Gone fishing

Ray and Kath Fern with baby Kay at 33 Woodstock Street, Mount Hawthorn 1950. (COV PHO5643)

WITH school holidays wrapping up this week, the City of Vincent Local History Centre finishes its series of summer tales with a story about how local kids holidayed in times past. 

DURING summer school holidays in an earlier era, kids made their own fun ranging further afield than many parents would feel comfortable with today.

Ramon ‘Ray’ Fern grew up on Woodstock Street in the ‘wilds’ of Mount Hawthorn in the 1930s and 1940s.  

A few years back, Mr Fern’s memoirs were recorded by his granddaughter Coby Ellen O’Keefe.  

When Ms O’Keefe set out to write her grandfather’s story, his initial response was, “why would you want to do that for? I haven’t done nothing”.

Ms O’Keefe persevered and wrote a funny and warm account of her grandfather’s life, highlighting how differently kids lived in the suburbs during the Depression and war eras without romanticising the hardships. 

From backyard bonfires, to catching gilgies in Lake Monger and roping wild brumbies in Wanneroo, Mr Fern’s childhood stories reflect a time when kids had less ‘stuff’ but more freedom to roam. 

Below is a snippet of Ms O’Keefe’s account:

(In the) school holidays, the gang of mates would take off for a camping trip to Trigg Island.

Back in those days, the tide used to come up the beach and cut off a section of the beach, so it became its own island. 

It was an island surrounded by reef, so it was perfect for their favourite pastime, fishing.  

Nelly would pack up about half a dozen tins of baked beans and camp pie and send her boys off knowing they’d fish each day and supplement their food supply. 

The tins and other supplies were packed into sugar bags. No one owned knapsacks or backpacks then – sugar bags were all they had. 

Then the boys would jump on the bus that took them as far north along the coast as they could get. 

Scarborough was the last stop. From there, they would walk up the beach to Trigg and wade their way over to the cave on the island that became their home for the school holidays.

Grandad laughs as he remembers their rationing skills, as they used to eat all their beans and camp pies in the first couple of days. 

It was no problem though. It just meant that fishing changed from pastime to their lifeline. 

Grandad recalls: “There were actually fish to catch, not like now.”

The boys could throw a line and catch a feast. They could even wander on to the reef and drop their line in the rock pools and be sure to catch some decent rock cod.

Each rock pool they came to, they would also stick their leg deep down into it and if they were lucky, an eight-legged creature would wrap itself around their foot. If they pulled their leg out quick enough, they would have octopus for lunch.

Sadly, Mr Fern passed away in 2019 shortly after Ms O’Keefe completed her story and shared it as part of the City of Vincent Local History Awards. 

It was a small comfort to the family that Coby was able to record her grandfather’s memories so they were not lost.

Read more of Mr Fern’s child memories at the City of Vincent Local History Centre or online at https://librarycatalogue.vincent. wa.gov.au/client/en_GB/search/asset/961/0

If you’d like to record your family’s stories, visit the City of Vincent Local History Centre from Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s