Sneaking Suspicions

Ten-year-old Valma knew what those soft footsteps were coming up the driveway most evenings. Valma was supposed to be asleep, but if you are sent to bed at such an early time then you inevitably stay awake longer. As decreed by the Greek God of Sleep, Hypnos. 

The whole of West Perth seemed to know about them too. Not just 66 Cleaver St. Later the rest of Perth had a sense that something was distracting Charles John Beasley, Valma’s Dad. Right up to the funeral procession when Kath hung off on her own, on the footpath at the beginning of Charles’ state funeral parade that snarled up Adelaide Terrace and along St George’s Terrace. Kath waved a final tearful white-hankied goodbye to her lover – can 67 year olds be lovers? Actually they were married in 1964. So technically they were lovers for the twenty years prior. But the remarriage by Valma’s Dad was not well accepted by his first family, because of the cheating. So they were always considered lovers. She was spoken of as far worse.

Early on, Valma never really knew what the others thought about the relationship. They were all grown up and had left home when it became an issue. As for Vaughan, who was a half-brother and proof that something definitely was going on, it was what it was. Whatever that was.

66 Cleaver St, West Perth

Don’t Call Me ‘Mousey’

Valma survived her high school years at MLC but often had an ugly duckling view of the world, not much helped by her nickname of ‘Mousey’. The name came about because being the ‘mistake’ she was the youngest and so the smallest and the afterthought. Always sniffing around afterwards, unwanted, but not too noticeable.

‘Mousey’

Valma was being increasingly ignored and with her Mum ailing long before her final passing, there was no mother in the house. Dad was too busy being a worker, and a philanderer.

“Your Dad and I need to go away this weekend, Valma. You’ll be Ok by yourself?” announced step-Mum-to-be Kath – regularly.

“OK, I’ll be fine.” Valma replied, terrified.

15 year old Valma was confused about right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable – there was a mother at home and yet here’s this other woman playing some sort of female role. Is that OK? She presumed the role was like a secretary – Dad was very busy, so a secretary was important.

Val and her Mum

Takeover Time

When Valma’s mum died in 1956, Kath formalised the arrangement and converted her secretarial duties into domestic duties. This also meant she could help out Charles with his Civic duties in front of the camera, instead of remaining in the back of the house.

Valma’s Dad was Lord Mayor of Perth and ceremonially had much to do. Kath was very pompy. I know that word means nothing, but she really was very pompy. Meetings with Lee Kuan Yew, Lord Casey and the Harlem Globetrotters all needed to be welcomed by the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress.

Lord Mayor of Perth

Lord Mayor Charles had played the long game gaining local government credibility, but he got there in the end. He started as a Councillor in 1929. He was elected Lord Mayor in 1964. The whole family door-knocked as part of his campaign.

A Tax evasion indiscretion probably slowed him down a bit, but he did have above and beyond expenses. Four dependent children and two kept wives can be expensive and a bit of tax evasion never harmed anyone. Better to keep the cash flowing at home, rather than flowing to the Government. Unfortunately the judge didn’t agree with this logic.

Tax Evasion, 1951

Valma did well to pass her qualifications at Nursing School and graduate with the support of new beau Colin Brown.

Marriage Escape

Like Colin, Valma was to ready evacuate the childhood home – those footsteps up the driveway, the whispers, and shuffles; the exclusion from all family activities – Valma was glad to rid of it all.

Happy times in Fremantle

“Don’t call me Valma – my name is Val.” Defiant. Time to move on.

Colin and Val were married in 1954. New name, new home, new life. 96 Garratt Rd, Bayswater.

Colin and Val Brown

Colin was rock solid with dreams of worthiness and purpose. He could see the damaged Val was not repairing from her upbringing. The in-laws were at least Church goers – that’s where Val and Colin met – but they moved in different circles and acted very un-Christian like.

In-Laws Become Outlaws

At some stage Colin felt that his side of the family was to have nothing to do with the in-laws. That’s not really what Val wanted.

“But my sisters – they are important to me. Colin, it’s not all in or all out. We just need ways to make sure that we’re not upset by them. And my sisters don’t upset me.”

“No, best to move them out of our lives. They are bad people.” Another decree. This time by Colin.

Vanishing Family

And so the families remained separate forever, it seemed. Even death hardly brought them back together, though they did all attend the father’s civic funeral. But after that, no more. No shared Christmases, weddings, holidays – not even a birthday card.

Val’s family was not worthy of any connection. Extended family connections were not worthy.