.


social enterprise history mandurah

My official Second Schedule date of birth is 13 November 1954 but with photographs, and myself being present at my stepmother and father’s wedding, I think I’m born in 1951 or 1950 (or possibly 1952, but I really doubt that). My Second Schedule birth certificate says I was born in Frankston, Victoria – just a suburb of Melbourne – but when I went to the hospital there, they told me that I wasn’t born there.  And then under the Freedom of Information Act I found out that my name – Margaret Anne Childs, and my mother’s name- Elizabeth Anne Childs were never present there.  Further, for years I have been told me that until the late 1980s the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages didn’t know how accurate their own birth certificates were.  That said, as was law until 1958, having a Second Schedule birth certificate means that, in fact, I am illegitimate.  At least I know that about my circumstances.

My godmother eventually gave me a name of someone (her best friend, actually), who (she says) is my natural mother.  Evidently she had married a Chinese guy and my godmother attended that wedding.  If my godmother is correct, my mother had fraternal twins, one of whom is me, and I look nothing like my other twin.   

I don’t know what happened to me.  As I understand things, I wasn’t subject to any abuse prior to going into what I call ‘The Marriage’, in 1953, and was probably taken care of in an orphanage.  From then on I always thought ‘I don’t belong here’.  From the photographs I have seen, I was about two and a half or three at the time I went into ‘The Marriage’.  In photographs of me when I was younger I often look comparatively tall. But I’m actually very small; I think I was just older than I was thought to be, so bigger than those considered to be my peers.

As to how I moved in to my adopted home in or around 1953, as I understand things, my natural father had been engaged to a lady called Betty.  In the 1950s, if you broke an engagement to be married then you could have been sued for breach of promise.  So my assumption is that Betty would have threatened to ruin his reputation if he didn’t agree to go proceed with the wedding.  I have no idea whether the man who was said to be my natural father is indeed so.  I look nothing like him, except perhaps for my ears. But needless to say, the easiest thing for him would have been to give in and marry Betty, with Betty then becoming my stepmother. 

Betty was rather odd.  She was one of five children, all of whom are now dead.  In 1932, when she was two, her father died (was perhaps killed, we don’t really know), and she went into Goodwood orphanage in South Australia, which is a pretty horrible place – very rough.  She was quite damaged as a result.  Betty would have been desperate to get married.  She would have wanted money and security too.   

In a stepparent adoption in those days, all you needed to do was to get married.  There was no other paper work required.  So by reason of their marriage I was adopted into their family; Betty had to take me on as her daughter. Whether she realised she would be taking me on, I don’t know, but there are pictures of me at the wedding in 1953.

Times were not really good with Betty.  I was very bored.  I never went to Kindergarten, but I was very much older than they treated me.  I had no toys or stimulation at all, except a tricycle. 

When I was 13 I realised I needed glasses; there were leaves on trees!  I said to my stepmother ‘With glasses I can see, you know.’  She said ‘No, there’s nothing wrong with you, just sit closer’.  A year later, when I was 14, we went to an outdoor movie.  My father noticed I couldn’t read anything on the screen, so finally Betty was convinced to take me to the optician. 

We didn’t go to the pictures much.  In fact we didn’t really see my father much, he was commuting a long way to work.  He wasn’t really interested in me actually.  I don’t think he actually thought I was his child.

I was legally blind, with only 8% vision.  I appeared to be pretty clumsy and stupid as a result.  I just knew on sunny days I could see more than other times. I squinted a lot to try and see what was happening.  My stepmother kept telling me ‘You did this to yourself, you did this to yourself’.  I just kept thinking, like, ‘How did I do this? Should I do some exercises to get my eyesight back again?’  Ultimately I went to OPSM and asked them how long they thought I had had this level of vision.  They told me I was probably born with it.

Until I had glasses I couldn’t even go out into town, it was scary.  There were a lot of cars on the roads and I couldn’t see to cross the road or anything.  So all I did was stay at home and eat grapes and fruit (once we moved to a new house when I was 10 or 11 and had lots of fruit trees and vines on our land).

When you first get a pair of glasses and you can actually see, it’s a real shock.  The ground rises up beneath you. OPSM gave me three different pairs of glasses within 18 months and kept accusing me of changing my prescription. But I have since found out from OPSM that they had to gently adjust my eyes (and my mindset) to being able to see, to being able to do things, so they had been changing my prescription slowly on purpose. 

As soon as I got glasses I realised I’d been cheated throughout my childhood.  I mean, I had probably been bullied all through school but I could never see to know that.  Betty’s face was angry so much of the time and I hadn’t known because it had previously been so blurry.  I mean, I had never even really spoken to anyone before I got glasses. I was extremely quiet and just used to do as I was told.  I had never made a fuss about anything, except once asking my stepmother for some more clothes because all I had was my school uniform, one pair of stretch cheque pants and my mother’s cast-off skirts. 

Once things became visually clearer for me, my life became conceptually clearer too.  I realised how hard my life had been and I started to refuse to be that perfect person, who did everything they were told.  I became a braver, different kind of person, who spoke out on behalf of victims that have been cheated in life, like myself, and in fact have dedicated myself to this cause in various ways throughout my life.

If you can help me to find out more about my parents and my early childhood, get in touch with Know Your Nation!


social enterprise history mandurah

I was born in London in 1929. It was the Great Depression at that time so it was a great mistake to have made me. During the Depression we just got poorer and poorer.  My dad was a cooper (barrel maker) and kept losing his job.  He was put into making roads after that, and in those days roads were made of bitumen soaked blocks that were made in Australia!  My childhood was spent listening to night time altercations between my parents.  You couldn’t afford divorce in those days. My father was a heavy drinker and every pay packet went to the pub. 

I was born in Battersea, which is a low class area.  I was there until I was 9, when the Second World War broke out.  The day after war was declared my mother swapped her wedding ring for cash so that she could afford to send me, my brother and her as far away from London as possible.  At that time it did look like the Nazis were going to just swim across the Channel and walk through England.  We didn’t have defences up yet.

We went to the coach station and my mum bought us tickets as far away from London as she could think of. So at 5pm that day we arrived in Devon. My dad stayed in London.  My older sister stayed too, she was 19, and she just said if the Nazis arrived she’d take off her corsets and wash her face and they wouldn’t look at her. 

We stayed in Devon for a year, until a few bombs were dropped in a neighbouring town down there and my mother panicked. So we went home, back to London, just in time for the Blitz.  Every night we would walk to the deepest, safest air raid shelter in the area and spend the night there.  I was just a child, I went to sleep.  I remember coming back up in the morning and the streets were full of glass and shrapnel.

Later, in the 1940s, I passed the civil service exams and ended up in offices in Whitehall where all of the government buildings are.  The National Health Service came into being in England at about that time so lots of help was needed.  Through work, if there was anything going on with royalty, being a procession or something, we had a ballot for window seats.  I won twice and watched the royals go by in their coats.  They looked very frail, and you felt very sorry for them with all that burden on their shoulders.  This was at the time when Queen Elizabeth’s dad was getting sick but they didn’t tell the public.  They put lots of tan make up on him to compensate. 


Bev and Kerry

This longer podcast explores a myriad of experiences growing up in Perth.  So good, we couldn't cut it back.


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My brother unfortunately was a child of the Rubella virus and was born stone deaf.  He was problematic for my mother who used to devote a lot of time to him; no one knew how to deal with those children.  This was good for me as I was allowed to do exactly as I wanted.  During World War II we moved to West Leederville – my mother’s family home - from Vic Pk because my father was away for the war.

My parents allowed me the opportunity to be independent and I loved that.  When my dad got back from the war he had really bad malaria.  I remember him screaming out in the middle of the night with fever.  Slowly, slowly he got better. 

Women really weren’t encouraged to have a decent career. I always wanted to do medicine but my father wanted me to just get married.  All my other friends went nursing. Together we invaded Royal Perth hospital. I don’t know how I survived training, it was absolutely horrific. You had to start at 5am to get your jobs done so that you could serve breakfast to the patients at the right time. Then after your shift you had to wash the soiled linen.  I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do nursing.  I always queried things, was a bit rebellious. That might be because of my upbringing – being allowed to do whatever I want to.  Eventually I got put with a special staff nurse called Margaret Foley, who would come and help me to wash the linen and to do the other less favourable tasks.  She was a true mentor and guide to me.

Later my girlfriends and I travelled to the Eastern States for a few years nursing before returning back to Perth when I was 21. My career has remained important to me throughout my life, and after my children were born I went back to work, and eventually retrained as a psychologist after teaching.    

I said that I didn’t want to go into family stuff a great deal during this session. But I have five kids, all of whom are wonderful.  Two of them have now died.  When the first one died I felt like I lost an arm. The following year the other one died and I felt as if I lost a leg. So now I (half jokingly) say that I’m balanced.   We speak tenderly and lovingly of our lost ones.  My children miss their siblings greatly but time does heal somewhat.

This is a poem written about the old high chair that my mum bought when my first daughter was first born.  It is about my granddaughter.

Grace climbed

Then sitting up in the high chair, she surveyed all across the table.

Purchased by her great grandmother, for her auntie, almost 50 years passed.

Not one of your chrome jobs, no.

Majestic in its simplicity.  Solid, substantial, jarrah.

Bought for the beach house.  And visiting grandchildren ever since.

What a joy it would bring to Mon today,

With portrait like viewing in the high chair, of this stellar two year old, golden girl.

A replica of herself.

Ann and Becky

There is nothing more beautiful than learning even more about someone you love in circumstances where you thought you already knew everything.  Music, a woman's place, the hardship of breaking off one's own independence and a mother's love.  This one brought us to tears.

Eddie Storm OAM

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Edward Bellamy OAM, 'Eddie Storm', was born in England but has made a huge name for himself as a singer and entertainer here in WA.  From winning awards over East to being chosen to perform for troops in Vietnam, Eddie has been highly regarded in his trade and very much a household name since the 1960s.  Even since 'retiring' Eddie has continued singing, and now focuses on entertaining seniors in WA.  

John and Vicki

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I was born in 1934 at a maternity hospital in East Perth. I went to Christian Brothers’ College down on St Georges Tce from second standard to tenth standard, which was sub-leaving year.  My brother and I got in to the College on singing scholarships. We were in St Mary’s choir and our school fees were paid by the Archbishop.  After a few years we complained to our mother because we needed to go to choir every Sunday while all of our friends were playing football.  So – and I don’t know how, as we had no money – we came off the scholarships and our mother paid our school fees instead. 

I still remember my teachers.  In second standard (during World War Two, and following a recent re-emergence from the Depression so no one had anything anyway), I was very thin and skinny. Sister Mary used to send me down to the cook house in the convent for a mug of coco every morning.

On the corner of Coode Street and Mill Point Road there used to be a big Chinese Garden.  Sometimes I’d go and stay at Eddie’s in Forrest Street so I’d walk down to the Coode Street ferry and catch it up the river, then walk to CBC. I’d walk passed the Garden that was there, and would approach and ask for a little piece of sugar cane – then chomp on it as I was on my way.  Beautiful garden, beautiful vegetables.  It doesn’t exist now. 

The war started when I was five.  I was inching to get into it before it finished but of course I was far too young so never did.  The Americans were in Perth during the war.  They were very friendly, very pleasant.  They once put on a huge event at the trotting ground at Gloucester Park, with ice creams and chocolates.  It was a huge party for families and kids.  Just a one off, as I remember it.  Probably for relationship building.

We lived in Leonora Street, overlooking the Canning River, then. An aeroplane flew up very low over the Canning River and I remember that my mum made me go and get under the kitchen table.  I said ‘What for?’ and she said ‘Oh, that’s a Japanese aeroplane’.  The media kept it from us, but the war was a reality, not just a threat.  The Japanese were bombing up north and we didn’t really know that they were about to invade.  That said, in Perth they dug communal air raid shelters about 10ft deep and 30ft long and covered them with sand.  Our next door neighbours also dug their own one.  And during the war there was no pollution because the City collected everyone’s tin and cardboard for use in the war effort. Big bags were stationed all along Canning Highway as tin and cardboard collection points and as far as I know everyone contributed to them. Plastic – of course – hadn’t been invented yet.  At school we had to have a cotton reel around our necks, and if bombs fell we were supposed to put the reel between our teeth to prevent us from biting our tongues.

I was a bit blasé about it all to be honest; it was exciting.


My parents spent a lot of time with us.  Every Sunday we’d go to the beach – Coogee or Port beach mainly.  That was quite unusual, people didn’t really drive that far in those days.  I didn’t like the system where the wife did all of the work in the home – and so the wife never gets to stop working.  Whereas the husband goes to work and gets paid and then comes home and sits on his hands.  That was the reason I didn’t get married until very late in life.  My parents didn’t fight about it; that was the way things were.  My mum didn’t have an outside job so her job was the house, and she did it very well.  She could make my clothes without a pattern, she made all the curtains, was a great cook – she would have saved us a lot of money.  My dad was probably in charge of the yard (though I don’t remember ever seeing him or anyone else mow it) and he also looked after the car.  The three of us kids used to do the dishes on rotation – one washes, one dries, one puts away.  Apart from taking us out on a Sunday my dad didn’t do an awful lot around the house.

Due to my father’s work and my mother’s health we moved around every couple of years after my time in primary school.  We ended up in Carlisle, where I finished off doing my Junior Certificate at Kewdale High.  All of the travel would have slowed me down academically and allowed for the fostering of insecurity, knowing things would be changing every few years. It in fact set a pattern in my life for a long time. I used to change my job or my boyfriend every two years as it was just what I was used to.

When I was about 16 I was in love with someone.  They wanted to buy me a friendship ring and I could just see the engagement ring and then the wedding ring around the corner, then I’d be a wife and would have to stay at home forever.  At that stage I just didn’t want that for my life.  In those days once you were married you didn’t have any other option.

I went back to study when I was 25 years old.  At about that time I bought a unit in Maylands.  As it happens I would have been happy to stay in that unit (and perhaps break the pattern of moving around all the time) but I had a nutter upstairs, who was obsessed with me, had guns, used to sit and watch the car park to see if I had any male visitors and had this idea that my nephew was our son.  He was actually rather timid, but he was a jealous person and I was more concerned for any male visitors than I was for myself.  I’m sure he told other people in the block (like the caretaker, who I was quite friendly with) about all of this, as they told me. Because he was an owner not a renter no one could ask him to leave. I tried to get a restraining order against him but because we were in the same apartment block I couldn’t get one.  So I sold my unit, which worked out really well, because I bought a much nicer unit in Cottesloe around six months later.

At about the time I bought that second unit I also went back to study for teaching. I taught for one year, but had already met John by that time so quit to go sailing with him. We have been together ever since.

Andy and Belinda

social enterprise history mandurah

I started life on a farm in Lincolnshire. My father went to hear a talk on farming in Kenya.  So in 1953 my father flew out to Kenya to take a look.  He spent a few weeks there and looked around, then later in that year they sold the farm, packed the family up and came out to Kenya.  

Can you describe a time when you really got up to mischief?

Seeing as you are my daughter that is a deliberate question, I suspect.  My brother and I decided to drive the tractor.  We persuaded the tractor driver to let us.  He brought it up to us.  My brother took one side (the clutch) and I took the other (the brakes).  We had to steer it.  We turned into the shed where the tractor was to be housed.  Inside the shed was a hammer mill.  Unfortunately instead of stopping just before the shoot of the hammer mill we kept going.  We damaged the hammer mill.  The tractor boy was last seen running down the road and my brother and I got a good talking to!  I think we weren’t allowed to take the guns out for a week after that. 

That’s how it was. It was a very free life, roaming around the farm, riding the vehicles.  

When Kenya got its independence in 1963 we left for Australia and my father joined shortly after.  On the way mum bought some bits and pieces, including a Hoover twin tub washing machine as she wasn’t sure if they’d have one here.  A record player too.  I don’t know why they did that, Australia was far more advanced than they thought it would be.
When we arrived we went to Graylands Hostel, or ‘Silverside City’ as it was called back then. It was hot, and we were in lined Nissan huts.  It was different, but we’d come from Africa so we were used to the tropics.  

How did you meet mum then? 

I met her at WAIT in 1968.  She was doing pharmacy. 

Did you see her across a crowded room or something?
With my Christian background, we decided to set up a Christian group.  It was a small group of ten or twenty people, and we both put ourselves up to be on the group's council. 

Where did you take her on your first date?
Oh, I wouldn’t have a clue. 


I think we actually went to a nightclub in Perth.


Stockland program 2016: I realised with shock and horror that the house was on fire

social enterprise history seniors

In 2016 we spent two days in a Stockland village capturing stories from residents.

Here are the memories of a remarkable lady who has lived all around the world. 

I was born in South Africa in 1931.  I met my husband but we weren’t allowed to get married until I was 18.  I turned 18 in April and we got married the same month.  After I had my daughter, we had a house burn down and I lost all of my photos.  Fortunately the photographer from our wedding had a picture of me as a bride in his window as a showcase, and a few others from the wedding too.  I asked him ‘can I please buy it’ and he let me.

We were given a radiogram as a wedding present.  Ours was underneath a set of curtains.  There was a short between the set and the wall, which caused the fire.  My daughter woke up in the middle of the night and said she wanted water.  When I brought her back to bed, I glanced at the wall and saw a light, which was a reflection from the fire.  I thought the light reflection was strange as there were no lights outside.  I could hear a slight noise too.  Then I realised with shock and horror that the house was on fire. 

We should have closed the door to stop the fire from spreading but we thought it was more important to call the fire brigade, so my husband’s back got badly burnt.  I stood at the back door screaming my lungs out asking for help and the minister next door let us use his phone.  By the time the fire brigade came it was too late. We lost everything except the night clothes we were wearing. 

We’d always wanted to travel but we’d never done any until then.  So we re-built the house then decided that now is the time to move to England.  Since then we’ve lived in South Africa and Australia.

I still travel, every year at least.  As to advice I’d give others – follow your instincts.  If you want to travel, travel, as you can’t learn anything from books that you get by actually going to countries and visiting different people.

On the box was a label that said 'Donnybrook apples, WA'

social enterprise history seniors

Now in his 90s, this amazing man has an incredible memory and sense of humour.  We didn't want the session to end. With thanks to Stockland.

The titanic had sunk in the Atlantic.  We had a boy who’d lost his father aboard the ship just two doors away from us.  Every time the boy came into the house he’d take my chair, which rather annoyed me.  I was only knee high to a grasshopper then but I’d be told to shut up and sit on the box over there.  I’d been told by my mother that we’d be looking after this boy while his mother was at work in the hospital.  My first introduction to Western Australia was sitting on that red box, which was made of wood too hard to chop.  On the box was a label that said ‘Donnybrook apples, WA’. 

I ended up with a job as a navy cadet on the RMS Windsor Castle. I looked after the three wires operators. I would tidy their cabins, organise their meals and take around the telegrams.  It was the best job for a boy. I did two trips on board that ship. 

Later we went to West Africa, in convoy to the Azures.  The war had been on a while then and there were bangs in the night, with ships going down.  I was frightened; a very young man - not even 19, then.  We lost four or five ships in that convoy.

Back at home for a visit, my brother persuaded me to go into South Hampton for a few beers.  On the way back, we walked passed a recruitment centre.  Men cajoled us in with a bed for the night and the promise of eggs in the morning.  The next day they signed me up to the navy and I was carted off to the east of England where I joined a royal navy patrol force, mine sweeping. 

I was on a nightshift one day when I picked up a newspaper and saw an advert that said ‘Become a ten pound Pom’.  I was keen because it always seemed to be raining in England!  I have since been to Donnybrook, to see the source of the apple box, quite a few times.

The best advice I ever received was to marry my wife.  She was a wonderful woman, fortunately for me. 

My first teacher had a monkey

social enterprise history seniors

There was so much to say that we decided to publish both audio and a written story.  We hope you enjoy them! With thanks to Stockland.

Army trucks used to come up the hill during the war and my grandma used to make lots of cups of tea and coffee for the soldiers.  I remember standing on my tip toes holding up mugs as they drove passed.  I was most frightened during the war when going to and from school because you might be half way there and the sirens would go so you’d have to run to a safe place where you could hunker down.

My first teacher had a monkey.  If we learnt our tables she’d bring in the monkey the next day as a treat. It had a chain around its neck and would sit on the teacher’s desk.  We thought it was absolutely fantastic. 

My grandmother, mother and sister all played the piano but I learnt the violin instead and was the youngest member of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  I remember the emotional feelings of being part of a big sound like that. 

Overall I was a hopeless case.  I made myself fail my high school exams because I didn’t want to go to the same school as my sister.  I just didn’t give the right answers.  It was easy.  Also, I was given a new iridescent light green racer bike, which I thought was fantastic.  I used to ride my bike to school and I had to ride it on the canals where the gypsies used to be.   One day the gypsies knocked me off my bike and tried to steal it.  I was screaming and crying and wouldn’t let them have it.  My mother was very strict and I was always in trouble – I remember her tearing up the stairs with a hairbrush to smack my bottom.  So when the gypsies tried to take my bike I was too scared to tell my parents what happened.  I used to ride an extra two miles out of the way so that I didn’t have to pass the gypsies.  I was punished for being late home from school every day.  To this day I have never told them why I was late!

We came out to Australia when I was 13.  I hated it.  School in Australia was awful.  You were forever being called Pommies and teachers were unkind, in a sense, because they assumed you would know every single thing that came up about England.  But we only knew things about the area that we lived.  One day when I was supposed to be at school, I got on the bus to Perth and got a job, telling the agency that I was 14 when in fact I was still 13.  When I told my mum, she nearly had a heart attack on the spot.

I was supposed to find an appropriate person to marry, and was engaged.  But I couldn’t go through with it and ended up eloping with somebody at work, two days before that wedding was due to take place.  So yes, I do believe in love at first sight.

I went out one night and there was a fox

social enterprise history seniors

So many stories were floated during our session that it was very difficult to whittle them down to this.  We are grateful. With thanks to Stockland.

There’s a show called ‘Call the Midwife’, which shows you exactly what our flat in Rotherhithe was like.  We lived there until 1953.  At primary school we had the cod liver oil tablet, spoon of malt, bottle of milk and your school dinner. They were trying to build up our systems because we were still on rations. 

In the winter time the fog was smog.  You’d have one foot on the curb and one foot on the road and had to work out where to walk but you still had to go to school whether it was foggy or not. 

I was excited when we sold up and moved to Australia - an adventure.   But in late 1967 foot and mouth disease had hit and people weren’t allowed to fly so there were 400 extra people on our ship, without their luggage.  Poor people. 

My ex got his first job on a farm in Babikan.  We had quite a big cottage actually.  The only problem was there was a toilet out the back. I went out one night and there was a fox.  That was it, from then on we had a bucket in the shower.  If I saw that fox, what else was there out there! 

The farmer should never have taken us on.  He didn’t like Poms.  He made it very difficult for us.  Eventually we just got in the car and drove back to Perth, made arrangements and said ‘we’re going’.  We ended up in Boragoon.  My ex actually got a job with this guy who got four men go build a house in the country for a farmer.  He’d paid for all of the goods to be delivered.  The workers went out to start building but never saw the guy again.  He’d nicked off with the farmer’s money.  For a week I didn’t even know where my ex was, as there were no mobile phones in those days.  The farmer helped him get back to Perth. 

Mum was working for a curtain mob and the boss said she wanted someone to do some sewing but she didn’t want someone to do full time.  So I got into curtain making and soft furnishings, working from home; I had been a dressmaker in the UK.  Eventually we bought a house in the new estate in Whitfords.  It was a flattened sand pile.  Waneroo Road was still a country lane.  While we were there I met my husband.  We ended up with six kids; three of mine and three of his.  We worked together to have schools built in Kallaroo, Padbury, Craigie and Hilarys. 

I just walked in, walked around and left again while sleeping

sociasl enterprise history seniors

One of the nicest people we have spoken to yet.  We are so grateful that he shared his stories with us. With thanks to Stockland.

I was born in the cellar of our house in Cardiff in 1940 because there was an air raid siren on at the time.  I remember, after the war, having a wonderful time playing on bomb sites in the streets.

My dad was the clerk to the Mayor of Cardiff.  The Mayor would come round often for meetings.  At that time I used to sleep walk.  Apparently once when they were having a meeting in our lounge I just walked in, walked around and left again while sleeping.  The Mayor just watched. 

At school I was the laziest thing on two legs and a bitter disappointment to my father, who had ambitions for me to become an architect.  I left school and got an apprenticeship in sign writing.  I got quite good at it and did a lot of sign writing for the Commonwealth Games, for example, in the late 1950s. 

I learnt ballroom dancing at that time.  My mum had taught me some in the lounge room at home when I was younger.  I had a partner and we used to enter competitions.  We won a few, and had some good times.  My favourite dances were the quick step, fox trot and the waltz.  We drifted apart eventually but at the time she was brilliant.  It came naturally to her, I could throw her all over the place.

There was a huge great winter in 1962-63.  The streets were lined with five or six feet of snow and there was no work in the building industry whatsoever.  I, like everyone else, got laid off.  By that time I’d married and had my first child.  I decided to think about emigrating.  A friend, who was raised in Cottesloe, agreed to sponsor us.  We got it all arranged and came over in May 1965.    

Coming here was a disaster at first.  We were supposed to be staying with our sponsor but his wife told us ‘F off, I hate Poms’.  My ex never recovered from that and eventually we divorced.  I met my wife at a meeting about a new school in the Whitfords area.  We were both very involved with our kids.  We formed a friendship, then we realised that there was a lot that we respected each other for.  We got married in 1977 and have been together ever since. 

He swapped two and a half acres for a radio

social enterprise history seniors

No more genuine a person. With our thanks to Stockland.

Some of the kids had many miles to walk to school.  It was a special thing to have a bike, not many kids had one in those days.  I remember my first one, it was blue.  I rode it everywhere. There were lots of skinned knees and elbows. 

Our home had a veranda all the way around it.   I think my father built it, from what I heard.  It was on a slope of about 45 degrees and we had about two acres.  I think dad owned more land than that originally but he swapped two and a half acres for a radio! 

There was a beautiful view out of my bedroom window. From the foot of the Blue Mountains, I could see, on a fine day, the skyscrapers of the city.  It was quite isolating, but I made the most of it, spending lots of time outside with my dog and discovering nature.  I used to wake up to the sound of bell birds every morning.  When the paddocks were covered in grass I used to go running through them and then flop down on my back.   You’d have a wall of grass all around you and just stare at the clouds.  It was wonderful.  I always appreciated it.

My childhood was the smell of rain after an extremely hot day, the smell of the bush, the smell of fresh water trickling through earth. If you’ve never smelt that you are missing out. 

When I was older I moved to Sydney but went to visit my parents every second weekend.  I got there on my motor bike.  I first decided to get a bike because my father didn’t drive very much; I’d catch the train, then he’d collect me from the station.  To get in the car with my father once he was that age was to take your life and nerves into your own hand.  He’d sit right back and only just be able to see over the steering wheel.  He’d be wearing glasses he hadn’t cleaned for months (to say the least) and they were hazed right over.  He wouldn’t stay on the road but would start to veer.  So I knew I needed transport as soon as I could! 

It was only then that I got called up

social enterprise seniors history

You missed out on chatting with this legend, who's sense of humour is second to none. With thanks to Stockland.

Saturday mornings we’d go to the cinema to see comedies and old westerns.  We’d buy a rabbit. My mum would skin it and I’d take it to the Barbican, Plymouth.  I’d get 4d for the skin, which would pay for the cinema.   Mum would cook the meat.

We had to share our school during the war because the twin school in the town was bombed.  When the siren went off during school hours we had to go to the shelter.  I went to a boys’ school.  The only time we would meet with the girls’ school was in the shelter.  We didn’t mind those times as that was when we got to converse with the girls. 

I was evacuated for 12 months to my uncle in Scotland.  While I was away the house that we had previously been living in in Plymouth was bombed.

After school I became an apprentice testing arms. I was in my third year as an apprentice, when the war ended.  Ironically, it was only then that I got called up to the navy.

I went out with a girl in Plymouth quite a few times during that period.  One night when I came back from the ship I had a date with her but her friend came out to tell me that the girl couldn’t make it.  The friend took a fancy to me and we went out instead.  That girl’s friend and I were married for 65 years.