Progress is not for everyone


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What has the opening of the Town Hall on Barrack Street got to do with feminism? Give up? Well, let Dodgy Perth mansplain it to you then.

Everyone needs to tell stories, about themselves, their family and their community. For most of the last two centuries, the (white) people of Western Australia have told their history using one word: ‘progress’. And every new building, no matter how boring or ugly, was welcomed as yet another sign of the progress of this great state.

So it should come as no surprise to find that on the official opening of the Town Hall in 1870, a huge banner was put across Barrack Street with the word PROGRESS on it, for people to march under on their way to the new building.

But there’s a problem with this word. It doesn’t just apply to new buildings, but also to society. Little things like women’s rights, for example. If the fair sex keep hearing about how we’re progressive, they might decide they would like a little of this progress too.

At the Town Hall ceremony, there wasn’t much sign of this progress. The hall itself was filled only with the important men of Perth while the womenfolk were consigned to the gallery. The men feasted and drank the booze, while their wives simply looked on without even a sandwich.

But still, this whole progress thing had to be dealt with, and it fell to the Colonial Secretary, Frederick Barlee, to spell it out. Proposing a toast to the health of the ladies, like every misogynist before and since, he announced that no one could be more devoted to women.

As a lover of ladies, Fred continued, he well knew the power and influence they had over men. (Even if this did not extend to getting anything to eat or drink.) Recently he had been reading about something called “women’s rights and female suffrage”, and worse about women entering professions and becoming scientists. Not, of course, in Perth, but elsewhere in the world.

But, said Fred, addressing the gallery, none of the good and true women here would wish to see any such nonsense brought about. After all, they already knew how much power they had without needing legal rights. Nor did women need the vote, since all men did was vote the way they were told by their wives anyway.

The Colonial Secretary then called upon all present to drink to the health of the ladies by gulping down nine large mouthfuls of booze. Well, not all could drink of course. Some were in the gallery.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was what 1870 called progress.

Water, water, everywhere


We’re not certain, but we think this is 43 Salisbury Street, Bayswater. And is still there.

It’s raining outside, so this seems as good a moment as any to discuss the Great Bayswater Flood of 1939. How do you feel like spending two months with your house underwater?

In July, floods forced several families to evacuate from their houses in Salisbury Street. A depression in the road had filled with water and it turned into a 40-metre-long lake. It was there so long, thousands of tadpoles swam in it and frogs kept up an incessant croaking.

One residence became an island and it was impossible to access the front door. But Mrs McBarron refused to leave her house, even though she could only get her family in and out through a gap in the side fence and then through their neighbour’s house.

Bayswater council made noises about dealing with the problem, but they had known about the issue for years and done nothing. Eventually, the council begged the government for help, but were (correctly) told small drains were Bayswater’s responsibility.

By August things were even worse. For three weeks Mrs McBarron had been walking along precariously balanced boards and boxes to get to the back fence. Her small daughter paddled around the backyard in a tin canoe, which allowed her to get to three houses either side. She might have thought this was fun, but her mother didn’t.

After seven weeks of living in the middle of a lake, things looked no better. Cars attempting to plough through the water stopped in the middle of the road and had to be pulled out. It was only when parts of Beaufort Street went underwater that the council and government finally got their act together.

Eventually, after August came and went, the water dropped. Bayswater finally decided to pull their finger out and do some drainage work the following year. All too little, all too late.

When journos go bad


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.”


Our first gold fever


All the home comforts you could want…

Where was the first gold rush in Western Australia? If you believe the history books (and you shouldn’t) they’ll say it was at Halls Creek in 1885. Not even close. The first gold rush was more than 30 years earlier.

Just off the South Western Highway, a bit south of Byford, lies the sleepy townsite of Cardup. It was here in 1854 that the newspapers breathlessly announced the first gold to be discovered in this State. Allegedly hundreds of men had camped there and were toiling away finding it easy to produce small mountains of gold. One group of prospectors had picked up more than nine kilograms without any difficulty at all.

This was great news for the people of Western Australia. The failing colony had been forced to take on convicts as cheap labour, and everyone was looking jealously at Victoria which was on the verge of becoming one of the wealthiest places on Earth thanks to its gold mines.

Many people were looking for gold here, especially since the government had announced a £500 reward for the first verified finds. The Cardup prospectors, however, were never to receive this money.

Unfortunately for our wannabe gold mine owners, Harry Hughes, then secretary of the Mechanics’ Institute, decided to take a trip to Cardup to investigate the rumours. Rather than hundreds of men, he found about twenty.

Rather than gold piled up everywhere, the best he could be shown was some quartz with tiny specks of something shiny on it, which might or might not be gold.

In any case, most of the miners were on the verge of giving up and going back to their usual careers which they had hastily abandoned for the chance of instant riches.

The moral of the story is clear. Don’t believe the history books but, even more importantly, don’t believe the newspapers. And don’t give up your day job.

Historians save your bacon

In 1975 bacon caused cancer

In 1975 bacon caused cancer

Ever wondered why historians are so chilled out? It’s because every time the media reports some ‘new’ health scare we simply ask ourselves “Where have we read this before?” Today’s example is that bacon gives you cancer.

On the radio this morning and all over the Interwebz, you could not avoid being told that lighting up a Pepperami was going to make you die. Tonight.

In October 1975 Australians opened their newspapers to discover that the link between cancer and bacon was so certain the delicious smoked meat would soon disappear from every shop. Well, until 1979 when they opened their newspapers to find a senior research fellow of the Cancer Council assure them bacon was not even slightly carcinogenic.

So was this the first time bacon was accused and then absolved of evil deeds? Not even close.

If you’d opened your newspaper in 1902 you would have been shocked to discover bacon was causing cancer. Particularly cheap American bacon. Although in 1923, if you wanted to fight cancer all you had to do was eat more bacon.

1928. Bacon is good.

1923. Bacon is good. For the next five years, anyway.

Trouble is, by 1928 bacon was causing cancer. Again.

In 1928 Katanning residents were warned against hot drinks, bacon and pork. And advised to live in the mountains on natural foods and with “sun-flooded air”. Mountains being quite far from Katanning, it’s not clear how useful this guidance from the medical profession was.

Just wait a couple of years and bacon will be fighting cancer again. And then it will give it to you again. And then it will fight it again.

You don’t need a doctor. You need a historian.

Sulphur and fire

Just waiting for a squaddie with a match

Just waiting for a squaddie with a match

It deserves to be better known, but the first town in the Swan River Colony was not Perth or Fremantle, but Sulphur Town on Garden Island. Admittedly, Albany had been colonised a couple of years before.

Sulphur Town was home to the first Government House, and saw WA’s first horse race. What became of it is the subject of today’s story.

More than 400 people lived in the town, named after the ship which carried the 63rd Regiment. A regiment that was to start and end the settlement.

But by 1834, Sulphur Town was practically abandoned, as people left in the rush to claim good land along the Swan River. Even so, all the original buildings still remained.

In May of that year, the transport ship Lonach was anchored off shore. Onboard were the 45th, 55th, and 63rd Regiments. Some of the soldiers’ wives were permitted to land on Garden Island to do the laundry, and it seems that a few of the men followed them.

After a few ales, the squaddies did the only reasonable thing possible. They burnt the entire town to the ground. It seems likely they started with Governor Stirling’s old residence, before moving on to the barracks, the stores, and several huts and out-houses.

Ladders belonging to Thomas Peel were tossed into the flames, while any locked cabinets were broken open, just in case something valuable had been left behind.

The newspaper howled for the severest punishment the law allowed, but by this time the Lonach had departed, taking all the guilty men (and their wives) with them.

Recently, local archaeologist Shane Burke has discovered a molten champagne bottle on Garden Island, a permanent reminder of the need to keep soldiers well away from matches.

The unlikely terrorists amongst us

Jihad probably preached here. Probably.

Jihad probably preached here. Probably.

What’s with all these boat people coming to Western Australia with their strange ways and strange religion? Setting up their own schools and places of worship. And wanting to force us all to convert to their weird… Roman Catholicism.

Wait. That can’t be right.

But it is. Throughout much of the 19th century, Catholics were treated—at least by hard-line Protestants—with great suspicion. Attempts were made to stop Catholic schools receiving decent funding, and there were occasional riots on the goldfields between the two major branches of Christianity.

In 1869, one writer had had enough of the Catholic immigrants, who were largely Irish. He accused them of a conspiracy to take over WA, and pointed out that most of them were criminals anyway. Weren’t British jails full of evil Catholics, he asked?

Our Protestant correspondent went on to extract some out-of-context notes from an RC Bible, to prove Catholics were commanded to slay good Christians, and they were teaching jihad in their schools. Every Protestant had reason to worry about the forthcoming terrorist campaign.

For some reason, this all sounds very familiar. But we can’t think why.

U can’t touch this

Boys being boys

Boys being boys

Today’s topic is a sensitive one we have touched on before. How can we stop young men from self-abuse? By which we mean spanking the monkey. This was one of the great panics of the 1910s and, perhaps surprisingly, the Scout movement was called to be at the forefront of the war on self-pleasure. But first, a little background.

If you’ve seen Dr Strangelove, you may recall General Ripper ranting about the importance of “precious bodily fluids”. This is a reference to the theory that unused semen has to be reabsorbed back into the body in order to build a manly man.

Any boy who wastes this precious bodily fluid will be giving away his future manhood, and will at best be effeminate, and at worst a homosexual. This was all proved by science. Apparently.

Most importantly, the future of the white race depended on having sufficient masculine men to build empires, fight wars, and the rest. So it was down to the scouting movement to conserve as much semen as possible.

Each Scoutmaster was commanded to tell their charges that under no circumstances whatever must they play or meddle with their sexual organs. Besides being sinful, it was contrary to common sense and the boys’ future interests.

The best instructions to Scoutmasters was to

push prudery on one side, and to take their boys in hand…

That’s actually what it said.

Further advice involved regularly bathing the relevant organs in cold water, not eating heavy food at night, and refusing all stimulants.

If the Scouting movement could succeed in imparting this vital information it will have saved the country and secured the future of the white race.

Who knew it could be so easy?

A late visit from Conan Doyle

Conan Doyle pretending to be Sherlock Holmes

Conan Doyle pretending to be Sherlock Holmes

Following on from our recent story about Sherlock Holmes’ creator visiting Perth, we should mention that Arthur Conan Doyle came back to WA in August 1930. That might not seem unusual, until you realise that he had been dead for more than a month.

A Sydney psychic (Psydney psychic?) claimed to be the first to have had a vision of the great man, but this was instantly rubbished by west coast mediums. If Conan Doyle was going to appear anywhere in Australia, it would definitely be in Perth. After all, hadn’t he visited here in 1921, and didn’t he donate £85 to the Spiritualist Church? And wasn’t WA the only place in Australia to actually have a spiritualist church at all?

So, a local apparition of the famous author was needed quickly, and fortunately one came to herbalist and clairvoyant, Maud McDonough. He had no particular message for her on this occasion, but she did see him quite plainly.

However when Conan Doyle returned three years later he had a very clear message for Maud. She was to take charge of all the various smaller spiritualist groups in Perth and Fremantle and unite them under own command. This was to be the grand Spiritualist Church of Western Australia (Inc).

Unsurprisingly, this did not go down well with the other leaders in the movement, who rejected Maud’s unambiguous mission from Conan Doyle. A series of bitter meetings took place, where Maud was roundly condemned and attempts made to expel her from the club.

The church administration fragmented, while numerous lawyers’ letters failed to resolve the situation. In the end, the secretary and treasurer resigned, taking the association’s cash with them.

Apparently the spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t see that coming.

On grammar and radicalisation

No, it's Romani ite domum

No, it’s Romani ite domum

Some snotty-nosed brat in Sydney imagined he could stir up his teachers by writing ISIS R COMING ISIS on his school wall. How important he must feel, now that his infantile prank has hit national headlines.

We at Dodgy Perth naturally deplore his horrendous action. Like the words ‘government’, ‘committee’ and ‘team’, ISIS is a collective and therefore takes the third-person singular form of a verb. The correct graffiti is, therefore, ISIS IS COMING ISIS. Now write that out 100 times before dawn.

Which vaguely reminds us of this for some reason:

Anyway, Dodgy Perth would like to take this opportunity to expose the evil radicalisation that went on in our Perth schools. We refer, of course, to the Scouting movement.

Scouts. Seems all very innocent, doesn’t it? Sitting around a camp fire with a marshmallow on a stick and singing Ging Gang Gooley. But it wasn’t like that a hundred years ago.

In 1915, the Scout movement boasted it was bringing up a generation of boys who were well-drilled, healthy through rigorous training, and “well-disciplined and taught to obey”.

The Western Australian Governor repeated this to the young scouts themselves, reminding them that they should cultivate their intelligence, train their bodies, and to learn the value of “discipline and obedience to command”.

Founder of the Scouts, Baden Powell, recommended that every Australian boy aged between 11 and 14 needed to be prepared for a life to be spent fighting the Chinese and the Japanese invasion. His movement was the ideal place to place to instil self-restraint (read: no playing with your genitals), military training and sense of duty.

The problem, said Baden Powell, was that Australian youth were spirited and self-reliant, so action was needed now otherwise there was a risk of bringing up a nation of boys able to think for themselves. And these kids would not make obedient soldiers come the inevitable Asian invasion.

Dodgy Perth would also like to remind readers that during the Nuremburg Trials, the creator of the Hitler Youth, Baldur von Schirach, boasted that all of his ideas came straight from the Scouting movement. And it’s not hard to see this was true.

So before we get too excited about radicalisation, let’s remember that someone has always tried to mould kids into their image. And kids, being kids, have always ignored them.