Friday, April 10, 2015


Mum has set up a small office of the newly established Citizen's Advice Bureau in Boans store but larger accommodation is urgently needed.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp170-172)

"Mr J. J. Devereux, Under Secretary for Health, who kept a fatherly eye on our activities, became aware of our need for larger premises and, by some unknown means, we found ourselves in a very convenient office in Murray Street, set up with a counter, two rooms for interviewing and a space for the secretary, which housed us very comfortably for several years.

Toilets were our greatest problems!  At Blues (Boans) we had to go out of the building and up manay stairs next door, while in Murray Street we had to cross the road and use the toilets at the Department of Health, to everybody's amusement.  This was difficult at times when we had a client with a child who needed to use the toilet urgently.

The task of obtaining helpers, training them, keeping records, financing, advertising and developing the Council of Social Service and C.A.B. was my responsibility.  Eventually C.A.B. was fortunate in obtaining annual grants from both the State Government and Lotteries Commission, added to which we were permitted to hold an annual street appeal.

Mr R. Hewitt and Mr Hayward of A.M.A. were Hon. Treasurers during the early years and were most efficient and helpful.

C.A.B. is a general information service as well as a welfare bureau.  We had one regular client - a young newly married woman - who first rang to know how to make cushions and, having been given the necessary instructions and safely carried out the task, treated us as an "Enquire Within Upon Everything".

We assisted with an colossal amount of data.  Enquiries received came from far an wide on fantastic subjects; we even received enquiries from the W.A. University.  We found it necessary to have books on mathematics, etiquette, wedding procedure and cookery, etc., as well as pamphlets on the laws covering door to door sales, dividing fences, noise abatement, the Dog Act etc.

During the time I ran the C.A.B. I had to find a body that had disappeared from hospital (claimed by the University for research according to the Will) but without informing the wife who was separated from her husband, and to assist a young man to obtain permission for the burial of a woman whose only relative was in another State.

Many closely guarded family secrets became known to us and the confidential nature of the work was impressed upon everybody.

A very distressed young woman came in one day to seek our advice and help.  She was to be married in a few weeks; wedding invitations had gone out and the couple were going abroad for their honeymoon.  She had to obtain a passport and for that, needed her birth certificate.  He mother became most distressed when she was asked for the certificate, and it transpired that the name by which she and her mother were known was that of her father to whom her mother was not married.  It had been a war romance and he was already married, but he had apparently maintained both her mother and herself all their lives.
 Our Honorary Legal Adviser suggested that she change he name to that by which she was known, and send her new certificate for the passport.  There was very little time for this procedure, but we explained the urgency to the departments concerned and the passport arrived just two days before the wedding.

The bride to be was not very gracious. and seemed to resent the fact that we asked her to cover the cost of postage, telegrams etc., paid out by us, to which she had agreed to in the beginning.  200 people had been invited to the wedding reception, so we felt sure they could afford our few costs, and we were glad to have been able to help the mother.

I received 'phone calls at home at any hours of the day or night and had to obtain permission to have a silent telephone number.

One year, on the Thursday before Good Friday, we received a frantic call from a woman who unexpectedly, had to feed a large number of firemen during Easter.  The person who was to have done this had been taken to hospital, and our caller had been asked to step into the breach.

We had a book which gave us quantities and recipes for various numbers of people, and our helpers gathered together and gave our client lists of suitable food, quantities to be supplied for each meal, and recipes including sweets.  Apple and rhubarb tarts had been thought ideal for men and then somebody remembered that, if she was entertaining them all in her home, she might need a larger supply of towels, toilet rolls, etc. than for a small family.  It was a hectic afternoon and, in the end, our helpers had to rush to catch shops in order to obtain their own food for the weekend.

We had a 'phone call from the woman after the holiday telling us everything had worked out well, and thanking us for our help.  It was particularly rewarding to receive appreciation for the extra service in the emergency.

I feel that is a good place to stop.  More anecdotes from the CAB in future episodes.


  1. Hari OM
    A simple 'thank you' goes a long way!!! My word - cushion patters and recipes to forensic detective work - bet there were a few 'novels' to be found among that lot! YAM xx

    1. You could be right....perhaps mum should (instead of her life story or as well) have written a series of novelettes about each of these strange requests they had.
      I am sure mum and her helpers were always very appreciative of all the simple thank yous they received over the years. xx

  2. "Toilets were our greatest problems"
    It seems not much has changed in all this time. Toilets in many places are still hidden away in odd corners, hard to find and get to and too many places simply don't have enough. My local shopping centre has one toilet for women, literally only one toilet! and one for men, so if I have to go and there's a queue waiting outside in the cold, it's quicker for me to hurry off home. The other shopping centre across the road doesn't appear to have any toilets available at all.

    1. I think we in Perth and Fremantle suffer the same problems toilet wise although our nearby large shopping centres are adequate for our needs. The nearby shops down the road may be without the faciilities but it is only two streets away. It is not a mall but shops each side of a small street.
      I hope you are recovering OK from your ordeal the other day with no further 'happenings'.

  3. Just reading the toilets comments of your mom and also of River...must be an Australian thing....we have public toilets everywhere.

    1. It may be a Western Australian/South Australian thing Delores. The large shopping centre are good but one often has to walk a fair distance to take advantage of them (the ladies' toilets always seem much further away than those of the men). There was one small shopping area we used to go to and you had to get the key to use the toilet and it was tucked away in a most difficult place too.