Sunday, April 5, 2015


After my marriage and her separation from dad, mum's life took a sudden and quite different turn.  How she coped with that change she tells in Chapter Five of her book:

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 157-162)

"Re-entry to the Commercial World"

After my husband and I separated (my words...not mum's) "I moved to a flat opposite Government House in Adelaide Terrace in the city.  At that time I was still closely associated as President of the Slow Learning Children's Group, and it was in my flat at 22 St George's Terrace, that I started the Fun Club for the older young people.

Having to now find full time employment, I studied the daily papers and answered three advertisements which appeared suitable.  To my delight I received requests from all of them asking me to telephone and make an appointment for an interview.

One advert was for a hotel receptionist, the second for a shorthand typist in a typewriting office, and the the third for a confidential secretary to the General Manager and Secretary of Bouchers Industries in Scarborough Beach Road in Osborne Park.

Of the three the last named appealed to me and I rang them for an early appointment, and felt quite nervous as I waited for the interview.  I had not given my age but was in my late fifties and knew I might be considered too old for the advertised position.

I was given a shorthand typing test by a woman of about 40 who told me she was retiring from the position of Company Secretary, and that the person taking over from her was  man.  She asked many questions about my experience and took the details, together with the result of my test, into the office of the General Manager, Mr Herbert Freeman.

After a few minutes I was asked to go into Mr Freeman's office and found him to be of late middle age and of great charm of manner.  He spoke excellent English but with a slight accent which I recognised as either Austrian or German.  He was impressed by the fact that, in my young days, I had been conversant with French and German, and asked if I would be able and willing to correct any errors he might make in dictation.  I explained that I was out of practice but thought I would be able to cope with that task.

Between Mr Freeman and I, as there had been between Mrs Rischbieth and I, there was an instant feeling that we could work together, and he engaged me right away to commence work the following week.  I was given a private office of my own and strict confidentiality was the order of the day.

Mr Arthur Jones, the Company Secretary, was a highly qualified certified accountant from the old country, and was very pleasant to work with, so everything went well for about five years.

Looking back I remember one particular time at Bouchers when Mr Jones was taken very ill with pneumonia, and the pressure was exceedingly heavy on Mr Freeman and myself.  In order to cope with Board Meetings and special business I was made Assistant Secretary to the Company during Mr Jones' absence and remained late practically every night to cover the work.

Mr Freeman pleaded with me not to break down on him and, in order to catch up with sleep and rest, I booked into the Scarborough Hotel for weekends and made arrangements for them to bring me meals to my room. The members of staff were excellent, bringing menus and meals to me, and I read and slept over the weekends, leaving feeling thoroughly rested and refreshed on Monday mornings, able to face the tasks ahead.

Arthur Jones was nursed excellently at home by his wife Alice and, after a long spell of serious illness, he returned to resume his duties.  I was told later that both the Accountant and Chief Clerk were very much annoyed that I, and not they, had been made Assistant Secretary at the time of Mr Jones' illness, but I doubt if either of them would have put in the required extra hours of service that I gave without compensation.

Mr and Mrs Freeman had one son and one daughter.  The son, Kenneth, was a brilliant student, and when he left university he took with him every possible bursary and honour.  He is now one of Australia's leading physicists.  While still a student his father used to encourage him to assist with all sorts of tasks at Bouchers, sometimes helping me in my office during holiday periods.  
The daughter Ann was her father's pet, and when she was young he always took her to the Royal Show on Show Day, where they would both thoroughly enjoy themselves.  Ann became an Occupational Therapist.  She is now married and has several very fine sons.

Alice and Arthur Jones have a daughter and two sons, all married and doing well.  Arthur has prospered considerably by his own efforts since leaving Bouchers and has now retired.  He and Alice have been able to take several overseas trips during the last few years despite some periods of ill health.

Suddenly at Bouchers, after about five years, we were confronted with a takeover bid by Brisbane Wunderlich  and Company.  They descended on us without warning, although the Board members had obviously agreed to the takeover.

They advised Mr Freeman that they would no longer require his services as they were bringing in their own Manager.  Fortunately Mr Freeman had an agreement which guaranteed him suitable compensation.

Neither I nor Mr Jones intended to remain.  As Company Secretary, Mr Jones had been asked to stay, but felt it would not be in his own best interest to do so.  He agreed to remain for short period in order to introduce the incoming Secretary to the affairs of the Company.  He asked me to remain with him and defer giving in my notice until he too was ready to resign, to which I agree.  When I did intimate that I was leaving the new Manager said he had hoped that I would stay with them and asked me to reconsider.  No doubt I would have been useful to them because I had so much knowledge. but I certainly could not have worked with the incoming brash young Secretary.

On the day of their arrival for the takeover they ruthlessly dispensed with the services of foremen and leading hands who had been with the company for many years, giving them money instead of notice.  The poor men were terribly shocked, and I grieved for them having to go home to tell their wives that they no longer had a job.  In due course the Social Club put on a farewell party for Mr Freeman and others that were leaving.  All the old staff of Bouchers Industries were present including the cleaners with their husbands and wives.  (This is a photo I have of mum with her boss Mr Freeman at the farewell dinner.  It was in about 1959 and mum was then about 61 or 62):

It was a sad occasion and I was asked to speak on behalf of the female staff.  I remember saying it was like coming to the end of a voyage and the Captain and others were leaving the ship.  We all hoped the rest of life's journey would be happy for everybody.

In this photo (scanned from mum's book) are Mr and Mrs Jones, mum, Mr Freeman and other guests:

Mrs Freeman did not attend.  She had a bad heart and feared the emotion of such a farewell would be too much for her.  I was seated at the top table with Mr Freeman. Mr and Mrs Jones and other staff seniors, and I have photographs taken of some of those present.  Unfortunately Mrs Freeman died of a heart attack some years ago.

The Social Club gave Mr Jones and me a little farewell in the office when our time came for leaving, an we each received a gift of remembrance.  Alice and Arthur Jones and I remained friends during the years, and my last contact with them was the receipt of a card sent by them from Spain in 1981.

Both my bosses gave me excellent references, and the one from Mr Freeman was so good that a subsequent employer suggested that I should have it framed and hung on the wall.

Late in life Herbert Freeman went to university and, at the age of seventy-three, took his Ph.D., but developed a distressing illness from which he died.

I knew Mr and Mrs Jones quite well.  Mr Jones was a cymbidium orchid enthusiast who encouraged mum to also grow a number of these orchids of which she was very proud.  Mrs Jones was artistic and gave mum a painting showing an coastal area south of Perth and also a painted plate.  I now have both items with the painting hanging in our living room.  Eventually mum gave me her orchids but we unfortunately never had any success with them and they all went to that great orchid heaven in the sky.


  1. there is no mercy when companies change hands....a distressing time for all involved

    1. I was glad when mum refused to stay whey they asked her to after they had sacked her boss out of hand. Take overs can be very heartbreaking for many of those involved.

  2. It makes me angry when companies take over other companies, and let employees go.

    1. It happens far too often and there is no thought at all about the devastation it brings to some lives and the resulting repercussions.

  3. Hari OM
    Having experienced a takeover on one occasion, I can completely sympathise with the sentiments of those who had the opportunity of choice to leave. It is never a happy time, even when the new owners have the best of intentions. ... and mother is right - I cannot think of too many folk who would work the way she did!

    Ken Freeman is well known among those of us with astronomical interests - it seems the 'six degrees of separation' may have something to it &*>

    As for orchids; I adore them but they do not like me (or the environs) and along with african violets they are best kept away from the YAMster!!! Hope you had a fine Easter Day, YAM xx

    1. I am not sure Brisbane and Wunderlich had the best of intentions, at least not to employees of Bouchers.
      I thought you may be familiar with Ken Freeman's name, so well known in intellectual circles.
      I am glad we are not alone with our failure with cymbidiums. I once also tried to grow African violets but without any success at all.
      Yes, thank you. We had a lovely Easter day spent with family. xx

  4. Company take-overs can be, and often are, brutal to people at the bottom. Those higher up the food chain are usually looked after.
    Love orchids, and am slowly having some success with them. Like Yam, African violets are beyond me. As is maidenhair fern...

    1. I know mum in this instance was very disappointed that her boss had been given the DCM and I don't blame Mr Jones deciding to call it a day either. This take over was quite ruthless altogether. Brisbane and Wunderlich by the way was a local WA company.
      I have grown maiden hair fern but realise it has disappeared. It grew for years in a little spot in the ground under the patio but I think last year's drought saw an end of it.
      I hope you do have some success with your orchids as they are so lovely. K's husband has a wonderful collection of cymbidiums and they do so well too.
      We have a friend in New Zealand who used to raise African violets in her home and she had a great success with them for many years. I must ask her one day if she still does so.

  5. Your mum had such an indomitable spirit - it can't have been easy to start again in your late fifties. It's no mean feat finding an apartment plus full-time work whilst dealing with the loss of a marriage. Even if she didn't care for your dad anymore, it must have been hard to come to terms with in those days. She sounds very much like my mum who had a 'roll your sleeves up and get on with it' attitude.
    ps: I've left another comment about Cockburn Care on the "Meals on Wheels" post.

    1. Yes, mum did have an indomitable spirit. I think she was always trying to prove to her father (in the UK) that she could do as well as the son he wished she had been.
      Mum came into her element when she arrived in the social service environment. She really cared for people and worked her heart out to make improvements for them.
      I saw your P.S. re Cockburn Care and I too think Jenny and Vicki are fantastic people. Not sure what we'd do without them these days.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Tez...I only removed your comment as it appeared twice.