Herbert & Emily Pearce

Grandma & Grandpa Pearce taken at Pine Gate, Mt. Eliza
                                            Paulette’s Maternal Grandparents

Herbert (Bert) Benjamin Pearce, was born at Eaglehawk, Victoria, in 1887 to parents Francis James (Jim) Pearce and Mary Matilda Todd.

Bert had an older sister, Amelia who was also born at Eaglehawk in 1885. He had 4 younger siblings, Flora Jane, Ethel Matilda, William James and Annie, who were born in 1889, 1891, 1893 and 1895 respectively.

In 1914 Bert married Emily Frances Elizabeth Wright. Emily was born at Echuca in 1895 to parents Charles Henry Wright (1864-1932) and Selina Mills (1866-1928). Bert and Emily had 5 children. Their first child, Edna, was born in 1915 at Prahan, but died two days later. They then had a son, Leonard (Len) who was born on the 13th May 1916. Paulette's mother, Olga Mary, was born on the 20th June 1918. Their next child, Frederick (Fred), was born the 12th July 1919. Their last child, another son, was named Francis (Frank). He was born in 1927.

Bert's early occupation was farming and he owned a property next door to his father's farm at Kinglake. Bert and Emily are pictured here with Olga and young Fred. The photo was most probably taken at Kinglake.

Their grandson, Tony Dunlop, shares his memories of those early days:
"My first knowledge of Grandpa Pearce was when he was a council worker for the Northcote City Council. He had been a farmer at Kinglake when Mum was born but when the Great Depression came he couldn't make a living from it and they just walked off the place. I loved the old house down in Raleigh St. It had really shiny lino on the floor, even in the lounge. In there, Uncle Frank would bash away at the piano ("Comin' in on a Wing and a Prayer" was a favorite), Uncle Fred would occasionally join us on the accordion and Uncle Len always seemed to be out at work. I obviously slept over many times and I can remember lying in bed with Uncle Frank on a Saturday night listening to the wrestling broadcast under the blankets on his "crystal set."

"When Dad and Mum went out to the pictures or somewhere when they were courting, mostly it was by public transport. I can still remember the old cable trams running along High Street, Thornbury - where the modern trams still run - and they'd get off the tram and walk down Raleigh Street together, then Dad would have to walk all the way back to High Street, cross that, then the railway line at Hotham Street and almost down to St. George's Road before he got home".

Then there was "Toodles" the dog. Always lying on the back verandah or running around the back paddocks with his tongue lolling out - mainly I guess chasing Lorraine and me as the rest of you kids were probably too young then. There was this big, ramshackle old shed down in the back corner where Grandpa and Len turned out wooden toys. They sold quite a bit of stuff, I believe.

Len had this big red Ford panel van - early 40s model I suppose. During the war you couldn't get (enough) petrol so he had this huge "gas producer" mounted on the front driver's side mudguard. I think they burnt coke or something to produce a gas that they piped into the engine and it worked something similar to LP today, but much more primitive.

Nearly all around that area were open paddocks. There was an old house across the road with old peppercorn trees hanging over the fence and that was the only house on that side but Grandma's side was all built on. Then out through their back gate it was all paddocks again. We often walked all the way from our house in Preston and it was mainly across paddocks although there was "ribbon development" (I suppose you'd call it) along what are the major streets today. Dad often took me down there to the creek (was it the Merri or Darebin?) to sail a lovely big model yacht I'd been given for Christmas one year.

Like at Alston St later, which you'd remember, the whole of the back yard seemed to be taken up by Daphne bushes. Grandpa just loved them and I remember him showing Maureen around the Alston St back yard one day - he just about had a pet name for every plant.

His SP Bookmaking was just something that was "there." I didn't know much about it except that Saturdays were always given over to "the races." The fact that little slips of paper were hastily hidden when unexpected visitors arrived, or there was talk of flushing stuff down toilets went right over my head.

Paulette's brother, John, also remembers his Grandfather's SP Bookmaking days when recalling the circumstances behind a change of schools.
When I was fourteen I was packed off to St. Bede's Mentone, courtesy of financial support from my Grandfather Bert. Oddly my grandfather paid for this with money he made as an SP Bookie in Northcote suburb, and at the time he was also a grand master of the Freemasons lodge. There is enormous irony in life that a mason should make illegal money to spend on a Catholic education for a grandson”.

The Pearce Family -Fred, Olga, Len,Grandma, Grandpa & Frank

                                                             Fred, Olga, Len, Emily, Bert & Frank Pearce at Pine Gate at Mt. Eliza.

Paulette remembers many school holidays spent holidaying with her grandparents. Cousins would also stay a few days and Grandma spent her time teaching the youngsters to play tunes on the piano. She always took them to a movie in the City each holiday, one memorable one being the original Walt Disney's Fantasia. It was always a big day out which included a tram and bus ride and lunch at Cole's Cafeteria.

Emily died on 3rd September 1960, while at home at Thornbury in bed while Bert was shopping. Bert went on living at the house in Thornbury for about 8 years. He moved to Olga's place where she cared for him for about 3 months. He was then admitted into a nursing home where his badly ulcerated leg became much worse and the doctors recommended that it be amputated. He'd suffered his complaint since he was a young man working for the Council when a double-decker bus hit him. Bert refused to lose his leg and died having been in the nursing home about 3 months. Bert died on 1st July 1969 and was buried at Springvale Cemetery, Victoria.


Edna (died at 2 days)
Leonard (Len) (1916-1988)
Olga Mary (1918-2001)
Frederick (Fred) (1919-2001)
Francis (Frank)  (1929-2009)