Excerpt from "CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston. (pp 148-150)
"We soon realised that younger children would benefit most from the work of the Group in its early stages, and that it was necessary to assist the older ones to become socially adjusted. For this purpose I started what I called the Fun Club........a term borrowed from America.
The National Fitness Council gave us some support by lending us some equipment and Miss Henderson of that organisation gave her services for many years to the Fun Club, teaching our young people to play games, dance etc. (Mum occasionally took my young daughter along to the Fun Club and she enjoyed herself tremendously. I thought it good that she should learn to mingle with children that were 'different' to her friends and they all made K most welcome and she loved to join in with them.)
I started the Fun Club in my flat at 22 St George's Terrace in Perth but we had to shift to Minbalup as a tenant in the flats complained of the noise. We had a piano at Minbalup which I played to assist with the activities. The parents came with their young people and enjoyed conferring with one another. Supper was supplied and everybody helped by bringing various dishes. We celebrated birthdays, particularly the 21sts, and discovered some of the boys and girls could play the piano by ear and others could sing. One young man, whose parents were Welsh, amused himself at home playing classical records on their gramophone and then copied them on the piano, adding his own variations. We used to encourage him to play the piano until we were ready to commence the evening's programme, and he never played a note our of place.
Another one of the boys had as his father the leader of an orchestra, and he had been taught to play hymns in chords - again with no discords. One evening he started to play Abide With Me, and one of the girls went to the piano and sang it to his accompaniment, while the parents of both had tears running down their faces.
I formed a small teenage girls choir, but found it difficult to teach them the words to the songs. They knew things they heard repeatedly on the radio, but we could not get beyond the choruses, and teachers I tried to recruit to help found themselves unable to cope with the various disabilities and problems which arose.
The numbers increased and we moved to other venues and the Social Club, as it is now called, gravitated to the Perth Town Hall. It is indeed a joy to see these young men and women nicely dressed entering into the fun.
Before I retired from the position of President of the SLCG, we called a meeting at Fremantle with the object of starting a branch there, and the Mayor, Sir Frederick Samson, was good enough to act as Chairman, although at the time his wife was very seriously ill in hospital.
The meeting was well attended and it was agreed that a branch be formed. Mrs Rhoda Smith, a colleague of mine, who had lost a slow learning daughter in very sad circumstances, was persuaded to become President of the Fremantle branch, and she held that position for many years. It is gratifying to know that she was decorated with the B.E.M., in 1980 and her name given to special facilities which have been established in the Fremantle area for retarded children. Rhoda Smith died in 1981.
Mr John Tonkin, Minister for Education in the W.A. Labor Government at the time, was present at the inaugural meeting at Fremantle, and was not in favour of our request for more special classes for slow learners. He seemed to think that the one class then operating in the metropolitan area was sufficient. (In later years John Tonkin became the 20th premier of W.A.)
The Soroptimist Club of Fremantle, which I had chartered, decided to work for the Fremantle Slow Learning Group, on the understanding that money raised in Fremantle was to be used in Fremantle. When I started a Fun Club in that area, the Soroptimist Club, mainly led by Miss Glad Locke, agreed to run it and is still doing so. (N.B. Obviously this was written in the early 1980s).
Meantime the Guidance Branch of the Education Department provided special teachers for "Minbalup" in the various age groups, and also our first bus for transporting the children.
The group is not linked nationally with similar work in other Australian states and receives both Commonwealth and State financial help.
Amongst my photographs are a few showing the early officers at the S.L.C.G. Ball held at Government House ballroom. Lady Gairdner was unable to attend as she had been marooned up north of the State, and I was invited to accompany the Governor and am shown walking down the ballroom with him and also accepting the bouquet which had of course been intended for the wife of the Governor. Another photo shows a group of officers and members, and yet another of Mrs Gladys Newton and myself. (You may have seen one or two of these photos some months ago but I am repeating them as they are so very much part of this story. The first is of mum and Sir Charles walking down the ballroom together, the second is of mum receiving the bouquet and the third is of mum with Gladys Newton. I scanned these from the book itself as my copies are with those other photos I just cannot find right now. These are not as clear as I'd like them to be unfortunately):
The Governor's aide at the time must have been inexperienced as he told us to do all the wrong things which must have been embarrassing to the Governor, and certainly to us. However, it is a small part of our early history and worthy of record.
I feel it best I keep these 'episodes' short as the story can be quite involved at times. Mum once again jumps back and forth in time and as she unfortunately seldom uses dates in her writing I am sometimes at a loss to know exactly when certain things took place. More about the SLCG to come.