Plaistowe’s, tomatoes, beans and brides
by Jenny Golding
Updated: 12 January 2022
In 1943 one thousand acres of land on the Waterloo – Dardanup Road became home to a hard-working group of Land Army girls (all volunteers) when demand for fresh and canned vegetables for the Australian and Allied fighting forces during World War II greatly increased.
Plaistowe’s, well known in Perth at that time for the processing of vegetables and fruit, took up the Waterloo land, applied to have 30 young women work on the large market garden, quickly installed a manager and equipment and had accommodation built. Dwarf beans and tomatoes were the crops chosen to be grown in Waterloo because they travelled well when carefully picked. Peas and cabbage were also grown later and the vegetables went by train from the Waterloo siding to Perth. The garden was irrigated from channels from the Wellington Dam. There was also approximately six men working at the site. During peak picking times, over 100 additional workers came to the site.
Work was hard, often muddy and tiring, particularly for women not used to outdoor labour. “Land girls” were reportedly paid thirty shillings per week before tax. Blunt stakes for the beans had to be pointed and an extra three pence a stake could be earned for this job, executed on a Saturday afternoon. A cow had to be hand-milked.
Weekend dances were popular, held in local halls at Waterloo, Bunbury, Dardanup, Burekup and Brunswick. Romance blossomed and local farmers found brides among the land army. The district benefitted considerably when Peggy Hancock married George Tyrrell, Beryl Ridley married Paul Edwards, Pat Johnson married Bernard Panizza and Marjorie Crockett married Edward Haddow. Many of their descendants remain in the community.
When the war ended, Plaistowes closed the site as it was considered unviable to maintain. One of the huts still exists. The property is still farmed.
- Ludbrook, Juliet: Until the Boys Return: A History of the Australian Women’s Land Army (WA Division) 1942-1945 (2010), Ex AWLA Association of WA, Osborne Park. This extract appeared in the Dardanup Times in September 2021, sent in by Jennifer Golding.
- Shire of Dardanup, Local Heritage Survey, November2016 – Final, https://www.dardanup.wa.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/105/2014/05/LHS_2016_final-issue_November_2016.pdf. Accessed online on 12 December 2021.