The audio consists of three interviews, each bookended by a short musical interlude. The below transcripts have been edited for clarity and length.
Speaker 1 (Daughter): So we must have moved to East Fremantle in 1976. We were previously in South Fremantle and then we got transferred here, which mum can talk about a bit. Then I went to primary school in East Fremantle and then grew up in the same house, which mum’s still in. And then after high school, we bought a few properties, trying to move around and get established, but we always knew that we wanted to come back to East Fremantle, when we were able, which was 20 years ago.
I guess we started out… like our first brought home was in Hamilton Hill and then we moved to Kardinya — sort of upgrade a little bit before coming to East Fremantle. And then I had my four children at Woodside. They were born 1990, 1991, 1997 and 1999.
Speaker 2 (Mother): In Oakover Street, we’ve been there 45 years. My husband died last year — no, three years ago. I keep saying, it goes so quick. We were in South Fremantle before, but he had an affiliation with East Fremantle Footy Club. He played league football. My husband and the boys were all footballers. So we just found we come back to Oakover Street and I’m still there.
Needs a bit of work on my house and everything else, but it’s so handy for me, because now I’m on my own.
Yeah, three of them. …62, Mark, 64 and Sean, 66 — 1966. In the old days, when you were ready to go, you just knock on the door. The old matron would open the door, you take your case, tell your husband come back later or ring up — because we didn’t have phones, I don’t even remember having a phone those days — and then, because they weren’t allowed in for the birth, so you would be just put in a room on your own and you just hope for the best.
You did those days. You know, the nurses were nice, but a matron always ran at all. I know for one of my births, my husband went to footy training and he dropped me off on the way. He was training with East Fremantle and he dropped me off on the way. Then when he’d come back, I’d had Mark. It was five to eight. He knocked on the door and I’d already had Mark. So, yes, that was how you just did it those days, not like now.
So you’d hang around ‘till the very last thing and “I’d better get going”, you know, “pains are getting worse”. And that was the way we had our babies.
And I can remember being next to my… A cousin of mine, she was there the same week as I had Mark. She had another Italian lady next to her in the bed. They put you in together and they were counting the contractions between them ‘till it got so bad, and “count your own” y‘know?. That’s the way we had our babies.
Oh, they’d get Dr. Canning — they’d ring him. He was an old doctor that delivered most of the babies. Dr. Max Canning. And they would ring him when you were practically… They’d hang on, they wouldn’t let you have the baby, they’d push it back until he came because they reckon he tried to avoid coming too early and they were doing all his work, I can remember that.
And then when he walked in, you had the baby. So they were always moaning about Dr. Canning.
I don’t know what the nurse’s names were. No, all the matrons, I can’t remember any of that.
You had to stay in the hospital a good eight days more, ‘till your milk was in and you weren’t allowed to get out of bed, not like now. And they used to strap your stomach back down with that… yeah, yeah, strap you back in and, no, you weren’t allowed to get up. So I’m amazed that the young girls today can have their babies and go straight home practically. I don’t know how they can do it, not like we were.
Speaker 1 (Daughter): A couple of things I always think about that hospital. First of all, there was always someone you knew in the hospital at that time, because all our cousins, everyone we knew, even when my sister-in-law — she had six children there–and when she was in, we had a cousin who was in. Who’d had her baby — so she came in and watched my sister-in-law have her baby. It was crazy. But one thing that always sticks — a couple of things — about that hospital, I mean, I loved it. You could look out to the trees. It was such a beautiful spot. It was different to these days and it’s such a confidentiality thing, but you could walk into the foyer and there was everyone’s names in cards, little slips, so they’d have the room number. It was like a big Teledex thing. So you’d just go in, scan down for the name and know what room they were in and go and help yourself.
The other thing is how all the babies were in the nursery. So you’d walk past on the way to the room, see all the babies. There could be about thirty-five babies in there on your way to the rooms. Whereas now it’s very much rooming in. There are no babies left in the nursery. They’re not allowed to be because… but there used to be one enrolled nurse in that nursery just looking after the babies. And overnight, your baby would go to the nursery. There was no having your baby by your side like it is now. I mean, things have changed so much…
Then in the night, you had the choice that you could — because you were often in a two or a four-bed room with other women — they’d come and ask you at the beginning of the night, “Do you want to feed your baby in the room or come down to nursery?”
So we’d all ask in that room, “What do you want to do, girls? Do you mind if my baby comes in or…” because you’d be awake all night with everyone else’s babies. But then in the middle of the night, you’d hear the trolleys walking up down the huge corridor of Woodside and everything… and “oh, please don’t be my baby. I’m so tired.” And then they’d come in: “Mrs. Miller! Your baby’s hungry…” and you’d be thinking, “nooooo…”.
But you didn’t have your babies and it’s so different now. Everyone’s babies are right next to them and they don’t leave their side unless there’s something wrong.
But yeah, that’s what I remember about Woodside. It’s great. You could go out, take your kids. There were swings in the playground. So if your other kids came, you’d go out to those beautiful grounds, walk around, beautiful green grass. It was so lovely. I loved Woodside. I loved it.
Speaker 2 (Mother): Laura and Patty, they all worked there.
Speaker 1 (Daughter): mmm..
Speaker 2 (Mother): And they weren’t midwives, but they really helped out a lot. You know, Patty and them went to the babies. Yeah.
Speaker 1 (Daughter): Just so enjoyed it.
And the other thing was we never had our own showers. None of the rooms had their own showers. So you would go into the most arcane shower block with all just concrete things to put your bag on. You’d all be down there. All the women would be down there. Everyone’s bleeding and [laughs] we’d all get in the showers.
And honestly, you look back and think, gosh, these girls now, you know, it’s great for them. They’ve all got all their own rooms and it’s all quite different. But anyway, we didn’t care. We loved it back then. It is a place, but it’s not, it’s not a establishment, but it’s down at at the river. It’s in between the Rowing Club and the Cool Beans Cafe. And it’s just a little park. What’s the name of the park, Mum?
Speaker 2 (Mother): We call it Prickle Park.
Speaker 1 (Daughter): Yeah, but what is the actual name? Oh, God…
Speaker 2 (Mother): We’ve been going there for years and years for picnics. We’ve got one shelter down there that if we’re going down there, we get there at five in the morning to get that shelter because we’re a big family and we’ve used that for years and years. We called it Prickle Park because years ago, it used to have all that bindi in the lawn and the kids had get it in their feet. My husband named it Prickle Park.
Speaker 1 (Daughter): It’s a beautiful little park. Dad used to always talk to the council about getting — because there’s a little beach and a little jetty that leads out just near Aquorama — about getting a shower put in and then a shower was put in. I’ve always wanted to get dad’s, you know, like around some communities where they put a bench out and it’ll have “in loving memory of”, you know, such and such. I always wanted to get one on the shower. But I don’t know how I go about it and I’ve never really looked into it. That is a very significant place for our family, and now all of my kids and all my grandkids and Mum’s great grandkids, we all go to that little spot.
Speaker 2 (Mother): Yeah…
Speaker 1 (Daughter): I got married at East Fremantle Church. Then we went down the road to the boardwalk just there near that park and had my reception there. So yeah, I don’t move very far out of East Fremantle.
Speaker 2 (Mother): If my boys had footy training at Wauhop Park, you know, from Oakover Street, they were only little, but they used to just have to run. I didn’t drive. No, I was too busy getting tea and that. They just used to run, run home in the dark. When East Fremantle were playing at home, the team, well, my boys would be kicking the football on that oval ‘till 9 or 10 at night. There was no phones. We just guess, you know, and they’d come home.
Well, they had an auntie that lived on the corner of Allen Street. And if they didn’t get home, they’d just go to her house and sleep. And we just surmised, oh, they were at Aunty Kathy’s. Now you can’t even let them walk to school on their own. It’s all different.
Speaker 1 (Daughter): That was another place that’s quite significant. It used to be called Kevin Duffs. It’s called State Swim Now — The pools. I used to walk with my friends and we were only little, all the way down Canning Highway. Mum just used to let us and then we used to swim there unsupervised. Quite little, jumping in. I used to stay there all day, and Mum never picked us up. I used to walk along Canning Highway back to Mum’s.
Speaker 2 (Mother): They were always safe.
Speaker: My parents migrated from Italy in the early 1950’s. So we were migrants, if you like. I grew up in a wonderful community, mostly with other kids who parents also migrated from Europe, not necessarily just Italy, along with Australian kids. I have wonderful memories.
I’m still good friends with the kids I grew up with from primary school. We used to hang out in the neighbourhood, get up to mischief, ride bikes in and around the streets, go down to the river, collect jellyfish, go to the park down the road. I’ve got great memories. It’s a wonderful community.
We all went to East Fremantle Primary School and then on to John Curtin. We used to go down to the river a lot.
I used to live on King Street. King Street, for a good 10 years, was the main road that directed the traffic to the bridge and King Street is directly related or connected to the river. All of Plympton Ward is, actually.
We still own it (the house). It’s attached to a shop. So I grew up in a family business, which was a grocer. That’s probably why I have such a strong connection with a lot of the people and a lot of the kids in the area, even though I have three sisters, two older and one younger. So my range of friends is really wide, especially now as an adult.
I still see everyone. In fact, I saw someone yesterday. I just said to Olga yesterday, “Oh, that’s so and so and so and so. I grew up with him”, even though he was my sister’s age.
After they retired, they turned the shop into a nursery. They did that because that was my mother’s primary love was the garden. I did get her green thumb, actually.
God, I remember I was about eight years old and my parents gave me my own strawberry patch.
I looked up at that strawberry patch and various other corners. Then dad wanted to build a greenhouse and he had to move my strawberry patch. I remember being really upset and crying, uncontrolably, as he tentatively was trying to relocate it.
I was a bit of a… really overreacted, I think, in reflection, but I was very upset.
Mum’s neighbours always were keen, well, one particular neighbour was a very keen gardener. Or… she was more a cook. I think she was both.
Because of the shop, they had quite a wide range of interaction with the community. So, you know, there was a lot of sharing of plants, a lot of sharing of recipes, you know, it was a support network. My mum was part of a support network.
Funny, I actually got a job there for a short period. I can’t remember what they called it, the State Vegetable… Fruit and Vegetable Co-Op, which is now in Canningvale.
They used to be in the city, where the current entertainment centre is, there was a whole area there, that’s where all the produce used to come from, that supplied all of the supermarkets, local shops, et cetera. So, it used to be, I guess that’s West Perth, where the entertainment centre is but now it’s moved to Canningvale.
As a young adult, after I did my arts degree, you know, you always need a part-time job. So I got a part-time job there, supplying produce to local businesses and Coles, and Woolworths, and Galati’s on Wray Avenue.
I still don’t go to South Beach. I still go to, you know, Port Beach, because that’s where I grew up as a young kid, even though my father had a little boat in Woodman’s Point. It’s too far, you know? Where I lived, you could go to all those places on foot. We were independent. We didn’t really need our parents to take us anywhere. Back then, our parents didn’t take us anywhere. You know, they were all at work, whereas these days, kids are carted everywhere. We were much more independent, much more independent kids.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, where when we were growing up, we would get up, have breakfast, leave the house and not return ‘till dusk. You know, I don’t think that happens anymore. We would go out with our friends and just explore the whole area and, you know, do whatever. I don’t think that happens anymore.
One of the memories I have is my best friend, four or five doors out, had a cubby house. I used to go there and play with her a lot. We were independent from the main house and her parents, because her cubby house was behind a big back fence. So we kind of still had privacy and independence. That’s one of the memories I have.
Coming from a migrant family, you know, we grew up not delineating or differentiating, you know. We were all migrants — that’s what bonded us together. The fact that we tried very hard to assimilate, because we didn’t want to be different. That’s because of racism, you know.
Timmy, my first cat, who I loved very much and my parents loved very much, he accidentally slept in my dad’s van once. And my dad, unbeknown, opened the door at the East Perth vegetable supplier. Timmy ran out.
I have strong memories coming home and Mum and Dad said, “come on, we’re going to go to [unintelligible],” and I was like, “Oh, I have to feed the cat first.” That’s when they told me, “Oh, we accidentally took Timmy to to the market.” — that’s what Dad used to call it, the market — “And he ran out the car. We’re going to go now and look for him.”
Oh, that’s my first memory. That was my first heartbreak. So when we got up there, we all got out of the van and we were yelling out to Timmy. And then someone said, “Oh, I’ve just buried a white cat.” We were heartbroken. I remember my dad feeling so guilty. We’ve always had white cats for some reason, and they always got skin cancer.
Then I had another cat that landed on our doorstep. His name was Elliot, and he really was the most beautiful cat. We used to play a game of hide-and-seek. And I remember, like, he used to follow me and… and if I turned around, he’d wait, and I would chase him, and then he would, of course, go somewhere where I couldn’t get him. One time I spun around so fast that I fell and landed on him, so I hadn’t actually caught him. I had never caught him before.
He was one of the most beautiful cats I’ve ever had; Elliot. He travelled with me to all the houses that I moved to. But when I went to Melbourne, I left him with my folks, because he was a little bit old.
Those born here over many years, either just watching their houses be… the changes in their house appearance, because people come in… fads of fashion, you know, architecture, just watching the houses change.
But look, you know, I’m getting older. Got arthritis in my hands and in my foot. And Kevin and I are looking for a small… Not so much a smaller place, because this isn’t exactly big. But, you know, I won’t be able to walk up the stairs seeing… I’m kind of… I’m now moving into that next phase, where I’m kind of understanding a lot of the motivations.
I wasn’t raised like that, though, because my parents, you know, it was all about just being… Well, looking after your old age, that’s a very Italian thing to do.
It’s “make sure you have security for when you’re old,” which makes sense now after my mother — we needed to put her in the nursing home, which we chose to… It’s just down the road on my ministry, and it’s a beautiful facility, because it has big gardens, and she has her own garden.
I don’t think we’ll be able to go back to East Fremantle. Which is sad. But it’s really… I mean, I was on George Street yesterday. I remember when there were horse stables in George Street, the little shop on the corner of George and King was a paper shop where I got all our comics. I grew up on the Archie comics and all that, you know?
And it’s just… That’s more than gentrified, that’s just gone the next level. That’s just… Yeah. It’s kind of sad, because there’s nothing personal or about it for me, you know?
Where the Duke is now, that used to be a brush factory. I remember that, and then it became an antique place. And then I remember two fires. There were a duplex in Duke Street. They burnt down, I remember that. I remember a little old ladies’ house burning down in Sewell Street behind us on a 40-degree day.
I lived in a lot of houses all around here. Yeah, so I’ve witnessed a lot of houses burning down.
Speaker: It was an accidental home birth. It was pretty funny.
We had a private midwife. I don’t know if you know much about the different birthing options, there’s your obstetrician — private health, there’s the public system where you just go into your local hospital. In the public system, you don’t really get any continuity of care. You’re seeing someone different each time.
A few of my friends had already had kids, and one of them have had a private midwife. So it’s essentially you’re getting your continuity of care with that one provider, but you’re getting the midwifery model of care, which is less intervention, I guess. They sort of try and let the body do what the body wants to do. I mean, planning for birth is impossible, because you never know what your bloody baby is going to want, but I liked that model and that philosophy.
We didn’t end up making it to hospital. By the time she got here, she was sitting with me for a little bit and was like, “I’m just going to do a check to see what’s happening,” and then she was like, “OK, so like you’re fully dilated, so you can either have the baby here or we can call an ambulance.” So, yeah, Lola was born an hour and a half later, at home, which is wild, but all went well. So, you know, happy ending.
Poor old Lola’s got like a ripper mullet at the moment, so I’m hoping that their hair gets better. Yeah, she looks like an 18-year-old footballer. She was one in September, so like just over one, 13 months.
So the private midwives, they always have two a birth, so that if something does go wrong, there’s someone to look after mum and baby, if you’re both in dire straits. My backup midwife, who was meant to be, like, second — Kathleen was my primary, and then I met my second one, but she was in Joondalup at the time that Kathleen got here, and it was like eight o’clock in the morning. She was like, there is no way you are going to make it from Joondalup in peak-hour traffic. So she called another midwife who lives in North Freo, and she only does home births, and she ended up making it just in time.
Apparently she walked in and said to Oli like, “Oh, great, get your home birth kit and we’ll get it all set up”, and Oli was like, “No, we didn’t plan for this.” And then she was like, “Go get every towel that you own”. And Oli was like, what’s about to happen? She was amazing.
So then there was Kathleen and Marilyn here to deliver Lola. It was a really nice dynamic because Kathleen is quite sort of young, so I really related to her. I felt like I got on with her really well. And Marilyn’s beautiful, but she’s a bit older, a bit more experienced, I guess. Having both of them just was a really nice experience and it felt like I was in really good hands.
It was just so convenient. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but I love convenience. Afterwards I was just like at home. They made me a little snack and I could have a shower and lay in my bed. I didn’t have to worry about getting discharged or driving — apparently the drive home from your hospital to home the first time with your baby is meant to be terrifying — so we didn’t have to do any of that, which was great.
It’s so funny, when Lola was like a week old, word spread throughout the whole street and we had like neighbors that I don’t think I’d spoken to before dropping little notes like cards around being like, “Welcome Lola!” A real Hamilton Street resident. Yeah, definitely, I felt like we were legit East Freo residents having Lola here.
My husband actually came up with it. We had three, we had Lola, Sunny and Remy on a shortlist, and we really liked Lola. I guess we were just playing around with those three names. It’s actually good we didn’t go with Sunny because she’s quite a serious gal. So it would be a bit funny if we’re like, “Hi Sunny,” and she’s just like stony faced. So, lucky we didn’t do that.
I think it weighed on my mind because of the unpredictability of lockdowns and the hospital rules. I guess that plan originally to get into the hospital, I was like, can I have Kathleen, my midwife, and Ollie — under W.A. lockdowns it would have been okay to have both of them there, but I know some people over East weren’t so lucky.
So it definitely played into your mind about what’s going to happen at the birth. Being home — that was okay. Being in W.A. I feel like we were pretty lucky with that, but it was another thing when she was born at home.
I was quite glad that she hadn’t been exposed to anything. She was in quite a protected sort of cocooned environment, I guess for her, not having to go into a hospital and have potential other bugs. Luckily they were still doing the in-person mother’s groups. I really feel for people who are doing it online, because like how are you going to make a friend on Zoom? It’s the most awkward environment ever.
It is crazy the double takes people have when you say you had a home birth. People put you in immediately like a “hippie” basket. And quite a few of my friends have been “Like, are you? Like you faint when you get a blood test, how did you have a home birth?” But I think if everything goes well, it is just quite a physiological process, it’s quite nice to just, you know, let your body take over. You go into a bit of a primal place, you’re not really present.
I think it was good for Oli as well, because we’re not really the couple that would like fart in front of each other. That’s just never been our dynamic. So I was a bit nervous going into it. I was like, “Fuck, he’s going to see a lot, like, will he still think I’m sexy? How is this going to go down?” But he was actually amazing during it. So helpful and hands on.
I think it was good for us to sort of go through that, because in some ways it’s quite a vulnerable birthing. It’s funny when you’ve been with someone for a really long time. You don’t often have new experiences together because you’ve done, you know, so much, and they know you so well. So it was quite fun going through that together, I think.