Interview with: Marianne Pemberthy (nee Johns)
Date of Interview: 8 November 2000
Interviewer: Dianne Warner
Marianne Penberthy is an established West Australian fibre and textile artist based in Geraldton, Western Australia. Her work gives organic expression to her natural surroundings: the landscape of desert, earth, sky, and the salty Indian Ocean. Marianne was born in Queensland, and moved to Western Australia in the early 1970s. She studied Art and Design at Durack College Geraldton and Edith Cowan University in Perth where she obtained a BA (Visual Arts) in 1995.
Image: Marianne Pemberthy.
Marianne Pemberthy oral history - part one [MP3 30MB]
Marianne Pemberthy oral history - part two [MP3 30MB]
Early Days in Caloundra
Dianne Warner: Marianne, What are your earliest memories of Caloundra?
Marianne Pemberthy: My earliest memories go back to when I was three, I’d say… My first memory is of the day we moved house from Burgess Street, which is now Landsborough Parade, down to Warne Terrace. That’s my earliest memory.
DW: How old would you have been then?
MP: I reckon I was probably three.
DW: What’s your date of birth, if you don’t mind me asking?
MP: My date of birth’s September 20, 1948.
DW: So, that would have been about the early 1950’s?
MP: Yes, yes. Mum and dad had rented a house in Burgess Street, or Landsborough Parade. I think that was actually going to be one of the main areas of Caloundra at that time. Then, Bulcock Street was obviously too far away, so they bought a house in Warne Terrace. Dad was already in business then, so the house was closer to the shop.
DW: So that was closer to the shoe shop?
MP: Yes, the shoe shop, and the grocery shop. I think dad started off his shop about 1947. But before that, my aunt, Hazel Donnelly who died, had a dress shop called “Suzanne’s”. And she had that set up in the late quarters. My mother had her first child, a stillborn baby, which must have been?
DW: Your mother was Kathleen Johns?
MP: My mother was Kathleen Johns, nee Donnelly. And she had a stillbirth in the late forties. Our shop started off when mum decided to sell all her baby clothes. I think they had what was called a layette, yes a layette for this baby. The baby didn’t survive, so she sold the layette and that’s how the fabric business actually began, through that. And whether she was with Hazel Donnelly at that point in her shop or not, I can’t remember, I don’t know. When dad returned from the war, he then started off, the dress shop, the fabric shop. Which I think was still in Hazel’s.
DW: So, the early days of your family, can you fill in a little bit about, your father was here, a local boy?
MP: No, dad was actually born in London. I think they emigrated when he was about thirteen. That’s from family history, not memory, so I don’t know if that’s exact. I don’t know where he had his schooling, but I think it was in Brisbane. Of course, I don’t know much about the Johns’ side of the family. I think he met mum, sort of, on the Gold Coast, since the Donnelly’s lived on the Gold Coast as well. I think mum’s mother was born and raised in Chatswood in NSW. Her mother, May Donnelly, married John Donnelly, who was the then Inspector of Police in Brisbane.
So he’s fairly high up in criminology. He was more or less ousted through political reasons. He was a very fine detective, apparently, and the story goes, he picked up a politician’s son for petty theft and the politician wanted him to drop the charges, he wouldn’t. He stuck by his morals. And so [the politician] decided he should be posted out to Longreach. So he said, ‘forget it,’ and that’s when they brought the Mellum Creek Hotel. So, I suppose that’s how they kind of functioned together, I guess.
So they had the Mellum Creek Hotel, I think the Mellum Creek Hotel; it was definitely the hotel in Landsborough. I think they had that for quite a while. Then grandad opened a café in Caloundra, he lived there at the time.
(insert picture P90465 The Mellum Club Hotel on Old Gympie Road, Landsborough)
DW: Do you know the name of that café?
MP: Yes. It was, Jack’s? No, couldn’t have been “Jack’s Snacks”. “Jack’s Café or something like that?
DW: They started that cafe during the war years?
MP: During the war, I think there were a lot of armoured vehicles, tanks and things. People were dressed in military uniform. American and Aussies. The military was here then. Sometimes their sweethearts used to meet them there. And in the pub as well, I don’t think that went down particularly well.
DW: Was that in Bulcock Street?
MP: Yes, it was in Bulcock Sreet as far as I know. And we think it was on the side facing the ocean. Up Bulcock Street, it was on the right-hand side Opposite about where Mensland is, uphill a bit.
MP: That was usually a better-off shop uphill.
DW: So, that period of time, when your parents first met, they married in Caloundra?
MP: No, they married, gosh; I think they married in Brisbane. In those days, I think, must have been during the war when they were married. I haven’t got the date. It’s probably on record somewhere. It wasn’t a church wedding, it was just a registry. What would you call it? A registry wedding, I think dad was probably posted by then.
DW: So your father, he went into the army?
MP: He was in the Air Force.
DW: The Air Force?
MP: I think mum was working in Signals, when they married. Don’t know much about that.
DW: Was that here in Caloundra?
MP: Again, I’m not sure, because they were here the signallers.
DW: In Signals?
MP: Could well have been Caloundra. I meant that she was really quite an administrator.
DW: Your mum?
DW: So, she would have been a sought after person…
MP: A popular person.
The Johns Sisters
DW: Those early years. Then, obviously, the family’s girls came along. Could you tell us a bit about that?
MP: Yes, okay, my sister Kerrie is the eldest, she was born in 1947, March, 1947, that was just after the war. I was born 1948, and then it went two years apart.
DW: Could you name your sisters?
MP: Gret was the third born, Wendy’s the fourth born, Kathy the fifth born. Kathy was at Mooloolah, Wendy lives on the Gold Coast, and Gret lives on the Brisbane bayside. I’m living in Western Australia, and Kerrie’s living in the Blue Mountains.
DW: And Kerrie was the person who actually worked with you on the project, that’s being held here at the art gallery?
MP: Kerrie’s was asked, she’s been painting for as long as I can remember. She’s always followed art as her profession and as what she wanted to do. She’s been an art teacher in various places. Yes, so, Kerrie and I sort of got together. I’ve been practicing art since, for fifteen years now. And we decided, about four weeks ago, it would be interesting to do something together.
DW: We’ll come into that part of the interview down the track a bit. Can you tell me, obviously with a large family, in those times, it was difficult to make a living? How did your parents start the shops? How did those shops go, in Caloundra in those early days?
MP: Well, as far as I can recall, like the really early days, I think probably, it was a struggle. It was a struggle early on, and then dad became more and more established. Ferris used to own the shop called?
DW: Ferris that was the name of the business owner?
Establishing the Family Business
MP: Ferris, yes. He founded a lot, of businesses. So, dad kicked off in a fairly small way. I think it was just men’s wear and ladies’ wear, and probably little children’s’ wear and I think that might have gone on for a few years, until he could afford to expand. He expanded into, I remember he had Manchester, as well, and then he expanded into a shoe shop. He started a shoe shop further down Bulcock Street, on the same side but down from what was then Grandmothers café. I’m not sure how long he held that building, but I’m sure it was at least twelve months.
So we sold our shoes from there. Then he must have decided it was better to condense all the things together, brought the shoes up to 47 Bulcock Street, and we had a little section of the shop that was shoes. We still had the men’s wear, which was really big, and the ladies’ wear which was expanding all the time. We had the Manchester side, which was sheets, towels, that kind of thing. We didn’t go into haberdashery or anything like that.
And eventually, the shoes. I don’t know how long we held the shoes, but I would say probably at least five to ten years. I don’t remember.
DW: So, that was a large part of your life and your mum, she worked in the shop as well?
MP: Well, I worked in the shop, as I got older. We didn’t when we were younger. But, mum used to work in the shop every second holiday, and probably weekends and quite often, we’d have someone looking after us at home when she worked.
MP: One of our nannies was a cousin, Jordan Donnelly, she’d come and look after us, and I think that was at holiday times. And a Hungarian woman, who’d just escaped Hungary, that was Mushi (sp?), she was related to Ernie Bertlam, and Joyce worked for us as well, in the shop, for years and years. She became almost part of the family, really. So, I think dad sort of supported Ernie and Mushi, when they got out of Hungary, because they escaped, and I think he would guarantee work for them. So she looked after us, and of course, there was a language barrier.
But she was great. I mean, they were just wonderful. They’d take us down through the Passage and things like that.
DW: In the early days.
MP: I would have been under ten.
DW: So, the late fifties?
MP: Yes. So, mum worked, she not only ran the family, she worked in the shop, and as we got older, we were all trained, in a way, to work in the shop. We started off in holiday times, and we were sort of expected to help, so, yeah, we all did that. Probably with the exception of Kathy, she was probably too young. Some of us liked it, some of us hated it. We all sort of had to do it. We worked Christmas Eve, and Christmas Holidays.
DW: Those times in Caloundra, really, they were busy times.
MP: Holiday times just expanded like. They were exciting, amazing. It was exciting, really. Tourists would come in, and we’d be really busy, and obviously, that’s when mum and dad would make more money. Holiday times, we mostly sold dresses, but, yes, I can remember sometimes, the excitement at Christmas Eve. We’d all work, we’d all decorate ourselves with tinsel in our hair, and we’d have fun. Really good, really exciting.
DW: Happy times in Caloundra.
Caloundra Christmas Carnivals
MP: Yes. The other thing I remember, just, like, before we were old enough to work in the shop, was the Christmases. Christmases were always fantastic.
DW: In the town?
MP: In the town. I can remember the carnival, in the main street.
DW: They’re the Ambulance Carnivals?
MP: About opposite where Tytherleighs used to be, I think it was on that side. But, yes, it was really exciting. They’d have a little railway track, the windmill you jump on top of. Lots of side-stalls, that was before they, I think they shifted it up to, what is it? A little bit down Bulcock Street, but in those times, it was really exciting.
DW: So, these people that would come to town, for their holidays, they would stay in flats and accommodation, but a lot people would have come with tents?
MP: Yes. You’d see canvas tents everywhere. I can remember canvas tents on Kings’ Beach, you’d sort of come off the beach, and you’d look up to what was a sea of tents. It’s that park being done up at the moment at Kings Beach. That was just a sea of white canvas. I guess it was a tradition for many Queensland families to come and do that. Camping at Moffat Beach and Tripcony Park too. Yes, just everyone camped. It was sort of a family atmosphere, people were relaxed, and it was just easy to be.
DW: I was told people would be able to walk away from their tent, and come back and everything would still be intact.
MP: You could certainly do that on the beach as well. You could leave anything on it, under your umbrella, and it’d be there when you got back.
DW: And, you enjoyed the lifestyle, of the swimming and beach. Your family, your mum and dad, on their time off, did you all go to the beach together?
MP: I found that, just going back in memory, it seemed that we went to the beach more with dad than mum. I guess mum looked forward to a quiet time when there were no kids around. But dad, he used to, in our younger years, take us to the beach. We didn’t have a car, but we’d always go to Kings Beach on a Sunday. He’d quite often ring a taxi, and take us to the beach in a taxi. And we’d always stop at the Sunshine Café for an ice cream. So, it was a tradition.
DW: So, it was a tradition? Who would the taxi driver had been? Do you remember?
MP: I think, probably Les Hayne?
DW: They probably would have had a lot of the old Holden cars.
MP: Oh, absolutely, yes but I think they were always black cars. Can’t remember colourful cars only black taxis. We used to, of an afternoon; we were allowed to, amazing when I think about this now. We were allowed to walk to the shop, and walk down to Bulcock Beach and go swimming. It was probably three of us used to go, and the three of us would go swimming after school. And since, like most kids after school, we’d meet all our friends down there.
DW: Tell me a little bit about that. We were talking of the day about the diving board, and what memories do you have of swimming in the Passage?
MP: Well, I remember Bulcock Beach, I suppose, always seemed to be fairly small, and it was always crowded with hire boats, and I can remember the sewer outlet coming onto the beach. It wasn’t the sewer, probably; it was just the storm water drain. I think there were Norfolk pines, but there were also banksias there. Picnic tables, they were always rough, sometimes eroded away underneath. We used to go along the beach, and there were two diving boards, a small one and a larger one, I think I only ever went off the small one. The larger one, all the boys would do bombs off it. So we didn’t really venture to that one, but we were quite happy with the little one.
DW: Who taught you to swim?
MP: Nobody taught us, we just did it. I can’t ever remember getting taught, but maybe people did. We were always at the beach, so maybe we were just able to deal with water. But I can’t remember ever having formal lessons.
DW: Tell me a little bit about your early days at school?
MP: I can’t really remember very much about school until about grade five. I don’t know why… I sort of have vague memories of the early years, but I can’t even tell you who the teachers were. I can remember the upper school. But just about the school… It was only small, but… Yes, Caloundra State School But I’m told there were about three hundred kids, at one time. Really, in the later fifties, I don’t know… Mr Howe was the only headmaster I knew. He just seemed to be there forever, and I can remember being taught by Clarry Deakinback. Tom Kerr, John Moffats, Mrs Clarke, I can’t really remember anyone else. But I remember having to drink the milk at lunch.
DW: Having to drink the milk?
MP: Yes, we used to have the milk, in little bottles, we’d have to drink it and I hated it. It was always hot, and revolting, but everyone had to have it. I can remember the pine plot, pine trees down the bottom of the school grounds. I think the boys used it for their kicking and fighting, things like that, and the girls would do those things that labelled them, in those days. And, so, I can remember that part.
And Mr Marsh, another teacher, I can remember playing beam board, on the beams underneath the high half at the school. This woman would throw balls all the time.
DW: School picnics?
MP: Yes, School picnics. Yes, vague memories of Sunday school picnics, and I can remember sports days at the sports grounds. That was always fun.
DW: How would you get there?
MP: On the bus, a big bus and all the kids would pile in. Probably several buses, and our area, around the state school were picked out. We’d train for it to a degree, not like they do these days. Running, Athletics, I can’t remember ever having any swimming carnivals, I don’t think they existed. It was just a big day out, the excitement of driving around. Of course, I suppose it took us over an hour to get there in those days.
DW: During those early days, too, you’d probably have gone out to the highway, up the Bruce Highway. Nicklin Way wouldn’t have been there at that stage.
MP: I can remember fife bands. They were used to march at the sports, march onto the arena, march every day, at school.
DW: You can remember pipe bands?
MP: Fife bands.
DW: Fife bands, yes.
MP: We’d always raise the flag, in the morning, on the parade grounds, with everyone in line. We’d have to turn towards the flag, and put our hand on heart and ‘God Save the Queen’ would be sung. And then the drums and fifes would start and we’d all march into school. That was our ritual.
DW: Was anyone in your family a member of the band?
MP: We all played the fife…
DW: Did you?
MP: As far as I can remember, I did, I’m sure Kerrie did, yes, I think everybody played, the standard songs.
DW: That’d help you practice, then.
MP: Shocking, I can’t remember if we had fifes at home, I think we just did it at school. We learned at school. I think I was probably about six.
DW: Who taught you that?
MP: I think Jimmie Roberts did.
DW: In those early days, that wasn’t too long after the end of [World War II]. What sort of things would children have done in that period at times like Anzac Day.
MP: Oh, Anzac day was a big thing. I have strong memories about Anzac Day. There were always huge marches, and again the fife bands would be used. I think we marched around where Queen Street is. The State School had a badge. We’d all line up, and be part of the parade, march right over to the place where the Strand used to be then to the Anzac Memorial. That was a fair way, but I just remember lines and lines of the keen soldiers marching too. It was a big thing in Caloundra.
DW: All Caloundra?
DW: They would have been the First World War veterans, as well, because they would have been younger then.
DW: Well, that period of time sounds like it was an exciting time in Caloundra. So, we’ll go on to with your family having this artistic influence. Was there anywhere in your primary school years when this was seen?
MP: I don’t think so, not for me. for Kerrie, maybe. Kerrie was always drawing, always drawing and writing. But we used to sit together and draw. Do you remember the old Simplicity fashion books? Like, patterns and such? I don’t know, somehow or other, we had those at home, and we used to sit and draw the ladies in those. Kerrie always had a flair for actual drawing. I suppose I did in a way, but I never followed it. Kerrie followed it immediately; she knew she wanted to work with art. It was writing, as well.
But that didn’t happen for me. I only sort of came into my creativity in my mid-thirties. When I discovered clay, I worked with clay a lot. I think I’m much more of a three-dimensional person, so I worked with clay for a few years, over in the west. I opened my own studio, and shows and whatnot. I ran a small craft gallery with a friend. For years, it was just clay, and a little bit of screen-printing, little bit of this and that, just gradually. When we left Kalbarri which is just north of Geraldton in Western Australia, our kids had to go to high school.
DW: So, in that time, you had a family?
MP: I had a family. Yes. I left Caloundra after my mother died, and we sold the business. I actually ran that business for, I can’t remember how long, five or six years.
DW: Maybe we’ll go into that period. So, going into that period of where you’re still in school. I know your parents died young; perhaps we might talk about them. What happened in your life? I know there were drastic changes.
MP: Okay, first of all, I went to boarding school after a scholarship. In those days, we had scholarships.
DW: How old would you have been?
MP: Well, I suppose it would have been around Grade 8…
DW: So you got a scholarship?
Boarding School in Brisbane
MP: They used to be called Bursary, in New South Wales. So, it was a Primary school public exam. I think, my year might have been the last that existed. So, I had to sit for scholarship. We, mum and dad obviously only had a choice of sending us to Nambour, to begin with or to boarding school. There was no high school here in those days.
DW: That would have been late fifties?
MP: I guess it was.
DW: You would have been about twelve?
MP: Yes, I would have been.
DW: Late fifties, going into early sixties?
MP: Yes, so, mum had two of us all ready to attend at Brisbane Girls’ Grammar, but there was a big waiting list. She couldn’t get me into there, but she got me into St Margaret’s in Brisbane. So I went off to boarding school. Which I didn’t like particularly. I spent two years at boarding school.
DW: You didn’t like the boarding school?
MP: No, I missed home and I was on my own, I had nobody I knew, because I was a late enrolment, I wasn’t with my year, I was with the seniors. It was just difficult. So, I spent two years at boarding school, and Kerrie spent about four and Gret went to boarding school too. Other things started to happen to the family. But, when I decided I didn’t want to go back to boarding school, mum said okay, we’ll be happy to go to Nambour.
So, I had to go on a bus to Nambour High School every day until Year 11. Then I got an offer of a public service job in Brisbane with the Department of Primary Industries. So, I was working in Brisbane from, say1961, I can’t remember, I’ve lost track of time. I was working there when my father died.
DW: Your family still had the shoe shop?
Marianne’s father wins the lottery
MP: We didn’t have the shoe shop at that point, I think. Sold it off to Baird’s, who had a shoe shop in Nambour. So, we sectioned our shop off, and dad sold the shoes off to Baird’s from Nambour. In the meantime, 1963 I think it was, dad won the Golden Casket, and that enabled him to pay his debt off, I think. And buy the actual premises off Ferris.
DW: In those days, it was the lottery?
MP: Oh, yes, it was a huge thing. I think the newsagent down the road sold him the ticket, so it was good for them too. I think there were free drinks at the pub, all that kind of thing.
DW: Do you know how much it was?
MP: I think it was £75,000. It was pre-decimal currency, so a large amount.
DW: So, that would have been a party in the town?
New Years Eve Parties at the Johns family home – Caloundra
MP: A party in town? Party at our place, we sort of had lots of music-type parties at our house.
DW: Did you? So, did any of your parents play musical instruments?
MP: Not really very well. They could sing, my dad used to recite, so there was a little of that kind of performance stuff.
DW: Artistry there, people would come to your house, to hear your father recite?
MP: Yes. Every New Year, we used to have a little party, and dad would usually end up reciting. I’ve also heard since that he used to recite for the Life Savers. They used to have concert nights.
DW: Yes, they did have concerts for Christmas and those holiday times.
MP: Dad used to do his cockney reciting, up at Metropolitan and several other places.
DW: And your mum would sing?
MP: No, I think my mum could sing, and she was a very good dancer. But sometime or other, these New Years’ parties would turn into music nights. Everyone would just sit around and sing, they’d sing the old songs. I remember Jimmy Roberts would play the ukulele and we had a bush bass. That’s all I can remember, there may have been other instruments.
But, they were really just a good time, and everyone would just sit and sing. And, this music thing, I think.
DW: The kids would play?
MP: Yes, we’d play; we’d dance all that kind of thing. It was just always an exciting time. Mum would provide all the treats; do a wonderful smorgasbord supper…
DW: Where’d she get the time?
MP: Oh, she’d prepare that stuff weeks before.
DW: And all of your friends from school, and their families…
MP: Well, a lot. I think they all came, I can’t remember all the people that used to come. There would have been forty or so, our chairs all out in a circle.
DW: Mostly kids?
MP: No… I remember one year, we had around a hundred partying. It was so wet, they moved into the shed, and still the party went on. In the morning, it was the edge of the cyclone.
DW: In ’54?
MP: Yep, it would have been. They came out; everything was kind of…God… well, they still had a good time.
The 1954 Cyclone
DW: Can you tell me a little bit about that cyclone? It was devastating for Caloundra apparently. It was a big one.
MP: Yes, it was a big one, I remember. Well, obviously, we had to go to bed. Windows leaking, I was thinking ‘God, this is exciting’. I used to find those kinds of things quite exciting, those natural elements. And then it got past the point of being exciting anymore, and it got scary. ‘Cause the windows were bowing, and there just didn’t seem to be any let-up. I guess, well, I would have been pretty young. But I do remember the next day, driving around seeing the damage.
DW: The devastation in Caloundra?
MP: There was a lot.
DW: And there was flooding.
MP: Yes the people down at the Passage parks had problems with their boats.
DW: Their boatshed was knocked around. Yes there’s quite a bit of documentation on that. And it actually set Caloundra back a bit, because the amount of money it cost to fix the town. They lost a lot, and their roadworks and all that. That must have been very close to when your dad died?
MP: That’s really interesting, because the night after our opening exhibition, a lot of people came back and asked. That sort of thing happened spontaneously, everyone started singing, and a friend of mine was retiring, he kept all these old songs going. And people were remembering things from that time. Yes, so that was just a really nice thing to happen.
DW: So, after that first period you had there as a young person and gone off to boarding school, and then you said not long after that, your father passed away, he’d won the lottery.
MP: Obviously, I think he must have been cutting his load. That Christmas had taken its toll on him by that stage, as a child, you’re not aware of that.
Marianne’s fathers death
DW: He had been a returned serviceperson. So, you weren’t very old yourself, and you’d lost your father. Did he die suddenly?
MP: Yes. Obviously, I was home for the weekend from Brisbane. We used to go to the pictures every Saturday night, that’s what we’d do. Go to the pictures so, myself and probably my younger sister, I’m not sure who else? We’d gone to the pictures, we’d just come out about eleven o’clock. We walked down Warne Terrace; we could see the ambulance outside our house. We thought, that’s a bit strange.
DW: You had no idea that your dad.
MP: No, nobody had any idea that he’d had a heart problem. And, we went on in. Mum sort of said ‘we’ve got some bad news and dad had died. This is from how I remember, anyway. He was in the bedroom when he had died, he’d had a heart attack, and mum had to call the ambulance. He’d had another one and just given in. So, it was a huge shock, It was just terrible.
MP: Yes. You go to the pictures, and come home and dad’s dead. It was very devastating. But, I think we were kind of in shock. I don’t know, it’s all a bit of a blur. We hopped off to bed, and they had to… According to Aunty Else, there was no undertaker here then, so they had to get his body out and do whatever they did with it. Wherever they took it, I don’t know. So, then it was a major…
MP: Yes. I was probably sixteen or seventeen, which means my youngest sister, would have been about eight. Wendy would have been about eleven, and Kerrie, Kerrie was teaching. I’m not sure where she was. She was teaching somewhere. She was home for that weekend as well, so then I think it was a huge shock for the whole town as well, ‘because dad was well-known’.
DP: So the town came to your family’s aid?
MP: Well, I think there was a huge amount of support. Dad was a member of the golf club, and sort of helped start that off and the bowls club with all those things around town.
DW: He was a golfer, was he?
MP: Yes, he was a golfer, but more a bowler. There was support, but I don’t really remember how. Yes, also there was a family. Among the extended family that kind of helped. His brother, Kevin Donnelly, was wonderful. But in those days, you got on with it; you just got on with your lives. Mum took over the business, and she had to do her own business.
DW: Your father’s buried in Caloundra?
MP: Yes, of course.
DW: Where was his funeral?
MP: Out at the Catholic Church. It’s sort of a blank around that time.
DW: So, there’s your mum, with the daughters and the youngest one about eight years old, she takes over the whole business.
MP: I returned from Brisbane, and got a job at Nambour High School temporarily, as a second secretary. Then, a job came up through Frank Diggs, who was the manager of the Commonwealth Bank in Caloundra.
DW: Who was that?
MP: D-I-double-G-S. And, somehow or other, I think mum might have helped me to get that job. So, I’d been working at the Commonwealth Bank for the next four years.
DW: Where was that bank? In Brisbane?
MP: Yes, in Brisbane…
DW: That’s where it is now?
MP: Yes, It’s completely different now. I think my sister went to Sydney… My older sister went to Sydney. And, we’d also; mum and dad bought a house down in Brisbane around the time. When dad was still alive, because our group of girls were still at high school, and they’d also wanted to go to teacher’s college. It looked like education was really just in our blood. So mum and dad bought a house, and we were all actually kind of living there during the week, and we’d come home to Caloundra for the weekends.
Dad was carrying on the business, so this may be where it took its toll on dad, not having his family around. Things were kind of going on. He used to take us back to Brisbane after work, drive the girls over to college. All that had to stop, so mum had to come back and live in Caloundra. We kept the house for a while, since the younger sisters were still going to teacher’s college, and I think some other girl from Caloundra sort of shared it.
So, yes, mum took on the business, and she did really well with it for the short time she had it. I remember she opened a little satellite business, up in Alexandra Headlands, just for one summer season, to see how that went.
DW: What sort of business?
MP: The same thing, it was mostly women’s wear. At that stage, they brought it back to men’s wear and ladies’ wear only, got rid of the shoes. And I think we got rid of children’s wear as well, so it was just those two things. So, she decided she’d try this, see how it went up at Alexandra Headlands. I think it was pretty slow; Alexandra Headlands hadn’t kicked off in those days.
DW: No, not too much up there?
MP: The house, the group of shops she rented, virtually opposite the surf club, and also, I think there was a woman that was making beach wear so she had a label. She developed a label through this other woman who was just sewing, I can’t remember the woman. I think she also had to employ a manager, after dad died, Ned Hunter. He was our manager, after dad died. He stayed with mum, maybe one year, maybe two, before he started his own business across the road which was a bit devastating for mum, because he ended up going into opposition. So he sort of learnt the ropes through us, then he started a business across the road… And then, mum found another manager, we had Joyce Bertalen working for us, she was fantastic/ She did a lot of the buying.
DW: Joyce Bertalen? How do you spell that?
MP: B-E-R-T-A-L-E-N… She was Joyce Grick before she married. She married Louie; he also escaped from Hungary that was that.
DW: Hungarian connection.
MP: So, Joyce worked for us for years, and she was a fantastic employee. She was a great help to mum. Also, George Sutherland used to work on the men’s side, and also Jimmy Roberts, the school teacher, used to work on weekends. I think they took care of the men’s side of the business, and mum still took care of the women’s side. So, she kept doing that, working in a slightly different way to what dad did. But she was really quite successful at it, so it seemed to be up and running very well. She did that until she got sick.
Marianne’s mother’s death
DW: What happened to your mother?
MP: Well, in those four years, I got married. I was married in August of 1969, and Ray and I planned to travel around Australia. We had left, late ’69, pre-Christmas, and we’d driven to Melbourne, where his folks came from. I got a job down there and he got a job, and we’d sort of settled in down there. I was starting to get letters from mum saying she hadn’t been well, that she had a lot of pain. Eventually, the letters got a bit more concerning. She had tests, and they didn’t know what it was, and I got a telegram saying ‘Gone to hospital, come home’.
DW: A great shock to you?
MP: Yes! Mum was one of those women, strong women that are indestructible-seemingly. And I actually rang up and said ‘Should I come home?’ and they said ‘Yes, get home straight away. We need you tomorrow.’ So, I had to drive back, and by that time she’d had her tests and they still didn’t know what it was. She had to go to hospital to find out what it was, and had an operation. She had liver cancer, so it was obviously well-advanced by that stage, they really couldn’t do anything. So she had her op, and she came out of hospital. So, I had to run the business, she sort of sat us down in the hospital. I mean, she wasn’t asking, because she saw a solicitor, and tied everything up as much as she could; she left instructions, all sorts of instructions for everybody.
DW: So she was an organised person.
MP: She was organised, I think she was just worried too. Well, again, she was still not sure. I was married, but Kathy was only thirteen, so she had such a young family. So, she sort of, I think she was really strong to be able to cope with not only her own illness but to try and figure out everything. You know, I’m not sure when she realised, but probably March, she just left the will.
DW: Where did she go to hospital?
MP: She went to hospital in Brisbane, used to travel down of a night-time to see her, every fortnight or something. And then she said ‘I want to come home…’ I think she knew she was dying. We brought her back to Caloundra hospital, in the ambulance, Kerrie travelled back with her, and I think she only lasted four days.
DW: Your mum and dad, they passed away within a date of each other… And they were both very young, your father at 57 and your mother at 56… So, there you were, parentless girls with a young sister. So, what was next?
MP: Well, we were grandparent-less as well. So then, it was all a bit of a blur, really. I guess how to help deal with Kathy, the youngest, was the real problem. The others were at college. How they got on with their lives, I really don’t know. I was running the shop; Kathy would decide what we would be able to do, and my cousin Claire. good to have her. She had two girls and a boy, so it meant that Kathy would be going in with a family. I guess we considered, I can’t remember who made these decisions, by the way. We’d had the extended family deal with what we’d considered. Kathy went to live with Claire…
DW: Where was that?
MP: That was in Brisbane. So, she had to deal with moving into another family that was run differently to her own. She’d had to go to a new school… In those days, and that area, it was wisdom that kept the youngest out of the funeral and the grieving process, so Kathy didn’t attend either funeral. So, I guess she mustn’t have had a lot to do in that regard. My second sister Gret also had a disability. She’d dealt with it all right, while it was all happening. She’d had a lot of operations, lots of problems with her legs and spine. She was also at teacher’s college and how she managed to do it, I don’t know. Kerrie was in Sydney, Kerrie was really good around funeral time, but she went back to her life. I stayed on in Caloundra.
DW: Your husband, he moved there?
MP: Yes, he stayed with me. We lived in the Warne Terrace home with Gret, I think. And then, we sold the shop.
DW: You were only a young woman, weren’t you?
MP: I was just twenty-one.
DW: And the town how would it have been?
MP: Look, I think there were always offers of help, but I didn’t remember how.
DW: You just had to get on with, eh?
MP: Yes I think mum was always a very private person. And she just always did get on with it. We just followed her line of meaning, and just got on with it. But, that doesn’t help for any degree, just getting on with it, didn’t, well solve things. I buried the emotions along with mum and dad, I’d say. Collected ourselves and got on with our life. That’s I why I left Caloundra after her death. Our shop’s sold; she’s never coming back.
The family business is sold
DW: So, the shop was sold not long after your mum died? You decided to get out of the business.
MP: Yes, Uncle Kevin, Kevin Donnelly, he was the executor of the estate, and he was in real estate. He was working for Henzell’s at that time. I guess he would have organised the advertising and the sale of it. I can’t remember who we sold it to, but it is documented somewhere. But eventually, Jack Barlow bought it, and it became Barlow’s menswear. They had it for a long time, as long as we did. So, as soon as that was sold, I guess I said ‘I’m out of here’. Ray and I left, and continued what we originally planned to do, and that was travel around Australia. So we would have left Caloundra about the end of ’70 or ’71.
DW: And you still kept in contact with your sisters, over the years.
MP: It seemed to get less and less for quite a while.
DW: Getting families together and going away?
MP: Yes, Kerrie went overseas, Wendy went overseas, and Wendy got married. I didn’t attend her wedding, but that actually seems unbelievable to me now. I didn’t attend Kathy’s wedding either. I was in Darwin for Wendy’s wedding, and I was in Kalbara with a new child when Kathy got married.
When I think about that now, that’s pretty terrible really. But, that’s the way it was, also. We’re only just finding out now, as we speak, what went on around us, how it’s created a real peace for that to take place.
DW: So, what made you come back to Caloundra? I remember meeting you a few years ago.
Returning to Caloundra
DW: So, what brought you back to the town this time?
MP: Well, we had returned in 1982, I think it was. Sort of left Kalbara, for about eight years at that point, and we decided that we’d just. We had businesses that we’d sold over there, so we decided we’d drive over. I don’t know what I mean. We ended up buying a place in Maroochydore, and we stayed.
DW: A home?
MP: A home on Bradman Avenue, and we stayed there for maybe eighteen months. And then, we hadn’t sold our house in Kalara so we had to go back to the west for financial reasons. In that time, I think I hardly visited Caloundra. There just didn’t seem to be any point. There was no-one here. I don’t know, there just didn’t seem to be any point.
We never really came to Caloundra. We’d spend our time up in Maroochydore and around Noosa. So then we left, back to Kalbarri, and my kids went to school. I’d been in the process of developing my art career, in that time and part of that was leaving the family when they were in high school or going to university, staying on their own, all sorts of things like that. And then, I got my Bachelor of Art degree at University. I came to Sydney for a conference, a textile conference, in Easter about four years ago, and stayed with Kerrie in the Blue Mountains for Easter.
And we just casually said to each other, ‘we should do something together. So, Homegrounds was actually born out of that. Although, at that point, we didn’t know where we would be doing it. We certainly hadn’t thought that it would be Caloundra.
DW: So, when you decided you’d do something together, and you called it Homegrounds, there wasn’t a connection with Caloundra at that stage? Just a connection with your family?
Developing the ‘Homelands’ Exhibition
MP: When we decided we’d do something together, we hadn’t even thought about Caloundra, or coming back to Caloundra. It was just an idea of doing an art exhibition together. It could have ended up in Sydney; it could have ended up in Geraldton. Anywhere we could get gallery space. We hadn’t even considered Caloundra. And, then that’s where it stopped. We didn’t take it any further.
Then Kerrie and I, somehow or other, started to have conversations over the phone. I said ‘are you going to do anything?’ and she said ‘well, where we going to do it?’ I said, ‘Well, Queensland would be good.’ She said, ‘Okay, I’d really like to go to the Glass House Mountains.’ ‘Cause, she works in the mountains, and paints around there quite a lot. So, ‘yeah, that’d be all right.’ So, we played around with the idea of working in the Glass House Mountains. We’d looked into renting a house out there, and going responding to the mountain range.
Then, I went to England for a trip, and I got this E-mail. A-hah. The penny’s dropped. How ridiculous: Why are we going to the Glass House Mountains? We have to go to Caloundra, or somewhere on the Sunshine Coast. So, it’d been sitting internally for a while, but that means we’d have to do the past. We did go to Caloundra. I think I knew all along, that really, this is where it would be. I think I did have the opinion that this couldn’t be anywhere else.
So, I started at the borderline, I went up to Noosa Gallery, and they said ‘no, we’re not interested’. By that stage, I’d come to the idea on my own of Caloundra. We went to Noosa, they weren’t interested, but he said that… ‘Caloundra’s got a new art gallery happening in 1999 or 2000. Why don’t you write to Sandra Clark with the details?’ So, I wrote to Sandy, and got an immediate response, which kind of blew me away, because it’s not that easy to get into galleries, especially original ones.
I’d sent out CVs and slides of previous work, and Sandra felt that it sat really well with what was set up in the gallery. So, she invited us for an interview, and that’s when Kerrie and I decided that. We’d both arrived here in October last year, and talked with Sandy. Sandy was really excited, I think that’s probably what kept us going originally, and cemented the idea that yes; this exhibition did have to be in Caloundra. It was about coming home, about reconnecting with memory and a sense of loss, personal loss and loss of place, of childhood place. Everything that had changed so much… So, it did mean that we’d reconnect with the emotions around that loss. We had periods of time which we’d spent together.
DW: So, did this draw you closer?
MP: We hadn’t had this closeness in thirty-five years. Physically, we hadn’t been together more than five times. So, it meant, we both reached the stage in our internal, personal life that we could begin to speak about things and deal with things. I’d already opened the box, so to speak, several years before, and Kerrie probably had to. So, there had to have been some internal healing of the pain.
So, we were actually able to kind of talk with each other on a really strong level, where we didn’t have to be defensive about our feelings, we didn’t have to cover up. So it was safe to do that. Mind you, Kerrie really didn’t know a lot about the way I worked in that, and I knew about her painting, but I wasn’t really up to date with her methods. So, we hadn’t had a lot of contact with her. So we worked separately, and the meetings and the rest of it. So really, I suppose it is [in the manner of] professional artists in the way we took a risk, because.
DW: Whether you would get on for a start?
MP: Yeah, and whether it was going to work or not. Because of our art, we stuck together. Whether we could live together for the times that we did it, and stay working together. I suppose we could have got another home. But, we did it. And it worked very well. We found we had very similar ways of thinking, similar philosophies about life, about art and the process of art. So we could connect at a level other than being sisters, like as being an artist, and being friends.
DW: That sounds really good. So, you came back to the town, and where did you go, in the town?
MP: Well, first of all, we realised we couldn’t stay with other relatives and do this process. We had to be alone and we had to be together. We stayed with our cousin Claire for probably a week, until we could find a place to stay.
DW: Claire lives in Caloundra?
DW: But, was this the cousin that took your sister in? And she came to Caloundra, did she? What’s her name?
MP: Claire Smith. She was Amarr, and her mother was a wonderful woman. And they were living here in that period. We stayed there, until we found somewhere for us to rent. For three weeks, I think we wanted to do our initial work and we found a place in Leeding Terrace, which is an older fifties’ style that kind of had reminiscences of our childhood home. It was central; we didn’t have a vehicle, so we could walk. We could go to the Gallery, all that.
So, we stayed there for three weeks initially, talked about the possibilities of the show, and walked all the old routes. Reactivated the memory and all that went with it. We’ve got tapes of our relatives, telling us about things in the past, the council, we went to the library and researched in the archives and that opened up a lot of the history we didn’t know about.
DW: And in there was the visual history, the photographs which helped you.
MP: Well, it was just amazing for us to see all that… When I think back to that October, we’re going through all those files, it was just like digging. Like something, all this information that was there, I mean, we even found references to our parents, particularly my father, we found a photograph of him there. It was just blew us out. We started to learn about the formation, the history of us.
DW: Your emotions just must have been racing?
MP: Oh, yeah. There were times when, you know, the work was very emotional. So, I think that we realised there were all these layers attached to Caloundra, all these layers of history, layers of memory, and layers of landscape. That we hadn’t even thought about. When we came in, there were our memory layers, but there was this stuff on top that we saw that we didn’t like, like the new high-rise. And that meant that the land had changed. Just dealing with that loss of that was attached to our loss of our parents, our family, and our sisters. A loss of a base, too there was no anchor. So, I guess all that just brought that loss all to the surface. So, then how do you get a body of work out of that? How do you put it into visual language into textiles, the way I work?
So, we sort of did all that talking and walking and discussing, feeling and emotion. For about two weeks. We both returned to our homes. I returned to my job, and Kerrie returned to her home and in January, we just started to find a way to put into art, in visual language. I had found a box of letters, probably about the same time we first had our discussions, and I found these letters from mum. It took me through from about early boarding school, letters she wrote to me at boarding school, the letters she wrote when she was getting ill. I guess they spanned probably eight years, maybe ten. Plus there were a couple of postcards, and cards from my father. And I’d thrown these in a box, in this upheaval when mum died, and we’d travelled around Australia. I remember we’ve been to the most remote places. I don’t know how this box of letters had survived, bit it has, and it has letters from all my sisters and all sorts of things. And I pulled them out one day, and I realised that they were much more precious than I would know. You know, I’ve covered this box in sheets and cockroaches were starting to get to them.
So, I had these and the family had somehow started these women’s weekends. Where all the blood women of the family would meet once a year at someone’s place. And I’d never been able to come before, and I don’t think Kerrie had either. So they were having another one of these women’s weekends, just before we sort of saw Sandy.
The Johns sisters reunite
DW: Where was this?
MP: This was, we had the first women’s weekend out at Gret’s place which is out in the Brisbane Valley. So, all of a sudden, there were these sixteen women, covering three generations, cousins and sisters.
DW: Probably the first time in years, all your sisters were together?
MP: First time in years that we were all together. One of Gret’s daughters had been born six years before. So, this was really pretty hard in a way, because we don’t know each other any more, we all had our separate lives, our families. Anyway, we had this women’s weekend, and I brought these letters along. Not realising that I’d probably be using them in the artwork. Anyway, we read them out, and underneath the writing, we could start to get a sense of mum again. So when I got back to my studio in Geraldton, I just automatically pulled out these letters and started writing them as they were, transcribing them with the sewing machine onto the fabric, and playing around with that as an idea of a way I could go.
Then, one day, a shoebox fell out of my cupboard in my bedroom, and I went ‘Oh! The shoe shop!’ And the letters coming out of a box. So this could be a good way to go. I started playing around with making shoeboxes and writing on them, and finally I got onto tracing paper, because it worked really well, it held its form and I could write on it and I could dye it and all other things on the surface. And that’s how my body of work began to develop from those shoeboxes. The tracing paper was interesting, isn’t it? I could trace from one to another.
DW: Like you were saying, as a child, you and your sister had the books, and you’d copy all the figures. So it’s going back then.
‘Homegrounds’ collaboration with Caloundra Art Gallery
MP: Yes, it was just the right material. I knew I would probably need a lot of these boxes, so I began to make them, not worrying about how the final installation would be. Kerrie and I planned another trip together in March. Actually, I wasn’t coming, because I couldn’t really afford to fly over. We’d been trying to get funding for this project and couldn’t get it. Sandy came with a flight free, and she gave me mine earlier, which meant that I could come. So, Kerrie and I got together. I brought my samples up, and she brought some paintings, and we looked at what we had and there were already similarities in colour. And the writing started to pick up in her work. She found a good tool to put her paint together and I had mine.
We had more talks with Sandy, and saw the possibilities of the work I was doing. Kerrie realised how she could go with her paintings and what size she needed. So that gave us a better idea of how to go. I went home and made more shoeboxes. That meant going further into the emotional content, writing stuff out of my consciousness. Specific boxes for specific people and things. I returned again in July, with Kerrie, and we looked at what’ we’d got. I’d made about forty-two boxes at that stage, but hadn’t really figured out how they were going to go. By the end of that meeting, we’d decided it had to be fifty-seven, which incorporated dad’s age when he died and mom was fifty-six… We needed fifty-seven, so I made the extra boxes that I needed then started to play around with ideas of how they'd go together. So, that’s how that installation developed.
Then, I also looked at the moat, where they’ve got glass now, I was here in March and it didn’t have glass then, just free-flowing water. I wanted to float organza sheets the size of a letter on the surface. For some memory, when you’re talking about memory, it does seem to float in and out. It’s very ethereal, sometimes you can see it, and sometimes you can’t. So it occurred to me to float words on water. So, I began writing these organza letters. I started with summary excerpts from the original letters, but then they became more sub-conscious, just flow of conscious, subconscious words sometimes. One word would lead to another. That’s just the way I worked on it.
So, that’s how that actually began to develop. But when I came back, the moat had glass on it, and I couldn’t float them. But seeing that gave me an idea. Even the type of glass that gave me one.
DW: So, you and your sister then came into town to set Homegrounds up?
MP: I knew back in October of last year, that there wasn’t any great power in me sitting in Geraldton, developing this body of work for a place across the country. And I knew, straight away, that I had to be here, physically in this place. We were lucky enough to get Leeding Terrace property to rent. I’ve been up here since July, which means that I could actually see the landscape, reconnect with things like the landscape. That’s how a lot of the other work, like the Banksia leaf, came about. I developed things related to the landscape.
DW: So, in this period of time when you’ve come back into the town and your sister’s working with you. Well, you’re visiting each other, what happened with your other sisters?
MP: Well, when we were on the Gold Coast, we started to have a lot more communication. They weren’t really privy to what we were taking on. I was somewhere or other, in my art community anyway. You need to contain the energy of your work, and also, when you’re working at places, you don’t know where it’s going. So, to bring outside people in, I found difficult. So I kept my work away from everybody. But, we did have a lot of verbal contact; we met a couple of times, half of us stayed together in the house, one weekend. That was really interesting, still always reactivates personal stuff. So, by the time, I mean, I remember Kathy living at Mooloolah, so she was the one I saw the most of; she was really helpful, with lots of stuff. So we had quite a bit of contact with Kathy, but really, none of them saw the work until the exhibition opened. But we had started to loosen the relationships with each other.
DW: So, with the exhibition, that drew your family back?
MP: Oh, definitely. It’s had a huge ripple effect. Because the work, in both cases, Kerrie’s and mine, had such a loaded content, not only for the family but universally, so I believe. For a family who knows the history, can connect with it. In a way, there’s a subtle language going on, there’s things in there that they’ll connect with that the general public won’t. So that is powerful, relationships can resurface through that, and I think it probably has. I think probably what the exhibition has done, has pushed my three younger sisters to look at their own pain, their own memories and their sense of loss. Their place in our family, our sisterhood.
All the things you miss when you’re motherless, like going through the birth of your own children without your mother is difficult. You don’t know it, because you just do it, but really, that support hasn’t been there. And when you’re fatherless, we didn’t have one then. Because we were all over the country, that didn’t really happen. So, I suppose, there was a delicate point of time when the exhibition goes up, and I reconnected to that sisterhood, that relationship. I think one of the most powerful things to come out of the exhibition is that reconnection, thus far.
And, the extended family, probably, is important for us. I think it’s… There’s probably a time in most people’s lives, when you deal with the issues that surround you. Midlife is probably one of those times.
DW: Many came back to the town when the exhibition was on. How was that feeling when people had this strong memory of your father in that shop, and your mother? And people talking, like the ex-mayor. How did that affect you and your family?
MP: I think it had a huge effect. We were standing in this place, so far across the country, and I wasn’t sure I could revisit my family internally for years. But to be standing there with my sisters and extended family and the ex-mayor speaking about my father was, I think, probably one of the biggest moments of my life, really. Because I knew, that this was a healing time for us. It was about healing, and it was real, too. Coming up with memories that maybe you’d forgotten or did know, like his interpretation of events. And just to have that. To be standing there, thirty-five or forty years later, and my mother and father’s names, that memory of them being spoken about in a public forum. It was amazing.
I think, probably, more so in hindsight, in retrospect, thinking about that, it was really just a good thing. To have Kerrie back, my immediate family, extended family and friends, other people. I think your talk on the local history meeting that followed, gave the exhibition more of a community sense of ownership. Because, even though a lot of it is personal for me, there are people in the town who remember that time, and can reconnect with their own sense of loss, of living in the place. So, I think the opening really was just an amazing night.
DW: It seemed to be that. Well, I’m not a Caloundra person, but the sense of place in this community, and the friendship from those times. It still gives an incredibly, even though it’s a city now, it’s an incredibly friendly place.
MP: Yes, very friendly.
DW: It is a friendly place. It’s probably a strength Caloundra should take on board. All you girls staying here are still called the girls, the Johns girls? All the people that came up to you, that’s because of you family, they didn’t necessarily know you?
MP: Absolutely. We’ve had that many people. I got a call from a Marnie Kirby the other day, and I couldn’t remember who this man was, but my mate said that I was familiar with her daughter. I’ve rung her since, and Marnie used to clean and do ironing for me. And she ran into me, and I asked ‘Marnie, how did you find out about this?’ and she said, ‘I saw it on TV; I just had to make contact. You were really friendly with my daughter Sue.’ I remember that now. People like that will just come out and find us. We reconnected an aunt who’s not really a physical aunt, but she used to go to school with mum. She was a friend to mum.
There’s lots of people who’ve sort of come out, reconnected with us, so just maybe through that act of reconnecting, of drawing us back in, it also places them in that memory of time. Because they can’t go there, because that’s where it all happened, that memory place, somewhere in time. I think somehow our art isn’t really looking at it on the wall, so much as the community being human.
DW: Just part of our consciousness.
MP: Yes, that’s it.
DW: And now that the event is over, the other day, in that gathering of folks that happened after the opening, people began to speak of things that were lost. There’s so many areas that Caloundra has got, these memories that can be dealt with. And my position to, in history, I just find it fascinating. I think it’s a very interesting town.
MP: Certainly is. Look at those things Carnaby reconstructed within the landscape in a contemporary way, so they have meaning for the current people, but also have that reference to the past.
DW: Can you remember anything about the Wishing Tree?
MP: No, no. That was before my time. I just remember people talking about it, but I do remember the horses. My sisters went to school with probably, the governor’s grand-daughter. I remember going to Currimundi House, and how beautiful it was. How wondrous that place was too.
DW: That’s been relocated.
MP: Has it?
DW: Yes, and tell me a little about that, going to such a grand place in Caloundra.
MP: Oh, it was amazing. I can’t remember whether we went just because we were friends with their daughters, or whether we went for weddings or parties or whatever it was. But I can just remember bedroom upon bedroom and verandas and all sort of interesting things. Whereas, somehow or other, my parents had raised five girls in a two-bedroom house. Most people did [laughs] No, it was just awesome, this huge big place, right on the beach and you could run down into the sand. And at night-time, you could still go on the beach, it was just wonderful.
DW: The sense of freedom. So, now that the exhibition’s over, what’re your plans? Do you plan that you’d like to come back to Caloundra more, or where do you think you’d go from here?
MP: Well, I could ever see to the 20th of October, opening night. To me, my mind didn’t even engage what might happen afterwards. But, my husband drove across the desert to come here. So now we’re here, with the vehicle, my two sons have come here too. One’s returned too, one’s still here. We’re still unsure what we’ll do, whether we’ll drive back there, or stay on. We still own property in Geraldton. What I do know is, we will return, and it’ll be easier to return, because of the exhibition and the family reconnection. Yeah, I can see myself coming for a few months each year, or every two years or doing other projects, follow-up things in the gallery.
DW: Lots of areas that you think you can work on projects.
MP: Oh, so much here. I’ve been up the range, up to Noosa, and I’ve seen little bits of public art, everywhere. These sculptural trails up every street, Telecom lids that have got etchings of fish. I mean, there’s just so much that could be done to integrate art into the landscape.
DW: So, in a sense, it’s like a new beginning. Even though Caloundra’s a city now, with high-rises, you can see there’s scope, and you’ll be getting into new, different ways of looking at art in our city.
MP: I think so. The Wishing Tree Project for one is something that could be real exciting. There are other things about art. The King’s Beach project for one, which I’d like to look at. But I can see myself developing other bodies of work.
DW: You’d have wonderful memories of King’s Beach, the early days and those black taxi-cabs, with your dad.
MP: Oh yeah [laughs] Wonderful memories, and sand-hills and walking around the lagoon.
DW: We’ve got pictures of the lagoon. Pity that was drained and the Boronia, beautiful wildflowers. We’ve just lost our Kathleen Macarthur. There are still a lot of wonderful things that could be.
MP: So much could be done with that, too. The whole idea of Kathleen Macarthur and flowers. It could all come in different art projects, throughout the town with a grant, there’s so much we could do. And somehow, art is a way of preserving that.
DW: It’s very fortunate, Kathleen Macarthur, because they would have come up and have prints. One regret is that we’ll have to remember the position that I’m in, Kathleen Macarthur was not well enough to interview.
MP: Do you know her sister, Stephanie?
DW: Yes, yes. I think that we’ve covered a lot today. Is there anything that you remember [MP thinks] The shapes of the shoes in the exhibition? Was there any reason? Were there favourite shoes that your parents had you wear, or did you just remember. Were you like every other child, who had one good pair?
MP: Actually, that is true only one good pair, and sandals, and bare feet. Probably because we had a shoe shop, we had to wear shoes. No, that particular shape is a current shoe that I wear. But it’s a funny kind of shape, really, because it’s neither sex except for the heel. It does talk about anonymity, but it’s more or less universal, gives it kind of a boot, and it covers the whole foot, not just part of the sole. I guess it is just about that solid connection to the ground which is through our feet.
I just find it interesting that the bottom of a shoe is called a sole, and it’s connected through that to the land. And the other word, soul that has a different meaning. Maybe, we’re only here on earth for a short time, so it’s kind of interesting, all this about feet and sole and shoe and surfaces and earth. I’d probably like to follow up ideas from that in the future.
DW: Well, thanks Marianne, for a great interview. We’ve covered Caloundra; we’ve covered a lot of things in your life that I find very interesting. I bet it’s a great process for you to come back into our town, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to put this on tape. Local Studies now have your interpretation of your time here in beautiful Caloundra.
MP: It’s amazing that I’m sitting here with you, all this time down the track, after digging through the files in your office, it’s amazing.
DW: Well, that’s my job. Thank you.
MP: That’s great…
End of interview