We are still living in the main part of mum's house at 518 Fitgerald Street in North Perth. I stay at home looking after Karen and Aub goes to work each day. We had a very wet winter and after a lovely spring we begin what is one of our hottest summers on record. Mum had given me her Hoover washing machine. It was quite tiny with a little wringer and you still of course had to use the wash troughs to rinse the clothes but it was better than having to boil the copper every day although I lit that to get the hot water for the washer as there was no hot water laid on in the outside laundry.
This is Karen at 3 months of age in October, 1955. She was very strong and could hold her head up for quite a while. She was a very happy baby and only cried when the colic overtook her of an evening but by 3 months that had fortunately completely cleared up and we couldn't have asked for a better behaved wee girl.
We had a quiet Christmas at home that December and of course visited various members of Aub's family over the Christmas holidays. My mum always used to go away for 2 weeks at Christmas so we would have our celebrations with her a few days earlier. Karen by then was 5 months old so didn't know what it was all about but received some lovely presents for her very first Christmas and enjoyed all the attention she got from everyone.
That summer really was hot and in those days there was no airconditioning or even ceiling fans. We did have one table fan and on very hot days I would place a wet nappy over the handle of the pram and then put the fan on the other side so cool air would blow into the pram to keep the baby as cool as possible, so she could have her daytime sleep. Fortunately the house had very high ceilings which helped to keep the rooms reasonably cool and in those days there was no fear of intruders so one kept the doors and windows open and, if there was a sea breeze of a night, you could let the cool air blow through the house which helped keep us much cooler.
This is Karen at about 6 months of age. Once again with her grandma (my mum) and also sitting in her pram ready to go for a walk:
This a recent photo of the house on a real estate page. That tree wasn't there 46 years ago but you can still see the front of the house which hasn't changed much but of course it has been modernised now. It stood on 1/3rd of an acre and in past years other dwellings have been built there as well and the asking price has risen remarkably. Further along you can see flats which have been built where once there were single storey homes. When we lived in the house there was a walkway built from street level to the top storey but this has obviously been removed. The window you can see just behind the tree, was our bedroom when we moved in.
An elderly couple had lived in the house for some years and obviously had not been able to care for it and it was very dirty. I refused to move in until we had done at least some cleaning up and I insisted we paint the room in which Karen would sleep. This being done we moved in there in July 1956 at about the same time that we celebrated Karen's first birthday. We then began a really big clean up. There was no kitchen sink so Aub bought a secondhand green terazzo sink (the sink itself was porcelain) and made cupboards and when they were installed they looked really good. From scraps of timber he made us a smallish kitchen table and we had several kitchen chairs which sufficed. The precious occupants, not having a sink, obviously drained their vegies in one of the cement laundry troughs and the bottom of that trough was quite pitted it and it had a greenish growth in it. We scrubbed that out very quickly and made sure it was really clean.
There was an old free standing bath in the laundry and to have a bath I had to heat the copper and ladle the hot water over to the bath in a bucket. Karen was now a year old and too big for the baby bath so I used to give her a bath in the large kitchen sink. There was a wood stove in the kitchen so it was always warm in there when I gave her bath in the winter months. After a while we got tired of always having to light the copper for us to have a bath so Aub bought an electrical fitting that had its own shower head and heated the water as it flowed through. It took a bit of getting used to but once we got the hang of it it was great to have a shower each day without much effort.
This is the type of bath but the laundry/bathroom wasn't in quite such bad condition as this one. Nevertheless there was still a lot of work to be done to make it fit to use.
My mother-in-law, whom I loved dearly, was never one to do a lot to help. You accepted that family as they were as that was their way. We had only been in the house in Walcott Street for about a week and had been very busy with so much to do and the baby to look after as well. One day Grace popped in and we were sitting in the kitchen having a cup of tea and she happened to look up at an inside window that was between the kitchen and the lounge room. It was so dirty you really couldn't see through it and she asked for a bucket of hot water and a cloth and climbed on a kitchen chair and cleaned the window. That proved just how grubby the house had been and the amount of cleaning it took to feel able to enjoy living in it. There were no fly screens and we felt that the house would quite often have been quite full of flies. We quickly rectified that with fly screen doors and also finally on the windows downstairs as well. We didn't bother upstairs as the breeze blew through there quite strongly and that seemed to discourage flies ever flying in up there.
I remember when we first moved in finding an old bed frame suspended outside the back of the house where the old chap obviously dried the onions he grew. Unfortunately it hadn't been used for some time and was full of cockroaches. That was a very nasty experience and it took a lot of work to get it cleared away and cleaned up. I have to take my hat off to us both. We certainly worked very hard and made this a comfortable home in a few short weeks. Eventually we painted all the rooms including the very high ceilings and felt happy with our efforts.
With the house being two-storey I had constant worries as Karen had begun to walk just before her first birthday and was constantly on the go. When I was upstairs I had to carry her up with me and make sure the door of the room we were in was shut. Then of course would have to carry her back down again. Fortunately I was able to barricade the bottom of the stairs to stop her trying to climb up them.
There was also a wide verandah at the back of the house on the upper storey but it had a very high wooden railing around it which was quite safe, so Karen could play out there while I made beds etc. The views over a very leafy suburb and beyond to the city were really beautiful. If we had friends stay during the summer months they would sleep out there which was very convenient. For some reason I don't appear to have any photographs taken from that verandah which is strange. Perhaps they were lost over the years one way or another.
There was one occasion when Karen developed a rash and I called the doctor to check her out. Yes, doctors made house calls in those days and if I remember correctly, didn't charge more than for a normal visit to their surgery. Dr Wheeler said he was positive it was German Measles and to keep her in her cot for a few days. He reported it as such and asked me to advise any friends of ours who may be pregnant so they could see their doctors. Fortunately Aub had made a beautful safe cot which could be dismantled so he would bring it downstairs in the morning and then take it back upstairs at night. I think it only involved about a dozen screws and took about 5 minutes to dismantle or put back together again. Karen was well within a few days so everything soon got back to normal again.
We spent Christmas 1956 there and it was great to actually be in a house, just the three of us.. We did the usual rounds of the relations and also had Christmas dinner with my mum before she went of on her holidays. Karen at 17 months was still much too young to understand the concept of Christmas but had a thoroughly good time receiving little gifts and being made a fuss of.
Early in 1957 I discovered I was once again pregnant and had to take care although there didn't seem to be any obvious problems this time. Just to be sure Dr Wheeler referred me to Dr Connaughton. Our second baby was due in late October, 1957 so once again sewing and knitting and names to be chosen.
O.K. Enough's enough for now I think. Coming up next time...a new addition to the family.