Fremantle Memoirs – Growing Up In Freo

Sally’s Memoirs
 Sarah Agnes (Sally) Hundt (nee Mocken)
 provided by her daughter Robyn
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Sally with her mother Florence Mocken                                               (nee Wheatley)

I was born on a bright summer’s morning according to my mother’s autograph book, July 19th, 1921. Ten pounds in weight and named Sarah Agnes. According to Mum she told Dad to name me Hazel Rosemary but Dad, who till the day he died I’d never seen affected by liquor, got drunk with his shipmates on the way to the birth registry, couldn’t remember Mum’s names so named me after his eldest sister and his mother. I was always and still to this day, called Sally.

My Grandmother lived on the corner of Nairn & Market Street and we lived in a cottage on Collie Street, no. 22, now an estate agency.
In those days, 1921-1941, all around Collie, Nairn, Essex and Marine Marade, there was a polygot of nationalities, Italians, Yugoslavs, Portuguese, Germans, English, no Asians – white Australian policy was enforced then I believe. There was a Japanese laundry in Bannister Street and two Chinese fruit & vegetable shops in South Terrace though.

An Italian family, named Vinci, lived in 20 Collie Street and when they moved the Gumina’s came to live there. In 23, a Greek family named Anastas lived, in 26, another Italian family, the Rottendellas – red headed or as the Italians say titian headed. No. 26 is now a restaurant.

Next door to my Gran in Market Street was a wonderful Italian lady, Mamma Migliore. Mamma had seven sons and always yearned for a daughter. When she eventually had a daughter after 17 years the daughter was stillborn and Mamma died. Tony, one of her sons, was a very dear friend of mine till he died a couple of years ago. He was born a month after me and we always kept in touch through the years.

Mamma spoilt me rotten, always when I came down to Gran’s from Boulder, inviting me into dinner where huge servings of spaghetti was put in front of me and much pinching of the cheeks and ‘mia bellos!’ was the order of the day.

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Sally’s Gran, Agnes Mochen (nee Gray)

My Gran fascinated me. I loved her dearly and from a very early age I practically lived at Grans and only went home to sleep. I used to avidly listen to her friends as you could just could not imagine the tales they told.
Bert Carter’s mother was a gypsy and she would bring a crystal ball wrapped in a silk handkerchief to Gran’s and all her friends, Mrs Copperwaite, Mrs Pengilly, Mrs Gordon, Mrs Johns, would gather in Gran’s huge kitchen to have their fortunes told. Adventures they were all going to have! Nothing hum drum for these ladies! Lover’s galore!
After the ball gazing it was cards, they were all mad card players and so was I from a very early age. When they got hungry they made sandwiches.
Gran’s house, every weekend, was open house for 1c & 3c Poker. Police walked the beat in Fremantle in those days and often the one on the beat called in for an hour or two to play cards and also the milkman. I fed his horse many a morning and Mr Johns who was night watchman at the sandalwood, down on the docks, would come in and make himself tea and toast and play poker with Gran’s friends of whom she had many.

Sunday was always roast dinner, scones and cakes.
The house ran right along Nairn Street, the top half was where Gran & Gracie (a Granddaughter she raised) slept and always a bed for me. The windows and doors opened onto the footpath and were never locked. The rest of the house, about 6 rooms, were let to lodgers, some permanent who I knew all my life like Jack Davern, Dick Foster and Old Mac & Charley. Others just passed in and out of my life.

Mrs Copperwaite I have mentioned before, her son was my Dad’s best man at his wedding and best mate. He worked at ‘Pearse Brothers’ shoe manufacturers at North Fremantle. They lived up near the War Memorial and had a private zoo in their backyard. Mum would take me up there quite often before I was old enough to go to school and I was terrified of the Toucan parrot they had, it would always chase me. I loved the monkey’s and the kangaroos and would feed them with the food, Chum Copperwaite, Dad’s friend, gave me.
Dad went Kangaroo shooting with Chum, his brother Circus and Chummy May, who owned a big jewelers shop in Fremantle and only died last year (1993). Where they got their nicknames from, I have no idea!

Mrs Carter, as I have said, was a gypsy and came from Romania. A very swarthy woman, she had three sons, Bert – he lived at Gran’s, and the other two were married. Mrs Carter told me when I was 12 that I would travel, have 3 husbands and live a long life. I only had two husbands, but I have certainly had itchy feet and travelled a lot. I’m 73 years old now so I guess I’m living a long life.

Mrs Hawkins was another friend of Gran’s who always ran a raffle at Uglieland – more about Uglieland later. She also made handmade aprons, fancy worked and she had 5 sons, Ricky who came down and often went swimming with all our crowd – Migliore’s, Capelli’s, the Townsends and the boy Davies from the Funeral Directors when they were on holidays from the private schools they attended.
Townsends owned the Newcastle Hotel in South Terrace.
Mrs Hawkins had a daughter Eileen, very aloof and wouldn’t mix with us, ‘rabble’ she used to call us. Must have got up her nose when Ricky was always down our way. The Hawkins lived in a big house behind the Fremantle jail.

Dell Pick, my schoolgirl friend lived in High Street above Watsons, a big open living flat. She had a sister named Cynthia. Mrs Pick used to play the piano at the old time dances in Fremantle. A happy, laughing woman and Dell was the same. We both went to Myrtle Johnson’s in Nairn Street for piano lessons. Mrs Johnson and Myrtle were tall, imposing women and Myrtle was held in awe by all her pupils.
I liked the piano lessons but hated practice. Miss Johnson fixed that I had to go three nights a week and practice in the upstairs room for an hour while Miss Johnson would listen in the downstairs piano room.

I had an adopted brother. He was Mum’s youngest brother, got into trouble when he was twelve, by throwing eggs at the outdoor theatre Manager in Boulder with three other boys. Harry was the only one without a father so he was sent to the Salvation Army home for boys. Mum went up to see if she could get him out but she had to wait till Dad came home from Singapore on the old Kangaroo M.V. and he went up to Karrakatta and made arrangements to adopt Harry, who was 5 years older than me and he lived with us until he joined up in the Second World War.  A great brother, he died at 65 years old. Too young to die.
Harry and myself used to argue over the washing up so Mum wrote a roster out and that was that. I got around Harry by saying I had to go to piano practice and I would do two nights then when I was supposed to do Harry’s night “It’s your night on the roster” I would say. Now when I think back to it Harry just let me get away with it.

He and his mate, Digger Wallington, who lived in a place in Collie Street, like Steptoe & Son, it had everything you could dream of in the yard and under the verandah’s, he was killed in the Second World War in the Middle East in one of Rommel’s pushes.
Well Harry and Digger would dive from the top of the Navy shed on “Dago’s” Jetty (where Lombardo’s restaurant is now) into about 6ft of water. The Fifties where the first Fremantle swimming club had their Sunday meeting. All the kids swam there Sunday mornings. The Fifties – it was called Fifty yards from where you dived off “Dags” to a turning board. There were only a few fishing boats in those days. The fish markets as far back as I remember were there and a lovely little beach all reclaimed, the South Beach from Fremantle Esplanade every street you could swim from. There was, every year, a swim through Fremantle from the Jetty to the South Fremantle Shark Proof enclosure.
I cannot remember when I learnt to swim, I think I swam before I crawled. I have always had a deep and lasting love for the sea. Every day that I was able and not at piano lessons or dancing lessons, I was swimming and roaming the bushland that was around Fremantle. The Esplanade was my playground as the houses surrounding the Esplanade, even in those days, had very small backyards.

The fishermen mended their nets on the Esplanade where Ciccerello’s now stands and when the overseas shops came in, the coloured crews would come and play soccer on the Esplanade.

The old warehouses that are luxury apartments now, were taken over by us to explore and play in. There were two big changing sheds on the beach, one for the boys and one for the girls. You could go in and change into your bathers and after your swim a shower. Also a small kiosk to buy chocolate or an icecream. Mum would often pack sandwiches and a thermos of tea and on a warm night we would walk down to the Esplanade, swim, eat and play with the other families till late at night.

Tinnie Thomas’s was at the top of Collie Street on South Terrace, he made his own ginger beer and many a bill full I’ve bought home from there. Also there was a solid chocolate bar called New World that Mum was very fond of and up the street and over the road to Tinny’s for ginger beer and New World’s is one of my fondest memories.
There was a newsagents shop next door to Tinny’s. Mr Capper and his mother ran it. Mr Capper would let you browse through the comics but his mother would tell you off and we would always wait for her to go home before to look at the comics.

There were two Chinese fruit and vegetable shops, one next to the Newcastle Hotel and the other one further up South Terrace. When the Japanese whalers called into Fremantle on the way down to the Arctic whaling grounds and on the way back, the Chinese fruit shops would board their windows up and close till the Japanese left the Port. Deadly enemies Japanese and Chinese.

Kerr & Duggan were the grocers, always delivered our groceries on Friday and a paper spill with boiled lollied for me.
Where Gino’s is now, on the corner a there was a tailors establishment, Dad’s suit for his wedding was made there. Papa’s was a second hand shop, Newbolds, then a furniture shop ‘Tidy & Son’. The buses for Coogee left from the top of Collie Street and another Newbold had a fruit and vegetable shop there. At the back of the shop an old Swede called Otto lived with his horse stabled next to a room where he slept. He was the local “bottle-O”. My Gran felt sorry for him because he looked so poor, she would send Harry over on Sunday’s with a roast dinner for him. You should have heard my Gran when he died, the old hessian sack mattress he slept on was stuffed with 10 shilling, 1 pound and 5 pound notes.
Gran had three enamel plates, one for Otto, one for Wandy and one for Black Paddy. The latter two were punch-drunk aboriginals who came down nearly every Sunday and sat with a bottle of wine on Mr Davies windowsill in Nairn Street opposite Gran’s house and argued and picked fights with each other. Gran sent roast dinner over to them also. When they had eaten every speck, Black Paddy would bring the plates, knives and forks back and say “Thanks Missus”. Then they would not be seen for another week or so.
Another old boxer, a German, lived at the back of the Esplanade Hotel in Collie St. He had a mouthful of false gold teeth and would tell everyone who would listen that when he died, the teeth were to be taken out of his mouth to pay for his burial.
The local, or rather of the local S.P. shops was at the back of the Esplanade Hotel in Collie Street, opposite was the Workers Hall. Mr Curtin, who became Australia’s Prime Minister in World War Two, would speak from there to the lumpers, also he orated on the Esplanade. I often listened to him on my way to Port Beach as it is called now. The new Grand Esplanade Hotel now have renovated the seats the men would sit on waiting for a call up and listening to Curtin. Never would any man harass or frighten you in those days. Children could run free. My Mum’s only warning would be home before dark and don’t speak to strangers.
We seemed to know everyone around the fishing village as it was known then. In later years a lot of Italian families, also my Gran moved out to South Fremantle and South was called Little Italy.

I was 18 years old when Gran moved to King William Street, South Fremantle. Up till then, after Mum and Dad moved alternately between Boulder and Fremantle, I would come down and stop with Gran for my school holidays and also I lived at Gran’s when I was 11 years old for 18 months, while Mum and Dad and my sister lived on the Goldfields.
It was the Depression years. Was sheltered from the depression by my parents. In later years I realized how hard it had been for my parents. One year Mum did our Xmas tree up with fruit, little bags of raisins and boiled lollies and chocolate bars she’s hoarded. I was about 7 years old and thought it was the loveliest tree I had ever seen. Still can see it vividly in my mind. Never even knew Mum couldn’t afford toys that year. My Aunty Agnes arrived from Sydney with a doll that had a china face and closed its eyes. I still have this doll. We treasured any toys that were given to us. Dad would bring off the ship little lounge cane sets and chairs made of cane just big enough for me to sit in. I had three of these chairs and only selected friends were allowed to sit on them. I have a snapshot of my dead friend Dolly from Boulder whom I still visit yearly, sitting in one of my chairs.

Dad was a greaser in the engine room of all the K Boats; Kybra, Koolinda and Kangaroo. The seamen worked one trip on and two off during the lean years. Dad would go out where Jandakot Aerodrome is and work for a cockie-farmer for meat, sheep and also go shooting kangaroos. He would bring the carcasses home and the butcher would cut them up. Dad would give out Italian-Portuguese fisherman neighbours meat as they always kept Mum and Gran supplied with fish, crayfish and crabs etc, but would be hungry for mutton or lamb. Crayfish you paid one shilling for if you went to “Micks” Fish shop in Market St.

Dad’s father was an Italian from Dimaro in the Tyrolean Alps, so I am quarter Italian and I just faintly remember my Grandfather, he had one arm. Grandma was born in New Zealand and ran away with five of her children to the Goldfields where she cooked at the Palace Hotel in Kalgoorlie. Mum, a waitress, was one of the first organisers for a Union for waitresses and chambermaids. Told me one  Publican chased her with an axe when she went to his hotel to sign the women up. I think barmaids were included also. Mum said it was nothing for the kitchen staff to be called out of their beds to make hampers up for guests who wanted to leave early morning. No overtime then, you worked all hours or you were sacked.

When the mulberries were ripe and during our school holidays, with billycans and bucket and the oldest clothes Mum could find, we would catch the East Fremantle tram out to the mulberry gardens, you ate them to your heart’s content. Had mulberry fights with other kids collecting mulberries. They were also growing almond trees, these were forbidden but they were put on the bottom of the buckets etc and covered with mulberries. 3 pennies a billy and 6 pennies a bucket. Gran and Mum would make mulberry jam and mulberry pies and the milkman would bring clotted cream. Whenever I see mulberries now I think how much enjoyment all the children, me included, had at the mulberry gardens, all gone now for housing developments.

When I was a youngster, our days never seemed long enough for all we wanted to do. I had to go to dancing at Vera Stewarts once a week, also piano lessons. Mum, with lots of others, always seemed to find the money for lessons. One year I won a prize for doing the sailors hornpipe on the stage at the Fremantle Town Hall. (Years later Bill, my son, won a book prize in the same hall at a fancy dress ball. He went as a swagman.) There were such a lot of dancing schools and music teachers in and around Fremantle. There was great rivalry between my teacher Vera Stewart and the Kelly School of Dancing, run by the two Kelly girls and their mother.
With music, an examiner would come out from England.

I went to South Terrace School and Kindergarten and Primary School in Alma Street, (has all been taken over by Fremantle Hospital now.) Funny how you recall some teachers and forget others.
Miss Cameron was my favourite in Primary, a tiny woman but all her pupils loved her. I met her twenty odd years later in Fremantle. She looked the same and when I said “Hullo Miss Cameron” she looked at me and replied “Sally, how are you?”
In Secondary I remember Miss McBurney, not with much affection I regret to say. I thought she was the biggest liar I had ever heard when the class was told by her that she walked up the Ben (Mountain) in Scotland, through the clouds and looked down on the clouds. I had this idea in my head she had told us she was in heaven, also we would get thumped on the back as she went past your desk for nothing, just if she felt like it.
I was staying with Gran at the time I was in Miss McBurnies class and Gran noticed when I was getting into my pyjama’s the bruises on my back and asked how I got them.  I said “Oh, Miss McBurnie thumps all the kids as she goes past and tells you to sit up straight”. Gran didn’t tell me what she was going to do but turned up at the school and told Miss McBurnie if she found another bruise on me she would give her a few. Miss McBurnie was a big Scotch woman and so was my Gran, I never got another thump.

Mr Chate was another teacher I liked. He loved sport and our class was out every opportunity drilling, playing volleyball, basketball etc. A school inspecter, Mr Box, would come to the school twice a year and everybody had to be on their best behavior when he arrived, teachers and pupils.
I really liked school but if it was a hot day I would wag school and go swimming and turn up at school after lunch saying I had been sent on messages for Mum or Gran.

The Japanese fleet came into Fremantle when I was 10 or 11 and some Japanese Officers came to visit the school. The Officers gave each pupil a coin or a stamp. I got a stamp and came home and asked Mum for a stamp album. I saved stamps from that day till 1994 then I gave my stamps and old album to Katrina my granddaughter, only one of my Grandchildren that has shown an interest in stamp collecting.

The Japanese were feted by the City Fathers. The fleet sailed all around our coasts and when war was declared with them, their coastal maps were better in detail than our own. Makes you wonder about the goodwill visit, as it was called in 1931 or 1932, with hindsight.

In the 20’s the Prince of Wales and his wife visited Fremantle. Everyone went up High Street to the Town Hall to welcome them. Dad had me on his shoulders, 1927 it was so I was 6 years old. The Princess, now the Queen Mother, had a cloche hat on and feather.
I remember Amy Johnson, the aviatrix, being welcomed at the Town Hall also. The whole populace would turn out for these occasions and the children were pushed to the front or like me, sat on their fathers shoulders.

Fremantle had character in those days and still retains its character by preserving the old facades of the old buildings and also putting heritage listing on remaining houses. I wish Gran’s house in Nairn Street had been saved like my music teachers two story house. There are two identical houses only two story houses in Nairn Street on the opposite corner to where Gran’s was. Mrs Hall’s Lodging House but that was a Market Street number. They are still standing also two original houses opposite Gran’s kitchen and about 6 other houses.

The Woolstores was originally a Mill now a restaurant, it had a Bannister Street number, on a corner also.

What is now a car park in Bannister Street was the ladies of the night houses, they were two storys and had chicken wire in front of the houses. Taboo was that street to all the kids. We used to sneak up past the ‘bad houses’ as they were called, just to boast to others that we had done it. The street is called Pakenham now and Bannister Street is where the Fremantle Club is now. That club was the Italian Club and in the 30’s all the Italian kids dressed in black shirts and would go to meetings praising Mussolini.
I forgot to say that the Scarlet Ladies would throw us 3 penny bits, we would go buy chocolate buddies and sit down the Esplanade and make pigs of ourselves.
Next to the Italian Club was a house called ‘The Palms’ that was another bad house never mentioned in front of the children.

Mr Napoli’s Italian shop was on the corner of Pakenham Street and Bannister Street and also the Japanese laundry where most of the seamen had their washing done. If I had to go to ‘Napoli’s’ for olives or ricotta, I had to go up Market Street, along High Street and then to Napoli’s and back the same way so I didn’t pass the bad houses. If Mum had ever found out Dell (my girlfriend) and myself had danced for the Scarlet Ladies, our bums would have been Scarlet.
(The Bannister Street mall is there now and a parking lot.)

The Italian Club that was in Bannister Street is the Fremantle Club now. Tony Migliore, my childhood friend, worked there as a barman for many years and every Saturday Gran would send me to the florist’s in Market Street for gumtips and flowers. Gran always had flowers in her sitting room. She would spend hours arranging the vases and bowls, they had to be just right. I love flowers in the house. I would run like mad past Davies the Funeral Directors, they had a side passage with stairs going up to the first floor with a big stuffed chimpanzee on the landing.

The Fremantle Asylum, which in my school days was the old ladies home and one year Fremantle got the tail end of a cyclone and it blew the roof right off the home. People were asked to take the old ladies. Grandma had one named Valma, and when the place was fixed and the authorities came to take her back she had a heart attack and died. Grandma and Mum were the only people at her funeral. Mr McIver, the man in charge of the home, gave Gran a brooch with Valma’s name on it.

The Round House had big caves and rocks at the back that led to a little beach. The bigger beach, called Port Beach, now was the beach that everyone swam at. The old piles were still in view from the first jetty where sailing ships berthed before Gage Road was dredged and Victoria Quay and North Wharf were built.
Harry would swim right out to the end of the old Fremantle wharf. Dad used to call him and Digger Wallington ‘Sharkbait’.
I learned to swim on that beach and I love the ocean. Practically lived on the beach and in the Indian Ocean during the summer and roamed all around the beach collecting shells and fishing from the wharves and jetties all year round. I want my ashes thrown into the Indian Ocean.
I belonged to the Fremantle Swimming Club when I was nine years old.

Collie Street, where I lived, wasn’t very far from the prison. South Terrace School was also very closer and if a prisoner escaped the authorities would toll a bell.
The Hawkins lived right behind the prison and from the Hawkins place you could see the Warders in their sentry boxes.
The bell tolling would really frighten the children at South Terrace and I tell you I would be home in record time on those days when the bell tolled.
Mum would say to me, “Why does it take you so long other days?!”
I would go down Essex Street and paddle to the Esplanade collecting shells, catching crabs and generally wasting time. Would take me hours to get home. When the bell tolled, 5 minutes I was straight along South Terrace and down Collie Street, no dawdling. Also when a prisoner was going to be hung, the prison would toll another sort of sound, would really chill you. We at South Terrace knew all the sounds from the prison. A horn noise would sound in the morning and one of the boys, his father was a Warder, said that’s when the prisoners went into the yard for exercise. The Warders cottages were on the other side of the street, they are still there and all have been restored behind the Fremantle Markets.

Dad went to the markets and bought a young duck. Was going to fatten it up and kill it for Easter, but the duck, called ‘Georgie’ by Dad, knew something and would waddle up to Dad every time he was in the yard and eat out of Dad’s hands. Dad said he couldn’t kill him, he was a pet. He died of old age and was buried in the back yard.

Two of my friends lived at the Round House. Gordon Baker, a schoolmate, his Dad was the Harbour Master, his Mum would often come to Gran’s to play cards. I don’t think Mr Baker knew as I was told never to mention Mrs Baker playing cards when I visited the Bakers to play rounders with Gordon.
Isabel Dykes also lived there, her father was a soldier. There were a row of houses that soldiers and their families lived in. Isabel was Dell Picks, my best friend’s, cousin. We used to tease her all the time. She would want to come swimming with us and we wouldn’t let her as she was a couple of years younger and her Mother would lecture Dell and myself for an hour if she managed to go swimming with us. So we used to nick off when Isabel went to ask her Mother is she could go swimming with us. Many a lecture Mrs Dykes gave Dell and myself.

There were big caves under the Round House, we explored them all the time. The beach at the back had lovely shells on it and the tides would bring them in.

Gran loved to fish and I would often go with her to fish under Victoria Quay. Here on the wharf Mum would take me there to meet Dad when the ship he was working on would berth. When I was little Mum said I got lost a couple of times and the Police found me out on South Mole looking for Dad’s ship. Mum said I was a real wanderer. She and the streets people were always looking for me, usually I was don the beach or out the mole or playing with kids under the roundhouse or in the old warehouses which are now luxury apartments.

Mum’s and my football team was East Fremantle. Dad barracked for South Fremantle and when the Derby, East and South, was played at Fremantle, there was quite a lot of heated discussions after the game at our place concerning the dirty players etc.

May O’Connor was another East Fremantle fan, followed them till the day she died. I still watch East when they are Match of the Day. A boy, Dave Ingram, who attended South Terrace School with me played with East Fremantle.

Woodson’s Ship Providors used to send provisions to the ships Dad sailed on and it has been restored to its old glory like most of Fremantle. Wonderful old buildings in Fremantle. I really love my birthplace!

In my schooldays the Esplanade Hotel was just at the end of Collie Street, where I lived and just a little two storey hotel, with the local S.P. in the side yard in Collie Street. Harry used to take Mum’s bets there. Usually she met at Alec Muru’s on the corner of Market Street.

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2 Comments

  1. Kerry brown

     /  March 4, 2014

    Extremely interesting! Couldn’t stop reading it!

    Reply

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