The Merredin cougar

Clarrie Smith, aged 16

Clarrie Smith, aged 16

A 42 year old woman and her 16 year lover. It was always going to make headlines.

Our story unfolds in Merredin in 1933. The characters are:

WILFRED LONGMAN was headmaster of Merredin School. More than middle-aged, with iron-grey hair, he was the calm and philosophical type, never revealing his emotions.

WILMA LONGMAN was slim, with sharp features. She liked to dress elegantly in black, with a bright red cap for a vivid contrast. A small gold cross was often hanging around her slender neck.

CLARRIE SMITH did not look sixteen. With a muscular chest and broad shoulders, he was a keen athlete, excelling in both boxing and cycling. Also not one to show much emotion, he would occasionally smile at a joke and then return to his passive expression.

It all started at the Merredin cycling club, when Clarrie became good friends with Wilma’s teenage son, Jack. Clarrie started visiting the Longman home and so met Wilma and her thirteen year old daughter, Ruth.

Gradually his visits became so frequent Clarrie’s father became suspicious and objected. This caused the young man to pack his bags and move in with the Longmans.

In a real-life case of ‘Stacey’s Mom’, Clarrie and Wilma became very friendly. The boy admitted they used to hug and kiss each other a lot and sleep together in each other’s arms. The older woman also wrote a number of passionate letters to the young man, but she denied their relationship was anything inappropriate or immoral.

Wilma had a passionate heart, and perhaps her dry-as-dust headmaster husband was not meeting her romantic needs. A passage from one of her letters to Clarrie shows how much she felt inside. It also shows that Clarrie couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

You have been to me a dear sweet holy thing. You have been wonderful. I have known you as the thing called Love. It is very beautiful. It is holy. I have worshipped the better you. I’ll always remember it, dear boy, but they have spoilt it and your carelessness…

Friends and lovers are being parted every day and hearts are breaking and desolated with only blackness in the future just because names are hurt through careless tongues. I shall for ever love the you I loved. When a mind can take a holy thing and call it unholy and have us feel it is unholy when we know it is holy—well, we are not masters of ourselves, but mastered. I loved, treasured, valued and worshipped the manhood I was meeting.

The bond of Love is not bondage, but the surround of a home. The bond of Love is not prison but the walls of defence. Love gives, shelters, protects. Love is strong. It is the mightiest force in the cosmos.

And so on. And so on.

During the inevitable divorce case, the judge looked straight at Clarrie and asked him if he slept with Wilma.

“In the same bed,” he replied.

“How were you dressed?” “In a pair of pyjamas.” “How was she dressed?” “In a nightgown and kimono.” “You had been in the habit of kissing each other frequently and fervently and embracing each other.” “Yes.”

And then the judge asked: “Do you still say you did nothing improper?”, to which Carrie replied “Yes sir.”

“Well I don’t believe you!” declared His Honour emphatically.

Dodgy Perth is not sure we believe him either.

If it’s not sharks, it’s drunks

90x150mmJ.D. did not like Cottesloe Beach. In fact, J.D. had a long list of things that were wrong with Cottesloe in 1912.

Firstly, the beach was infested by hoodlums, who engaged in horseplay which was scaring off women and girls. In particular, when the sun went down females ran the risk of being ‘grabbed’ by these larrikins while in the water, or when going to and from the changing rooms.

Ladies were often subject to the indignity of crude remarks when going down to the water’s edge. J.D.’s suggestion was to only allow bathers to occupy the space between the changing rooms and the sea, then the drunk loungers would be banned from the area.

Speaking of drunks, J.D. claimed that the number of them at Cottesloe was astonishing, especially on Sundays. Some of them were boozing on the beach, which others had come from the city, hoping that a swim might sober them up.

Young girls, eager to learn to swim, sometime made the mistake of allowing one of these drunken swine to take them out to sea. Even when they were sober, too few of these would-be swimming teachers knew what they were doing, and posed a risk to the girl’s life.

And some swimmers, don’t even pretend to swim at all. They simply keep in the shallow water and (ahem) wrestle with their significant other. Not exactly an edifying sight for young children.

Speaking of protecting children, most bathers have lost all sense of modesty and there was nowhere near enough material or fastenings on their costumes.

J.D. was not finished yet.

Drunks were wandering into the wrong changing rooms. Drivers were being unsafe on the road to the beach. The council hadn’t repaired to road in ages. And it should be widened. There were too many fishermen on the pier. And their bait stank.

All in all, J.D. did not like Cottesloe.

Dodgy Perth hasn’t been down to the beach there for a bit. Perhaps it is time to check out how many of J.D.’s complaints still hold true.

Value for money? In Perth?

must-wine-barSo, you think Perth is an expensive place to eat out? That’s because it is.

But this is nothing new. As increasing numbers of American sailors arrived in Perth during WWII, dining establishments realised they could hike up their prices and the visitors would have no choice but to pay up.

This blatant profiteering was everywhere condemned, but it didn’t stop the cafes and restaurants ripping off their customers. (Does this sound at all familiar?)

One local, Gavin Casey, complained that he was charged threepence for a solitary, small tomato on his plate. And at the same food stall, two shillings for the contents of a five-penny tin of spaghetti, a penny roll, a little butter, and a very small cup of coffee.

Gavin was outraged to have to pay two shillings for a hamburger and coffee, sixpence for another small cup of coffee, and a further sixpence for a small cup of milk.

Who can believe that it cost three shillings for a piece of steak? Especially when Gavin had to grill it himself over an open fire, although the establishment did supply a single piece of bread and butter to accompany the meat.

Dodgy Perth is not entirely sure that Mr Casey frequented the highest-class restaurants. Even at those prices.

In 1942, some restaurants were even getting so greedy as to demand a three shilling ‘cover charge’ from each diner, without bothering to provide entertainment or anything else to justify the money.

You can’t imagine feeling that ripped off in modern Perth can you? Oh, you can.

James Stirling and the tomboy


Ellen Mangles, looking very pensive

Dear readers, sometimes we have to face the unspeakable. Could it be that our founding father was in fact something of a creep? The relationship between James Stirling and Ellen Mangles has been portrayed as a great love story, like this from the late 1970s:

Theirs had been a most romantic love-match; he had been instantly swept off his feet by her that first day when, at her home, Woodbridge, in Surrey, as a laughing tomboy of thirteen, she had rushed by him on two donkeys, one foot on each.

Apparently in the late 1970s, it was romantic for a middle-aged man to fancy a girl of thirteen. (See Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris, etc.) Okay, let’s not call in Operation Yewtree just yet. Perhaps this was more normal in the 1820s.

Let’s ask Ellen’s mother, Mary, what she thought of this “love-match” when Stirling proposed marriage to her fifteen year old daughter.

Mary considered her daughter to be childish for her age, and completely incapable of forming a relationship with a middle-aged man. She preferring horses, carts, and rowing to dancing and talking to boys. In fact, she had recently declared she did not like men at all, and had no interest in them.

Mum was extremely concerned by Stirling’s interest in her daughter, but doubted Ellen would see much in a man “double her age” in any case. What a “love-match” for Ellen, then. Wooed by an underemployed sailor on half-pay and more than twice her age.

Mr and Mrs Mangles discussed Stirling’s obsession with Ellen, and they agreed not to mention it to her. She had two more years at school, and because of her “extreme youthfulness and inexperience” (as Mary put it) it was best she not be informed about creepy sailors.

Stirling promised the Mangles he would respect this decision and wait until she had finished education. Mary did not believe him. She said he would either break the agreement, or—in an eerie phrase—break the spirit and keep to it only to the letter. Reading this prophesy is as disturbing today as it was in the 1820s.

Mary’s scepticism proved correct. Stirling could not keep his hands off her for the agreed time. Instead, he married her just before her sixteenth birthday. (Some WA historians are so embarrassed by this, they claim she had turned sixteen. She had not.)

There will be those who will say “Times were different then.” And indeed they were. Just as times were different in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. But that’s no excuse today, is it?

Now that’s entertainment

Bluebeard's Bloody Chamber, 1901

Bluebeard’s Bloody Chamber, 1901

We at Dodgy Perth know how to have a good night out. And we know that a good night out requires a man in drag and dismembered heads.

Sceptical? Read on.

The last time we met George Leake—lawyer and State Premier—some rotters were (and still are) hoping to knock down his widow’s house on Bellevue Terrace. Anyway, it turns out George had another talent. He made a very good drag queen.

In 1888 there was a special charity event at St George’s Hall on Hay Street. A building, we sadly note, now reduced to a parody of heritage conservation. Thank you District Court of WA.

After a few songs, the main act were waxworks borrowed from Jarley’s for the evening. The future Premier dressed up as ‘Mrs Jarley’, and he was surprisingly good at it.

The various waxworks were wheeled out while George—sorry, Mrs Jarley—cracked jokes and kept the crowd amused. There was Chang the giant, the Giant Killer, Jack Sprat and his wife, and Queen Elizabeth.

For those who believe product placement is a recent invention, the next tableaux was Mrs. Pears’ Soap and the Dirty Boy. Quickly followed by waxworks representing Winslow’s Soothing Syrup and Mrs Allen’s Hair Restorer. (Just don’t ask.)

The evening closed with Bluebeard’s chamber. Bluebeard himself was represented in the act of threatening his last wife’s existence with an uplifted scimitar. The heads of his previous victims were hung by their hair, all bleeding copiously, around the walls.

So: drag, rampant commercialism, and over-the-top gore. Sounds like Dodgy Perth’s ideal Saturday evening.

What’s in a name?

gloucester parkUntil the mid-1930s, Gloucester Park was called Brennan Park after one of the founders of the Trotting Association, James Brennan.

Known as the ‘father of trotting’ in this State, James dominated the local sport, and this didn’t make him popular with some of the committee who controlled the racecourse.

In 1935, taking advantage of a tour of the Duke of Gloucester to Australia and New Zealand, the committee announced that the course was changing its name to Gloucester Park. They telegrammed the Duke, and he graciously accepted the honour.

Only, the poor royal didn’t know what a firestorm was about to break around his head. The elderly James Brennan was not going to be robbed of his fame, and quickly organised a group to raise funds to have the original title restored.

As the two sides fought it out, the embarrassed Duke quickly announced that he would only allow the change of name if the entire membership of the Trotting Association was unanimous in its decision.

There was no possibility of such an agreement, but with James’ death in 1937, the issue appears to have been quietly forgotten.

It is, apparently, unlawful to name places after members of the royal family without their consent. If this was never actually obtained, perhaps it is time to restore the original name for our main trotting course.

Build character, with laxatives


Sunday Times, 3 May 1931

ALL the morning he has been touchy and naughty, and now, to cap it all, he has used a very bad word. Whose fault is it? Is he bad because he WANTS to be bad? Or is he bad because there’s something the matter with him—something his mother could easily cure?

All children get moods when they are very bad, very unmanageable, or very tearful—“cranky” moods—and it isn’t their fault. A kind of poison gets hold of them and makes them do things they don’t mean—a poison generated inside themselves, in their stomach, liver, kidneys and bowels.

That’s what’s the matter with this chap, and one or two Laxettes would cure him easily.

Laxettes, the chocolate medicine, are wonderful for “cranky” moods because of their purifying effect on ALL the organs of digestion and elimination stomach, liver, kidneys AND bowels. At the first cranky symptom give Laxettes.

Be quite sure they are genuine by buying them IN THE TIN. Laxettes are sold IN the tin, never loose, with the name on every tin and tablet.

Send coupon for interesting free literature on Crankiness, free Laxettes sample, and vital information about intestinal worms in children.

Let’s get it on in public

peepingtom-1We in the Dodgy Perth office are led to believe that some couples like to (ahem) take it outside every now and again. Presumably less popular in the winter months, though.

The best locations for alfresco luvin’ were identified in 1950, when a journalist decided to investigate Perth’s parks frequented by couples. Only in order, though, to check out the perverts who spied on them.

Presumably, hacks from The Mirror who hang around parks at night are exempted from the pervert category.

Let’s start with Weld Square, just off Beaufort Street. A well-lit area, there were two men who first sat looking from the benches, before flitting from tree to tree to peep on the courting pairs. (Dodgy Perth awards three out of five stars to Weld Square)

We cannot recommend Russell Square, in Northbridge, though. It is usually frequented by ‘plonk’ drinkers, and so is unattractive as a rendezvous. (Zero stars)

Hyde Park was very popular with both lovers and Peeping Toms. All the perverts had to do was wait and as soon as the couple was engrossed in lovemaking, take up a vantage point. Thanks to the plantings there, it was possible to get a really close-up viewpoint. (Five out of five stars)

A warning though. Sometimes the Peeping Toms take advantage of the duo being distracted, and creep up and steal her handbag. Being too embarrassed to explain what they were up to, these thefts were never reported to the police.

But the worst place for Peeping Toms is on grass by the river on Riverside Drive. The sheer number of weirdos there made it almost impossible to enjoy an outdoor experience. (Negative one star)

In 1950, a married couple were “sitting quietly” (yeah, right) by the river when the husband noticed a man crawling on all fours towards them. A fight broke out, with the pervert coming out very much second best.

So, Dodgy Perth has made our recommendations. We leave it to our readers to decide where and when they would like to ‘go outside’.

The following video is very NSFW. You have been warned.

Are flappers always slappers?

Photographic Negative - AcetateToday Dodgy Perth covers one of the most controversial questions in history: Is every Perth girl a slapper, or only some of them?

The evidence for the prosecution comes from an anonymous Katanning lady, who had just returned home after a six week holiday in Perth in 1929.

She had had hated every minute of it. Only back in the countryside could she once again breathe freely, away from an atmosphere contaminated by hypocrisy and senseless frivolity.

You see, a typical Perth girl is an empty headed, pleasure-seeking and selfish young miss with no thought for the future. All she thinks about is herself, her clothes and how to get men to adore her.

For hobbies, the young city woman likes only to dance, drink cocktails and smoke. Her greatest pleasure is to see how many parties she can get to into one evening.

And—we shudder to say it—the Perth lasses are using paint, powder and lipstick to make themselves appear more attractive to the menfolk. No country girl finds it necessary to “do up” every five minutes. They have deeper thoughts than whether or not their noses are shining.

Worst of all, these brazen hussies are openly speaking about topics which should never be spoken about. In public.

Thank god that the average country girl remains unsullied by modern ideas. For they are the last of their sex who can uphold the honour and dignity of true Australian womanhood.

The case for the prosecution rests, M’Lord.

The fair maids of Perth, though, were not going to hear such slander in 1929 without a response. Oh no.

For a start, the gay dresses worn to the dances are usually made by the girls themselves. And most have to make their own underwear as well.

Our country lass forgets that Perth women have real jobs, mostly in offices, and it is only natural they would seek entertainment in the evening.

Yes, they use make up. But also go to the gym, and attend night classes in business studies, English, French, dressmaking, millinery, and cookery classes. Unbelievable, isn’t it, how versatile the city girl is compared to her country counterpart?

In any case, do you really think that Katanning is that dull? When Perth lasses visit the country they find the parties there very far from tame, even thrilling. It’s not necessary to leave a small town to find something to shock a rural prude.

The case for the defence rests.

On the buses


The bus to Belmont, 1912

Every few days you can pick up a copy of The West and read about how much taxi drivers hate Uber. If you’d picked up the paper a century ago, they were grumpy about these damned novel buses that were taking their business.

On St George’s Terrace in the first few years of the 20th century, one motor bus was brave enough to try and take people to Ascot Racecourse. There was almost a riot.

Angry cab drivers surrounded the bus and shouted threats and curses. Anybody who attempted to board was vigorously abused. Nevertheless, the bus managed to gather enough brave passengers to make a successful trip to the races and back.

And customs on buses were different in those days.

On the Belmont route, when the bus was overcrowded, it was expected that a lady would stand and let a gentleman have her seat.

Then she would then sit on his knee. Seriously.

Dodgy Perth believes that TransPerth should bring back this etiquette today.

Bus drivers could be a little, let’s say, less professional from time to time a century ago.

One driver, who was a little ‘under the influence,’ had an argument with a passenger as to whether he had paid the correct fare.

To settle the argument the pair left the bus at Barrack Street, and the fight was only interrupted by a policeman, who arrested them both.

When this news reached the waiting passengers, they went straight to the police station to demand the driver’s release.

When the sergeant in charge pointed out that the bus company employee was obviously drunk, one lady passenger explained: “Oh, he is all right. I’ve sat beside him before when he was like this, and I always pull the bus back if it goes off the road.”

Satisfied that the bus was in good hands, the sergeant released him.

Ah, public transport. How disappointingly boring you are today.