Palmyra centurion George Webb reminisces on life spent in the area


Lifelong Palmyra resident George Webb recently celebrated his 100th birthday.
Lifelong Palmyra resident George Webb recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

A CENTURY ago Palmyra was only just being established, comprised of a few houses surrounded by bushland and sandy tracks, stray animals a common sight in the area.

Palmyra Primary School had recently been completed to cater for the children of workers who sought out an area close to Fremantle in which to live.

It was there, at a house in Cleopatra Street, that George Webb was born on July 10, 1916.

Mr Webb’s parents had arrived in Australia from England five years earlier.

A bit of a larrikin in his early years, Mr Webb spent his time with his friends playing cricket, football and pinching fruit from neighbours.

“There was a Mr Edwards who had a big paddock with fruit trees on Solomon Street and we used to sneak in two at a time and help ourselves,” Mr Webb said.

“One day he caught us and I had grapes and figs stuffed in every pocket.”

The Depression forced Mr Webb to forego his schooling at Palmyra Primary at age 12 and he started work, collecting shell grit in old sugar bags from Robb’s Jetty in Fremantle.

He would then ride his bicycle all the way back to poultry farms near North Lake Road to distribute the heavy bags for sixpence each; hard work for a young lad, but the money was needed to support his family.

Mr Webb later trained to be an oxy welder and pipe fitter at a Fremantle coppersmith but moved to work in a market garden in South Coogee for health reasons.

He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1941, becoming a flight rigger and a fitter, serving in the Northern Territory.

He was discharged in 1945 to resume his “necessary civil occupation” in the market garden.

A week later, his unit was posted to Morotai in Indonesia to defend the Allied position against Japanese forces.

Upon his return, Mr Webb met his wife-to-be Ann at a dance hall in South Fremantle and said he had to compete with a friend for her attention.

“My mate took her to meet his family, then I asked her to come and meet my family and I thought I’d better get in quick, so I said to her ‘how about we get engaged?’”

The pair was married in 1951 at St John’s Church in Fremantle.

They newlyweds bought land on Tamar Street in the early 1950s and cleared it by hand, Mr Webb wryly observing, “She did the talking and I did the clearing.”

Mr Webb still lives in the same house 60 years later.

It is filled with all the signs of a busy family life, photographs of his four children – Norman, Sheryl, Barry and Kevin – his nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren proudly on show.

Memories of his motorcycling days with friends adorn the walls, along with detailed model cars and trucks he makes by hand displayed on crowded shelves.

His boat sits in the driveway and he still loves to go fishing, a lifetime hobby.

Daughter Sheryl said her father still works at his vegie garden and is fiercely independent.

“We are privileged and so lucky to have had dad in our lives for so long,” she said.       

Mrs Webb now lives in an aged care residence and Mr Webb visits her every week.

He still loves doing the word puzzles in the paper is as busy as ever in his shed with plenty of projects on the go.

And watch out on Tamar Street if you see Mr Webb on his gopher.

“I’m still riding my bike, the only problem is that it doesn’t go fast enough,” he said.