Garden party mayhem


Would you like mustard with that?

Unfortunately, the common types at Dodgy Perth don’t get invites to Perth Mayoral garden parties. But in the 1920s, such events were free to any ratepayer who asked for an invitation.

In 1924, hundreds showed up to a gathering held to honour British naval officers visiting WA. The officers were in ceremonial dress, heads of government in suits, and ladies appeared in gorgeous silk evening attire. But most of the crowd were ordinary Perth citizens: tram conductors in uniform just off their shift, mothers with prams, and just about everyone else.

It didn’t go well. As one cynical observer noted, “There may have been enough to eat and drink for everybody. We don’t know.”

The mob didn’t wait to see. It surged towards the supper tables, leaping over chairs and anything else in its way. Rich and poor, businessman and tradie, titled ladies and washerwoman, all ran towards the buffet.

Platters were ruined by having punch spilt over them. One lady’s blouse was nearly torn off in a fight for a bottle of beer. Wine flowed everywhere, not all of it into mouths. The waiters did their best, but they were overwhelmed. It was everyone for themselves, and only the strong prevailed.

The Mayor appealed for calm, but to no effect. The crowd was out of control, and all they wanted was food and drink. Shouts from the back of the crowed to “leave off and give the others their cut!” were ignored. In the scrum, someone managed to get hold of the special champagne intended for the VIPs, and it didn’t last long.

On the outskirts of the scene the British officers looked on. If they found the scene amusing, they were too polite to smile.

Strangely, this was not the first time a mayoral party had descended into chaos. It seems most ended the same way.

The Dodgy Perth team will vote for whichever Lord Mayor promises to reintroduce this great Perth tradition of badly organised garden parties.