Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston. (pp 174-176)
We next started a C.A.B. in Fremantle, and the Fremantle City Council was good enough to make an office available in their Council premises. Mrs Tim McDonald, one of our best informed and most capable voluntary workers was in charge of that office for many years. When she retired for urgent personal reasons we appointed Mrs Thelma Chadwick to take her place.
Further expansion was necessary, and it was decided to try to obtain a small bus which we could turn into a mobile clinic, and which ould be driven to regular localities in the outer suburbs on a set timetable. Sir Thomas Wardle (you may remember Tom Wardle was our local grocer when we lived at 518 Fitzgerald Street in North Perth) very kindly gave us a donation to cover the cost of the bus, and officially opened it on its first trip to Rockingham. Mrs Sear, another of our voluntary workers, kindly acted as driver, and we took it in turns to accompany her so that there were two of us to advise clients, whom we seated comfortably in the back of the bus which was set up as an office with card index and literature. The photograph in the front of these memoirs was taken by a *"Daily News" photographer just as I walked into the Murray Street office after spending the day in the 'bus', and that is why I have the Owl badge on my coat and an armful of papers relating to clients whom we had been advising at our stopping place in the Perth hills. Such interviews frequently necessitated further action from our main office. The photograph was printed on the front page of the paper on 15th April which, quite by chance, happened to be my birthday. (I also have a copy of that photograph which I am showing here. Unfortunately mum doesn't mention the year.):
(My mum incidentally never did learn to drive).
While working late one evening I had three young men walk in unexpectedly and was somewhat alarmed. It appeared that one of the staff had forgotten to close the outside door and, as these men had a problem, they asked if I would talk to them. As they appeared to be polite and quite harmless I agreed, and was astonished to learn that they were homosexuals and similar to "Les Girls" from Sydney. (I now wonder if perhaps they were transvestites rather than homosexuals, but that is only my surmise.)
It appeared that they had only just arrived in W.A. and had been engaged to take part in some shows. They had taken lodgings and had not had time to settle in when the police arrived and ordered them to leave W.A. They wanted to know whether, as they had not broken any laws, they could be compelled to leave, and whether the police had the right to search their bags as they had done, jeering at them when they found the female stage props which they were carrying with them. With some difficulty I got in touch with police headquarters and found that the police had exceeded their rights and they could stay provided they did not break the law, for which they were most grateful. They also asked if I could get them some medical assistance as one of them, a most attractive youngster who could most certainly have been a girl, was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. This proved very difficult but, after many telephone calls and much pleading, I managed to get them an appointment for the following morning.
In the end they all had some medical treatment and called in later to thank us for our assistance. they became friends and called in to see us whenever they were in the neighbourhood. From that experience I have found myself quite unable to judge the rights and wrongs of homosexuals or transvestites. Having been brought up very strictly, I wondered what my mother would have said about it.
We certainly met all types in the C.A.B. When working late and ready to go home Mrs Haning and I often found a gathering of metho drinkers on our doorstep. They were always polite and willingly made way for us to pass through. We thought the police must have known of their meeting place and activities, but probably decided to let sleeping dogs lie.
*The Daily News was an evening paper in Perth that went out of circulation many years ago.
More C.A.B. stories to come in future episodes of my mother's story.