There were some fairly wet times in the 1950s and 1960s. The big flood in 1955 was the fault of the Avon River being blocked up with trees. But all we cared about was whether the water would come all the way up to the house so that we could do bombies. Meanwhile, all my father’s sheep were getting drowned and he was trying to save everything, yet we couldn’t have cared less. We were due to have a day off school because the school bus couldn’t get to us as the bridge had gone. But we had a very good community woman who lived just down the road from us and she wasn’t going to have us miss school, so she came up and bundled us all into her car. Worst luck. I’d do anything if it meant missing school; helping out on the farm to miss the school bus, anything.
Aboriginal kids used to all jump off the bus at the camp (I think my grandfather bought the reserve for the Aboriginal community in 1904). We were friends with the Aboriginal kids at school. They always smelled of smoke. They’d have a fire going inside their homes and they’d all curl up next to it in their clothes. Then the next day they’d come to school in the same clothes again. And why wouldn’t ya? We would have done the same thing if our mothers had let us.
While we were young we used to come into town for church, and that – apart from school – was it, really. After church we’d go up to the bakery and get a couple of loaves of bread. Then on the way home the old man would stop and talk to one of his friends somewhere and we’d eat the bread. Then by the time we got home there wouldn’t be any bread left. We used to hollow it out then put it all back in the wrapping. Don’t know who got into the most trouble for that, my father or us.
As we got older, you were either working or getting drunk, and smashing cars up in the process. We were usually boozing up the top on Mt Brown, or where the roads divide between Beverley and Quairading. We used to drink all the time, wherever we went. You know, if we went to Northam it was a three bottle trip, or Greenhills a two bottle trip. Perth was a 10 bottle trip. We just drank all the time when we weren’t working. We used to go to dances. We’d wonder why the girls wouldn’t talk to us half the time – it was because we were always on the booze! I think that the problem was the generation before us were a bad example. They were bloody terrible. A lot of them had experienced bad things during the war, and whether they were drinking for that reason or because there wasn’t any money in farming, or any money full stop due to the probate levy – you know – a fair proportion of the community seemed to be alcoholics. People were always in pubs. It was social, but it was also the employment agency; if you wanted someone to work for you you’d go to the pub and buy the bloke a drink. It was the great meeting place.
I was only a little kid at the time but after the war Faversham House was a hospice for soldiers that had been gassed or shell shocked. I felt really sorry for the old buggers. There was a gate at the property that they weren’t allowed to pass but sometimes they did, with a few Sheckles in their pocket, and snuck to the pub. As a kid it appeared that they were sort of put out of sight and held back from the community. I don’t know exactly what happened to either Faversham House or the soldiers – perhaps they died or perhaps their lot was improved.