Tuesday, May 5, 2015


In the last episode mum had travelled to Sydney to obtain information about the Beehive Industries  active in that city.  She returned to Perth and when she reported her findings to Dr Colin Anderson his response was "you know all about it, you start it".  This was in 1972 and mum was 75 years old and  had recently spent 7 months in hospital recovering from serious injuries she received when hit by a speeding car when she was crossing the road in front of her home. 

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 219-221)

"There were no funds, and I was the only person in Western Australia who knew anything about it, but it was a challenge and I decided to accept it to prevent my visit to Sydney being entirely wasted.

Firstly I tried to whip up some interest amongst service clubs councils and the elderly themselves.

I approached the Premier the Hon. John Tonkin, and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Charles Court, for support.  I knew the latter had visited Beehive in Sydney and was interested, but he only acknowledged my letter and promised to consider the matter when there was a change of government.  There was only an acknowledgement from the Premier.  ((1) Hon. John Tonkin; 2) Hon. Charles Court, neither of whom seemed willing to be very helpful.  Typical of many politicians.  Probably wondered what was in it for them!!):

I paid for explanatory circulars to be duplicated giving details of the aims and objects of the proposed service, stressing the need for some such organisation to be established because of the serious problems to be faced by large numbers of elderly people in the near future.  The cost of postage, telephone, duplicating etc. had to be met by me personally and, before Beehive was finally launched, this alone had amounted to more than $600.

The newspapers were good enough to help with publicity, as also was Mr Thomas Wardle (then Tom the Cheap Grocer) through his own paper.  Elderly people started to phone me and wanted to get going at once.  They were very disappointed when I explained that we needed backing for the project and a building in which to work.  I approached old friends and some of them became interested; service clubs asked me to speak at their meetings; small donations commenced to arrive, and one or two Councils expressed luke-warm interest; a chartered accountant colleague, Mr Dovey, became the first Treasurer to take care of the money and M.R.P.A. was good enough to advise that they had a few empty buildings, taken over for future freeways which we could inspect.  We stressed the fact that we had no funds and that rent would have to be of the peppercorn dimension.  I was cheered when a few of my friends gave me a little moral support, and promised to consider serving on an ad hoc committee.

Alderman Mrs Joan Pilone had provided me with literature and information during my battle for existence and she promised to attend a meeting in Perth should we be able to launch the service.

Despite tremendous efforts and response by letter and telephone from many elderly people hoping to attend Beehive, it was not possible to call a meeting to launch the project until August, 1973.

Royal Perth Hospital, realising the important of the project, permitted us to use the Bruce Hunt Lecture Theatre for the meeting, and Mr J. Griffith kindly acted as Chairman.

As promised, Alderman John Pilone came from Sydney and brought with her slides showing the activities in Beehive, Sydney.  She is an excellent speaker and encouraged us to get on with the task.  She gave permission for Perth to use the name of Beehive Industries and become an associated organisation of the original workshop in Sydney.

The Chairman asked if those present would support the establishment of a Steering Committee to investigate the possibility and desirability of starting Beehive in Western Australia.  There was an enthusiastic response in favour and nominations were put forward.

Mr Frank Cross became Chairman of the Committee, and others elected were Mrs Omay, Mr Steve Wallace, Mr Vic Adams, Miss Eve Godfrey, Mrs Vaughan and myself.

A small duplicated slip had been given to all present, asking them to complete the short questionnaire with their names and addresses; to state if they would be interested in working in the project and, if so, if they would give a little voluntary work to get it started.

The response was good and from it we recruited a number of wonderful helpers who were with us in the initial stages, and remained with us after as workers and friends.

We were told that a suitable building was our first necessity.  The ~M.R.P.A. was most co-operative and, although the first building offered was quite hopeless, we were delighted to be told that we could have the premises at the corner of Newcastle and *Fitzgerald Streets, previously owned by S.W. Hart, Plumbers.  There was a commodious shop and a number of small shop frontages; a large workshop and good storage space in a back verandah.  There was even a small amount of parking space at the back of adjacent buildings.  (~ Metropolitan Regional Planning Authority).

The place had been empty for a couple of years, the windows were all painted over, the dirt was thick on the floor, and there were numerous small items needing attention.  It was clearly stated that M.R.P.A. would not be responsible for any repairs or renovations, but we would be allowed to occupy the premises for a few months without any payment.

I remember going home that night rather frightened of what had to be done, and made a list of priorities.  First of all we had to call a meeting in our new headquarters.  This meant sweeping out the entrance and workshop area and trying to find some chairs so that our Steering Committee members and volunteers could sit while we held preliminary discussions.  One of our volunteers had some collapsible chairs which he kindly lent us for a few weeks, while two of our male colleagues brought their brooms along and swept away some of the dust.  We were all enthusiastic and gladly agreed to turn up our sleeves and get on with the job.

A small cafe opposite, owned by two very fine women provided us with boiling water for a cup of tea, and Beehive made its initial plans and first forward moves.

For the first time in my life I found myself begging from everyone on behalf of the cause.  I asked S.W.Hart if they would repair our plumbing, and they kindly did so without charge.  Bergers Paints gave us paint to smarten up the property inside and out and, after our excellent voluntary workers had cleaned the paint off the windows, they set to and painted everything possible, giving us a new look.

The Opportunity Shop was born and we gathered stock and furnishings from our colleagues friends and relatives, as well as other organisations.  **Belle Gladstone gave us redundant hat stands, a large display cupboard, and an excellent cash desk, and we opened the shop for business on 6th November, 1973.  There is a photograph in the scrap book which appeared in the West Australian, showing a table of goods for sale and some of us ready to serve on the opening day."  (Unfortunately I do not have that photograph which I imagine is in the Beehive Industries own scrapbook).

* If you recollect we lived at 524 Fitzgerald Street from 1947 to 1952 and then later mum was living at number 518 at the time of her accident.  The above shop was at the bottom end of Fitzgerald Street, near the city.

** Do you remember Belle?  She was the lady who had mum stay at her home to convalesce after that terrible accident.

There is much more to the story of the establishment of Beehive Industries in Perth so the next episode will tell how well it all went.  It is a long story but when you realise how old mum was at that time it is still an amazing story.


  1. It is indeed an amazing story. She didn't let anything stop her did she?

    1. It surely is quite amazing. When the SP is much better and you have more time of your own I'd suggest you perhaps pop back to about 27th April to read about mum's adventure with a car and how she came off second best. After that ordeal I find it even more extraordinary that she continued on her merry way, even if meant at times using two walking sticks..
      Only a suggestion mind you when you have time to spare,

  2. Hari OM
    I just don't know how she found the energy; that was a daunting task - but of course, if it was going to happen, it could only have been your mother and the powers who set it in motion knew that!!! YAM xx

    1. Energy is something I really lack these days but mum was certainly made of sterner stuff than me.
      Yes, it was going to happen and when you realise how much effort, and money, she put into it you feel in awe of her. She was only a pensioner by then so not all that well off.
      I still feel tired just thinking about it. Of course she didn't have a husband to care for so her time was her own which probably made a wee bit of difference. Nobody to answer to. xx

  3. I am in absolute awe of your Mum. She was one terrific lady. I can't imagine taking on something like this and her total dedication and determination pulled it off.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog Mimsie. The flowers in the header photo you asked about are the blooms from a Dogwood Tree.

    1. It may be 30 years since mum departed this mortal coil but I still am awed by all that she did in her later years after devoting the first part of her life to dad and me and also Len to a certain extent. Her whole life was spent helping others.
      Thanks for putting a name to the flowers. That of course is why I didn't recognise them. We don't have dogwoods in Australia (well not in the western part anyway).

  4. Your mom was a going concern.....if the rest of accomplished half as much in our lives we'd be doing well.

  5. Your mum puts me to shame, Mimsie. Such energy, such "go get 'em!".
    I'm lazy by nature, although I did give 100% while I was working, and I sit here reading all that she accomplished, while I can't even be bothered vacuuming cat fluff off my floors.