Oral history of Faye Gatti (née Pivać) recorded as part of the Voices of the Women project. Audio and transcript.
Edited transcript of an oral history of Faye Gatti (née Pivać) recorded by Denise Cook on 13 November 2017 for the Voices of the Women Oral History Project: City of Cockburn (Azelia Ley Museum) and Dalmatinac Club.
Denise Cook (interviewer): Could I ask you your full name?
Faye Gatti: Faye Gatti.
DC: When were you born?
FG: 9th of June 1942.
DC: Where were you born?
DC: Could you give me your mother’s name?
FG: Ljubića Grljušić.
DC: When was she born and where?
FG: She was born on the 24th of April, 1913 in the former Yugoslavia.
FG: The town was called Banja but I believe that’s a division of Vrgorać, Dalmaticja.
DC: And your dad’s name?
FG: My dad was Anté Pivać and Dad was born on the 17th of January 1904 in a town called Zuvojane which was also the same division or region as my mum.
DC: Can you tell me what your mother was like? Did she show affection?
FG: Oh yes, Mum was very affectionate and loved family life. Her family was everything to her. She was a dedicated wife and a very hard worker. Of course, when we came to Spearwood, she was the one who ran the market garden and Dad was working out. Dad used to work in the quarries in Beaconsfield, and in Barrington Road, Spearwood. He later went on to work at the Anchorage Meat Works. Mum was the one who ran the garden with the help of us girls as we grew to teenagers. After school, that was it; you had a little snack and then into the garden to help Mum with whatever needed to be done.
DC: What were some of the jobs that you would do?
FG: Well, Mum would more or less do the weeding and everything and then she’d put the weeds in a bucket here and there and we’d have to carry them out and Dad would dig a big hole and he’d bury all the weeds in the one hole. Also, when the beans were up so many centimetres, Dad would bundle up the stooks, about ten to fifteen stooks together. He’d tie them and we’d have to carry them and put them at a certain distance along the furrows of the beans. When it was onion time, when the onions needed to be reaped, we’d have to pull them out of the ground and we’d make them into like a beehive; like a real beehive. Then we’d leave them to dry for a few weeks to make sure that the leaves had withered properly and then after school, the same thing again; you got your little box, you got your little knife and your little stool to sit on and that’s what you had to do because Mum was on her own and Dad worked out so we all had to fit in together.
DC: What about other kids your age? Were they doing similar things?
FG: My sisters? At this stage, my dad had built on to this property that we bought which only consisted of a little entry room, a little kitchen and one bedroom. Of course, we were four girls so we didn’t have a bedroom within the so-called house, we had a shed out the back. So, the three of us sisters slept in the shed out the back and after work and on the weekends, Dad had this form and he used to make every single brick himself to make the front of the shop. So when the shop was up and going – and that would’ve been about 1952 – my eldest sister being the eldest one, she was in the shop and of course the other one was still at school so as we left school, the eldest sister ended up getting married in 1956, as a young girl of seventeen, so what happened – she was in the shop and the second sister worked out, I was still at school so as one girl got married the other one stayed home and worked in the shop and we carried on. I worked out also when my number two sister was in the shop and so it went, until the last sister because we all had worked in retail, more or less. My first job, I worked at D. and J. Fowlers in Fremantle, and then Woolworths. I did work in Watsonia after I got married, because once you got married you didn’t work in the shop, the younger sister was still in the shop there. I worked in Watsonia and had some really great memories because my husband was working there at that time too. He was working different shifts because he was in the freezer department and I was in the bacon department. I can still remember walking down the “pig lane” let’s call it, because it was – they emptied the carriage at the station and then they’d go through this yard and walked the pigs down. There’d be three or four girls all from around Spearwood and we’d be going down together; sometimes we worked till ten or eleven [o’clock] at night and we were all scared to come home on our own, so four or five of us would walk up this track again. I have some really, really great memories of those years.
DC: What was your job at Watsonia?
FG: Putting bacon into the little sleeve; you know, putting those half kilo packs or whatever they were, two-fifty maybe; in those times, they were different measurements. It was really, really great because there were about twenty-something girls in in the same row and we used to get into some fine trouble because when the boss ducked out, we used to all start talking. (laughs) Another thing – we had heaters on the wall, being so cold because you had to keep it at a certain temperature and when the boss would go out, we’d accidentally drop a piece of bacon on the heater to cook (laughs) to eat! So he’d come in and he’d smell the bacon, he was Victor Vidaković. And he’d come in there [sniffing] and we were all innocently packing away and then he’d come round and check the heaters but there was nothing on the heaters; we’d eaten the bacon. (laughs) They were a lovely group of girls and I worked there for about six years and then after we moved on, we went to the country, just for a short span. The rest of my time I worked in retail, in dress shops, for the rest of my life.
DC: Let’s go back to your parents. Would you tell me about your parents coming to Australia?
FG: Yes. Dad came out in 1926 as a young man. He was a stowaway; the boat first went to France, then three months or more later, it came to Fremantle. Then by chance, this man speaking their language took them in and got them to work on the railways. He came out with a group of boys, because they were so poor there and he had to go out to help the family, so he came out and helped the family. He’d send money, as he’d get that extra money, to survive.
DC: Do you know why he came to WA?
FG: It was the thing – the boys were coming to WA. In that era, WA was perhaps the best surviving place and so he came out with a group of boys. After he worked around the metropolitan area, he worked up on the woodline, Gwalia, all those around East Boulder.
DC: What did he tell you about that time?
FG: He said it was very hard. He said on his twenty-first birthday he cried his heart out, because here he was, doing something on the railway line with the sleepers, and with no family. You know he’d left all his family behind, he was very lonely, but of course the young lads who were with him, they comforted each other, because they left to go for a better life. Of course, he never ended up going back because he reckons his life was so sad there and by the time he maybe could really afford it, they’d all passed on.
DC: Did any others from his family come out here?
FG: No, because they were killed in the war, and that’s why I think his life was completely changed and he didn’t want to go back; he just wanted to remember them when everybody was as he left them.
DC: What about your mum?
FG: Well, my mum came out in 1938 and her brother, Maté Grljušić, he had come out as a young boy to his uncle and aunt in Marine Terrace in Fremantle. He was only a young boy, he was about thirteen, because they were so poor – there was a brother and two sisters – so the uncle sponsored him over, and took him on as his own child, if you want, and then as Uncle grew older, the jobs were going well up in Kalgoorlie, you know, the gold rush, the goldmines and that, so Uncle went up to Kalgoorlie. Uncle married as a very young man, my auntie was only sixteen, not even quite seventeen, I believe, and Uncle was I suppose about twenty-one, then about a year later or so he made papers for my mum to join him because they were still not well off at home, there was poverty. So, Mum came out in 1938 to stay with her brother in Kalgoorlie and this is how it came about that my mum married Dad, because Dad was the taxi driver who came down to the port to collect Mum. Of course, as my mum said, she couldn’t get rid of him from then on and she was married in three months. She was married in September and my sister was born in July, my first sister was born in July. As Mum said, she never looked back because Dad was a good provider and he was a loving father and so they went on to have four daughters.
DC: Could you give me their names?
FG: My eldest sister’s name was Kata, the next one was Lenka and I was originally born Ljubića, the same as my mum, but in the latter part of my years, because I had my wills, my home loans and everything in Faye, I had to correct it, because I would’ve had to spend a lot of money so I was born Ljubića and then my younger sister was Joycie. There is a story behind Joycie – when she was born and Dad got to the hospital my mum was crying. Every time my mum had a baby she wanted to have a son because she wanted to name him Georgi, which was her father’s name (in Croatian Jure). So, my dad gets to the hospital after the fourth child and my mum was crying and he said, “What’s wrong?” She said, “It’s another girl.” And he said, “So?” She said, “But I wanted Georgi” and he said, “If you don’t stop crying, I’m going home and you won’t be able to come home either” so she settled down and then as she always said, even till the day she died, that she was so grateful that she had four daughters.
DC: Why do you think that was? Why do you think she was especially grateful for her daughters?
FG: She was grateful, she was very grateful at the end and she always said that whatever she needed, and whenever she needed it, we were there and then in the last three and a half to four years Mum became a little insecure because she died at the age of eighty-eight, she got a little bit of insecurity in herself and at night-time, the three of us, we’d have turns going and sleeping with her. We’d take dinner down, have dinner with her – I used to prepare my husband’s dinner, leave him to eat his dinner alone that night and then go and sleep with Mum and in the morning, I’d get up and help Mum shower and then do her little chores and off home. That’s what we did; we rotated until the last three weeks of her life that she spent in hospital. Her last words were, “I can never thank you girls because you’re always here for me.”
DC: So when your parents were first married, where did they live?
FG: In Laverton, then Kalgoorlie.
DC: What work was your dad doing then?
FG: Well, when they got married, Dad was still taxi-ing for a while but then he went into the mines because it was better pay; you know, they had to survive then.
DC: What did he do in the mines?
FG: I’m not so sure, just I think digging and blasting. I don’t think he used machinery; just the normal clearing the way for the machinists, I suppose.
DC: Did your mum work in Kalgoorlie?
FG: Mum never worked, because as I said, she was married in September, the first baby in July and then eleven months later had another one and then two years later had another one and then had a break of four years, so Mum never worked. Of course, there were no mod cons that we have today; Mum had to wash by hand, she never had a washing machine. Then if she had to get some whites nice and white, she had four bricks with a tin on top and she’d boil the clothes in there and then she’d wash them again and that’s how she survived. No electric stove, no press buttons; it was a wood stove to heat up the house, to cook a meal, so that’s why Mum never really worked. Dad didn’t believe in working mums, he said, “Once you’re a mum, you’re rearing the children.”
DC: Which is a lot of work in itself, isn’t it, looking after the house and the children.
FG: It was, yes. As Mum said, with no family – I mean, my mum’s sister-in-law, her brother’s wife, she was good but she was younger than Mum and of course she was having babies one after another so they just consoled each other. They had each other; till the day they died, they were good friends.
DC: So how long did your parents stay in Kalgoorlie?
FG: Well, Dad was there from about 1927. Mum came from Croatia in 1938 so she was there from ’38 till I’d say roughly ’46.
DC: What made them leave?
FG: Well, Dad had had enough of the mines and he thought now we’ve got a family, he’d go on the vineyard that we went on to in Upper Swan which Dad had bought with his cousin, Uncle Jelaš. After a while, Dad could see that it wasn’t going as well as he would’ve liked it because for two families maybe it wasn’t enough and for one it would be better survival. So, Dad enquired about the cost of returning by boat. He also wrote to his mother and asked her what she thought about him returning home to Croatia with the family. His mum just said, “I’d love to have you here, but you wouldn’t be able to survive with a family”. After the war, everything was very poor and it was difficult to survive. So, Dad thought “I’ll move on and come down to Spearwood” because Spearwood had a lot of market gardens coming up and that and even though we didn’t buy a big block, Dad found the opportunity to buy this place where our little shop was. But our little shop didn’t have much land around it, I think it was a quarter of an acre maybe, but there was an empty bush block next door to us and I forget how many years but it was after a few years, myself and my sisters and my cousin were playing cricket out the side and we saw a man put up a sign and it had “For Sale”. It had a contact number so Dad got the contact number and Dad bought that; that would’ve been a half an acre for a hundred pounds. So, Dad was ever so grateful so he cleared that and that was where Mum started off her garden; they put in the pipes and everything and that’s where Mum became the gardener.
DC: How old would you kids have been then?
FG: We would have been about 9 years old, 8, 6 and 2. I’d say it would’ve been roughly about the fifties when we were there. Then as the market garden developed – and of course Dad all the time had to go out to work because even when we were preparing these bricks to make the shop that eventually was open out the front – – –
DC: Where was your dad working?
FG: Dad was working in a quarry in Lefroy Road, Beaconsfield which is still Lefroy Road and just behind the Catholic church there was a big quarry. I can remember on the weekends we’d say to Dad, “Can we come with you?” but he’d only be going to blast so Dad would go down into the big hole, we’d have to stay back and we’d love to see when Dad would say, “Now keep back, all clear” and then we’d see the blast. Dad worked there for quite a few years and then went on to work at the quarry at Barrington Road. Then he worked at Anchorage, because the quarrying got to be heavy work, because the men used to load the big stones up on to the truck by hand and they’d have to trim it up a little bit to get it up there, so the last job that Dad did, was at the Anchorage just down along the foreshore here. He was a very sick man, he didn’t know, but apparently he had lung problems because he’d worked in the mines and that’s what his death was all about; he got a tumour in the lung and silicosis. Dad for years used to go to work and he’d come home and he’d lie on the bed and Mum would say, “Tony, don’t lie down too much, because if you stay in bed too long your body gets sort of lethargic” but apparently the poor man, little did we know, nobody knew until he really took ill, that he’d had that for about seven years in his lung. Of course, his breathing was very limited and when he’d do a little bit of work, that’s what would happen; he would have to lie down because he had no energy left. So that was poor Dad’s death and he died in Sir Charles Gairdner [Hospital] in 1964, on the fourth of the seventh, so he died as a young man. He was sixty-five that year when he died.
DC: What did your mum do after that?
FG: Well, because we had the shop up and running and my youngest sister wasn’t married at that stage, Mum still kept the garden going, even though by this time I’d married in ’61 and the other sisters prior to that, and everybody would hop in and help because that was just an automatic thing, Mum needs help and in you go. Mum’s brother was good, and his children, they helped also, and Mum just carried that on until in the eighties Mum decided, when the younger sister got married, that that was enough so she subdivided off the garden and built herself a lovely home on one portion and then had an extra block on the other end which she ended up selling to her eldest grandson. She built a beautiful home and then she sold off the shop because the youngest sister was married and once she got married her husband said, “Oh, you don’t want to keep working there” and this was when they lived with Mum for a short period, then they went to live in Belmont and then came back to Spearwood eventually, but as I said, Mum sold the block next door to her grandson and Mum lived there until the end of her life.
DC: Could you tell me a bit about the shop? What made your parents decide to open a shop?
FG: Well, they thought that was some way of making a little bit extra to survive. You know, Dad worked out but Mum had never worked out of the home all her life and with four girls and in our era, when you’ve got girls you have to give them a trousseau so as I said, even though the eldest sister got married at seventeen and likewise the other sister twenty, whoever was working at that time, you didn’t keep your pay packet; it went to Mum. Mum prepared for Katie – Kata, we called her Katie in Australia but her real name was Kata – we had to buy her trousseau. Once she got married we had to start Lenka’s so once Lenka got married, well, Mum had to provide for me so you know, the shop provided a living. We never made great profits because it was a little shop. It was a little bit of groceries, confectionery and that so it wasn’t a great deal but we did survive from it; at least we had our food from the shop and that helped Dad because as I said, Dad was the only provider all his life.
DC: Did you sell produce from the garden in the shop?
FG: Not really, no. Mum sent it to market, even though sometimes it would come back from the market unsold. All that effort for nothing.
DC: What would you do then?
FG: You don’t do anything. They’d say to you, “It’s unsold” and you have to pay for the carrier, you have to pay for the sacks you’ve bought, you’ve bought everything else to prepare it and it was just a loss.
DC: What would you do with the actual vegetables?
FG: They didn’t bring them back to you, they’d just say “unsold”.
DC: Which school did you go to?
FG: I went to St Jerome’s.
DC: What do you remember about school?
FG: I have nice memories. It was in the old church which is still standing just before the railway line. Our church was partitioned off, we had from Grade One, we didn’t have pre-primary like now. We had partitions and the whole [school] from One to Seven was all partitioned off in our little church and of course on the weekends we had to slide across those partitions and make it ready for a church and the pews. It was wonderful, even though it was a small community, we had some happy days there. I’ll never forget after school I’d always stay behind and because I lived just over the railway line I’d stay behind and help the nun. It was Sister Canisius, she remains in my memories most of all, but there was Sister Helen, Sister Theophane, Sister Nicholine, but Sister Canisius remains in my mind the most because when I used to stay behind after school, my sisters would go home, well, the one that was still there she’d go home and say, “Mum, Faye is helping Sister Canisius”. Well, what Sister Canisius wanted me to do was prepare for Sunday and she had those very tall candelabras and I’d polish them up with Brasso, I’ve never done Brasso since, but she had me polishing all these and then she’d give me some honeycomb that she used to make and sell, or toffees because that was our fundraising, the school needed help so that was our fundraising. In our little church, on the left-hand side the nuns used to have their little kitchen because they used to come from Fremantle every day. They didn’t live within the parish, they used to come with the bus and so they had a little kitchen and they always used to cook there so that’s why Sister was always making this honeycomb. I used to think she was so great giving me a piece of honeycomb after I’d been slaving for a couple of hours. (laughs) It was really, really good and I remember a lot of my school friends who grew up and I’m still friends with a lot of those who went to school.
DC: What were your favourite subjects at school?
FG: I liked English, maths, a little bit of history and I was good in religion.
DC: What language did you speak at home?
FG: At home we spoke Slav, that’s what we called it but it’s now called Croatian of course. That was the main language at home. That’s why poor Mum struggled all her life, she said, because when we went to school people think you go home and speak English, we spoke English between ourselves, but with Mum we always spoke Croatian.
DC: What about with your dad?
FG: Dad was a mixture, because Dad could read and write in English but Mum never went to school because Mum was the eldest of three children and they couldn’t afford to send her to school. Mum was working at the age of seven.
DC: Was this in Australia or Croatia?
FG: In Croatia, yes. She was working in a tobacco field. She started off watering because she was a little girl and she was so proud because she reckoned by the time she was at the end of seven, she was selecting leaves, so she thought that was a great job.
DC: A promotion.
FG: It was a promotion, in those days.
DC: Could you tell me about meeting your husband?
FG: I was thirteen years old and how I met him – because as I said, our shop was open by this time and all the boys like my husband and his three brothers and many of their friends who came out from northern Italy, were living where Amberley House is now situated. The family who owned the house was called Mastaglia. They had two sons and they’re both doctors. Dr Frank is a neurologist, his brother Gino is a rheumatologist. My husband’s name was Luca. He lived where Amberley House is today and as I said, with his two brothers who came out before him. Luca came out with another brother so there were four brothers who lived in Amberley House as it is now and there were all little sheds, they weren’t even rooms. My husband slept in the garage at the side of the house which didn’t even have paving. It had sand for the floor and they had bunks; they slept up on the bunks.
DC: How many in the space?
FG: Four or six at times, it depends. Some of the boys got a couple of days job down in the country, clearing the bush; they’d go and then they’d come back. Of course, he used to come to Mass to the church every day, because the young boys coming back from Italy, that’s what they were all brought up with, going to church, so when they’d go to church they’d all come back to the shop. At this time, my eldest sister was engaged at fifteen to her future husband who she married two years later and they became friends, so they all used to congregate at our place, at the shop, and they’d buy ice creams, drinks and that. We had a soccer machine on the verandah and the boys used to get out there and congregate and play. So that’s where I met him, at thirteen years old. Then he kept coming quite regularly and that’s how we became friends, he was seventeen and I was thirteen, but it just seemed to have been like we’d grown up together, after a couple of years. And when I was about sixteen, he went away. He went up to the coast of Queensland, to Mackay, and he was doing sugar cane cutting and working in the tobacco. Between the seasons he’d go from one to the other; when one would finish he’d go up to the other one. He told me that he’d come back in a year and all this time, he said to me, “I’m coming back in twelve months” and this time I was writing to him but because I wasn’t very fluent in my writing, I could speak it, my eldest sister used to reply in Italian, of course, and he never knew this till later, that she was answering his love letters (laughs). Anyway, after twelve months, I thought oh, he’s just pulling my leg, he’s not coming back. I kept writing but – – – Then when the season was finished there, he went back to Adelaide because by this time his two brothers had gone over to South Australia because they got a bit tired of going out and clearing farms and working on sawmills, it was a bit of hard work, so they went over to South Australia and they have now settled there, for the last sixty years. Luca worked also in Adelaide on the Otis lifts and then he wrote and said he was coming home and I thought oh yes, he said one year and this is coming on to two years. He came back here and of course there was no work again, so he went up to Wittenoom Gorge and worked up there. He lived with my eldest sister, at that time she and her husband were up there and she’d already had a couple of children by then. He only stayed about three months because he was a tall man, he was six foot two, I’d say, in our old times [measurements], and he used to work in a one metre square tunnel on his knees cleaning and digging into this. And after that short period, I believe one of his friends said to him, “You told me you’ve got a girlfriend down in Spearwood, but I think she might have somebody else” and this guy tried to be a friend of mine but he didn’t become a friend, so my sister said he came home from work and he said, “Katie, I’m going home” and she said, “Why?” “Oh, I think I’ve had enough.” He came home and we got engaged and we were married in six months (laughs) because he might’ve thought that I might’ve really got somebody else but I didn’t have.
DC: So when did you start going out with him?
FG: Well, going out with him, that was another story. In those days, you weren’t allowed to go out on your own. My sister had to chaperone me or Mum would come along but my husband wasn’t very happy with Mum tagging along (laughs) because he said, “They don’t trust me.” I said, “They do, but that’s our custom” and he didn’t like that idea. Coming from north Italy, they were a little bit freer than we were here but I remember the one night that I went out with him before I got married, I was allowed to go to the pictures in Fremantle, I had to get a certain bus and had to come home on a certain bus, otherwise there was trouble. But I accepted that because I knew there was no other way of going out so he didn’t very much like that but that was life at that time. Then we got married, I was only eighteen, I was turning nineteen that year and he was turning twenty-three so we married young.
DC: Where in Italy had he come from?
FG: Luca comes from Gordona, Italy. It’s right up on the border of Switzerland. There’s just a valley that divides it from Switzerland so it’s a beautiful place in the midst of the mountains; absolutely beautiful.
DC: And why had he come here?
FG: Because they were so poor. There were seven children and there was no survival and there was no work. The father had to work to survive, just barely.
DC: Where did you get married?
FG: I was married in St Jerome’s.
DC: When was that?
FG: It was the twenty-first of January 1961.
DC: Where did you live after you were married?
FG: After I was married, I lived with Mum for about three and a half months because my house was being built in Edeline Road, Spearwood which was just two blocks up from the church. The church actually sold us a little block for three hundred pounds.
DC: Tell me about your children.
FG: I was married in ’61 and my son was born on the twelfth of March, ’65; he was my eldest child. His name was Gordon.
DC: Who are your other children?
FG: My second born was Joanne. She was born on the sixth of November, ’67; she just turned fifty this last week. And the youngest, she was born on the twenty-third of April 1970. I had the two in that first little home and the home got too small so we had to go into a bigger place so we went into a three bedroom. This little place was only two bedrooms, we had a very, very large block but we couldn’t afford to build on it like they do now so we ended up going into a three bedroom duplex where we stayed until I had my third daughter, she was born in 1970, and then we bought a little place in Spearwood Avenue, which was a three bedroom but it had a little bit more garden and a side entrance where my husband always liked to have his little bits and pieces growing, so we shifted to Spearwood Avenue then.
DC: What number Spearwood Avenue?
FG: Yes, 222 I think it was. It was on the corner of Gerald Road and Spearwood Avenue. At that time, the street didn’t go through to Rockingham Road, there were still gardens, from the beginning of Rockingham Road used to belong to the Buktenića family. Of course, the road wasn’t open and my husband had been really, really unwell in that era, so we decided that we’d try and sell our house and try and go off a corner because coming around the corner they’d put on their brakes, they’d screech and he was quite ill and spent a lot of time in bed that era, so we saw a little place down in Sussex Street, Spearwood and my number down in Sussex Street Spearwood was number twenty-one. There was a little house, an asbestos house, and a bit of land attached so when the agent came he said, “If you don’t really want the house, we can subdivide the block and you can just buy the block” which we ended up doing. We didn’t want the old house, we wanted to build a place that was suitable for us and by this time the children were getting into their teens and studying and my son needed a study room and he also started playing music so he needed a larger area. So, we sold our place within a short period and within about twelve weeks our home was ready. We self-contracted, we had it all teed up and it just went beautifully and we shifted into there. That would’ve been 1988 and we stayed there till my husband died last year in February and I shifted on the 18th of November which this week will be a year since I’ve actually shifted. That happens to be my husband’s birthday and I really didn’t want to shift that day but my children said, “Mum, that’s a special day” so I did.
DC: What made you move from that house?
FG: I had a very large area, it was nearly a thousand [square] metres. I had chickens, I had Cocky, I had a lovely vegie garden, a patch at the back, which I couldn’t cope with because last year I had my knee replaced and it was just far too much for me. I didn’t want to let it go because I know how proud my husband was and as a sick man, he used to get around on his walker and sit on his walker and do his gardening and look after his chickens and his Cocky and his garden was so beautiful. It started to go down and it was really worrying me and my children said, “Mum, it’s time to move on” and they found a place for me last May down in Garden Road and I couldn’t do it. I went into the home and I just started to cry and I said, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I’m going back to where Dad and I lived.” They said, “Oh, Mum, but you just can’t do it.” I said, “No, I can’t” but come November, it was actually early in November my cousin’s son, who is in real estate, contacted my younger daughter and he said, “I think I’ve found a place for your mum, because your mum and dad told me to look out for something smaller” because Dad wasn’t quite coping as good as he wanted and I said to the children, “I don’t want to move” and they said, “Just come and have a look, Mum, just come and have a look.” And I went and had a look. As I walked in, I felt like yes, I could live here and I think it was only three-fifty or something like that and it’s wonderful because it’s something I can cope with. That’s where I am now, in 31A Zlinya Circle now.
DC: Do you want to tell me about the work that you’ve done through your adult life – where you’ve worked? You’ve talked a bit about working at Watsonia.
FG: Yes, I worked at Watsonia. Going back to the first job I had, I was fourteen years old and I didn’t want to go to school. I left on the Friday which was my birthday that day and I went out and I got myself a job at D. & J. Fowler . I’m sure it’s Henry Street, Fremantle now . I worked for them for a while, I think it might’ve been one year, then Woolworths.
DC: What did you do for them?
FG: I used to put mixed fruit, flour, bottled cordial – just general groceries, just pack them.
DC: So it was a grocery shop?
FG: Not a grocery shop, it was a warehouse because we used to pack it. It would come in bulk and we used to have to weigh it and pack it. Then there was a job going up in Woollies they called it, in front of the Town Hall there and I thought I’d like to get out of here and try something better so I went up to Woolworths and I worked there for a period of maybe two or three years. Then by that time, I decided I didn’t know if I really wanted to do this so I ended up going to a delicatessen, it was in the garage in Spearwood, I worked there for many, many years.
DC: Where was that?
FG: On Rockingham Road, where the garage is, actually before the delicatessen, that’s a bit of a boo-boo, there was a shop called Baileys. Baileys used to be the produce store that used to be just down here where the butter factory is which now is Mell Road. It used to be a produce place, they used to sell wheat and everything but they also sold a few groceries. So, then they shifted on to Rockingham Road and they made into more or less just groceries, they didn’t bring the produce there, like the wheat and all that, they just had groceries and they opened up like a post office and it later came on to be a liquor store. I also became the licensee of the liquor store because one of the young lads was instantly dismissed, and it used to belong to the ABC Stores by this time. Baileys had sold off to ABC Stores and I was the licensee for a while, while they were selling it. I said, “I don’t want to have my name plastered on as licensee, as a woman” but anyway, they convinced me that I needed to be the licensee, which I was.
DC: What era was that? What years? Was it quite a while ago?
FG: Oh yes. I would’ve been in my forties, maybe; in the eighties, I reckon. Anyway, when they sold the store, they sold it off to family and then I moved on again. That Baileys was demolished, it was like a big shed in those days, it wasn’t even like a proper building and then along came a developer and built like a big proper building with a liquor store separate and they had a delicatessen on the end and it was a garage; it was a family business. I worked in that delicatessen for a number of years; I can’t remember exactly how many. After that, besides working in the delicatessen, I also worked in a dress shop at South Fremantle; it was called Elda’s House of Fashion and I ended up working for over thirty years, I’d say, part-time, with her.
DC: Whereabouts was that dress shop?
FG: That was in Hampton Road, South Fremantle .
DC: That little shopping centre there?
FG: Yes. It was called “Elda’s House of Fashion.” Then she moved back to Rockingham Road to Scarvaci’s Shopping Centre and I worked there, and that was the last job that I actually did. I can’t remember exactly the amount of years.
DC: You were saying before when we were not recording, that your husband had had a really bad accident and you were proud that you were able to support the family.
FG: Oh yes. He had the accident on the 15th of August 1971 and of course for a couple of months I was going up and down to the hospital, but once he was stabilised, to be able to come home, he’d stay home with the children and I’d get up at the crack of dawn and prepare everything, because he was on crutches and he would see the children off to school. They used to walk, because we lived on the corner of Gerald Street and Spearwood Avenue and he’d make sure that they got themselves properly organised and he’d see them out the door and they’d walk up to the school. Later on, the boy would get his bus off to Christian Brothers.
DC: This was St Jerome’s, the children were going to?
FG: Yes, they were going to St Jerome’s and then they ventured off as they grew up. Then of course as they grew older, they got the buses to their different schools and then I went to work. I used to always work many, many hours a day and I’d always make sure that I’d prepared things that he could handle and when the kids came home from school that he could tend to them. I’d half cook my meal for dinner at night and we managed. We managed because I was organised, I was always very organised to make sure that we had good food and the clothes were clean. There was no dryer, I used to get up at the crack of dawn and if the fire was on, you’d try and dry off this or dry off that, but we managed.
DC: I think we need to finish up because of the time. Is there anything you want to add just to finish off today?
FG: I’m just so happy that I reared my three children through tough times and my husband was always very supportive and was forever grateful for what I’d given to life and helped him through. He always used to say to the children, “Look after Mum, she’s a good woman.”
DC: Thank you so much.
END OF ORAL HISTORY
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