In the beginning
I was born in 1942 on December 27th. It was a Sunday which is of no consequence to most people but of importance to some. The fact that it was two days after Christmas was of great import to me because it meant I missed out on a stack of presents over my lifetime as two big sets of presents were never going to happen. It also meant I was one of the oldest in my classes at school which was an obvious advantage. I could thank the headmaster at Innaloo School for that because I would not turn six during the school year when my mother tried to enrol me. So I would have another year at home on my Aunty Nellie’s dairy farm.
My father Harold was in the Army when I was born. He had eventually got in the Army despite not being medically 100% but he was not up to going overseas. His brother Ron had gone overseas and got himself captured and spent his war in prisoner of war camps in Germany. This was bad for his reproductive organs and he and Aunty Gloria assumed he could not sire offspring so they adopted a boy. His organs got revitalised however and several children were the result. It must have put the adopted child out of sorts so that years later he adopted his birth mother’s name. Bringing up kids is expensive so for those believing in such things as life after death Ron would no doubt have been having a fit.
Harold had not completed much in the way of education but he was a bright student according to my Aunty Shiela who went to school with him and said he was always better than the others at maths. My mum would have been at the same school which is no doubt how they came to eventually get married. When he did work he had a problem with drink or with too much of it.
My mother was named Veronica but called Bonnie and had worked at Claremont Mental Hospital and at one stage set Harold up in a fish and chip shop across the road from a pub. A pub! And he likes to drink! A good location for such a business if you stayed in the shop and not in the pub as was his want.
My first memories are of my life in Perth, Western Australia, in the suburb of Osborne Park. My family consisted of mum, dad and brother Gary and we all lived with Aunty Nellie, who had a dairy farm. In those days milking was very labour intensive so there were always people around. Auntie’s husband had liked fishing and unfortunately he chose to fish where the air force practiced bombing during World War II. You can guess the rest.
PHOTO Maxwell and dad Harold (Lal)
This picture was taken at Aunty Sheila’s. You can tell by all the rose bushes in the photo. She loved roses.
Aunty Nellie had two children, Patsy and Jackie. Patsy had married an American and moved to the USA and Jackie worked on the dairy farm.
Dad used to drink beer and smoke cigarettes. At Christmas one year I and brother Gary, who was fifteen months younger, drank some of dad’s beer and smoked some of his cigarettes. We were less than six or seven as the family left Perth while when I was seven, in September, 1950. The result was Dad had us smoke a cigar or some of it anyway as a punishment and to put them off the habit.
Another occasion we listened to Burl Ives on the radio and Dad assured us the singer was actually in the studio in Perth. I don’t know if he was serious about that though.
One evening when we were alone with dad he had us scared out of our wits of a gorilla he said was roaming around outside the house. It involved much activity and drama with his two young sons running around the house hiding from the monster. I have long wondered about his ideas on child raising.
Aunty Nellie with me behind the milk can.
Aunty Nellie had a truck. It was used to get the waste from the brewing process at the Swan Brewery to feed the cows. I went along for the ride with cousin Jackie on at least one occasion. In the news sometime in 2017 the same use for the waste was mentioned with the assumption that it was a new idea. Our trip would have been in 1948 or 1949.
The same truck I tried driving myself and I managed to get it to move towards the house before someone came to the truck’s rescue and also that of the house.
Me with the horse and cart.
Gary and I went to Innaloo Primary School. My mum had tried to get me in there the year I turned six but as that was after the school year finished I had to wait another year. So I started school in 1949. The farm was on Scarborough Beach Road so the journey to school was on the bus which went passed the front door. It cost one penny each way. On one occasion when Gary was also at school the two of us walked home so we could spend our penny at the shop which was about half way home. There was very little in the way of houses between the farm and the school and we created a bit of a panic as to where the children were when we did not get off the bus at the expected time.
Across the road from the farm there was a Furniture factory and now the whole area where the farm had been is light industrial..
I was a quiet boy and in all my years at school I was only ever involved in a fist fight once and this took place during my first year at school, and that was in defence of a friend who was being bullied by another student. The fight took place after school.
In 1950 our father lost his job working in a paint factory and the family went to the country. We two boys left the school obviously to the delight of our teacher there because she said she was pleased we were going. As her name was always APPLETART to us and it was actually Appleton or something similar she got annoyed with our variation.
In all my future years I never encountered a teacher of this ilk as I was always the best in the class until I was sixteen; hard working and polite.
The photo of me and Gary would have been taken on the first day of school in 1950. It was my second year and Gary’s first. We took the bus to school which cost each of us one penny each way.
PHOTO Maxwell and Gary
The next stage of my life was spent in Yarloop, a timber town eighty miles south of Perth. Millars was the company that ran the mill. They had steam trains that choofed their way up to the small towns where the logs were cut that were then brought to Yarloop for sawing into timber for flooring or whatever. Our father had a job at the mill.
Yarloop was between Harvey and Waroona. Harvey was ten miles south and Waroona was about eight miles north. Both were bigger than Yarloop. Harvey was where I went to school after primary school at the Junior High School for years eight to ten, from 1956 to 1958. Waroona was where I taught for two years after my father died in 1965.
The move from Perth to Yarloop was unexceptional except for the smell when we got to the house we were to live in for the next eight years.
I wrote the following note about the house when I was recording my history.
Yarloop house smell
We moved to Yarloop in September 1950. It was to a house on our uncle’s dairy farm. The house was poor. It did not have electricity or water into the house. Two rainwater tanks outside supplied water. The family that had been in the house before us was Aboriginal. How they had contributed to the smell of the place I did not know but it stank. I assume my mother did a lot of cleaning and washing to make it liveable.
I wonder now why had not our relatives cleaned up the house before my family got there?
Maxwell (left) and Gary in front of house. Probably 1953.
Maxwell (left) and Gary in front of house. Probably 1956.
The house was two kilometres from the school in Yarloop. That distance you can see using Google maps and work out the distance. The house is no longer there but the Moreton Bay fig tree and the Norfolk Island pine show where it was as they are still there. We were six and seven and we walked to school until we got bikes to ride but that was after some years.
This is where the house was. You can still see the trees on Google maps street view.
68 Homebush Rd
Yarloop WA 6218
The first memory I have of Yarloop after the smell of the house is realising towards the end of the school year when I was supposed to be singing Christmas carols was that I could not sing. And this was at seven years of age. Later knowing I could not sing got me in trouble with the Headmaster Mr Scouler when I was in Standard four. Again it was Christmas time. Again carols were being sung. I stood with the rest of the school but did not open my mouth. I did not open it even after my teacher told me to do so. Mr Scouler took me to the corridor where punishments were inflicted and gave me six cuts. Then I was put back in place. Again I was asked to sing but did not open my mouth. Again I was taken to the corridor and given six cuts of the cane. As you would expect I finally got the message and when put back in the group opened my mouth. No sound was coming out but I was not going to get any more belts of the cane.
Gary and I had sandwiches for lunch that mum had made. On one occasion in the early stages of being at the school during lunch I was given a cake to eat which I did. It turned out to be part of someone’s lunch that was being passed around and eating it was an error. I and my brother were timid children at this time. The school children ate lunch in a shed that was open on one side.
The school had three classrooms with a couple of years in each room. One of the teachers was Mr. Good. He came out to the house to visit. This was unusual because the house was very basic.
Not having electricity meant that I did my studying by kerosene lamp until I went to Senior High School in Bunbury.
PHOTO OF KEROSENE LAMP
This photo of one like I used is from a website which sells them to people who no doubt also lack electricity.
These lamps are still made by YANGZHOU HURRICANE LANTERNS CO LTD
3/F,Foreign Trade Mansion.No.18,West Wenchang Road.
Yangzhou - 225012 () China
In Year 10 I got to use the Tilley lamp which was pressurised and gave off much more light.
PHOTO OF TILLEY LAMP.
Photo from here http://www.topiarygarden.co.uk/index.html
The lamps are still made. See here http://tilleylamp.co.uk/about_us
We had a radio which ran off a battery. It was not until I was about nine before I realised that what my parents listened to on a Sunday evening was a radio play.
The fridge burnt kerosene to work.
To iron clothes mum had flat irons that were put on the top of the wood burning kitchen stove to heat them up.
PHOTO OF CLOTHES IRON
Cutting firewood was one of the jobs we did. A load of mill ends was dropped by a truck at the end of the yard and we used an axe to chop them up to smaller pieces. Scorpions were sometimes down there. On the other side of the yard was the chook pen. Walking through there in bare feet meant getting fowl manure swelching between your toes.
A mulberry tree and some other fruit trees grew near the back door.
Mum used to bottle fruit to use out of season for dessert. The peaches we got from Brandli’s who lived opposite the Adam’s family. Mrs Adams was the first friend mum made in Yarloop. She lived on the corner on the way into town and she offered mum a drink on one of the early walks into town. Lorna Adams and her husband Syd were good people. When I went to Harvey to school I had to ride my bike to their place and leave it there until I rode home in the afternoon. Syd was a postman in Harvey and I envied him such a secure position. I viewed being a postman as a job I would like.
To get an education at Senior High School cost money we did not have because the nearest school was at Bunbury, thirty six miles away, and meant it was necessary to board away from home. It was necessary to decide to become a teacher as the Education Department provided bursaries to students needing financial assistance to complete their school studies.
I had spent Year 10 working at the Post Office every second week manning the switchboard which meant sleeping until someone wanted to make a phone call. I had forty two pounds in my bank account at the end of Year 10. All of that was used up buying a Bunbury Senior High School uniform and whatever else that was needed by a new student.
Soon after I left home for Bunbury the family moved into a mill house in Yarloop. I had always wondered why this had to not happen until I was gone. It meant my brother had electricity for his Year 10 studies. We had a younger brother Harold who was born in 1951. He has said that the move resulted from a fight between my father and our uncle who owned the house. It could have been that Dad had taken to beating up Mum again as since I was fourteen he had not been able to. I was fourteen before I was big enough to stop him attacking Mum. I don’t know that you would call our confrontation a fight as he was drunk when I hit him until he stopped trying to get at Mum. Later at Bunbury it was necessary to keep quiet when other students including our sturdy footballers would describe how their father’s disciplined them while I thought how it was in our family that I was the one doing the disciplining.
One of the scariest times I have ever experienced was when Mum locked the door one night when Dad came home drunk. I was somewhere less than fourteen years old. Quite a bit less I think. He rampaged around outside and then with a loud thunk the axe head came through the door at head height. About half of the blade entered the room. That is all I remember. This was before I could help our mother.
When we were younger infractions on the part of my brother and me would result in a hiding with our father’s belt. As we got older we would run away and stay out in the fields that surrounded the house or hide behind the pine trees that lined the road in front of the house. You will not see these on the Google map so they have at some time been cut down.
Actually the road was probably seventy yards from the house. Our uncle had supplied a diesel motor and pump for filling the water tanks from the irrigation ditch that ran beside the road. We did our first swimming in that ditch before we got big enough to go down to the dam on Logue Brook which was the town swimming hole. There were wattle trees on the creek bank in which I remember seeing blue wrens. These all went when a proper swimming area was constructed with toilets and all on the other side of the road to the dam. I followed Google street view passed there and all that appears to have gone. Logue Brook Dam was built upstream which appears to have taken all the water from our former swimming pool.
Gary, Dad, Maxwell in front of the back of the house showing a water tank.
My brother and I were able to start the diesel motor and pump water for the tanks or for the garden that my Dad had started on one occasion when he lost his job at the mill. He grew tomatoes and sold them. No doubt there was a variety of produce. This was no doubt when I was in 5th standard, which corresponds to Year 6, because that year we did not have enough money to buy me shoes. The ground was covered in frost in winter and I can remember having frozen feet that year; well very cold anyway.
We must have been a smelly lot as with just the two water tanks a bath was a weekly event. Us children went first followed by our parents. Just the one lot of bathwater. Mum would heat the water in the copper in the shed outside the house and carry it in with buckets.
The water was taken from the tanks at the tank. There was no water in the house. It was no wonder the Aboriginal family would not stay in the house. I just have trouble trying to understand why my parents did not move into a house in the town well before they did. There were mill houses and also the State Government had houses to rent.