Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I was thinking today of various incidents that happened over the years and this one came to mind for some reason.  In 1968 MOH worked for WA Rope & Twine in Mosman Park as paymaster, shipping clerk etc. etc.  and the house next door to the factory became vacant and it was offered to us with the proviso that MOH open the gates to the factory each morning and secure them in the afternoon.  The rent would be $6/week.

We accepted the offer as previously we had been renting a house in Claremont at $20 per week and MOH's salary when we first moved in there was only $50/week at that time so things moneywise were a wee bit tight.  I had then had to return to the workforce but we were still not that well off financially with two children to bring up and care for.

This house in Mosman Park was a very nice weatherboard house with large rooms and a front verandah right across the house.  It was quite basic but comfortable once we had cleared the cockroaches out of the laundry where they had apparently been breeding in the base of the copper (that was what you heated the water in to do your washing back then).  Also the bath was not much chop as the Italian man who had lived there previously had used it to crunch his grapes to make wine so the paintwork had suffered somewhat. We all preferred showers anyway so that was no real problem and at least it was clean.  The toilet was in the back garden but this didn't really present a problem either as there was at least an outside light.

After several weeks of getting it all cleaned up we all really enjoyed living in this house as it was only a few hundred metres from the ocean so we were assured of a wonderful sea breeze on hot days and it was quiet as there were only a couple of other houses in the street.   This changed somewhat after a couple of years when a truck transporter firm took up resident a couple of hundred metres up the road but apart from when they decided to load up cars in the middle of the night they were really no problem.

As MOH now worked next door to where we were living and I worked in an office in Cottesloe (the next suburb) he would quite often pick me up at lunchtime and we would go home so we could perhaps prepare things for dinner that night and other little chores that needed doing.  One day I decided I would pop on a large piece if corned beef to simmer which would be ready for dinner.  I don't like pressure cookers and of course there were no microwaves in 1968.  MOH drove me back to my office and that was that...except it wasn't.

A couple of hours later one of the workers from the factory ran into the front office and said to MOH "There's smoke coming out of the window at the side of your house".  With this MOH hotfooted it to the house and there on the stove was an incinerated piece of corned beef and a saucepan glowing red!!  I had obviously forgotten to put the stove on simmer before returning to work and needless to say we did not have corned beef for dinner that night nor did I ever again decide to cook corned beef or anything else while I was absent from the house.

I know how devastating it was for mum and dad to return to their farmhouse after camping out overnight elsewhere on the farm to find their house burnt to the ground with all their precious possessions gone forever.  I have always had a fear of fire and this incident made me realise how easily mistakes can be made when all could be lost.  I have always been so grateful to the chap that noticed the smoke in time to raise the alarm.  I was also glad we had left the window open so the smoke could be seen or the result could have been far worse than it was....just one ruined saucepan.

FOOTNOTE:  The Rope Works is long gone along with adjoining properties and in their place is a beautiful retirement village.  Strangely enough, in exactly the same place that the weatherboard house stood, is where Mr Burton, my boss from the Cottesloe office, now lives in that retirement village. Tis a small world.


  1. Ooops. I am so glad it all turned out in the end - was the saucepan ruined, or was it ok when it has cooled down (and been scoured)?
    A very small world indeed.

    1. Yes EC it could have had a much worse ending. The saucepan? I am not sure but, possibly after much scouring, it may have been usable. Would have had a good base so possibly was saved. We certainly learn by our experiences....good and bad.

  2. I've had two similar incidents. The first when I put a saucepan of apples to simmer for apple pie, then forgot about it while talking to a neighbour over the fence. The pan took many days of scrubbing and boiling to get it clean.
    The second incident was a few months later, I'd brought our new baby boy home from hospital as hubby had got drunk celebrating and forgot to come and get us. A few hours after I'd been home, hubby came in, drunk as a skunk, and decided to cook himself some chips for his dinner. I told him he was nuts and went to bed. He put a pan of oil on to heat up and fell asleep. We woke to clouds of black smoke throughout the house and I had to take the new baby out on the front lawn while hubby opened every window in the house. The kitchen was black for weeks.

  3. You know River you have brought another earlier incident to my mind. I was staying with my Mum with my two small children when this happened (first hubby and I had not been getting on). I had put the kettle on the gas stove and I too was talking to one of mum's neighbours over the side fence. When I went back inside the kettle was glowing but if I remember rightly it was OK still to use. Mum was not impressed!!! The incident you had with the burning oil though must have been really frightening. How fortunate we are when these incidents aren't as bad as they could have been.

  4. Hello Mimsie - I wold love to talk to you about your memories of Mosman Park and the Ropeworks for history research project I am working on. Do drop me an email at catepattisonresearch@gmail.com or call on 0401525960. Your memories would be invaluable! Kind regards, Cate