How architects exorcise their demons

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One of our favourite bars is Helvetica, in a laneway off Howard Street. If you’re a whisky fan there is no better place to be. Before heading in for a dram (or two) pause on Howard Street to look at a very fine piece of Gothic architecture, the Haynes, Robinson & Cox Building, which opened in 1907.

The history of Gothic Revival architecture is complex, but it basically boils down to a rejection of industrialisation and a longing for a time when objects were not mass produced. Its leading supporters saw Medieval cathedrals as the greatest buildings ever, whose every stone told a story of an individual skilled artisan taking pride in their work. And now for a brief digression on pubic hair. Seriously.

A significant figure in promoting Gothicism was the English art critic John Ruskin, and the story goes that he was unable to consummate his marriage to Effie Gray because his entire knowledge of the female body came from Greek statues, which don’t have much going on down below. As a result, on their wedding night the sight of her lady parts revolted him, or as Effie put it: “He had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was”. Eventually she left Ruskin for his protege, John Millais, with whom she had eight children. So somebody appreciated her body, anyway.

Anyway, back to the Howard Street building. Designed by Charles Oldham to be used as offices for lawyers, it is a no-expense-spared construction (we wanted to say erection, but see above) with fine Gothic detailing on both the exterior and interior.

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Yet the Haynes, Robinson & Cox Building was not erected by teams of traditional masons struggling for decades to produce fine stonework, but is thoroughly modern in design and construction. So what is going on here? The answer almost certainly lies in how big an architect’s ego is. Every architect wants at least one building which is impressive enough to guarantee their name will go down in history. But they have the problem that the components of architecture are derived from tradition, and even more so when it comes to the Gothic.

If Medieval cathedrals were the greatest buildings ever, what else is the unfortunate modern architect going to do except copy certain elements and always look derivative? Poets and novelists often face this same heart-breaking dilemma as well. Fortunately, the answer came with the arrival of steel and concrete.

George Temple Poole bemoaned the fate of the poor architect in 1909 when he pointed out that every building since 1400, when techniques of construction were perfected, was just a pale imitation of the original. All the modern designer could do was “play with our buildings”. But Poole was not going to let history beat him, and he announced that steel and concrete, things unknown to Medieval architects, allowed him a way to surpass his predecessors. Buildings could now be designed to any form or shape, and style can be introduced to any scale and (as the people paying for it will love) much cheaper than in the past.

In effect, Poole is putting a middle finger up to all the architects of history and saying that he can design and erect anything he likes, whereas they were constrained by the physics of the stone they were working with. You want Gothic? You got it. Italian Renaissance? No problems.

This did lead to complications for the architect, such as handing a lot of power over to engineering firms for the structural parts of a building, which would come back to haunt them a decade or so later. But for the meantime, architects could rejoice in the fact they had beaten the system, triumphed over history, and could now produce innovative works for which they would become famous. And our Howard Street building tells us exactly that story.

Dry hair: our proposal to save traditional marriage

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This is what we must stop. And soon.

Something is endangering the very foundation of marriage. And we at Dodgy Perth are taking a stand. We would like, no we insist on, a plebiscite to defend the very core of traditional holy matrimony.

What can this awful thing be, you ask? Is it mixed-race marriages? Is it a Roman Catholic marrying an Anglican? Or is it The Gays demanding the right to be as miserable as their heterosexual counterparts? Nope. None of those. It is much, much worse. We refer, of course, to the horror of mixed bathing.

As Western Australia left behind the values of the 19th century, the question of whether men and women should be allowed to enter the same stretch of water at the same time became the most pressing issue of the hour.

Take Kalgoorlie, for example. In 1912 the council had to decide whether to allow ‘family bathing’ in the local pool. The experiment had been tried at Claremont, they were told, but it required the local police and three private security guards to be on patrol at all times, otherwise who knows what might happen? Kalgoorlie wisely decided to delay any decisions on the matter

And they were right to do so. As the newspapers explained the following year, bathing suits have a bad effect on the male libido and marriage rates plummet as a consequence.

In times gone by, men were entranced by the sight of girls daintily and modestly attired, and affection sprang from a kind of worship of something which charmed. Are bare necks, bare arms and bare legs, with ugly skull caps, a bewitching spectacle? What effect has the ungraceful ‘flopping’ of the feminine figure on the male emotions? The desire to harpoon it rather than embrace it is probably one result.

The debate raged on for years, but by 1920 science had definitively settled the question. Marriage rates were dropping because the mere sight of the bathing female kills all possibility of reproduction: “The spectacle of a girl in a dripping bathing costume, with wet hair hanging over her eyes, and looking like a bedraggled Skye terrier, has been responsible for many a man taking an oath of celibacy”.

So there you have it. This is the line which must be drawn. Marriage must be protected from change. And mixed bathing is change. Demand the plebiscite now.

 

Getting it on at Maccas

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Buy Em By The Bag. We dare you.

As you probably know, the good citizens of Guildford are rejoicing over having fought off plans for a 24-hour Maccas to be built at the back of the Guildford Hotel. Even the local MLA, Michelle Roberts, is against any new fast food outlets in the town.

One of the reasons given for opposing the chain was that it was too close to a primary school. In other words, “Won’t somebody think of the children?” But this is far from a novel complaint about hamburger bars.

Although the media had regularly written accounts of how exciting Americans found them, the first burger bars seem to have arrived in WA only during World War II. And, just like the proposed Maccas, these were all-night joints. Which some sections of society found problematic.

In 1943, the head of the Salvation Army demanded that Perth should ensure all burger bars were closed at midnight, or society would be destroyed. How? you might ask. Well, they are “places of temptation”. And not just a temptation to supersize your order, oh no, temptation between the sexes.

You see, burger bars had become pick-up joints. (For young people: a pick-up joint is like Tinder, but without the need to register your email address.) “Perth has held such a fine place in moral standards that it ought to be the vital concern of every citizen to keep it in that position,” thundered the Salvation Army’s commissioner.

And he was not alone. The Women’s Service Guild wanted early closing on hamburgers, as did the Children’s Court magistrate and the Child Welfare Secretary.

Won’t somebody think of the children?

We suspect that the problem with burger bars was they were simply too American for the taste of Perth’s leading citizens. What was more likely to corrupt young minds than being exposed to Yankee food?

Anyway, Guildford has managed to protect young people (at least for the moment) from both the pleasures of a thick shake and the pleasures of the flesh. So we salute them.

The case of the missing hubby

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If these walls could speak, they would say bad things about James McLeish

When you lose a building you lose an opportunity to tell the stories about the people who lived there. Sure, the stories still exist but they are so much more real when connected to a place.

The above building, 11 King William Street in Bayswater, probably doesn’t have long for this world. Bits of the façade might be saved, but that will be all. Currently occupied by a number of businesses, the best of these is a small coffee shop run by two brothers who are evidently trying to out-do each other in the who-looks-most-hipster game. But they are only the most recent part of the story.

The left hand side of the building was built, probably in 1905, as a general store for Robert and Mary McLeish. The right hand side of the store and the façade are probably 1920s, when Bayswater’s main shopping district expanded with all the new people moving to the area.

The couple had come over from Adelaide in 1902 to set up business in Bayswater. They were evidently a good match, since they eventually celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary.

This story isn’t about them, but son James. He married a Melbourne lass, Ethel, in 1920 and came to WA three years later. Dad, Robert, helped set James up in business, and eventually (four kids later), the younger pair took over the running of the King William Street store.

But in February 1940, James declared he needed to go on holiday to the South West for a weekend. However, as Ethel explained four years later:

First he said for a weekend, then a week, and finally changed his mind and said he’d take a month. I’ve neither heard from him nor seen him since.

She took over the running of the shop and quickly realised he’d never meant to return, having taken all the cash with him, leaving her only with unpaid bills.

Fortunately, Robert McLeish stepped in and settled the debts, and let Ethel and one of his daughters run the store.

You won’t be surprised to discover she got her divorce when she asked the courts for it.

When journos go bad

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Three homely ladies

Here in the Dodgy Perth offices we do not believe the fashionable theory all journalists are lazy bottom-feeding scum. Statistically speaking, at least one of them has to be an acceptable human being.

Sometimes, however, they don’t do themselves any favours. We’ve all seen the ACA piece, or read something in The West, and asked ourselves “How is that news? Did you have five minutes to go and realise you’d spent the day in the pub and so just knocked out some sensational rubbish through your beer goggles?”

Well yes. They did. And so did a journo from The Mirror in 1935. They managed to fill many, many column inches sneering at overweight women, and throwing in some casual racism on the side.

And what had provoked this? Just a contact ad in the West Australian:

Miner (47), would like to meet homely lady, prefer fat woman, child not objected, view to above [matrimony]. Genuine.

After noting “fat women have had a sorry time through the ages”, our drunk hack observes that while the Turkish are an exception, the “average civilised man” doesn’t like plump chicks.

The newspapers are full of adverts for diets and slimming pills, and there is good reason for this.

Could you ask a fat girl to sit on your knee? Could you rely on her to have the agility to hop off it in time if someone came along?

Could you hold her in your arms in the back seat of someone’s car without feeling that you had the weight of the world on your shoulders or a ton of spuds on your chest?

People glare at her resentfully in crowded trams because she takes up a whole seat while others stand.

Bathers leave the water for fear of a tidal wave as she cavorts down the beach like a dyspeptic balloon and rumbles into the sea with the concentrated grace of a generation of elephants. Surfers crash into her broad back and, before they get the water out of their eyes, object to the P. and O. Company leaving a liner in a swimming area.

Just a tiny hint of fat-shaming, we’d say.

Anyway, now onto his twelfth gin, our lazy scribbler signs off with a pun: “A miner might like ‘a good crushing,’ but the average smart young man doesn’t.”

Hilarious.

Rotto and Rocky: Dens of sleaze

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Here at Dodgy Perth we have a simple rule to see whether it is acceptable to date someone. Divide your age by two and add seven. If the other person is younger than that, it’s a no go.

This means as soon as you hit 40, you are forbidden from dating anyone under 27. It’s that simple.

The rule was probably not much different in 1931 when a set of 40-something cads were exposed as seducers of teenage girls. They took advantage of owning yachts to invite the young ladies on three day cruises or camping trips.

The youngsters would lie to their parents and claim they were off to Rotto and Rockingham, or another “pleasure haunt”, with their girlfriends. Mum and dad could never believe their innocent daughter would be up to mischief, so saw no cause for alarm.

Immediately after leaving the house the young flapper would catch up with another couple of girlfriends and the three of them would board a large yacht with three middle-aged men as their companions for the weekend.

Many such yachts would be seen moored off Rotto on a long weekend, and with no accommodation on the island, the parties would take place entirely onboard, with much heavy drinking and the inevitable payoff for the elderly vampires.

“Mother thinks we girls are all camping at Rockingham,” giggled one foolish young flapper to a journalist.

Occasionally some of the old Romeos would run into one of the girl’s relatives and this would lead to black eyes and an embarrassed miss being ordered home.

The media blamed the parents, of course, and called for police intervention. As for the men, a sound thrashing was too good for them.

Welcome to holidaying. 1930s style.

The course of true love

Winnie Beattie

Winnie Beattie

“Wilt thou take this man to be thy lawful wedded husband, to love, honour and cherish in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer, for better or for worse till death do you part?”

“I will,” said Winnie Beattie to the minister one Saturday afternoon in June 1931. Trouble was, her mum was not of the same mind. And this was just one event in the strangest romance Perth has ever seen.

Four years earlier young Jack Garrigan (then seventeen) fell in love with pretty, vivacious Winnie, then just fourteen. They spent all their spare time together, and during the day the stayed close since both were employed at Boan’s Department Store.

But when the Depression came, Jack lost his job. Winnie’s parents vowed they would not consent to any marriage while the lad was out of work.

However the couple were still wonderfully in love. Winnie gave Jack a photograph of herself inscribed, ‘To the most adorable boy in the world.’

Jack Garrigan

Jack Garrigan

One day they were walking by St George’s Cathedral when they saw the notices of forthcoming marriage. In a rush of pure love they agreed to marry and only tell their parents afterwards.

But whispers soon spread, and friends became excited. Wedding presents were purchased and what was going to be a quiet at the registrar’s office became a full ceremony in the cathedral with organ accompaniment.

On the night before the wedding, Winnie broke the news to her mother. There were, of course, tears and recriminations. Jack’s parents, though, still knew nothing.

On the Saturday the bride went off to dress at a friend’s house. One hour before the ceremony Jack went home—to break the news to mum and dad. Although in shock, Mr and Mrs Garrigran hid their feelings, and went to St George’s Cathedral to attend a wedding of which they were totally ignorant an hour before.

The little crowd of guests were not kept waiting. At 4 o’clock the young bridegroom took his seat in the front, attended by his close male friends. Unnoticed, a lady in a fawn coat stepped quietly inside, choosing a seat in the centre of the church.

As the organ started, the bride walked up the aisle on the arm of a friend, with two bridesmaids in attendance. The dignified figure of Dean Moore stood in front of the altar and the little party grouped round him.

The Dean read the words of the marriage service, until he came to the famous phrase. “If anyone knows just cause or impediment …”

Then out of the still Cathedral came a slow, distinct voice: “I object!”

The Dean looked down the aisle and the lady in the fawn coat approached the altar. “I am her mother,” she said, “and she is not 21!”

The guests whispered in little groups while the bride wept in the vestry. The minister spoke with the parents, but to no avail. The ceremony could not proceed.

The boy and girl drove away together, the guests drifted off, and soon the cathedral was empty. For the first time in the history of St. George’s Cathedral a parent had spoken and forbidden the marriage.

But love will find a way! The couple still had a license to marry in their possession, and within a couple of hours, a Methodist clergyman was uniting them in the sitting room of a home just off Beaufort Street.

That night a car slipped quietly away to the Kalamunda Hotel. None of the guests knew that the shy couple at breakfast on Sunday were the principals in a sensational events of the night before.

But shortly before lunch a car drew up at the hotel and with determined step a man and a woman entered. Mother and father stood before the bride and her husband. Within minutes, Jack was left alone in the bridal chamber. His wife was gone with her parents back to Perth, his honeymoon lasting just twelve hours.

The bride’s mother sought to have the marriage annulled on the grounds that both had married without their parents’ consent. The court ordered the bride be returned to her parents’ control until she reached the age of 21.

Within a week Winnie had gone to Melbourne, supposedly for a long holiday, but she paid for Jack to join her. And they both slipped back to Perth and took up new jobs.

In 1932, a notice appeared in the newspapers: ‘On June 22, at Malvern Private Hospital, 222 Eighth Avenue, Inglewood, to Mr and Mrs Garrigan, 29 Museum Street—a daughter (June Dawn). Both well. Visitors after 27th.’

Sometimes great stories do have happy endings.