Local Identities

Bill Johnson’s Memories of Yarloop 1944 to 1959

Bill Johnson was born and grew up in Yarloop. He left school to undertake an apprenticeship in fitting and turning at Yarloop.  He married Gay Stewart, also from Yarloop, who worked in Millars’ Office.[1]

When they were first married Gay and Bill lived near the school in what was Stow Marshall’s house. Bill worked as a fitter and turner and Gay relieved at the telephone exchange for six months.

Transportation of timber into Yarloop was changing from rail to road, so steam was being phased out and job losses were imminent. The Station Master at Yarloop, Ned O’Callaghan, passed on a message to Bunbury Station that Bill was a pretty good footballer and that was enough to get him a job shunting trains and playing footy for Bunbury in early 1959.

Bill informs us about Yarloop and his place in it between 1944 and 1959 as he grew up, matured, married and before he sought work elsewhere. 


Yarloop as I knew it in the late 1940s/early 50s was a Millars’ timber town. It mainly consisted of a Timber Mill to the north of the town, always called the Top Yard, a hospital in the centre and a rather large workshop in the south of the town.

The houses on quarter acre blocks were separated by wooden fences. Most of the timber millers lived in houses nearer the timber mill and the workshop workers lived mainly in the centre and the south of Yarloop.

There were three whistles to start the day, the first at 6.15am to wake everyone, the second at 7am and the third whistle at 7.15am to start the working day. A whistle at morning smoko, one for lunch at 11.30am when everyone went back home for a cooked lunch, one to start back at 12.30pm and one at 4pm to finish the day.

But let’s start closer to my beginnings.

The first house I remember living in was opposite the Old Boarding House (formerly the Palace Hotel and where Driscolls lived at the time) on McDowell Street. The house was built on swampy land bordering railway land. In winter it was so wet there that we had ‘duck’ boards to walk on around the yard to the clothes line and toilet. I suffered from a type of arthritis caused by the damp.

Dad built an air raid dugout shelter in our back yard during the 2nd World War. It was so wet I ended up keeping gilgies in it. Luckily we never had to use it as an air raid shelter. The town also had air raid shelters, one near the town hall in Station Street and one near Millars’ Emporium. We also had them at our school – a series of ditches dug in a quiet part of the playground in a channel formation, about 4 feet deep.

On the railway land was a covered well used to supply water for the WAGR steam trains. A pumping station at the well pumped water to the big tank near the Station Master’s house. We used to dangle our home-made fishing lines (a piece of string with a bent pin on the end) into the well and caught little minnows.

I may as well tell you about my first day at school as my big sister Elaine always does. My mum had sent me off to school dressed in a pants and shirt combination. The pants were attached to the shirt by buttons at the waist. Well, I got caught short and had to put my hand up to attract the teacher’s attention, which took far too long. Trying to undo the buttons while at full gallop to the toilet proved an impossible task and guess what? Mr Scouler, the headmaster, asked my sister Elaine to take me home to clean up. The short cut home was at the back of the Workshops and past the Blacksmith’s Shop. The men who worked there took great delight in asking my big sister, who was about 12 years old, what had happened to her little six-year-old brother. They laughed at my demise and I wasn’t Elaine’s favourite for some time after that.

My school years at Yarloop were not outstanding but I managed to keep up with the classes. I loved sport and was always picked in the interschool sports and competed in running, relays and the hop, step and jump.

Yarloop School children c1947 with sporting trophies. Back Row: Dennis Harris, Jillian Osborne, Beth Coole, Jennifer Robertson, Kaye Scott, Malcolm Schlam. Third Row: John Cooper, Don Barratt, Pearl Tippet, Arthur Scott, Lorraine Barrett, Murray Barraclough, Barry Cattach, Joy Berry. Second Row: Robin McCallum, Bill Johnson, Graeme Reeves (holding two trophies), Ethel Wellington (holding shield),? Hancock (holding shield), Jim Archibald (holding one trophy), Gracemary (Dooey) Scouler, Doreen Whitehead. Front Row: Malcolm Cooke, Ian Robertson, Jeanette Rutherford, ? Ameduri, ? Wilson.

Photo: Harvey History Online Collection.

I remember falling off the verandah rails on my head. Mum had to take me up to Dr Knight. I don’t know how bad it was but Mum would say that Bill has split his head if anyone asked. I know I had stitches or a pressure clamp but I think it sounded worse than it was.

Another thing I did was have a drink from a bottle with kerosene in it. It sent me coughing and searching for air. Another trip to the hospital but I survived. I think they were worried if it got into my lungs. [In those days kerosene was put into any type of bottle and not labelled. As it was clear, not coloured blue like it was later, it could be mistaken for water.]

As kids we played cowboys and Indians, Auntie Flo bought me a Ned Kelly gun for one of my early birthdays.

Like many kids now, we kids played sport. We played cricket and football after school. Our playground was the gravel road at the front of the houses and we played with a home-made bat and tennis ball. When it got a little darker, we would go down to the Old Post Office in McDowell Street where there was a street light and play brandy or Donkey, a game which started by the Donkey bouncing a ball in the circle made by the players. As soon as the ball was bounced the players ran as far as they could before Donkey caught the ball and yelled STOP. Donkey was then allowed to take three paces towards any player and hit them with the ball. If this happened they would become the Donkey, and so it went on.

When the old hall was pulled down we kids borrowed a sieve from the coke shed and sieved the soil where the floorboards had been and found coins that had fallen through the floor. They were mainly old English coins which were used before 1910 when Australia started minting its own.

We had three large natural lakes, we called them The Ponds – 1st Pond, 2nd Pond and 3rd Pond. A creek running through the town was called Logue Brook. It came from the hills on the Hoffman Road side and joined the Harvey Main Drain and ended in the Harvey Estuary south of Mandurah. As kids we would swim in the ponds, make canoes and paddle between the reeds and look for birds’ nests – mainly dab chicks, silver eyes, willy wagtails and ducks in the paperbark or the tea trees that grew around the pond.

Swimming Pools – Logue Brook had been dammed up in two places, one dam was in the town near Landwehr’s Milk Depot on Wickham Street and a later one on Clifton Road, which was part of the irrigation channels. The swimming pool on Clifton Road only had a small circumference forming part of the irrigation area, but you could swim a long way lengthwise from the wall following the river. We had clay fights, teased the girls and had a great time.

From age six to ten years, the Second World War was on and my Dad and most men working for Millars’ were manpowered, but a Home Guard group was formed in Yarloop. They used to do their drills and keep an eye on what was going on. There was quite a group of them. My father was practising to be a signaller and I can remember him with his two flags sending messages by waving the flags in various ways to another signaller, back and forth they went, at the rifle range.

Dad also had a pigeon coup to train pigeons, as they would send messages by carrier pigeon. They would be put in the guard’s van of the trains as they came through the station and be dropped off at various places along the route by the guard. The station master would release them at a prearranged time and they would make their way home and be timed. The pigeons had a band around their leg where a message and identification could be attached.

I can remember the stations along the route had their names taken down during the war so that if we were invaded by the enemy they wouldn’t know their exact bearings. Telephone lines which were so many chains apart, were numbered so with simple maths you could work out the distance to Perth. These were also blacked out.

About this time an American aeroplane was circling around Yarloop. It had engine trouble and I was with my friends on our bikes near the hospital. It was getting lower and lower and started west along Johnston Road so we chased it with our bikes and it came down in a paddock over Logue Brook, about 2 miles from where we spotted it. It took down a couple of fences before it stopped safely. We beat the Home Guard there. The pilot and navigator were okay, only a little shaken, but being from Yarloop it was the first time we had seen a plane close up. What excitement, and an American War Plane at that! It was called a Vultee Vengeance, and apparently because of the position of the wings and the tail plane, it was too dangerous to bail out. We were told to step aside and the Home Guard, like Dad’s Army, took over sentry duty.

We were never bored. We had the picture show, as we called it, or the flicks, once a week. In our late teens we had Saturday night dances which were held in turn between Yarloop, Cookernup, Wagerup, Hamel and occasionally Waroona.

Map of Yarloop in the early 1920s drawn by Dick Fowles.[2]


The Top Yard at the north end of town had drying kilns for the timber sent in from Hoffman and Nanga Brook by rail.  Millars’ owned some G Class railway engines and they would travel, one to Hoffman and one to Nanga Brook, nearly every day to pick up what was called a rake of timber (load) and bring it back to the Top Yard where they had kilns to dry the sawn timber lengths. The dried timber was stored in stacks made by laying timber lengthways, separated by smaller lengths crossways, so that they had air circulating through and around them till needed. I guess the stacks could be 15 metres long, and 2 to 3 metres wide. The mill timbers were mainly used for flooring and other structural purposes. Mainly jarrah was milled and one of its advantages is that it was white ant proof.

Men at the Top Yard were:

Norm Rutherford (boss manager)

Max White (kiln manager)

Bob McCallum (foreman, union man)

Jim Stewart (kiln transfer operator)

Frank McDonald (machinery inspector, which included boiler inspector and safety inspector)

David Meldrum (saw filer)

The mill workers were Wyn Schlam, Wallace McDonald, Bill Savage (Snr), Winker Savage, Bill Fortune, Tittum Turner, Keith Holmes, Jim Eastcott, Bill Sims, Vince Mazza, Allan Andrews, Dominic Amaduri, Ken Tyler, Louie Lamberti, Bill Norris, Captain Harry Hardie,

Tony Palermo and Geoff Dixon.


The hospital employed a lot of female school leavers and many trained as nurses or nurses’ aides there.

Some of the nurses were Hillary Dixon, Peggy & Amy Selfe, Beryl and Val Germaine, June Hancock, Margaret Hicks, Barbara Hicks, Lesley Shields, Lorna Wellington, Daphne Tippett, Myrtle Tippett and Mrs Waterhouse.

Some of the nurses’ aides were Rita and Helen Southgate, Lila Johnson and Shirley Elder.

Some ladies in the kitchen were Lily Johnson, Elaine Johnson and Mrs William (nicknamed Cookie).

For many years Dr Knight was assisted by very experienced nurses, Matron Gooding and Sister Selfe.

Members of the Hospital Board were Dr Knight, Wally O’Connor, Bob McCullum and Lionel Dyer.


Mill Office – Wilf White, Jack Robertson, Les Higgins, Jim Fitzgerald, David Bradshaw, Gay Stewart and Harvey Strack. Administration for the Top Yard and timber mills of Hoffman and Nanga including delivering the pays.

Mill Store stood on its own outside the Workshop. It was like a warehouse where equipment was distributed on the receipt of a chit, which was costed against the job. Outside the Mill Store was a fuel pump which fuelled various machinery and the kalamazoo. Ernie Tippett, Percy Banner (nicknamed Blade Bone), Harold Banner, Keith Harris and Tommy Hudson worked at the Mill Store.

Baker’s Shop was next to the Mill Store. Mr Knight, the baker, would make small buns with the left over dough and give it to us kids coming home from school.

Millars’ Emporium – Cyril Ross was the first boss I knew, followed by Henry White then Ron Taylor and lastly Mr Johnson. The Shop Assistants over the period were Ray Cowie, Tony Milson, Ron Angove,[3] Vincent Ameduri, Joan Cooper, Tigger Maloney, Murray Barraclough (nicknamed Mucka Balla). Gay worked there sometimes if they were short of staff.

Three people usually were employed at one time. There was one counter on each side of the shop – one side had haberdashery, i.e. men’s work clothing, boots, etc. The other side had groceries, (non-perishables except for bacon, the only meat they carried) kero, bran and pollard, wheat for chooks, along with brooms and rakes.

The Emporium carried credit, and though it was handy, like credit cards of today, many people owed their pay or were a pay behind, so were trapped in a sense to stay on in Yarloop.

Saw Shop was behind the Emporium. Arthur Anderson was the saw doctor and the saw filers were Tom Johnson, Bob Cowie, Jimmy Anderson, Billy Thomas, David Meldrum and Jimmy Pratt.

Butcher’s Shop was behind Millars’ Boarding House. Peter Davidson, Jim Marshall, Neil Marshall, Harold Banner and Don Archibald worked in the Butcher’s Shop.

Slaughter House was on the corner of Station Street and Johnson Road bordering the town. Peter Davidson was a slaughterman and butcher, Neil and Jim Marshall followed Peter Davidson.

The Cottage was the Company guest house for visiting personnel who held senior positions. It was staffed by a housekeeper who was often the wife of a company employee, and the couple lived at The Cottage. Charlie Craig, the overall boss of Millars’ T&T, stayed at The Cottage when he came down from Perth. Bob Springthorpe, the engineer, initially lived in Yarloop and was later transferred to the main office in Perth. When he visited Yarloop he stayed at The Cottage.[4] Les Bevan was the gardener.

Miss Fitzgerald ran The Cottage before my mum, Alma Johnson. Mum took over circa 1954 and worked there until circa 1959. My parents lived at The Cottage but I was unable to because there wasn’t enough room, so I moved into one of the Single Men’s huts behind the Boarding House.

Bill dressed as a cowboy in his hut in the grounds of the Old Mill Boarding House, 1954. Photo: Harvey History Online Collection.

Bottom Boarding House / Old Mill Boarding House / Millars’ Boarding House.

Ken Willington, Jim & Aileen Stewart, Mrs Boucher, Mrs and Speed Oldham ran the boarding house at various times.

The boarders were Max White (Twitters), Blinky Bill Norris, Captain Hardy, Dasher Dearle, Speed Oldham, Les Thompson, Squizzy Taylor and Allen Andrews.

The Rumpus Room was a recreation room where we played cards, had late night snacks and where we could relax.

There were two Millars’ huts which were accessed by a laneway to the boarding house. Laurie Thomas and I had huts there and I used the boarding house for meals, the toilet and showering when my parents ran The Cottage. The hut was a single room petitioned with a wall at the back to form a narrow store room.

Females employed by Millars’ – There were few female employees at Millars’. Joan Cooper, I think, was the first female office worker followed by my future wife, Gay Stewart, who started in the Mill Office as a junior clerk after she left school. The housekeepers at The Cottage were also employees. My mum, Alma Johnson, followed Miss Fitzgerald. Joan Cooper, who married Ron Taylor, worked in the Emporium.


The Workshops carried out most of the maintenance on machinery, kilns, steam trains and mill equipment for the whole of the Millars’ enterprise throughout the South West, although each mill had a skeleton crew for emergency maintenance. Tradesmen and labourers from the Workshop travelled to mills to do service maintenance when needed.

Boilermakers – Athol Ballaclough (Boss), Jack Thomas, Jack Deering, Des O’Connor, John Jenkins.

Boilermakers’ Labourers – Norm Wilson, Joe Lemmon, Stan Banner.

Welders – Jack Malland and his labourer Colin Williams, Ack Watson.

Blacksmiths – George Tozer and one Scotchman.

Blacksmith Strikers – Les Gillard, Hugh McFayden, Sonny Wilson, Eddy Bevis.

Fitters – Tattie White, Bill Jenkins, Egbert (Eggie) Reeves, Albert Archibald, Bob Guest Snr, Bob Guest Jnr.

Turners – Bert Bramley, Ken Tolhurst, Ron Styles, Charlie Wilson, Ron Briggs, and drill operator Douglas Herring.

Coppersmith – Pat Donovan, Les Berry, Ted Boyd.

Foundry – Jack Cooper (Boss), Bob Whitehead, Alex Meldrum.

Foundry furnace – Wally (Pop) O’Connor.

Tinsmith and plumber – Ray Dixon and Phil Richards was his labourer.

Pattern Maker – Jim Connolly, Vinnie O’Connor, Don Jones.

Tractor Repair Shop where the caterpillar tracks were repaired – Jack O’Connor, Frank Grinter, Ron Bevis, Bernie Reigert, Doug Sim and labourer Laurie Thomas.

The Workshop Cleaner cleaned up the metal shavings – Con Donovan.

Labourers – Stowell Marshall, Bill Higgins Snr (belt man) Tasman Clayton (engines), Roy Williams (engines), Jim Stewart, Bill Wellington.

The Wheel & Wagon Shop was a carpenters’ shop – Val Buckland, Jim Meldrum.

Woodman – Bill Pratt delivered wood to employees

Company House Carpenter – Nat Scott.

Bottom Office – Was an office in the Workshops and the Workshop’s Boss, Foreman and the Timekeeper worked there.

Boss of Workshop – Sam Morris, followed by Oswald Keller.

Foreman of Workshop – Harry Krietling

Timekeeper – Len Purcell.

The Boiler Room at the Workshops was a popular spot in winter to gather and warm up. Tassie Clayton and Roy Williamson were the stationery engine drivers, who also ran the power house when it was converted to electricity.  The railway line from Hoffman Mill to Nanga Brook ran past the Boiler Room, and in early summer on the way home from the day’s work the trains often ran over and killed snakes that were sunning themselves on the railway tracks. On one occasion, as a joke, a dead snake was thrown into the boiler room scaring the sh.t out of those gathered there. Tassie (who had shell shock from WW1) yelled at them, ‘I’ll kill you B’s. They paid me to shoot the …. through the war, but I’d shoot you for nothing.’

The cricket (the Ashes Series) was a great form of entertainment and rivalry. The workshops had their share of Poms who would keep the baiting going, as they were on top while I was there. During the 1956 Ashes, Australia lost to England and the Poms had a burying of the Ashes in the pit near Doug Herring’s drill machine. A little coffin was made by Jim Connolly, the pattern maker, and some ashes from the foundry put inside.

From all around the workshop men gathered to watch the ‘Reverse Ashes’. The ceremony was conducted by big Ron Styles dressed for the occasion with his shirt turned backwards so the collar looked like a minister’s, a dust coat and chains around his neck – Lord Mayor style. He uttered words to the effect that it was the death of Australian Cricket. The Poms lowered the coffin into the pit and solemnly replaced the floorboards.

You could always get a bet with Englishmen, Doug Herring Ken Tolhurst, Bert Bramley, Charlie Wilson, Jim Connolly and Les Berry. Doug Herring would back Len Hutton to score more runs than any other Aussie batsman. Remember, we had no Don Bradman in those days and the Poms won the money.

Apprentices were initiated by being held down usually by older apprentices or labourers, pants pulled down and grease rubbed on their penis and crown jewels.

Another joke was to send an apprentice on a mission to the Mill Store to get a ‘tin of compression’, ‘a tin of striped paint’ ‘a long wait’ ‘a straight S hook’ or ‘a sky hook’.

Payday at the Workshops was once a fortnight, every second Tuesday or Thursday. The whistle would sound when the grey Chevie [Chevrolet] arrived at the Mill Store, accompanied by Les Higgins, Jack Robertson or someone from the Mill Office.

We would all gather at the front of the Workshops and near the Mill Store to wait for our names to be called out, so as to sign for and collect our pay packet, an oblong brown envelope with details on the front; Hourly Rate, Hours Worked, Heat Money if worked in kilns, Dirt Money, Tax and Total

Apprentice wages were very poor, especially in the first few years. So as soon as I received my pay, probably £1/10/0 ($3) a week in the first year,  I would quickly race around the works and raffle my unopened pay for 2/- ticket and would at least double my pay as most would take a ticket. The names went into the hat and the winner got the pay packet. I did it for about two years. It had been done prior by an apprentice and was a success, and Bob Guest, one of the fitters suggested it to me.


Engine Drivers – Percy Cattach, Les Kershaw, Ted Fowles, Jack Maloney, Jim Waterhouse and Bill Higgins (guard).

Firemen Call Boy – Jim (Dasher) Dearle. His job was to get the fires going in the engine prior to starting the day’s work and go around and call the engine drivers for duty.

Fettlers on Millars’ Rail – Bob Meldrum, Tom Garlick.  The Fettlers were length runners who checked the railway lines.

Millars’ trains going to Hoffman and Nanga Brook hauled a couple of carriages as well as timber trucks (rakes) and a guard’s van, in which passengers could travel free. Sometimes in stone fruit season, Millars’ employees would take their children for a picnic, mainly to Nanga, and pick stone fruit around some of the abandoned houses.  It was a great day’s outing – just for the ride or to visit friends.

There were two passenger trains a day coming from Perth to Bunbury in the 1940s, and only one in the 50s. One arrived at Yarloop at approx. 8am, the other approx. 2.30pm, and that one was called the Midnight Horror. The people from Hoffman Mill and Nanga Brook had about a 3 to 4 hour wait at the railway station before Millars’ trains set off at approx. 6pm. There were two trains, one from Hoffman and one for Nanga Brook. It could be pretty uncomfortable at times, especially winter, and the passengers had to arrange and carry food and drink, as nothing was available in that way in those towns.

Millars’ locos in those times didn’t carry names, only numbers, e.g. Numbers 70, 71, 72 and 69 that I recall. There was also a contraption called a kalamazoo, the original looked like a wooden tank on railway wheels, with tongue and groove boards covering it. Later it was a more open affair, with canvass sides and ran on petrol with a V8 Ford motor (no Holdens then) It was used for quick access to the timber towns and the pay was sent this way in the early to late 1940s.

The kalamazoo. Photo: Harvey History Online Collection.

After that, the grey ute was used instead of the kalamazoo to traverse between the Workshops and the Top Yard for quick maintenance and repairs, mainly to the kilns.

Near the old railway shed, over the road and railway line from Ken Higgins’ shop, was a graveyard of old retired locos. It was a playground for young kids and the inside of the tenders made great cubby houses. The Huon, Geraldton, Swan, 58 and Jubilee were some of the engines stored there.

Midalia & Benn and J Krasnostein, both scrap metal merchants, bought most of the scrap iron from Millars’. On one occasion a crane mounted on a railway wagon escaped on a downward grade towards the Workshops, its jib spinning round and round dangerously grabbing everything in its reach. Near the Mill Office there were some old boiler fire boxes and steam winches, and luckily its jib grabbed onto them, pulling them over and slowing it down, saving it from doing greater damage. If it hadn’t stopped it would have hit the Workshops!


On Station Street opposite the Perth to Bunbury railway line there were mainly privately owned houses and shops. From north to south they were:

CWA Hall

Ron Miller – a car mechanic

Then a laneway

Town Hall

George Hill’s Greengrocery

Whatman’s General Store

Then Teesdale St

Wilson’s Boarding House

Wilkes’s Shoe and Bootmaker shop

Private house owned by Phil Richards

Delicatessen and drapery owned by Gillards, Yates and then Higgins

SP Betting Shop

Butcher Shop

Then Wickham St

Yarloop Hotel with a cricket ground at the back and side, and adjoining the Hotel was McNeil’s Produce Store that later became Kennewell’s.

Bookmakers Jim Dalrymple, Wally O’Connor, Egbert Reeves, Winker Savage and Pat Donovan were all SP Bookmakers. These men worked for Millars’ but as a sideline ran a book. In later years bets were rung through to Dick Harris in Waroona.

General Store Ken and Jean Higgins owned and ran the shop previously owned by Bill and Rosie Yates and before them, Les and Mrs Gillard. It had the local billiard saloon and attracted quite a gathering on a Friday night and Saturday morning.  ‘Kelly Pool’ was one of the popular games and could be played by up to 10 players with a wager of 2/- (two shillings) a head, with winner take all. Of course, billiards and snooker were also popular. The good players were Alex Scouler (the Headmaster), Albert Archibald, Doug Herring, Dasher Dearle, Jim and Alex Meldrum, Don Archibald (nicknamed Stringer) and Bill Thomas. The Higgins also sold haberdashery catering for families whereas Millars’ sold working gear.

Butcher Shop – Snowy Madison.

Yarloop Shop (& Poolroom), Deli – Mrs Gillard, Mrs Yates, Ken Higgins.

General Store/Whatman’s/Pitts’ was near the Yarloop Hall. Malcolm Whatman owned the store and Mrs Judd, Shirley Clayton, Geoff Fortune and Cyril Pitts were shop assistants. Cyril Pitts bought the Whatmans out, and I think they were still there when I left in 1959.

There was a white goods shop behind Whatman’s Store in Teesdale Street, run by Arthur Osborne, which used to be an old blacksmith’s shop run by a Mr Randall. Arthur Osborne used to call himself ‘Honest Arthur’ or ‘Robin Osborne’.

Driscoll’s Boarding House (formerly Old Pub/Old Wooden Pub) on McDowell Street was on the east side of the railway bridge. I think it was owned by a Mr MacNeill, but run as a boarding house by Mr Frank Driscoll and his wife. Mrs Stewart and her husband Jim followed in approximately 1947/48 for a couple of years, before they shifted to Millars’ Boarding House and ran that. Often families boarded at Driscolls’ while waiting for a Millars’ house to become available.

Alex Wilson owned a boarding house which was run by Mrs Simpson for a while. It was next to Wilkes’s shoe and bootmaker’s shop.

Yarloop had a milk depot in the 1940s, run by Ted Landwehr on Wickham Street, but it eventually gave way to the Wagerup Milk Depot.

A Roadhouse on the main SW Highway was built in the early 1950s by Arthur Kennewell, on the former power house site which had been run by Ned Baldock. It used to supply power to Yarloop and the Workshops from approx. 6am to 10pm, before the SEC arrived.

On the South West Highway was another bakery run by Doris and Peter Maschetti, who later ran the school bus to Harvey. Les Flanders was employed as a baker till Maschetti sold the bakery to Bob Speed.


Yarloop Hotel Publicans that I can remember from my school years till leaving Yarloop in 1959 were Tom Cassidy, Tom Kennedy, Ted Feltham, Bonnie Sweetapple, Colin Pestell[5] and Gordon Bancroft. Tom Cassidy and Tom Kennedy, I think, were father-in-law and son-in-law and moved on to Willagee Hotel for a few years. Ted Feltham was unfortunate to have a fire in the hotel in the early fifties, (about 1954).[6]

Bonnie Sweetapple[7] was a real lively publican and also a practical joker and a good organiser, let’s say an entrepreneur. Main Roads had a big gang working on the South West Highway near Yarloop so he would deliver the grog to their camps. He created a darts competition between the Top Yard, the Main Roads gang, the Workshops, boilermakers, towns and farmers (mostly from Cookernup). This turned into a great competition with much rivalry and many yarns spun. Colin Pestell and Snowy Madison, the butcher, were great mates and jokers.  One occasion was when Snowy borrowed Colin’s car, an old ex-army Chev to get to Perth. He, as he often did, got caught for speeding and gave his name as Colin Pestell, Publican, Yarloop. The story used to bring a lot of laugher around the bar. I am sure Colin would have squared up later.

Bonnie had a barman called Les working for him. He was rather on the heavy side and not very active. Norm Wilson was a little younger but fitter, having only finished football a couple of years earlier, by then being in his thirties. He was skylarking with Bonnie over some feat that he achieved when Bonnie said, ‘Norm, you couldn’t beat Les in a 50-yard sprint.’

‘I’d kill him,’ said Norm.

‘Bet you £2 that you couldn’t give Les a 5-yard start and beat him,’ Bonnie said.

‘You’re on,’ said Norm.

‘I’ll be the winner’, said Bonnie to Norm, ‘OK, give me a fortnight. I have to think to arrange it, and am too busy now.’

Clever Bonnie had this time to let everyone around town know about the Great Race. The day finally arrived. The finishing line was at the Pub, the starting line was near Snowy’s butcher shop and the townspeople and out-of-towners had lined both sides of the road. Les was on his five-yard start line, Norm on scratch, Snowy was the starter and Bonnie the judge on the finishing line.

‘On your mark,’ said Snowy, ‘GO!’

Off they went to the line. Norm caught Les about 4 yards from the finish and won, both panting and red faced from the sprint.

Bonnie said, ‘Come into the bar and I’ll pay your bet, Norm.’ He did, and before Norm went home that night he had spent his £2 winnings and borrowed a little more from Bonnie. Bonnie’s Pub was full all day from the jovial crowd and when closing time came, Bonnie said, ‘Time, Gentlemen, please. I told you I would win, Norm,’ and he laughed.

It was customary for Norm, Bonnie, Harry Blackburn and George McEwin to play Bridge once a week and have a small wager on the outcome. Norm and Harry formed one pair and George and Bonnie the other.

Nearing Christmas, Col, Norm’s wife, was walking past the pub the following day and Bonnie in his usual, full of  devilment way, called Col over and said, ‘Tell Norm not to worry about trying to repay me the money from cards till after Christmas, maybe he could pay a little off then.’

Norm hadn’t lost at all but Bonnie kept a straight face and let Col go at that.

Well, when Norm got home from work did he get the rounds of the kitchen. ‘But I didn’t lose,’ he kept saying, but Col would not believe him.

‘Bonnie told me what money you bet at Bridge so don’t try and cover up,’ she accused.

This is the only time I have known Norm to get caught.

‘Hey Norm, how’s the cards going? You winning?’ was the catch-call around the bar.

Colin Pestell followed Bonnie Sweetapple, who left Yarloop and bought a hotel in East Perth called the Coronation Hotel. Colin Pestell played his last game of league football for East Perth before taking over from Bonnie, and was proud of his football scrapbook. He was judged ‘Best on Ground’ in his last league game – what a way to finish!

After Bonnie left Yarloop he used to come back every so often to watch football and catch up. He said that Yarloop was where he made his money, and he continued to sponsor our football for a few years, donating trophies and buying a round of beers at the finish.

Yarloop won the Grand Final in 1955 and Colin Pestell was the Captain-Coach that year. Yarloop was at that time, part of the Harvey Brunswick League but HBL became defunct and Yarloop joined the Murray League. Harvey and Brunswick teams combined and went to the South West League.

1955 Yarloop Football Club, Premiers 1955, Harvey-Brunswick Association. L-R. Back Row: A Barraclough (Committee), J Pratt (Boundary), R Nicoli, E Winduss, G Reeves, W Thomas, J Meldrum, J Eastcott (Committee), S Banner (Committee). Middle Row: N Wilson (Committee), W Higgins (Goal Umpire), B Cattach, J Cooper, H White, M Shields, W Johnson, W Miles, J Deering (Committee), W O’Connor (Trainer).  Front Row: M White (President), B Blackburn (Secretary), J O’Connor, V O’Connor (Vice-Captain), C Pestell (Captain-Coach), D O’Connor, R Guest, F Rando, P Richards (Committee). Absent Players: J Anderson, K Bennett, J Dearle, A Scott.

Photo: Harvey History Online Collection.

In Colin Pestell’s time as publican, Harold Banner, an ex-Millars’ butcher now working in the Mill Store, was nicknamed Blade Bone because of his former occupation and his thin build. Harold had his first and last attempt at bookmaking and decided he would run a book on the singles’ darts competition at Yarloop. I had practised darts at home with Dad and though I was a second year apprentice and only 18 years, (drinking age then was 21), I asked, ‘What price am I?’

Blade Bone said, ‘100 to 1’ and laughed.

I said, ‘Okay, I’ll have 4/- on it,’ and he agreed. I was lucky enough to win, playing Col Pestell in the finals. I don’t know and never will if he laid down, but I won and collected the cup and Harold’s £40. It was like winning Lotto, a lot of money for me around Christmas – but I still felt sorry for Blade Bone.


Policemen – Fred Potts, Phil Pollard, Tom Blackman, Jim Kelly. They had very little trouble and I can’t recall anyone spending the night in the cells. When I got my license I got it in my dad’s 1935 Plymouth, and Tom Blackman said to me, ‘Do you mind if I have a drive?’ I said no so he took it, with me in it, for a drive around the block. Finally pulling up at the Police Station he said, ‘Come on in, I’ll write your licence out. I’ve been watching you drive around with your dad as instructor, and he wouldn’t send you to get your license if he didn’t think you were ready.’ I remembered that when I taught my boys, and even though they had to do the test, I made sure they were ready.

Teachers – Alex Scouler (Headmaster all the time I was there), Mrs Baird, Sheila Hagan, Percy Punch, George Good.

Post Master General’s Department (PMG) – The Post Masters were Mr Melville, Mr Ecclestone, Les Hall, and after he left, Colin Hopkins was promoted to the job. The other postal workers were Maurie Harris, Terry Pike and the posties were Syd Adams and Murray Barraclough. The telephonists were Chrissy Anderson, Val Woodcock, Val Reeves, June Kennewell, Gay Stewart and Kaye Scott.  I worked as a telephonist on night shift in the Old Post Office when I was still going to school, so I was about 15 or 16 years of age.


Billy Wellington was a bit of a boxer in the mid-1920s/early 30s. He was a lightly built man but was very wiry and even in the early fifties he would dance around us young apprentices, throwing rights and lefts and jabbing and never connecting but showing us his skills. Towards the end of our apprenticeships we had gained a lot more confidence, and whenever he walked past we would go on the attack. ‘Come on Kid’, he would say jokingly with a grin, ‘You wouldn’t hit an old man, would you?’

Bill had a sideline making up and painting pushbikes and he made and painted them with the same flourish as when he boxed. He called them the ‘Iron Duke’ after his surname of Wellington, and he also nicknamed his eldest son, Arthur, ‘Dukey’ Wellington.

If it wasn’t for the effort Bill put into his bikes, many of us kids would have missed out on owning one – half the price and twice as good as a shop-bought bike.

Norm Wilson was always catching someone with his jokes. Every outsider who came to the Workshops would walk away with either a cotton-waste tail swinging from his rear or the heel of his shoe painted white, sometimes both. It looked pretty funny – the tail swishing from side to side and the white heels highlighting the steps he made.

One day Norm caught me a beauty. What happened was that the hockey girls would get some lime from the Workshops to mark out the hockey ground, and I volunteered to take a sugar bag full behind the hotel where the cricket-hockey ground was. I was walking with bag over shoulders, talking and trying to impress my then girlfriend, now wife, as you do, and the bag became heavier and heavier, but not wanting to appear a wimp, I silently struggled on to the oval. On arrival I went to tip some lime in a bucket for the girls to mark out their boundaries, and that’s when I found a great heavy cast iron pulley in the middle. I was the butt of many a joke at the Workshops for some time.

Harvey Trots were popular on a Wednesday night. Norm would always hide in the boot of a car or lay down on the floor to get in for nothing. (‘Give me my first bet for free’, he said.)

Sam Moss, the Workshops boss, would have a habit of dropping his false dentures on his tongue and poking them out of his mouth. You could see his teeth coming before you saw him.

He would refer to anyone as Joe, e.g. ‘How you going, Joe?’ He nailed apprentices smoking by saying, ‘Put that smoke out, Joe, I told you before.’

Maxie White came from South Australia to Yarloop and we believe he came from a very well-off family but we were never sure. ‘Twitters’ as he was known, was a very keen sportsman in his day and loved sport of all types. Maxie used to write for the sports section of the Harvey Murray Times and recorded all the Yarloop sports news – a gifted scribe.

He gave trophies to each code each year and it was an honour to win the Maxie White trophy for football, cricket, hockey (both men’s and women’s), women’s basketball, darts, tennis and special events. What a great asset to a small town.

He loved a little wager and would go to the SP Betting Shop and say in a loud voice 15E/W (each way) or the name of a horse. Anyone not knowing him would think he was a big punter as money was not big in those days, but his bet was 15 pence EW – the lowest bet you could have.

Stow Marshall was by far the best axeman. They say that when he finished chopping a log it looked like someone had planed it. Others were Arthur Anders, Tom Johnson, Fred Potts, Tazzie Clayton, Jim and Bill Thomas.

Stow was also very fashion conscious, and once out of his bib and brace overalls he would wear one of his numerous double-breasted suits. He was also a lover of hats and would supply us with his cast offs – I think I scored two over the years which I treasured.

He was the President and Starter of the Axeman’s League and officiated at the Royal Show for years.

Les Bevan was the odd job man in general and gardener at The Cottage. He was also the local barber who liked to tell jokes as he cut your hair, only trouble was that he would laugh at his own jokes as he was cutting and would leave a few gaps. He used to charge 2/- for the jokes, nothing for the hair!


The Labour Day Sports combined Log Chops and School Sports. There were 100 and 200 yard races, high jumps, long jumps, sack races and egg-and-spoon races. They were held at Recreation Ground behind the Catholic Church and near the old tennis courts and were well organised. There was also a tea and cake and cool drink stall and a bar. Many a merry man drank himself into a stupor before the afternoon finished, but it was all good fun. There was a keg of ginger beer for the kids.

Movies or the Flicks were on Wednesday night run by the Campbells, then Glen Jones. Many a time electricity would cut in and out, or there would be a problem with the projector (hence the name the Flicks) and you would get a free ticket for next week’s show.


Sport was a big part of life in Yarloop. At one stage Yarloop had two women’s hockey teams, the Robins and the Wrens, and like most Derbies, they usually were fierce affairs. Yarloop also had one ladies’ netball team (called basketball at the time), two men’s football teams – 1st and 2nd Divisions, one men’s cricket side, a pennant side at lawn bowls, tennis, badminton, and numerous axemen.

Yarloop Basketball Club 1955. L-R back – Beryl Eastcott, Jill Osborne, Gay Stewart, Jeanette Rutherford, Kay Scott. Front – June Kennewell, Lesley & Laurel Cattach, Rita Southgate. Photo: Harvey History Online Collection.


The Church of England House was rented at various times to Mrs Grutt and family, Mr and Mrs Peters, and Mr Greenough.

Tragedies – Bob Guest (Jnr) died of polio in 1956, aged 28. Dowker Hardy, also died of polio in 1948, aged 20, and Elaine Jones, nee Hicks, was electrocuted.


My lovely Gay asked me what I wanted to do for my eightieth birthday and I said I’d like to go back to Yarloop. Unbeknown to me, Gay organised friends and relatives to join us for a meal at the Hotel. What a lovely surprise, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. How lucky was I! Just a few months after that, Yarloop was no more. A bushfire swept through the township, raising it to the ground. No more shops, houses, hospital, Workshops, Top Yard, hotel, post office, hall. Nothing. How sad.

Since the fire and clean up we have been back and sat under the surviving Morton Bay fig tree and had a picnic. It brought back memories of a wonderful lifestyle of growing up amongst lovely people, of the beginning of our sporting life, our friendships, our courting days, our parents, the swimming hole, tennis courts, football and hockey grounds, our school and churches, shops, hotel, hospital, post office, Top Yard and the Hall.

Like the phoenix, Yarloop is rising from the ashes. Our war memorial has been beautifully restored, the hall façade has been incorporated into the impressive Yarloop Community Centre, and houses are being built.

Transcribed by Heather Wade, 2021.


[1] Throughout the text the company is referred to as Millars’ – abbreviated from Millars’ Timber and Trading Company.

[2] Marion Lofthouse & Kerry Davis (Eds), Shire of Harvey, Proud to be 100, 1895 – 1995 Centennial Book. Shire of Harvey, Harvey, Western Australia, 1995, p.8.

[3] Harvey Murray Times, 3 August 1951, p. 8. Mr. Ron Angove terminates his duties as manager of Millars’ store soon to take up a business of his own in Fremantle.

[4] South Western Advertiser, 2 August 1951, p. 5. Yarloop Whisperings. On Wednesday last Mr. C. Craig, superintendent, and Mr. R. C. Springthorpe, assistant superintendent of Millars’ T & T Coy, visited Bunbury to attend the funeral of the late Mr. Gilbert Kerr, one time manager of Millars’ Jarrahwood mill.

[5] For more details on Pestell’s career see – https://australianfootball.com/players/player/colin%2Bpestell/15776

[6] Harvey Murray Times, 11 February 1955, p. 3. FAREWELL EVENING FOR POPULAR COUPLE. On Thursday evening of last week a gathering of about 100 friends assembled in the Yarloop lesser hall to bid farewell to Mr. and Mrs. Ted Feltham who, having disposed of the licence of the Yarloop Hotel … He also took the opportunity of again thanking the people for their assistance in saving the furniture etc. during the fire. [So the Yarloop Hotel Fire was before 11 Feb 1955.]

[7] Harvey Murray Times, 11 February 1955, p. 3. Mr. and Mrs. E. Feltham departed from Yarloop on Sunday and after a holiday tour will take over the licence of the Trayning Hotel. The new licensee of the Yarloop Hotel, Mr. Colin Pestell, and his wife and family arrived in Yarloop to take over on Sunday. Also in Yarloop for a few days this week was Mr. “Bonnie” Sweetapple of the East Perth Hotel.