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Eric Silbert

Silbert, Eric, Dinkum Mishpochah, Artlook Books, Perth, 1981.

Extract attached to Hutchison's history of Fremantle Park:
APPENDIX 4
(An extract from Silbert, Eric 1981, Dinkum Mishpochah, Artlook Books, Perth, 68-70)

We, as you know, lived on the southern side with the hockey area on our northeast practically on our level and the larger flat field to our southwest stretching into the distance, all part of this lovely landscape. Fremantle Christian Brothers and the semidetached houses were on the flat and closer to the harbour, and on this point from or veranda we could catch a glimpse of the top of masts and funnels.
Our immediate neighbours on the right were the Tates and the Dunkleys, then over the Ord Street intersection was Fred Samson’s house, which overlooked the capstone hill [east of Ord Street]. In the distance immediately opposite our home were the Old Women’s Home [former Asylum, now Museum and Art Centre] and Signal Station [then on Cantonment Hill], On this north side there was no fence, just the extension onto a rocky sparse slope [before Ord Street was extended] with a winding narrow path to what later would become John Curtin High School. Unseen from here in the north-east corner was a very neglected old cemetery, rarely visited by our gang, as I think we were a bit scared. In those days, the west wall of the Old Women's Home still continued high and forbidding to Shuffrey Street, at least 200 feet from the main building. Then there was a short street that housed some policemen or warders, in small cottages and finally on the rise in the north-west comer was the caretaker’s cottage, a classic little English edifice. Situated in that corner were the only change-rooms for the whole area. This was a stark, dark grey, weatherboard building with one cold shower in each of two cubicles; there were no lights, two windows, one door and jarrah forms to sit on plus big nails all round the walls on which to hang one’s clothes or towels. The western side of the park had a picket fence to the enclosed facilities already mentioned, and years later this was replaced by mesh. In the comer was also the only entrance-way for a vehicle, on a gravel path to Parry Street.
The bike/walk path that dissected the grounds went from the Stirling Street comer, one house down from us, and commenced with short bituminised slope with a tap at the bottom, in fact the only upright one. Both of these items were important to my years of activities, particularly as a little kid, as the bottom of the surfaced gradient was virtually the district sandpatch. Alongside this was a gradual slope which in spring was always covered with dandelions [Cape Weed]; I was assured that if you played with these you would wet the bed. Shading this spot were two enormous Moreton Bay fig trees, the fruit of which we combined with matchsticks to make into little men. In the summer-time, the cricket I watched was at our end where the batting side sat under the gum tree on the slope. I rarely ever watched a game at the flat end. Likewise, I did not play with the kids right across the park, as it was too distant. In winter St Paul's Football Team changed in the aforementioned shed; C.B.C. Old Boys in the school's facilities. My Rugby Union colleagues and the lacrosse guys used rooms in the Park Hotel and then ran up for their training from Parry Street. Christian Brothers pupils utilised the entire area as a playing ground, and Fremantle Boys for sport only, but funnily enough the ‘twain never met’ and I was rarely conscious over all those years that Freo Boys used it.
My sex education was enlightened by visiting the park after dark, particularly the hockey fields, where Gordon Robin and I would be a couple of young voyeurs peeping from the top of the embankment to see what the couple of the moment was doing. Occasionally we were rewarded, occasionally we had to run for our lives when an amorous male became aware of our wide eyes. In hindsight these exploits did not in fact enrich my knowledge for it was years later that I really learnt the basic facts of life. However, they were exciting events at that age.
I mention in another part of this story that I joined the Airforce while still living here and it was immediately after this time that dummy Ack Ack guns were set up on the hockey grounds, such was Australia’s preparedness. From a baby to a serviceman the park is a wonderful memory with few involvements anything but enjoyable.

ericSilbert, Eric 1999, 'Jewish personalities of Fremantle', Fremantle Studies, 1: 77-91.

References and Links

ericPage for Barney Silbert, Eric's father, including info about 55 Ellen Street, the house that Barney built.

Bio in Fremantle Studies 1, 1999:

Eric Silbert AM, DFCMC (Poland), JP was born in Fremantle in 1922. He worked in his family’s business until he and his brother took it over after the second World War. The business was finally sold to Betts and Betts and Eric managed their Fremantle store.
ericDuring the war, he served in the RAAF in the Bomber Command RAF and the Elite Pathfinder Force. As well as helping his wife Joan raise their family of four, Eric has been an active member of his community including sporting clubs, local service associations, the Perth Council, the University of WA Senate and the Temple David Congregation.

keithericPage for Keith Silbert (Eric's brother: 1917-2015) including obituary.

Fremantle Park history page.


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