As a good Western Australian parent, you wouldn’t want your child to read ‘The Carnival of Crawling Doom’, would you? Let alone ‘Dead Tongues of Terror’ or ‘The Little Walking Corpses’. Of course not. Because you are a good parent, and you know Perth led the way in having such stories banned.
The federal Customs Act 1901 meant anything obscene, indecent or blasphemous or seditious could (and usually was) banned. Better still, the public was rarely told what was forbidden, and almost never the reasons behind such decisions. Like in 1933, when Aldous Huxley’s obscene Brave New World was prohibited. For some reason or other.
Over the next few years, people (read: the press) began to fret about American pulp fiction being imported into Perth. Enter Special Magistrate Alwyn Schroeder, who had his finger on the pulse of 1938. When one person pleaded to him that their “downfall” had been caused by an overseas nudist magazine, Alwyn decided something had to be done.
“I am not a prude,” Alwyn said, somewhat unconvincingly. After all, he had seen action in Egypt during WWI, which was somehow relevant in his mind. But it was quite clear to him that all the current social problems of immorality and depravity were directly linked to young boys and girls reading American magazines. Especially ones with horror and crime stories.
Alwyn demanded Canberra do something and, unfortunately, they listened to him. One month later, the Daily News declared ‘Perth Gives Lead to Canberra on Magazine Ban’. The Commonwealth Government started banning any title they disliked without having the inconvenience of mentioning which ones were now prohibited. The secret list grew month by month. By August 1938, 49 magazines were illegal and that was just the start.
Perth boys and girls were now safe, thanks to ‘Weird Tales’ being on the list, from reading H. P. Lovecraft, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Robert Bloch, and their eyes were saved from seeing illustrations for Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poetry.
We should thank Alwyn Schroeder for the great care he took in protecting us from such evils, and call upon the government to do even more to stop us reading horror, crime and Romantic poetry.
Dodgy Perth thanks Chris Nelson’s amazing zine, Mumblings from Munchkinland (August 2012) for having inspired this post. Also, Alwyn Schroeder appears as a character in Deborah Burrows’ recent Perth-based novel, Taking a Chance, which is all about crime. So you probably shouldn’t read it.