Love is in the air


Marlene Dennis, 1959

Did you hear the one about the lion tamer who fell in love with a trapeze artist?

It’s not a joke. Just a story of everyday life in Cannington in 1938.

Mavis Bullen was a trapeze artist from the famous Bullen’s Circus. Professionally working as ‘Miss Jeanette’, she would swing near the tent top, high over the heads of the audience in a seeming death-defying act.

A trapeze artist’s life depends on a good relationship with the man who worked the ropes. In Mavis’ case, this was Bob Dennis, who also doubled up as the lion tamer.

Now, a man who has no problems wrestling a lion isn’t likely to be backwards at coming forwards.

Even so, it was some time before Bob could bring himself to propose to Mavis. And when he did, she refused him point-blank.

The lion-tamer was not going to let a little thing like a refusal worry him. He waited until next time they were rehearsing, and when Mavis was sitting on the trapeze he asked again. Once more she shook her head.

Bob said nothing, but simply tied the rope to a post and left her in the swing until she changed her mind.

In the middle of winter it’s pretty cold sitting on a swing wearing only a trapeze costume, but she stuck to her decision.

After that, every rehearsal, Bob stuck to his strategy—only each time he kept Mavis aloft a bit longer.

When she complained to her mother about this treatment, she got little sympathy. “Serves you right,” said Mrs Perce Bullen. “You’re both in love, and the sooner you make up your minds the better.”

The following day at the end of practice Bob refused to lower Mavis to the ground.

“Will you marry me?” he shouted from the ring. She half smiled, but shook her head.

“All right, then. You’ll stay up there this time till you change your mind,” he said. And she did stay. For an hour and a half.

As Mavis shivered high in the air, Bob stayed below casually smoking a cigarette.

Eventually she called: “Let me down, Bob. I’ve changed my mind.”

Mrs Bullen, who had watched the whole proceedings from a distance, broke their embrace to give them her blessing.

The marriage does seem to have been a success, and one of their daughters, Marlene, went on to perform as a trapeze artist and to work with animals.

Did you hear the one about the lion tamer who fell in love with a trapeze artist?

They lived happily ever after. And that’s not a joke.

Fifty Shades, 1940s style


Obviously I’m not doing this for my own good

Today, we go all Dodgy Sydney on you. Why are we abandoning the pleasant sunny shores of Western Australia? Well might you ask. You did ask, didn’t you?

The answer is simple. This letter sent by a serving WWII RAAF officer to his wife back in Sydney is just too good not to share.

Put on your pyjamas. Sit up in bed with a cocoa. And prepare to have Norman Robinson go full-on Fifty Shades on Gloria Constance Robinson:

As you know, dear, married couples often finish up in the Divorce Court through spanking, and in all these cases, dear, I think it’s because the female does not understand the male. She fails to see spanking as an expression of love.

Spanking is introduced into a marriage to terminate an argument, and the husband experiences great heights of exquisite delight and finds an outlet and gives expression to his fierce love for his wife.

The wife (being her first spanking probably since she was a child) experiences only the indignity of it and the physical pain.

But the husband has now found an outlet for his fierce love for his wife, and so he makes mountains out of molehills in order to obtain an excuse to spank her, with the result that the wife finds herself being spanked for every little thing she says or does.

The husband finds he has to spank her harder and longer to get the required results. The husband has to spank his wife for probably ten or more minutes before he begins to feel any reaction.

Darling, if you or any woman could experience the exquisite delight a husband gets from spanking his wife you would submit as often as you were physically capable.

Complete harmony, dear, could be obtained, I think, by regulating the spankings to a minimum of about one per week. If love required, twice weekly.

In our case, dear, as I said in the other letter, I would be fully prepared, should you feel the inclination, to bend over your knee, or lie face downward.

Green(er) on the other side

Edward McLarty and family, 1900

Edward McLarty and family at Edenvale, 1900

Are you ever too old to carry on with married women? This is the question we at Dodgy Perth will consider today.

In 1912, Reuben Green sued Edward McLarty for failing to make good on a £500 promissory note. So far, so straightforward.

Reuben was a labourer and mailman in Pinjarra, while Edward basically ruled the town like a medieval squire. He was JP and MLC, owned the biggest house (which you can still visit today), and was the father of a future Premier.

So perhaps it looks like Reuben was brave suing such a bigwig.

No, not brave. Stupid, as it turns out.

At this point, let us introduce Mrs Jessie Green, Reuben’s wife. Well, technically not wife, since Jessie wasn’t sure if her previous husband was alive or dead. But she called herself Mrs Green anyway.

Jessie was a middle aged, homely-looking matron, who was nearly as deaf as a post. But somehow she had caught the eye of the local squire, and whenever she beckoned Edward would rush to her bed.

Perhaps Edward wasn’t getting any at home from his missus, Mary Jane. Perhaps he just fancied bonking the local peasantry, like any good landholder. But since he was in his mid-sixties, he might have known better.

It should really have come as no surprise that one day Reuben should burst into the bedroom, and declare his outrage at finding the couple in flagrante delicto.

He levelled a rifle at Edward’s head, and demanded four promissory notes for £500 each or he would shoot.

Mr McLarty pleaded not to be blackmailed, but Reuben repeated his threat to fire. In the end, he received two such notes and allowed Edward to escape.

Now here comes the weird part.

Despite it being very clear that Mr and Mrs Green were in on this together, Edward kept coming round for nookie. And kept getting blackmailed.

In the end he had coughed up around £2,000 before he refused to honour one more note.

Then Reuben had the balls to sue in the Supreme Court to get a last five hundred out of his victim. Unbelievable.

The judge found for Edward, saying he had certainly been an old fool, but did not deserve to be blackmailed.

His Honour also said some very bad things about Reuben Green.

While it might have been good advice just to leave forbidden fruit alone, we at Dodgy Perth feel somewhat sorry for Edward McLarty. After all, that’s a hell of a lot of money for a little afternoon delight.

Let’s go outside

letsgooutsideYoung people today, eh? No standards, is what we say at Dodgy Perth HQ.

Not like in the good old days, like the 1950s. When people knew how to behave. And respected their betters. And did not make love in broad daylight in front of picnickers.

No sir.

Take for example, the way our grandparents celebrated New Year’s Eve 1953. The good old days. Just like in Back to the Future.

Can you imagine wild “necking parties” going on all night in King’s Park until the families arrived with picnics the next day? That generation could never have blended booze and sex into wild public orgies, never caring who saw them. Impossible!

It cannot be that these courting couples deliberately sought out audiences to their wanton promiscuity.

No. It was the 1950s, not 2015.

There could never have been a couple freely enjoying themselves in a ’53 model American sedan in King’s Park. Her blue nylon frock was not draped over the bonnet of the car. And sheer silk stockings weren’t boasting of her activities as they flew from the car’s radio aerial. There were no empty bottles strewn in the bush around them. This did not happen. It was the 1950s, when everything was better than today.

As dawn broke over a parking spot on Crawley Bay, near the University, you would not have been able to see a dozen people in six cars greeting 1954 in their own unique way.

A slim girl, probably no older than eighteen, was not vomiting into the river while her escort (shoeless, tuxedo pants and lipstick smeared singlet) did not drink breakfast straight from a bottle.

The pair in the back seat of a cream sedan nearby were being chaste. Not engaged in open activities which would make a pro blush.

Since it was the 1950s, all of these activities were confined decently to the marital bed. To people who were married to each other. That’s how things were back then.

Breakfast and bigamy

Fire station

The scene of our drama

In late 1924 Amy Coall showed up at Perth Fire Station on Murray Street. Unable to locate her husband, turning up at his place of work was a last resort. It was rumoured Joseph had married another woman, and Amy had to know the truth.

As it turned out, he had tried to be a bigamist. But his mum had stopped him.

But let’s return to the previous year. Amy and Joseph were lovers, and she was six months pregnant when they married in December 1923. The newlyweds moved into 9 May Street, Bayswater.

From the start, though, things were not right. Joseph spent two nights a week away, allegedly back at his parents’ house in Victoria Park, because he said his mum needed help looking after his father.

Their child was born in March, and the relationship rumbled on, with Joseph’s odd disappearances continuing. One Monday in August, Joseph left for work at the Fire Station and did not return for a week. When Amy questioned him, he simply shrugged it off, saying it had been a long shift.

Shortly after this Amy discovered guests had been invited to the wedding of Joseph Coall and Doreen Caple, followed by a wedding breakfast in Fremantle.

When Amy turned up at the Fire Station, Joseph admitted everything. And, by the way, his new lover was pregnant with his child. But he wasn’t actually a bigamist. His mother got cold feet at the last minute, and rushed over to Doreen’s family and told the truth.

Bizarrely, no one could bear to disappoint the invited guests, so the bogus wedding breakfast went ahead as planned, with none of the assembled party any the wiser.

You won’t be surprised to discover Amy got herself a divorce shortly afterwards.

Hello ladies, now look at your man


How the Dodgy Perth team imagine they look

Do you remember the ads with Isaiah Mustafa proving all you need to become a manly man is deodorant? Well it turns out daily use of Old Spice would stop you getting to first base with Cottesloe stenographer, Gladys Smith.

In 1947, Australian perfume manufacturers tried to open up a new market. Noting that American men used scents, but no Aussie male was, Perth residents were asked how they like a bloke to smell.

Our beautiful Cottesloe stenographer thought that scented soap and hair oil for men was revolting. “Scent”, she firmly declared, “is for women.”

Perhaps her friend, Miss Myers from Nedlands, will appreciate a nice body spray. No. A man who smells of perfume is a “sissy”.

Time to move on. Let’s ask a married woman, Mrs Milford of St Georges Terrace. “When my husband and I went to live in America, we were disgusted to find the men using scented oil on their hair,” she sneered.

Perhaps we should just ask the blokes, rather than the ladies. We can’t imagine Vic Park hairdresser B. N. Bullivant  disapproving. “I do not think scent suits an Australian,” he said. “The average Australian does not buy scented soap unless there is no other.”

And an East Fremantle baker, T. Wilson, just laughed at the idea. Pansies, he said. A scented man is a pansy.

So there you have it folks. Now we just have to update our Ashley Madison profiles to reflect our new non-scented status.

Fraudster, bigamist… those are his good points

Dr David Stewart in 1938

Dr David Stewart in 1938

We at Dodgy Perth take pride in being just a little bit dodgy ourselves. (But only when no one is looking.)

However, we have a long way to go to catch up with Perth’s dodgiest man: ‘Doctor’ David Stewart, the man with more wives than Henry VIII.

David joined WA’s Department of Agriculture in September 1932, to become their head veterinarian. His praises were quickly sung by the newspapers. He was a genius, a war hero, a “real man’s man”, and Perth was very lucky to have him here.

Around six months into his post he was made to resign. Despite his protestations of innocence, he had been moonlighting as a medical doctor (with forged certificates) calling himself Dr Russell. Apparently faking medical qualifications was not the done thing in the 1930s.

Oh. And his vet degrees were faked too. As were all his references.

Even while working for the Dept of Ag, he had been defrauding a number of local businesses of various goods. And sold all the furniture from the house he was renting.

At the trial, David got two years for forging his certificates.

But this was only a tiny fraction of ‘Doctor’ David Stewart’s life. He was also a bigamist. If bigamist is a big enough word for someone with at least seven wives. (He claimed to not be able to remember how many!)

A few quick dates in the court life of an astoundingly complex character:

  • April 1923: Ipswich, QLD, married a minor
  • April 1923: Brisbane, obtained property under false pretences
  • September 1923: Brisbane, larceny
  • July 1924: Melbourne, larceny to obtain a car
  • December 1924: Melbourne, bigamy
  • July 1933: Perth, forged medical diplomas; got two years, but was released after serving three months
  • March 1938: Melbourne, bigamy

Such was the mess of his life, and the fact that he married and worked under at least nine aliases, no one was able to say how many wives he had or what other crimes he might be wanted for.

We take our hat off to Perth’s dodgiest man.

Craigslist, 1834 style.

Personals Column Lonely Hearts Advert

Look no further

Now spring is well and truly sprung, a young man’s thoughts turn to things of fancy. To celebrate this, Dodgy Perth presents the 1834 equivalent of Craigslist.

How can you resist him ladies?


A young man about 22 years of age, without encumbrance, wishes to form a union with a young Lady of about that age, prepossessing in person, and competent to manage the household affairs.

The advertiser feels convinced that neither his person nor circumstances can form any objection to the views of any young lady, he having a comfortable home, together with other advantages too numerous to mention in an advertisement.

Letters to be addressed to I. Z. to be left at the Post Office, Perth.

Trouble in an Inglewood paradise


This was once considered porn. Seriously.

Today’s Dodgy Perth deals with a delicate story. As a consequence, we will use first names only. The protagonists are certainly deceased, but we wish to minimise the chance of young descendants stumbling across Great Grandma in this particular setting while researching family history for a school project.

Let us introduce Violet and Geoffrey . She grew up in North Perth and he in Inglewood. Both were born around the time of World War I.

Geoff was tall, broad-shouldered, olive-skinned, wavy-haired, and mustachioed. Looking every inch like a sportsman, he cut a handsome figure in his natty, gold-braided Flying Squadron blazer.

Violet was dainty, but extremely pretty with her raven black hair and noticeably high heels.

Their parents must have been delighted when the young couple met, fell in love, and married in 1940. It seems likely that the pair moved in with Geoff’s mother in Crawford Road, directly opposite Inglewood Primary School. (The house still stands, not looking at all like a home for what follows.)

Her parents were probably less than ecstatic when the following year Geoff was convicted of theft. Oh well. Newlyweds always have a few problems at first. But the problems kept coming for poor Violet.

It turned out the Geoff had a bit of a thing for laying her across his knee and spanking her bare bottom. Perhaps she could have lived with this if it wasn’t for Geoff’s habit of collecting pictures of men and women in (let us say) unusual poses and demanding that Violet act out the scenes with him.

No matter how many times she burned his stash of photographs, Geoff always seemed to be able to find more. When Violet finally cracked and threatened to take the porn stash to the police, Geoff blackmailed her by claiming he had taken photos of her sleeping. If she said anything, these would find their way into the public gaze.

In the divorce court in 1943, Geoff got a chance to put his side of the story. “I am not a sexual pervert”, he protested. “Every time we went to bed I was always too tired and wanted to go to sleep.”

In any case, Violet was difficult to live with, he claimed, alleging that his petite wife had hurled a heavy engineer’s hammer at his head, and made him beg on his knees just to get his trousers mended.

No one believed him, and maintenance was fixed at £2 10s a week.

An unfortunate marriage


Early Perth, looking all black and white

Keziah Lockyer was not a woman to meddle with. She had arrived in Perth with hubby Paul and their many children in early 1830. Keziah had to finance the trip herself, since Paul was broke and, it turns out, feckless.

The worthless husband immediately abandoned his family and took up his favourite hobby: drinking. Mostly in the Sailor Jim Inn at Fremantle.

For the next two years he kept up the boozing and saw nothing of his family. Worse, his grog was bought by selling the few clothes the family owned. Eventually, Paul cruelly announced he no longer needed to be troubled by a wife and children at all.

Keziah’s daughter Eliza struck lucky when she married William Nairne Clark, a lawyer and journalist, while Keziah sought comfort in the bed of her employer, William Temple Graham. These two men had once been friends, but had fallen out. Unfortunately, Clark befriended his drunken father-in-law and the two schemed to embarrass their mutual enemies.

In March 1838, they placed an advert in the paper:


Paul Lockyer hereby intimates, that he will not be responsible for any debts contracted by his wife, Keziah Lockyer, who resides with Mr W. T. Graham.

How they must have chuckled. But they had underestimated Keziah. She got mad. And she got even.

The following week, a large advert declared: “Paul Lockyer ought to have stated that I have not resided with him since 1832, previous to which he deserted me and my children, as is well known”.

Paul is well aware I never had any debts for which he was troubled; he would do well to think of his own.

Paul is requested to pay the cash borrowed from me since he deserted me; also the doctor’s bill for the cure of his dislocated shoulder (got in a drunken brawl) under which he lay thirty weeks at Mr Graham’s expense.

Dodgy Perth wish we could say her story ends well. It doesn’t. Her employer-lover sought his own revenge by seducing Eliza, the wife of his mortal enemy. Naturally, this did not go down well with Keziah. While Graham was sneakily at Eliza’s house, Keziah arrived in a fury. “You old villain,” she screamed, “you have had enough of me, and now you want to make a whore of my daughter.”

Unfortunately, Keziah had now embarrassed one of Perth’s leading citizens, so was told to leave on the first available ship and never return. On 6 May 1839, Keziah arrived in Tasmania to begin a new life, and vanishes from our view.