Foundation Student Rae Shares Her Story

Rae Cooper (Carroll, 1947) was one of Santa Maria College’s foundation students. She has fond memories of being taught by the Mercy Sisters. Rae’s mum and dad took her and her sister Pamela (1948, dec) to witness Archbishop Prendiville laying the foundation stone for the school on 26 September 1937.

The family grew up around Attadale, on the corner of Canning Highway and Money Road. Rae attended Santa Maria from primary through to high school.

Rae recently shared memories of her time at the College with us.

“My sister and I used to board at school every Easter when mum and dad went to play in a tennis tournament in Bridgetown. We used to think it was a pleasure staying with the nuns. We had a lovely time on Easter Sunday when the nuns boiled the eggs in cochineal.

School was a happy time for Rae. “My best memories are of the sports day and the pool.”

Rae remembers getting into trouble with the sports mistress for not smiling one day. Rae said, “The tennis courts weren’t built when we first moved in. We were the only school in the interschool sports to have a pool, so the other schools thought we should have a handicap!”

Rae also remembers enjoying little pies and pasties at playtime.

Things were very different back then. It was all bushland around the school.

“Melville was a lovely place to grow up, you could ride your bike wherever you wanted. We were never frightened. Mum used to pack a lunch, and we’d walk from our place in Melville right through the bush to Jandakot, sometimes with the dog and the cat! You wouldn’t do that now!”

Rae's original Ex Students Association membership card

Rae’s father, Ronald Carroll, along with Mr Lawrie Withers and Mr WJ Sumpton founded the first bus company south of the river. The route ran along Canning Highway from Petra Street in East Fremantle to Perth. This was later merged with Metro Buses and eventually bought by the State Government. The buses played a significant role in Rae’s childhood. The buses were the only form of transport to and from the College.

Rae’s dad served 26 years in local government with the City of Melville. He was the first elected member of the Road Board (1946) and Deputy Chairman, the first and only President of the Town of Melville, and the first Mayor of the City of Melville, retiring in 1971. He was awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1970 for this service and was made the first honorary freeman of the City of Melville.

Rae married her first husband, Lyall Commins in Fremantle, and they had four children, all of whom live around Busselton and the southwest.

The family moved to the Wheatbelt when Lyall moved into local government in the Shire of Quairading. “Once I married and had children, I did not work full time but had several part-time positions over the years amongst many volunteer roles in community organisations,” Rae said.

Rae has also travelled quite extensively, with trips to America, Canada and England. “We mainly had driving holidays”, Rae explains. “When my first husband retired, it was his dream to go around Australia in a caravan. I didn’t think I would like it, but I did. Tasmania was one of my favourite places.” Sadly, Lyall passed away when he was quite young.

Rae moved into an independent living unit in Busselton with her second husband, Desmond Cooper, approximately 20 years ago. Rae said having happy marriages was one of her greatest achievements.

Rae has been very involved in community work throughout her life, including Girl Guides, the YWCA (Young Christian Womens’ Association), Freemason’s Ladies, local government, and Busselton Jetty.

Rae’s daughter Rilla Beresford also attended Santa Maria College (1974).

These days, Rae doesn’t get out as much as she’d like to and misses attending our annual Golden Girls’ Lunch. However, she stays in touch with Pat McLaughlin (Rodoreda, 1942), also a Santa Maria foundation member, and they meet up for lunch once a year.

Thank you for sharing your memories with us Rae.

If you have a story to share with us, we’d love to hear from you. please email [email protected]

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