Interviewee: Mr Rodney Forster Johnston
Date of Birth: 10 August1912
Interviewer : Maggie Nolan
Date of Interview: 28 August1985
Synopsis: Elaine Gorddard
BOHG No: 1985-004
Total Length: 48 mins 53 secs
Born: 10th August 1912.
Wife : Amy (nee Bryant) born in Donnybrook
Married: 1st April 1939 in Saint Paul’s, Bunbury.
Children: Dennis (dec 1975.) and Vanessa.
Rodney’s parents – Herbert Forster Johnston and Mary Elizabeth (nee Young).
John White Young and Mary Anne Young (nee Nichol).
Grandfather: John Forster Johnston married Frances Eleanor (nee Clifton). 2nd marriage to Catherine Mary Hayward.
Great Grandfather: Harley Robert Johnston married Mary Clifton – daughter of Marshall Waller Clifton.
Parents: Father ran the Leshenault Homestead, also had a milk round. Also worked for Thomas Hayward and Sons Department store – when it was situated down the Northern end of town (Guppy Park) then worked at the Bunbury Butter Factory 1923 – 1947
Rodney was born in Bunbury, the only child of Herbert Forster Johnston and Mary Elizabeth and lived 18 Spencer Street near Sampson Road.
Father owned a Sunbeam 3 ½ horsepower motorbike with a sidecar which Rodney loved going for rides in.
Remembers Sunday evenings at Leschenault Homestead where up to 20 people gathered for an evening meal. No electricity, just oil lamps. Grandfather always read passages from the Bible after the meal. Sunday mornings were always Sunday School.
A keen sportsman, Surf Club, Rowing Club, Swimming Club. Frank Slee founded the Bunbury Rowing Club around 1923/24. Slee was a King’s cup oarsman in 1921.
The Bunbury Rowing Club dances were the highlight of the week. Mostly made their own fun of an evening and weekends.
His father encouraged him to take up accountancy. Studied for four years and graduated with a Federal Institute of Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Secretaries
As a youth Rodney and Fred Roberts bought a Model T Ford for £15. they hired it out, making a tidy profit. Selling it for £33.
A trip to Perth by car was a five hour trip on a mostly gravel road, along what is now South West Highway. Used to travel to Perth for the Surf carnivals
Met Amy through the Bunbury Surf Club. Both were members.
Their first home was just behind the now Admiral Hotel in Spencer Street. Then they moved to 18 Spencer street, where they looked after his parents. They then bought their home in Beach Road. Rodney’s mum lived with them till she died, aged 84.
Rodney went to the Second World War joining the CMF. Was stationed in Western Australia moving up and down the coast as part of the Special Mobile Force. He also was involved in New Guinea and New Britain and the Islands. That was not as easy.
After coming back from the war, Rodney joined Sunny West Diaries, and was appointed accountant to that firm, (1946 – 1955) when Sam Cowan did not return from the war.
He joined Les Clarke, of Steere and Clarke Real Estate in June 1955 and remained with that firm until he retired. Most Saturdays were always spent either selling or auctioning homes. There were many after hour meetings with clients. Family life was non existent of which he now regrets not having time with the children when they were young.
Remembers the days when he knew everyone in Bunbury, and what type of car, plus their number plate, but times have changed.
Bought his farm in 1961. Run down with no fencing etc. but over time has been built up and a house put on it. Sold 1000 acres to Alcoa and kept 200. 800 sheep grazing when owning the entire farm. Some of the happiest family times spent there in relaxation.
A member of the South West Club for 40 years (at time of interview). Started in 1905. G.W. Keith was the first president. Rodney joined in 1939. The war intervened and he rejoined after. Over the years the club members have changes. There are so many different walks of life, and not everyone knows each other, which he feels is a pity.
After retirement sickness struck and he struggled for some time. Had treatment with the Tronado machine in Perth to help reduce the tumour before being operated on. Had praise for the St John of God sisters, Sr Kelly and Sr. Romanus who helped nurse him back to health.
Was a Charter Member of Apex in Bunbury and was honoured by them with life membership. At the time of receiving this award he was the only the second person to receive this honour.
In 1975 was District Governor of Rotary and was awarded Rotary’s Paul Harris Fellow.