Her father, James Burge, was born in Devonshire in 1874, one of 11, and was a farmer. Her mother Philippa Kate (nee Sampson) was born in Virginia, USA in 1882 and went to England when she was 11. Elsie had two brothers and three sisters.
The family came to Australia on doctor’s advice because her youngest brother had bronchitis and succumbed to pneumonia every year. They came by ship and her mother became very ill with kidney stones and was admitted to hospital on arrival. The family stayed in Fremantle for three months.
Her father and eldest brother tried farming at Doodlakine but found the heat and flies too oppressive. They rented a house in Spearwood where Elsie and her siblings schooled for two years. Then they moved by train to Busselton under the Group Settlement scheme and were at Ambergate in Group 44. At first they lived in a corrugated iron humpy with no floor. Her father milked cows, ploughed, pulled trees and made hay on the group farm.
The children went to Ambergate School and helped with milking and other chores. Despite hardships the children had fun and, as she grew up, Elsie enjoyed dancing and music – her mother played their organ.
She married Vernon Edgar Dawson (known as Gus) in the Busselton Congregational Church in 1931 and they had four children: Vernon, born 12 June, 1932, Fay, born 14 January, 1934, Glen, born 13 July, 1938 and Clifford, born 9 September, 1943.
Elsie travelled overseas, played bowls and had a busy family life, especially watching her grandchildren grow up.