Family Histories

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The Family of
 
ALEXANDER THOMAS NIVEN    
 
29.11.1907 to 5.10.1987

Last updated 2012

Alexander, born in London, arrived in Fremantle in 1919 with his parents and four younger siblings, under a scheme to assist soldiers who had returned from World War 1. Mr. Alexander Niven Senior had been in charge of a fleet of cars for Allan & Hanburys Limited, a drug house in England. He was associated with Yellow Cabs in Western Australia, and was one of the best-known of the Parkard drivers. Mrs. Niven was an accomplished needlewoman.

ALEXANDER NIVEN SENIOR DRIVING A DELIVERY VAN IN LONDON 1906  #1

 
       

 

     

On arrival in Perth with 5 children between the ages of 9 and 15 years, Mrs Niven quickly rented a house in 8th Avenue, Mount Lawley. The children had attended private schools in England, but in Perth they attended Inglewood School. Mr. Niven worked as a chauffer to Mr. Rischbeth, of Peppermint Grove, and went up North with his boss, when he visited his pastoral properties.

Alexander was the Niven's eldest son and he was very keen to work on the land. So he was permitted to leave school at 15 in order to look for a job in the South West. He found one with the House family where he was able to gain experience and save some money.

In 1928 he has saved enough to purchase 40 acres of virgin land on what is now called Merrivale Road, Pickering Brook and named the property "Montrose" after a village in Scotland. His first dwelling was only a one-roomed weatherboard shack, already on the property, in which the the only cooking facilities were a primus stove with a kerosene tin on top. Alexander's sister, Mavis, then only 15 years old, was sent up by her parents to keep house for her brother. She had to learn how to cook on that stove and learnt quickly to improvise in order to provide  regular meals for her brother. He proceeded to clear it, over the next 15 years, by hand with axe, mattock and crosscut saw. He later obtained a horse to pull logs into windrows for burning. He grew vegetables for market and to sustain himself and gradually planted fruit trees.

A creek ran through the property, which often flooded in winter. Water from the creek was used to irrigate his orchard. Alexander spent much of his life on the orchard looking for better water supplies.

 

"Montrose"

 

 

Alexander married Juanita Bordas in 1930. The original one room timber hut was enlarged later for his bride Jaunita, known as Nita, with the addition of a living room and two bedrooms. Mavis, his sister, then went up north to look after children on isolated pastoral stations, living in Carnarvon and Cue, among other places. Alexander and his wife adopted a daughter, Bonita (Bonnie).

 

Nita (left) with Mavis

 

Jaunita "Nita" Niven and Mavis Godbold at the property in Merrivale Road

Alexander was an early member of the Volunteer Defence Corps initiated in 1941 which used the Pickering Brook Rifle Club range.

His brother Mervyn and sister Mavis, often visited him to help on the orchard and joined in social activities. Mervyn played soccer for the local team at the original Sports Club. This team was one of the earliest soccer teams in the Perth area.

Mavis married Harry Godbold in 1931. When he was an invalided out of the army in 1942 have moved to their newly purchased orchard opposite Alexander in Merrivale Road with their three sons Garry, Derek and David. Harry had been affected by his war service and never enjoyed good health after his return. Their daughter, Helen was born in 1945.

Left to Right:  Derek, David and Garry

 

Note:  The makings on the stump which was hand cut down with an axe.

 

A proud pose by Harry and Mavis' three sons Derek, David and Garry on a stump remains. Note the markings on the stump, which was hand cut with an axe..

Alexander, Harry and Garry built the stone cottages in Merrivale Road in the late 1940's as workers cottages. Matt Tomi lived in one for many years, and some newly arrived Italian migrants lived in one for a time. As there was no transport available, it was not uncommon for worker's huts to be erected on an orchard property, in order to ensure an adequate supply of labour. Quite often Alexander's sister-in-law would cook Matt an evening meal as his own facilities were very primitive. These cottages are of the Kalamunda Shire's Listed Heritage Sites.

Alexander built the first private cool store in Pickering Brook, in approximately 1960 for fruit storage, and the possibility of growing mushrooms. The mushroom growing never eventuated.

Alec and Nita will be remembered for their hypnosis and "shadow" concerts in the Carilla Hall.

Alevander died just short of his 80th birthday after a pioneering and colourful life.

The property is now owned by Raymond Ferrari.

Alexander Niven taken around 1964

 

BONITA EATON (nee NIVEN)

"Battler drew on hard times to help others" Reported in The West Australian 2005

Her own experiences of being adopted, giving up one of her children and facing other tough times helped make Bonita into a person who spent much of her life helping others as a foster mother, consumer advocate and champion of the underprivileged.
Her daughter, Sharon, described her as at times, loving and giving and at other times, demanding - but always someone who tried hard to prepare her children for a world which she knew from her own experiences was far from prefect.

Born on September 11, 1935, in Kalgoorlie, the then young Yvonne Dawn Wilde was adopted by a Hills couple after her parents split and her birth father enlisted to fight in World War 11. Her adoptive parents, Nita and Alexander, renamed her Bonita Annie Niven and she attended Pickering Brook Primary School, where she excelled at her studies and at sport.

BONITA EATON
  (nee NIVEN)  #2

 

At the age of 10, during a playground argument, another child taunted her by telling her that her mother and father were not her real parents and she was adopted. Distraught she ran 3.2km home and confronted her parents in the packing shed and they confirmed what she had been told. Her High School years began at Perth College but Bonnie left at 14 to look after her ill mother and help her father around the farm because he had a spinal injury and could not manage 9000 laying hens and an orchard by himself.

After leaving school, she worked at a general store, helping make school lunches and minding the owner's baby, at the Sanitarium factory packing cereals, at her aunt's hairdressing salon in Geraldton and as a kitchen hand and maid in a guest house.

She had a son, Peter, at 17 and gave him up for adoption, though five years ago (2000) the two made contact again and he came to call her Mum. At 20, Bonita married former soldier Brian John Eaton and settled in Mount Lawley, where son David was born in 1966 and daughter Sharon in 1968. The pair split in 1973 and Bonnie met her second partner, Salvatore "Sam" Castriani, four years later and they had two children, Samantha in 1977 and Matthew in 1979.

Bonnie involved herself with community groups including the Lone Parent Family Support Service. Crisis Housing Care, the West Institute of Self-Help and Croft, which helps homeless adults find somewhere to live. Croft executive director Ray Eversden said Bonnie was one of the founding members of his organisation. "She was a rough diamond," he said. "Bonnie had a hard upbringing herself and yet she wanted to help those less fortunate than herself. She came to meetings towards the end of her life in a wheelchair. She would drive herself over even when it took her 15 to 20 minutes just to get out of the car. Bonnie told it like it was, was fiercely independent and what you saw was what you got. She embodied a real ocker, Australian spirit."

Bonnie died from renal failure on July 21st 2005, aged 69, at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital with daughter Sharon at her side. Her funeral was held on August 2nd.

She is survived by sons Peter and David, Sharon and her husband Michael, daughter Samantha, son Matthew and partner Nicola and grandchildren Rebecca, Danni and Richard, Kristi-Lee, Ashleigh and Tahlia, Leteesha, Teneeka and Trey.

And she is remembered by hundreds of people she helped as she tried to make life that bit better for the unfortunate in out society.

 

 

References:      Article:     Pickering Brook Heritage Group
                                     Carol Mansfield
                                     West Australian Newspapers

                       Photos:   1.     Sunday Times 20th Sept 1936
                                     2.     The West Australia 2005

 

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