Tales of Times Past


A Collection of Tales and Anecdotes


Keep an eye out for regular postings from our Senior Storytellers that represent some of the stories they share with students in their local schools and with the broader community.

Edite’s Memories

Edited Betags – Vincent / Western Suburbs Branch

I was born in Riga, Latvia in 1938. The country at the time had one of the highest standards of living in Europe.

I have been blessed with a memory that spans back to my very early childhood years & currently am writing my memoirs again. Found it difficult to start all over again after the theft of my computer that contained several years work. “Cést la vie.”

My parents & I resided in an inner city apartment. I have many good early life memories, that I plan to share.

I was far too young during my early years to be affected by the countries forced annexation into the USSR in 1940 following the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact in 1939 & the German invasion in 1941.

My latter year memories of life in Latvia include many traumatic experiences ending in departure to Germany in 1944.

Experienced war as a child in Germany till it all ended in 1945. Have many memories of bombings, bomb shelters & experiences. Found ambulance sirens unpleasant well into young adulthood, due to association with anticipated bombing survival flight needs.

Spent 1944 – 1949 in Germany, with displaced peoples from many, many countries who had chosen to flee from the communist occupation of their homelands.

In 1949 left Germany by train for Italy for transport to Australia. Spent 3 months at the Bagnoli Army Camp located near Naples.

Arrived in Fremantle, Australia in 1949. Have resided in Perth, Melbourne & Sydney. Now back in Perth. Love Perth, always have but would return to live in Latvia, if my finances allowed frequent international travel, as have daughters in Australia.

This introductory article will be followed by others & trust will be of interest to some who access this newsboard.

A Childhood Memory

Deanne Screaigh Hetherington – Wanneroo / Joondalup Branch

My big sister Maureen was dancing teacher and she had her own dancing studio above the old Civic Theatre in the suburbs of Maylands. My mum used to take me to her studio on dancing days, walking from Nelson St, Inglewood which was quite a long way for a three year old to walk but you see we had no car and there wasn’t any other transport that we could take to get there.

I learnt all kinds of dancing, Ballet, Tapping, Theatrical, Acrobatics, Scottish and Irish dancing too. I loved Scottish dancing and I performed in many Championships Competitions, winning many medals. Mum being a dressmaker made my kilt, shawl and jacket and hand knitted my socks to match my kilts.

In December 1959 a group of girls including me, with our mums and highland teacher travelled by a passenger ship called the ‘Manoora’ from Fremantle to Adelaide arriving there Christmas Eve. From there we then went to a place called MT Gambia to participate in a Scottish Dancing Competition being held over the school holidays. We had a lot of fun there and proud to say I won my age group competition of which the prize was a silver sugar basin and spoon, of which I still have today.

After the competition had finished, we then travelled around N.S.W, Canberra and Melbourne taking tours and seeing the sights. We actually had a swim in the highest swimming pool in Australia which was awesome! This was at a place called Mt Buffalo in N.S.W.  In Melbourne we took a taxi ride with the taxi driver showing us the Zoo, the cricket ground and the Shrine of Remembrance just to name a few sights. The tour only costing four shillings each.  Just think four shillings would be about 40 cents now. How times have changed.

On January 29th 1960 we caught the train to come back to Perth. We had to change trains halfway home then. As were coming back over the Nullarbor a storm raged giving us a spectacular lighting show. We arrived back in Perth on the 30th January.

For me as an 11 year old girl, this was a pretty special time and it is one of the best childhood memories that I have. My mum wrote a diary about our trip and very so often I take it out and have a read of what we did and the sights we saw from that holiday from 19th December 1959 to the end of January 1960.

I could tell you a lot more of my memories from that trip but I think I will save them for another time.


Olivia Innes – Vincent / Western Suburbs Branch

I was born in the country in the Narembeen District Hospital where Dr Bladin and Sister Burr ensured my mother and I had the best care. I lived on a farm called Eureka Farm and went to the local school called Babakin, my maiden name is Boundy and I am now know as Mrs Olivia Innes. My aunt was the 1st Post Mistress at Babakin Post Office and General store, her name was Mrs Edith Neilson.

There were many exciting, and sometimes dangerous experiences as I walked from the homestead paddock, past the machinery shed and horse and cow shed, for here, I was savagely attacked by the ‘Magpies’ as I ran past shielding my head with my school case with metal corners. My hands were bleeding as I escaped into the next paddock where I walked to our gate and the tiny tin shed my father had built to keep us sheltered, while we waited for the one and only school bus.

Another day, my father had found and killed a large snake he found in that shed and he tied it near the back gate to scare me. One winter day I wore my dark maroon coat and the bull, two paddocks away, saw my movement as I hurried to the gate.  He was so excited and angry I think, that he charged towards me, smashing through one fence and only one fence now between us. I ran so fast jerking my heavy suitcase against my legs scraping my knee, tears trickling down my face. Luckily the bus arrived in just a few minutes and my friends consoled me.

The school bus was a converted truck with hard splintery wood boards for seats and canvas strapped curtains which in summer let in the dust and in winter the rain. As we went around a corner, a large amount of water on the roof would pour down inside, through the sides sending those who were sitting on the sides squealing and damp on the top of the lucky ones seated on the middle plank.

On arrival at school if our socks were wet , we would take them off and wring out the water and drape them over our shoes. We looked forward to the little glass bottles of milk provided to every student, however, in summer the thick cream on top and lack of refrigeration ensured the contents were sour and undrinkable. Our one room school had row upon row of desks with china inkwells on one side of the desk top. Each wall had several large blackboards with the lessons written upon them for each class, Arithmetic, English, Geography,and History.  I remember the delightful story of a little boy called, Epamynondus’.

I do believe this building has shifted and another building has replaced it. With ‘physical jerks’ for exercise and many active games, e.g. brandy, skipping, group ball games, marbles, knucklebones and as always football we had a healthy and interesting life learning survival skills.

I have so many experiences to share, as life progressed to high school days in Perth. My many places I lived in, life as as a young girl, the end of the way year, my marriage, the joy of two children and that era of life up to this present time. As a Heritage Storyteller I hope to be able to share the rest of my life’s experiences to many more in these forthcoming years.

My Story from the 1940’s

Rosemary Stanbrook – Vincent / Western Suburbs Branch

A day out with the family was always a weekend excursion  to the Darling Range (Hills as we called it). First we would pick up our grandmother and great aunt. We always took our afternoon tea with the thermos, and sometimes the ‘Billy can’ to make ‘Billy’ tea over a fire.

We would have to collect the sticks and nuts for the fire first, then we sat down on a tree log or a picnic blanket to eat and drink our afternoon tea. We always had home made food like; sponge cake, coffee rolls and kisses. Kisses were my granny’s favourites, that she made every weekend for us.

If it was fruit season we would come home with fruit and wild flowers. If you needed to go to the toilet, it was behind a tree, we always would carry a spade and some toilet paper.

My father would ask, what sort of of breed were the cows, sheep, horses and pigs they were when we saw one. We also counted rabbits at sunset. I was a lucky girl because my father didn’t go to the war, World War II, like many other children’s fathers. I think this where where I get my love for the country side as my first ancestors to come to Australia were a farmer and a warden for the local barracks.

A Child’s Memory of War Times

Douglas Caunt, once a Grenadier – Cockburn Branch

When I was a child in late 1939 my mother’s brother a man I had never seen before visited us in Skegby, by Mansfield, a village in Nottinghamshire. This man in blue R.A.F. uniform, was from the magic place, Tredegar, where my mother was born. Of particular wonder was his chip bag cap, which could be folded then neatly fitted under his epaulette.

Being fascinated by him I recall that when he left the house I followed him, but he turned around and told me I couldn’t go to the tavern with him as it wasn’t allowed, he then picked me up and carried me back to the house handing me over to my mother who chided me. I don’t remember ever seeing him again. The memory of being carried by my Uncle Horace Clarke in his splendid uniform has remained with me ever since

Sometime later there was my mother standing in front of the fireplace with a letter in her hand, as I sat on the hearth rug I overheard her saying “It’s from Olwyn, our Horace has been killed on the Lancastria during the Dunkirk rescue.  I felt sad that I would not see him again. In later years I would look at a picture of him, now lost, at my parent’s house and wonder about him and regret we will never meet again.

After the war my Aunt Olwyn met a survivor from the Lancastria who told her, the R.A.F. men were below decks when the bombs fell and they didn’t stand a chance of escape from the doomed ship. That is the last I heard of the Lancastria until I read a letter in the Fremantle Gazette from Mr K Williamson who survived the sinking of the ship. Because of the thousands of men killed there was official silence on the death of the Lancastria, but I was a child and I knew of it and that my Uncle Horace Clarke died on it.

So the memories passed to my brothers and me who were then the rising generation and so by me have been passed to my children and later my grandchildren will know. So you see things are not so easily forgotten. A man only has to carry a child back to his mother to become part of succeeding generations.


 Country Holiday

Jean Barnes – Rockingham Branch

When I was 5yrs old my grandparents took me away on holiday for a few days. We travelled by train to Shropshire (England)  and stayed at a country pub owned by a relative of my grandfather. Even though it was June I remember sitting on a wooden bench besides an open fire in the pub.

I was a little girl who lived in a town and did not know much about farms and animals. One morning we all went for a walk across the fields. Suddenly, all these large animals started to walk towards me. I can see them to this day. I thought they were bulls and was absolutely terrified, so much so that I ran straight for the hedge and tried to scramble through. Unfortunately, it was a bramble hedge, and I got terribly scratched. I clearly remember my gran standing me in a bowl of water trying to gently wash my legs with me howling my eyes out.

Of course, the animals were not bulls, but cows, but how was I to know? We did not have any cows wandering the streets of Eccles I can assure you, but to this day I am still very nervous if there are cows in the vicinity!

There was a nice ending to my story however, for when I got back home I found that I had a baby brother called William. His imminent birth was the reason I was taken away in the first place. I remember that my grandparents bought 2 bibs to take back with us, one with Donald Duck on the front, and another with Mickey Mouse, a present for the newborn.