Catching up with the past
THE past repeating and hidden histories of our suburbs loom large in this year’s Vincent local history awards, with tales of past pandemics and happiness found in the streets.
Along with 189 photos it was a bumper year for written entries with 22 stories and memoirs submitted for the Geoffrey Bolton award, with first place going to Ron Lindsay’s tale of his post-war youth “Feral in an Inner Suburb”.
The writing was so top notch two equal second prizes were awarded. One was for Melinda Tognini’s “Rumours”, the story of Mount Hawthorn resident, Bulwer Street baker and Gallipoli veteran Herman Kuring who went missing on Rottnest Island in 1941, sparking rumours he was a Nazi spy.
Equal-second was Noongar elder Lindsay Calyun’s
“Moorditch Footprints,” a story of growing up in East Perth in the 1960s after escaping the Roelands Mission.
Vincent mayor Emma Cole says they’re keen to learn more history from Mr Calyun. “We are very fortunate that [Mr Calyun] entered his memoir ‘Moorditch Footprints’ into the awards, giving us a different perspective of boyhood.
“Lindsay’s reflections on the close-knit Aboriginal community in East Perth are significant and his memoir shows just how close to home the experiences of the stolen generation are for many Noongar elders in Perth.”
Pandemics modern and historic also feature: doctor Jenny Fay writes about fears, anxieties and supply shortages as the medical profession wrestled with the emerging Covid-19, while Beryl Long writes of her own experience in lockdown in 1943 after coming down with diphtheria.
“Our extended family and friends stayed well away from us,” she writes.
“The word diphtheria scared them, as it scared the wider community. It was an infectious disease that we didn’t know a lot about. For weeks after my diagnosis my family at 7 Peach Street were ‘socially distanced’ whether they chose to or not and it was a difficult time for us all to endure, not just me.”
The entries are on display at the 99 Loftus Street hub or through the library’s website.
In “Mooditch Footprints,” Goomalling-born Noongar elder Lindsay Calyun writes of being taken from his parents and brought to Mount Lawley Receiving Home, before being sent to Roelands Mission. He escaped in 1968 and returned to his family in East Perth.”
It was good days when we were young growing up in East Perth. Some old people were there, no house, they slept everywhere down by the river, alongside the railway line. Even in the parks around West Perth, but they would come to East Perth to meet other old people.
“They were from the stolen generation.
“Moore River gang and Carrolup mob. My father was taken away from his mother, he was in Moore River. My mother was taken too, she was in Carrolup and Moore River but they didn’t talk about that.”
“The police drove everywhere in the East Perth and West Perth area looking for Noongars. Black fella’s young and old, they didn’t care.
“Black fella’s they chased them around like kangaroos and rabbits and at night time they would drive around spotlighting for Noongar people and drive pass the street where you live and shine the spotlight onto your house. Every night in East Perth, on the park, like we were kangaroos, or animals.”
Surviving the pandemic
In “Surviving General Practice in 2020,” doctor Jenny Fay from Fitzgerald Medical Practice writes about the early days of the coronavirus pandemic as personal protective equipment runs low, most visits are replaced by phone calls, and her email inbox is flooded with advice and updates from a numerous organisations and departments.
My friends know it is hard for us in general practice. I had two friends that offered to make me cloth masks. I would never normally think these adequate, but since we were very short of personal protective equipment, I accepted gratefully.
In March, we don’t have more than a dozen gowns and are short on alcohol gel. We order a dispenser (even by August, it hasn’t arrived).”
“On one day, I’m so pleased to find a patient of mine having a blood test. I’ve known her for years. I know she has cancer. We sit and talk, and she too is pleased to see someone face to face. Two weeks later and we have a phone consultation as she is now terminal. I try and convince her it is ok to let her family in to visit, but she won‚Äôt have it.
“Her family feel they are a risk to her. I try to say that this time is important, and short. Another two weeks later and I’m completing her certificates, those that mark her passing. Her funeral takes place with only 8 family members plus celebrant and funeral attendant, as those are the rules now. This, for a long life well lived, and for a person so greatly loved. We hear many tales of sorrow like this. It’s gruelling and very sad.”
From Melinda Tognini’s “Rumours,” the story of Great War veteran Herman Kuring, who disappeared at Rottnest and was then subject of false rumours about him being a Nazi spy picked up by a German vessel, maybe even the Kormoran:
The Western Australian public may have been unaware that Herman had been one of the first to sign up, just a fortnight after war was declared.
“He survived the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915 but
‘stopped one in the shoulder’ two days later. After spending several days on a hospital ship, he returned to the front, where he was wounded again.
“Again he recovered, just in time to take part in the Battle of Lone Pine.
“Following the Australian evacuation of Gallipoli, Herman found himself on the Western Front.
“Despite being wounded a third time, he was still fighting when the Australians helped reclaim Villers Bretonneux in April 1918.
“He returned from the First World War, aged twenty-three, as the youngest major in the AIF… none of that seemed to matter among Perth gossip mongers.”
“On Wednesday 3 September 1941 – exactly two years after Prime Minster John Curtin had declared that Australia was again at war – tragedy struck.
Herman was last seen at Wilson’s Bay … the only clue to Herman’s whereabouts was his hat, which was discovered floating in the water at the foot of the cliff.”