Here at Dodgy Perth, we are often asked about Christmas shopping at the turn of the twentieth century. Often, we tell you. So, for the first time 114 years, we present our glorious CBD in December 1901.
Mummified frogs. Mummified. Frogs. One grocer, H. H. Porter, had a window display of the Western Australian parliament recreated in mummified frogs. Which makes us feel all seasonal deep down inside thinking about it right now.
Want to feel the spirit of Xmas even more? Children who stopped too long to peer into the windows of the city’s shops were firmly moved on by the police. No cluttering up the pavements when there are real people with money to spend, thank you very much.
As the twentieth century started, Perth was feeling the full effects of the gold boom. Which meant there was real cash flowing around the city. Which meant shops could jack up their prices and justify it with nice window displays. Doesn’t sound at all like the city we know does it?
There being no holly or ivy locally, decorative greenery was supplied by the “health giving and invigorating” eucalyptus. Every lamp post and verandah post was covered with the stuff giving Perth the scent of the bush. Public buildings were draped with flags of every nation and shops had started to employ professional window dressers.
Take Sandover & Co, whose Hay Street window had a harvesting scene, in which a rosy-cheeked country lassie was reposing amongst sheaves of locally grown wheat. In the background a windmill—driven by an electric fan—turned itself around. How very Christmas. Although Sandover was the place to go for the novelty present everyone wanted that year: table tennis.
Of course, if you had a little more money, you could go to E. J. Bickford & Co, whose premises extended from Hay Street to Murray street. Normally a furniture dealer, in 1901 all sorts of Christmas novelties could be found there, including a display of Armenian glassware. But not needing Armenian glassware, we’ll just pick up one of their luxury ping pong tables.
J. Weidenbach & Co. had a splendid Christmas show that year. The windows were full of beautiful Chinese lanterns and umbrellas, Japanese art drapings and Chinese silk drapings. Beautiful, until you realise that 1901 was the year they passed the Immigration Restriction Act specifically to stop Chinese and Japanese people coming to Australia. Hypocritical bastards our ancestors.
Hughes & Doheny had snowstorms in their window, but much better they had Kinross whisky and Santa Ross wines inside.
And we in the Dodgy Perth office would have loved to have looked in the window of Carter & Co., to check out their “unique” display of ladies’ lingerie. Not for ourselves, you understand. Well, unless it fits nicely.