Sally

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!

Pam

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.

Kate

social enterprise history mandurah

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

social enterprise history mandurah

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

social enterprise history mandurah

JOHN

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.

VICKI

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. 

Dad!

I think we actually went to a nightclub in Perth.