Mary Kemenade (née Inman) Oral History
Oral history of Mary Edith Veronica Kemenade (née Inman). Mary’s daughter Rhonda Kemenade also participated in the interview. Recorded as part of That was my home: Voices from the Noongar camps in Perth’s western suburbs PhD thesis. Recorded by Denise Cook on 16 November 2012 in Hamilton Hill (includes corrections made by Mary on 5 April 2013). Listen to the interview. Full transcript below.
Mary Inman (now Kemenade): I’m not sure what days when I was born so I’ll just put down 36.
Denise Cook (interviewer): Which day do you put down?
Rhonda Kemenade (Mary’s daughter): 24th of June
MI: 1936, I was born, eh.
DC: Where were you born?
MI: I don’t know.
RK: You were born in Fremantle, weren’t you?
MI: No, in the country somewhere. Ask Heather, she knows; she’ll know.
DC: Do you want to just say your full name as well?
MI: Inman – Mary Edith Veronica Inman.
MI: Yeah, Narrogin.
DC: Born in Narrogin.
DC: Can you tell me about where you lived when you were young?
MI: Only place was in Jean Street and – what’s that place down there in South Beach?
RK: South Fremantle.
MI: South Fremantle. And then from there we went to the camp. Dad built a camp cos people kept kicking us out all the time so Dad got some tin from the tip and Dad bought a tent and put it up in the Smelter’s camp, that’s the place, yes, and we lived there for two years, I think and that’s where my mum couldn’t get nothing to live on, you know? I’ve forgotten nearly all of it.
RK: That was South Beach camp.
MI: It used to be his mother’s camp.
RK: Yes, Smelter’s camp where South Beach is where they cut all the meat up.
MI: Robb’s Jetty, yeah.
DC: So were there other people camped there as well?
MI: Yeah, two other people – old man and old lady by herself. She lived right near the beach and the old man lived right next to the beach, right down the other end and we lived inside – inside, more inside, that’s where we lived, yeah. We had a good time there but. Playing dolls and shopping shops, had nothing for Christmas.
RK: You had your boat.
MI: Yeah, we had a boat and Mum said, “Catch me” in the boat.
RK: What about at night time when putting ….?….into the boat?
MI: Yeah, I had to get away from Dad or he’d kill me. Dad used to – Mum used to suffer a lot there. I don’t remember everything.
RK: That’s when you went to Sister Kate’s, wasn’t it?
MI: No, I was at Sister Kate’s before that.
DC: So you are saying earlier you went to Sister Kate’s when you were a baby?
MI: Yeah. When a baby. I was a baby, Beatrice, she was seven or eight and Pauline was about eleven, yeah, I think so.
DC: And then how did you get out of Sister Kate’s?
MI: My dad come and grabbed us and the police come chasing him (laughs) and he took us in the car and took us away from there and then they come and got us back again, put us back in the Sister Kate’s convent and after that, when we come down here, they got us put away, took us away from Mum down here and took us to that place in –
RK: West Leederville?
DC: St Joseph’s, you were saying?
MI: Yeah, Subiaco and we stayed there ever since. Then when I turned fourteen I went to St Joseph’s. But down here it was terrible. Cold and shiverin’. Mum used to bath us outside in the big tub. Remember the big tubs? Bath us outside then in tubs.
RK: Boil the water.
MI: Yeah, boil the water and she’d make a pot of boiling water up and bath us there, wrap us up nice and warm and put us to bed. Mum had a hard time there; really hard.
DC: Why was it hard for your mum?
MI: Couldn’t get no food or nothin’. People wouldn’t help those days. That’s what’s wrong. The only one who’d help Mum was the sailors. She made a friend with a sailor, sailors there. David was the one that – he was in the war and the Japs cut his ear right off and he come to Mum and told Mum what happened in the war time when they cut him from the tree and they were going to cut him up for food for the army blokes that was in the camp and that’s what – I don’t remember everything of theirs. I wouldn’t remember everything.
DC: So where did you sleep at the camp?
MI: I slept in the tent. Mum put us in the tent. Mum and Dad slept down the other end and Margaret slept in the shed because she made a shed at the back for Margaret and her husband and Mum and Dad this end and the kids up this end; we all slept in the double bed – that was the only way we could fit in. Every night Dad used to make a big fire outside. Didn’t put it in the camp ‘cos it was too dangerous so he’d make a big fire and we all sat out there. Then we’d go in round Mum when the sailors bring the food to him she used to cook dinner, she did a lot of cooking. She was good at that, cooking. Made dumplings.
MI: Yeah, she’d make a big stew up and put dumplings, out of kangaroo meat. She made it, it was really nice and what’s in it – rabbit, both rabbits … and quite a few potatoes, ‘cos she’d grow a little bit of vegies out the back, the back of the tent, she’d do that. We’d slide up on top of the tent and slide down again. (laughs)
DC: So you were saying before that you used to catch rabbits? How did you do that?
MI: Shanghai. Shanghai it and cut it up.
DC: And who would clean them?
MI: Mum. I wouldn’t clean them. I wouldn’t touch ‘em, I never liked meat, they’d bloody make me sick, they still make me sick now, even looking at meat.
DC: Do you eat meat?
MI: Sometimes. All depends what Rhonda cooks, if she cooks it nice, I eat it if its’ soft. I’ve got no teeth now. I only remember Mum didn’t have much at all; there was nothin’.
DC: And how did you catch the kangaroos?
MI: Shoot ‘em. We had to shoot ‘em, to get the kangaroo, ’cos otherwise they’d claw you. If you get ‘em in the corner, they’d claw you, kangaroo but now Mum don’t cook it no more. Mum didn’t do it no more because it was cruel; couldn’t do it. The Italian bloke give Mum good things for Christmas one time.
DC: Sheep skins?
MI: No, chickens.
MI: Yeah. The Italian bloke give it to my mum and the sailors brought food for Mum. If my brother come he’d go and buy food, he brings it to Mum, my older brother. That’s as far as I know.
DC: What about your dad? What did he do?
MI: Well, every time he gets a job, they put him off; he couldn’t work, ‘cos he was with a dark woman.
DC: He what?
MI: He was with a dark woman – I mean, Mum’s like me and ‘cos Dad was married to my mum they wouldn’t give him a job. They wouldn’t give him a job – he had to go all the way up to Carnarvon, working on the bridge, build that big bridge up there, yeah, so when he’d come home with all the cheques he’d give it to Mum, cheques, he’d give it to Mum, and Mum would go and buy all nice clothes and things like that for us, yeah. That’s all I know.
DC: What did you do during the day?
DC: What kind of games did you play?
MI: Oh, shops, being shopping, you know, making shops and then we’d go down and take the money from the people, get some stones and play with stones, then we used to go down the beach and have a swim in the beach and we’d just go along the beach; start from one end and you go up to the other end. The sand was lovely and white then but now it’s all black. Yeah, it’s all dark.
DC: It is.
MI: Yeah, I didn’t know that. They building factories up there and they’re makin’ all the sand black. We used to ride on horses and go down and ride along the beach and one horse used to buck me off. He was a bad horse that one.
DC: Whose horse did you ride on?
MI: I don’t know – after I get on with my brother, I got on him and ride it all the way down to the beach, he’d gallop all the way down to the beach and he threw me off. I went straight under the bridge, he was going to bounce on me and then we had an old white horse, old grey and white horse, he was a good horse. We used to stand on the back of his legs and get up the top, the four of us, and go for a ride on it all the way down to Bibra Lake. He’d take us all the way down there without a bridle and bring us all the way back by 5 o’clock at night.
MI: Yeah. And my young sister, my oldest sister, Mum and Dad they were arguing the point and told us to go and stay out there in the bush and sleep in the bush. I was only that high, and we slept in the bush all night, till they said, “Come back with some watermelon,” and then we come back the next morning – they come and pick us up and that’s as far as I know.
DC: Who else – what were the names of the people in the camp?
MI: Maudie Westicott, she was an old lady.
DC: A white lady?
MI: Yeah, she hide us from mum when mum was goin’ to belt us for not coming home for tea. And the old man used to live about two yards away from the old lady, Maudie and us; there were only three of us living up there.
DC: Anyone else down at Robb’s Jetty?
MI: No, that was a meat factory then.
DC: No camps there?
MI: No. No, there was only three. Nobody else there.
DC: Did you ever meet a guy called Wandi?
DC: Or Black Paddy?
MI: Black Paddy, yes. I remember Black Paddy, but I don’t know much about him. I don’t even know whose my relations and who’s not my relations; I don’t know them. All Mum’s sisters and that, I don’t know them; never met ‘em. I used to know one lady one time but I forgot who she was. My grandmother died, when my grandmother died my mum went to pieces. She went down to the dump, I know that much because she’d sit at the bus stop – do you remember when the old trams used to be there?
DC: Which used to be?
MI: Old trams.
DC: Yeah, I don’t remember but I’ve seen photos.
MI: They used to come down to South Beach there. She’d sit there every day, my mum, my mum she was blind and she had ulcers on her legs or something. She’d sit there every day, just to have some fresh air.
DC: Who’s this?
MI: My grandmother. I know Auntie Biddy, yes, she died. When she died my mum went to pieces; don’t know what happened. I don’t remember much of it.
DC: No, you were so young.
MI: Yeah, I don’t remember most of it. You can still write the stories about us.
DC: What was it like in the really hot weather? How did you keep cool?
MI: Oh, down the beach. (laughs) The beach – we’d stay there all day and the lady give me a pie ‘cos she saw me laying there all the time, not eatin’ nothing so she gave me – it was about midday – and she said, “you silly little girl, would you like to have a pie?” and I said, “Oh, yeah,” and I went bblllbbbb. I was hungry, I’d been down the beach all day with nothing to eat.
DC: And were you there on your own or with the other kids in your family?
MI: With my brothers and sisters. I know it’s a shame but I never been with my brothers and sisters – I never stayed with them, they all separated, two of us New Norcia home, my little brother Vincent he was in the orphanage with us, when he got a little bit older they took him straight to the Clontarf home and he told me that the brothers there tried to interfere with him and I was going to take him out but Jerry wouldn’t take me that day; he was going to take me out there and take him out; I wanted to take him out and look after him but he wouldn’t take me, so that was it. Then –
DC: So when you went to Sister Kate’s, when you were nine, was it?
MI: I was only a baby.
DC: This is the second time though. Oh no, you didn’t go – where did you go?
MI: I been at Sister Kate when I was a little baby.
DC: Where did you go when you were a bit older?
MI: When I got older we went to Fremantle to live from Katanning and we went to Fremantle to live but Dad said we’d go down there and then we stayed down at Fremantle and then we were living in Jean Street and from Jean Street we lived down the next road – the house down next to it.
DC: That was Douro Road?
MI: Yes. We used to live on the corner near the shop. We lived there for about a year or two, then went to the blue house, and from the blue house went to the tent and stayed in the tent for a while.
DC: And what did you think about being in the tent?
MI: Lovely. It was lovely, better than living in a house. Mum used to keep it clean all the time. I used to sweep the floor, my sisters used to do the dishes and that; it was nice. I didn’t like the houses.
DC: Why is that?
MI: I don’t know. I don’t know; too much cleaning. I used to like the tent because you could make your bed up nice, do things nice, sweep the floors, grow things, play in the sand and I stood up to a snake, a big brown snake from there [indicating] and I was here and he stood up like that, staring at me, his eyes were going up and down, big eyes. I just stayed still and I didn’t move, I didn’t breathe, nothing, and he slowly put his head down and went that other way. I was lucky with that day. My mum told me to do that when you come face to face with a snake; stay still, don’t move. I do what my mum told me, oh, he had a big head on him.
DC: Where was that? Where did you see the snake?
MI: In just near the camp bush, yeah
DC: In your camp or just near the camp?
MI: No, in the bush. I was hiding from Dad and I said, “Oh, I saw a snake down there,” so I kept still, didn’t move. Didn’t move my eyes, I just stood still. I was watching him but otherwise he would’ve strike at me so he just put his head down and went away.
DC: How close were you again – to the snake?
DC: How close were you to the snake?
MI: There [indicating] to here.
DC: About a metre away.
MI: Yeah, he was up like that, to strike so I kept still like Mum said, didn’t move and he just put his head down and went that way like that – the other way and I was, “ohhh,” quick.
DC: What did you do after the snake went?
MI: I pick up and took off. (laughs) I wasn’t going to hang around.
DC: Was there much bush around where the camp was?
MI: Yeah, all bush; all bush. And snakes, ooh, ooh! But Dad built the floor up about that high.
DC: Built the floor up?
MI: Yeah, that high.
DC: About like four inches, six inches.
MI: Yeah, and then he put a tent up and he put a floor in the shed for Margaret and Albert and he built a floor up from the tent to the other shed and then he made a little square window in there and that’s when I threw a stone and hit my sister there.
DC: Oh, you hit your sister in the face with a stone.
MI: I meant to hit my brother – not my brother but mother’s – my other sister Phyllis’s son who was giving me, tormentin’ me all the time so I threw a stone and tried to hit him and I hit my sister there. That’s when my dad chased me. He chased me.
DC: Tell me again what you did – when he chased you, where did you go?
MI: Straight to the beach. This was about 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and it was gettin’ dark and I swam out to the boats, paddled all the way to the boats, and I stayed in the boat and Dad kept saying, “Come back, come back”. I wouldn’t come back, I stayed there. In the morning I woke up, I slowly got the anchor, made my way back into shore and got out. And Mum put the sand in a big hole, Mum told me a big hole and lay in there and you keep warm all the time; that’s what I did and it was good. I lay there, and in the morning when I got home Mum and Dad belt me. (laughs) Mischievous a bit. When Dad and Mum were having an argument me and my brother and my sister, we go up a big tower, with a round ring on it and make a bed in there and slept there all night and we’d go home in the morning when everything’s all right.
DC: Where was the tower?
MI: It was near Smelters camp – not a tower but a big round thing, it all got holes in it, a rusty old place. We just look for a hole about that big [indicates].
DC: About as big as your arms, the space in your arms.
MI: Yeah, like that. We’d crawl in there and go to sleep; make a bed in there and sleep. You could see everybody walk past (laughs) and then we’d get up before Dad come lookin’ for us. We stayed up there, we became really quiet and then we come back down, we ran all the way home and then he say where have we been? “We been swimmin’ down the beach” That’s all we have to say. And then Pauline, she was a funny girl that one. When she was 15 years old she come home and ask Dad could she get married, asked Mum first and she said, “You’d better go and ask your Dad,” so she went and asked Dad and Dad chased her. “Married? I’ll give you married,” he said. She had two tennis balls and when she ran the balls fell down (laughs).
DC: In her breasts, like her chest.
MI: Yeah. She was tall and she was good and I seen her running and the balls fell out. In Sister Kate’s convent, they were all right but they were cruel too. I hate that place. I hated that place and the orphanage, I didn’t like it. They get you to work morning til night there and when I turned 14 there I was doing night shift, coming on night shift.
DC: At the orphanage?
MI: Mm. Looking after the children and the babies, you know. And that, then go home till about 7.00 and then you’d go upstairs and go to sleep in one little room.
DC: How old were you then, Mary?
MI: Only fourteen.
DC: And were you living in the orphanage too?
MI: Yeah. There was me and Dorothy and Margie lived there. Dad put us there. My little brothers got put in the Clontarf Home; that one there.
DC: Did you see your dad again after you got put in the orphanage?
MI: Only once he came up to see us. Mum come once, after that didn’t see them no more. I didn’t know where Dad was, I didn’t know where Mum was, didn’t know but there was something telling me there was something wrong, going wrong. I could not bring it out. Same my brother, that was my brother there, when I was sittin’ with him I kept staring at him and I did the same thing what I did to my mum, something’s going to happen, I tried to tell him, you can’t; I was just worried, you know. You can’t bring it out. Do you understand what I mean?
MI: You can’t – when you see somebody like that, you can’t just bring it out, let it just grow, mourn them. I couldn’t mourn them, I didn’t know what that was for. What Mum said, if you kill a white kangaroo, you have bad luck for the rest of your life; don’t do it. Not a white one. “Why is that, Mum?” That’s the Aborigine way, we’ve got a saying; you kill a white one, bad luck. That’s what my brother did; he killed a white kangaroo. After all, my god, I think, think, think.
DC: Which brother was that? Who killed the kangaroo?
MI: That brother there, Vincent, yeah. He was a nice boy; he was a lovely natured boy. I missed all my life with him because he [Jerry] wouldn’t take me to see him.
DC: Mm. I’m sorry.
MI: I wanted to go and see him all the time, too close with my brothers, you know? My sisters – I want to keep close to them but I didn’t find ‘em for years and years. I come round [?] in 1930; 1949 I come out of the orphanage.
DC: Which orphanage was that again?
MI: St Joseph’s, yeah, in Subiaco. Yeah. My brother run away from there, he said they used to belt you all the time, the nuns and that. They belt you all the time, they put marks on you.
DC: That’s terrible.
MI: The nuns never believe you. You can’t say nothin’, you can’t prove nothin’; they’ve all gone. Most of them are gone. Good Shepherd was the best; I liked the Good Shepherd convent.
DC: What did you like about that?
MI: I liked doing pressing work, playing basketball, doing sewing or knitting or whatever you want to do. When 8 o’clock come, you go to bed. It was good and breakfast in the morning, go to church in the morning and then you go straight to work.
DC: And what work did you do there?
MI: Pressing work.
DC: Pressing? In the laundry?
MI: Yeah, I used to like doin’ it. And after that, on Saturday and Sunday they played basketball. Nuns would ride the pushbike with you. It was good. In the orphanage you don’t get that. All you get is you get called up, you play all day, then you get called up for lunch, you take anything off the table like somebody else’s jam, oh, hit the roof. I didn’t know – I thought the jam was there for everybody, you know. So I said, “Oh, I’ll just have a bit of jam on a bit of bread.” Nuh. So after that I didn’t eat no more. I wouldn’t eat nothing. Yeah, I’d go and get pinchin’ there, crusts – you know what I mean? You know where they make crusts for the nuns? Toast? You take them, a big fistful and put ‘em in our knickers and go down the privy and eat ‘em all. Then we could make scones in the morning and then after that when you’ve finished cookin’, you scrubbed off the floor and if you haven’t done it properly they’d make you do it again. You get up and down until you get it done. That’s what it was up there. And when you’re polishing the floor, you gotta do it, put it up and down up and down up and down till it shines. Oh, I didn’t like it.
DC: Going back to the camps, what did you do when the weather was cold?
MI: Dad used to make a big fire outside. He’d put a big tent [?] over it, we’d just sit out there and watch – we’d sit out there till about 5 o’clock, so we’d get warm and then we’d go back to bed and Mum would say, “Go to bed now,” when 5 o’clock comes so we’d go to bed at night, because there were no lights.
DC: That’s 5 o’clock at night?
MI: Yeah, everybody gotta be in bed. Well, every children not allowed to be out in the streets ‘cos a murder can do you or something, you know, so 5 o’clock at night, everybody goes to bed and Mum used to lock the tent up, zip it up, and we all slept in the tent, wait [?] go to sleep.
DC: And what time would you wake up?
MI: 6 o’clock. Wake Mum up, she’d scream at us.
DC: And what did you do when it was wet?
MI: I’d just playin’ inside. When Mum was doin’ the shopping, that day I just had a dress on, didn’t have nothin’ else, no shoes, no socks and went down to the shop and got Mum what she wanted and I got caught in the hailstones, I was freezing. Mum went and threw blanket around me and warmed me up. I was all right then. Yeah, it was good down there but nothin’ much there. We didn’t know what to do for ourselves, because we take the apples off the train, big green apples, took ‘em home to Mum and had to take ‘em back. Mum made us take ‘em back. She said, “You don’t steal nothing”, she said. If somebody give it to you, it’s all right, but don’t steal. Put it back there.” I said, “But we got to have something to eat, Mum” “No, take it back, take it back.” “All right, we’ll take it back,” and we’d stick ‘em back in the train. We wouldn’t go back the second time.
DC: Where was the train?
MI: In Robb’s Jetty. All case full of apples, green apples, oranges, beautiful apples, beautiful oranges. I take one apple, one orange and go. Then the bakery come around with bread – cos’ you go and pinch the bread out of the bakery shop, the baker, and take off with it ‘cos we hungry, eat all the middle of it, throw the crust away. (laughs) That was bread. Now the bread is horrible, I can’t eat it. I don’t know what they doin’ to it; it never taste – – –
DC: Yeah? What’s different about it?
MI: No flavour in it, nothing in it. You get a loaf of bread then, at that time, it was beautiful. You could eat the crusts, you know? All in the middle of the bread was absolutely beautiful but the bread now I can’t eat it. I don’t know what they’re doin’ with it. There’s no taste. If I have it with toast, if its toast it’s all right, with jam and butter and jam and I wouldn’t eat it. Someone could have a loaf of bread I wouldn’t touch it. Meat I won’t touch; I don’t like meat. I think cutting down on meat, … down, my food.
DC: So you were saying you used to get mulberries and things – you used to go round and get figs.
MI: Figs, we used to eat figs; plenty of figs in the tree.
DC: Where were the trees with the figs on?
MI: Where the big tanks were in Fremantle, up the hill.
DC: Oh really?
MI: Yeah, there’d be figs up there and you used to go on the grapevine and have grapes, sit down in the tree and eat all the grapes.
DC: Where were the grapevines?
MI: In somebody’s farm. And watermelon, runnin’ in the bush there. Used to take one big watermelon, take it home to Mum and eat it. And I don’t know, oh, rabbits and kangaroo – that’s all we used to eat.
DC: Did you eat damper?
MI: Not very much damper. Mum used to make it sometimes but she made pancakes or scones or she’ll make – yeah, damper too. Put it in the coals, yeah, she makin’ damper. She bake a lot of flour and she let it – put something in it and she’d just leaves it there till it swells up and she puts it down in there and damper come up in the coals. And the fish she covers up with coals. We used to have a good meal then, catch fish in the ocean. I went down there fishing one time on Robb’s Jetty, down the bottom I found an old fishing line and a hook and a bit of meat, I stuck it on it and I chucked it into the ocean and somethin’ big got on it – oh, I got a fright and I dropped the line and took off (laughs). I took off, somethin’ big got on it.
DC: I heard there were lots of sharks down there at Robb’s Jetty.
MI: Yeah, because that’s where they killed the bulls and all the stuff used to go down there and oh, scary. I went down the bottom and I thought oh, I might catch a fish for Mum and got somethin’ fish on it and it just went vroom, with the line and I went ooh, and took off. I took off, that scared, that quick and didn’t want to go back there, too scary.
DC: What were the bulls like?
MI: The cows.
DC: The cows – what were they like?
MI: Oh, they were good. Poor cows, they starve ‘em and then they kill ‘em. That many cows they kill ‘em. That’s when Dad was trying to get – he got a job there and then they found out he was married to my mother, they put him off. And we used to go and climb on the tanks there, big tanks, go for a swim in it and we’d jump in there, and swim in it, round and round and round.
DC: What was the tank for?
MI: To feed the animals. They give ‘em water but we used to swim in it when it was very hot.
DC: What animals were there?
MI: There was just cows, bulls and cows there. They didn’t bother us, poor animals. I used to feel sorry for the animals. I felt like takin’ em out of there, killin’ the poor things.
DC: Why did you feel sorry for them?
MI: ‘Cos they get killed, you know. Animals are animals, they’re God’s animals, you shouldn’t kill animals, like a dog. A dog gets killed for nothing. Watch when they kill the devil in the sea, the devil is a shark, people are stupid. That shark gonna keep comin’ back, keep comin’ back all the time. If he’s had his feed there, he come back again. Even a blackfella would tell you that; they’ll come back and back all the time, no matter what you do, he’ll come back.
DC: The shark?
MI: Yeah. If he kill there once he’ll kill again, he come back – then someone might be a little kid.
DC: So did your mum tell you not to swim at certain times because of the sharks?
MI: Mum tell us not to go near the water; shark in the water. “Don’t go down there.” My sister Pauline swim right out and Mum called her back and she wouldn’t come back. “Pauline, come back, come back.” No, she wouldn’t come back, she was swimming along and a lot of young girls were swimming around and anyway she swam back, there wasn’t many sharks then but now there’s too many of ‘em comin’ in because they – remember the whale ships they got rid of the whales there, they don’t slaughter the whales.
DC: Down at Albany or here?
MI: In Albany, Sydney, Melbourne. They stopped doing the whales.
DC: Yes, they did.
MI: And that’s why the sharks are moving on, looking for food. They say, oh they think it’s a seal, no, they can smell you a mile away. You see the little seals, and you see all the seals grab hold of the little seals, that slipped out of his mouth and swam right behind him; swam behind the shark.
DC: So the seal swam behind the shark?
MI: Yeah, all the way along.
DC: Did you see that?
MI: Yeah, he following him where he goes ‘cos he got babies see? He won’t go in front of him, he go, following him all the way along.
DC: Protecting the babies?
MI: Yeah. Keep the babies away, yeah. Oh, one day I went swimming down in Robb’s Jetty there, biggest crab I ever seen, he was huge; big orange one, he was huge, big claws on him. Oh, I said, Jeez, lucky I didn’t go in there, he would’ve grabbed me. Huge. I never seen one like that, huge, a big orange one. Jeez, there’s some things in the sea, you don’t know – brrr.
DC: So did you swim in the sea?
MI: Yes. But on the shore part.
DC: The shore part? What do you mean by the shore part?
MI: Swim along the shore.
DC: Oh, close to the shore?
DC: Not out in the water?
MI: No. Dad and Mum said there’s sharks out there so we swam in the shore part. We’d start up this end and ended up right down the other end. I said, “How did we get down here?”
DC: So would you swim near Robb Jetty or would you swim more up the South Beach end?
MI: No, Smelters camp place.
DC: Smelters camp. And where exactly was Smelters camp?
MI: You know where you go straight up where the tram used to go, straight up there, they closed it all in now and it used to be right up the top there; that’s where Mum and Dad had a camp up there. They closed it all up.
DC: How close was it to the beach?
MI: Oh, half a mile.
DC: And how close was it to the rubbish tip?
MI: The rubbish tip? Oh, only about an hour and a half to get there.
DC: Only about-?
MI: An hour and a half.
DC: Because there was a rubbish tip at South Beach, wasn’t there?
MI: Not South Beach, the rubbish would’ve been towards Fremantle.
DC: Oh, okay.
MI: We slept in the box there. We made two big boxes and we slept in there and then we used go to the tip then and get jam, tins of jam, tin of baked beans, spaghetti.
DC: Really? At the tip?
MI: Yeah, It’s chucked out. Mum looks at the jam and looks at the thing and says yeah, they’re all right to eat so we had them. Tomatoes been chucked out. She picks the good ones out, and washes ‘em and cleans ‘em up and give us that. I remember that, yeah. I don’t know what else.
DC: Where did you get drinking water from?
MI: Oh, from the taps on the beach.
DC: Up at South Beach?
MI: Yeah. Mum used to go and get – pull a big kerosene tin up and take it up there.
DC: How did she carry it?
MI: Carried it – just carried it like that [indicates]
DC: With a handle.
MI: Yeah, all the way home.
DC: And how did she do her washing, do you know?
MI: She’d wash in a big tub. She had one wooden thing.
DC: A wooden stick? Oh no, a washboard?
MI: A washboard. Dad made a clothes line there, she did all the washing out there and sometimes she’d get the water out of the ocean, but drinking water she gets that from the town.
DC: From the tap?
DC: And what about when you wanted to wash? How did you do that?
MI: Mum would get the water and fill the thing up with water, had a can, two big cans and fill it up with water and then give us a bath with it, make the water warm and give us a bath, wash our hair. When she saw the nits in my hair, she said, “That’s going to come off.“
DC: You had nits in your hair?
MI: Yeah, had lots. Mum shaved my hair right off. I had long hair but she shaved it off. You can’t go to school like that, she says. She put pants on me and a dress on me to go to school and I take the pants off and chucked the pants off over the next bush.
DC: Why did you do that?
MI: Couldn’t stand the pants.
DC: What didn’t you like about them?
MI: Tight round here [indicates]
DC: Round the thighs?
MI: Yeah, so I just chuck them in the bush.
DC: Which school did you go to?
DC: Beaconsfield? How did you get there?
MI: Walked. It’s not very far; we just walked.
DC: Isn’t it?
MI: No. We just lived across the road there where you go up a big hill, down the hill and the shop’s there.
DC: And would you walk on your own or with the other kids?
MI: Walk with my brothers and my sisters, yeah. And some government managed [?] to take me away.
End of Interview
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