Novel recalls colourful life

Peter Harris launched his book A Life Recalled among friends at Lynwood Senior High School recently.
Peter Harris launched his book A Life Recalled among friends at Lynwood Senior High School recently.

A LIFE Recalled began as a memoir for Peter J.B Harris’ four children, four grandchildren and six great-grand children.

The colourful retelling captures a life that began in the Great Depression. It’s a story about advocating and volunteering, leading to the launch of the Ferndale writer’s first novel as an 84-year-old.

Born in 1932, Harris said his mother’s drive set him up for the long life he has led as a jack of all trades.

“I got my good genes from my mum, a tough lady,” he said.

Harris became a paraplegic in 1973 while employed at the Child Welfare Department.

He recalled that after a long day at Heathcote in Applecross, he made his way to Carmel where he was helping a friend build a house.

While painting the exterior of the house in the dark on the edge of the bush, he slipped and fell and broke his back. He never walked again.

“I never dreamed of the good that lay ahead,” he said.

After his accident, Harris became a teacher at specialist schools in Perth.

About this time he noticed the difficulty people in wheelchairs had with accessibility.

“I had to supervise buses and watched these kids get carried off the bus on to their school chair, and then again in the afternoon they would get carried on to their home chair.

“It just wasn’t right,” he said.

Through a series of events, meeting politicians and writing letters, Harris cited the UN convention on the rights of a person with disabilities to change bus fleets throughout WA to suit wheelchair users.

“In 1992, the State Government agreed to change the whole bus fleet to kneeling buses with ramps over 20 years,” he said.

“I still smile every time I see a kneeling bus.”

Harris said his disability never got in the way and while life has become quieter, he remains a volunteer at Lynwood Senior High School, where he speaks with and guides students.

A Life Recalled is available to purchase for $11. All proceeds go to charity. Contact peterjbh@live.com.au for copies.