Getting it on at Maccas

maccas

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.

Speaking to the war dead

Arthur Conan Doyle and friend

Arthur Conan Doyle and friend

What do Sherlock Holmes and speaking to the dead have in common? The answer is, of course, Arthur Conan Doyle, who visited Perth in 1921 as part of a world tour.

But he wasn’t here to plug his books. Instead, Conan Doyle wanted to talk about his latest obsession, spiritualism. And His Majesty’s was packed out for the lunchtime event, with almost everyone in the audience being female. But we’ll come back to that.

Conan Doyle briefly sketched out the history of contacting the deceased, announcing that anyone who denied the existence of life after death was “either ignorant or a moral coward”. Certainly, the audience were receptive to the idea.

Especially when the speaker mentioned that his good friend, the brilliant scientist Oliver Lodge, had talked with the boys who had been killed in World War I. Every person in the audience had either lost a son or a husband in that conflict, or knew someone who had. Their bodies might not have been brought home, but now someone was offering a chance to say farewell.

“That,” said Sir Arthur from the stage, “is the message we have tried to give Australian mothers.” Mothers. Conan Doyle clearly knew who his audience was.

He had even spoken to his own dead son, Kingsley, who died in 1918 from the flu epidemic which raged across the world. A medium had relayed the words to Conan Doyle, who discovered that Kingsley was happy in the afterlife, and he even felt the touch of his son on his forehead.

How much excitement would that have created in an audience of mothers? An undoubtable, serious writer was proclaiming the very real possibility of once again speaking with lost children. How many tried and failed after this, we will never know.

There is no doubting Conan Doyle’s sincerity. He was no con artist, and was prepared to face ridicule for promoting his beliefs. Many of his friends tried to discourage him, not least Harry Houdini, the famous escapologist. But for Sir Arthur, this would mean giving up the belief he had finally said goodbye to his own son.

Speaking to the WWI dead is not usually thought of as part of Anzac history, but it fully deserves a small place in the tales to be told about 1914 to 1918.

With friends like these…

StevesA prisoner of war when this photo was taken in 1943, on the right is Steve McHenry, owner of the infamous Steve’s in Nedlands.

A couple of years earlier the Perth men had been fighting in Libya, and from the accounts of their time there it’s hard to know if they were soldiers or students tumbling out of Steve’s at closing time.

Camp at Benghazi was described as a lot like the bar at the WACA after an interschool sports meeting. (Wait. You could drink beer after school sports day?)

However, although the local beer tasted okay, the Western Australians complained it was too low alcohol for their taste. Apparently the native wines and spirits were awful, but fortunately there was a good supply of Australian beer.

If good Aussie beer turned up, though, “no one bothers about buying a bottle—it’s a case or nothing.”

As a result of this hard drinking, the English soldiers started calling the Aussies ‘the queer men’. Not what you’re thinking. It was because they considered them all stark raving mad when on the juice.

If an Australian wanted booze he became impossible to deal with. After having a few, if they could be forced out of the canteen without starting a brawl, the Aussies would go away and bring their officers back to start another fight.

Other than fighting in the canteen, the Aussies mostly fought while playing Australian Rules, of which there were games every afternoon. A friendly would not usually last more than ten minutes before it became an all-in brawl.

And they had an odd way of making friends with the English. After a Brit was returning from a reconnaissance flight, he spied half a dozen Aussies lazily sailing his private 16-foot yacht around the bay. (Wait. You could have private yachts at war?)

The Englishman flew round and let off a few machine gun bursts to show his annoyance.

Strangely, the next day, the yacht mysteriously went up in flames. How that happened, we’ll probably never know.

War is hell. If you’re the owner of a 16-foot yacht anyway.

Child soldiers

Private Leslie Shaw, 1940

Private Leslie Shaw, 1940

To the media,

Please stop assuming that all young Australians who run away to join ISIS have been brainwashed. Teenagers (in particular boys) have always sought adventure overseas, and have rarely understood the full implications of what they were getting themselves into.

Also, dear journalists, stop with the overuse of the word ‘radicalised’. It’s not a thing.

So, today Dodgy Perth presents the story of Captain Leslie Shaw, who signed up to be an Anzac at the age of just thirteen.

Born a Kiwi, Leslie served as a sapper in the First Field Company, New Zealand Engineers. He was present at the landing on Gallipoli and also at the Suvla attack.

After Gallipoli he went to the trenches in France, taking part in the Battle of Messines and the Third Battle of Ypres, in 1917.

Then, at the ripe age of 17 years, tiring of a foot-slogger’s existence, and anxious to join the Air Force, he disclosed his real age and was discharged from the Amy. This after some years on active service.

After the war Leslie served with the Air Force in India, before retiring to take up a tea plantation.

Bored of tea, he joined the flying service in New Guinea, being one of the first to fly in that service.

Finally ‘retiring’ to Perth, he became a broadcaster with radio station 6AM, and his talks on aviation became one of its most popular shows.

But even then, Leslie wasn’t finished. When WWII broke out, he was still young enough to enlist as a private, again in the Army, and undertook his basic training at Claremont.

Do you really believe that at the age of thirteen Leslie could have fully understood what he was getting himself into at Gallipoli and in the French trenches? Of course not. He wanted adventure, and he wanted to serve his country.

Dodgy Perth does not mean to equate joining ISIS with being an Anzac. One of these organisations is evidently not a good thing.

However, sometimes boys will be boys, and it doesn’t always require them to be ‘radicalised’ before they seek thrills and escapades in foreign lands.

Down, down, prices are down

SWM

Yesterday Dodgy Perth delved into the less-than-grown-up way our politicians planned the State War Memorial. Now the story continues.

Location, location, location. There’s no denying that the Memorial has all three. What it lacks is scale, dignity and style. Transplant it from its sublime location to a local park and it would look like your council put it up on the cheap.

How cheap?

Victoria’s Shrine of Remembrance? A whopping £80,000. South Australia went economy class for just £25,000.

And WA?

We shelled out a whole £3,000. And look what we ended up with.

The brave men who fought, and often died, for their young nation ended up with a Red Dot bargain-basement memorial.

As mentioned yesterday, the Government refused to fund the project, and the various local authorities told him they weren’t going to pay for a memorial which was only going to serve the City of Perth. They’d have their own memorials, thank you very much.

So the City of Perth must have paid for it.

Er… no. Not one penny was forthcoming from them. They loved the idea. Just not the idea of spending anything towards it.

So the public was asked to pay for the Memorial. The target was £30,000.

And the public responded. With fifteen pounds. Yes, you read that correctly. When the appeal closed, they had raised a whole £15.

In 1925, they tried again. This time the target was £35,000. By the time the appeal closed (still nothing from Government or councils), less than a tenth had been raised.

But still, if that was all they had, that would have to do.

The ‘honorary architect’ (read: offered to do it for free) was Sir Talbot Hobbs. Even though vastly overrated as an architect, he had served with distinction during the Great War.

But for no fee, he wasn’t going to put any effort in. Hobbs had knocked up a few monuments in France and Belgium, so he simply recycled one of these, with no thought for context at all.

Even with a free architect, and a greatly scaled-down project, they still managed to run over budget. So when the monument was erected, it didn’t get a setting or lighting.

They had to scrape together another £300 to put in some steps in so it didn’t look completely ridiculous.

Just to remind you: Melbourne spent £80,000 on their memorial.

A contemporary satirist imagined Sir Christopher Wren being summoned from the dead to comment on King’s Park’s latest addition:

Well, it will be a memorial all right, but it isn’t a design—there is no design in it. A memorial of brave men and valiant sons certainly. But people a hundred years hence will wonder what it symbolises, what it commemorates, why it was perpetrated.

As people of a hundred years hence, Dodgy Perth couldn’t agree more.

This story is adapted from one published last year. If you liked it then, you’ll have loved it again.

The war over the memorial

60x85mm

As state war memorials go, WA’s is pitiful. The first meeting to kick off the project—in February 1924—was a sign it was always going to be a calamity.

The Premier, Sir James Mitchell, chaired a meeting of mayors and architects. The intention was to discuss a location for the Memorial.

Architect Michael Cavanagh proposed that the Government should subsidise any memorial, but Sir James sneered at the suggestion. It was for local government and the people to fund it, he said.

The Mayor of Subiaco, Roland Robinson, told a sad story of how the residents of Subiaco had failed to donate enough money to build their memorial, so the council had to subsidise it. He was very sceptical that anyone would give for a state monument.

Robert Bracks, Mayor of North Fremantle, agreed. No one would give to a Perth-based erection. In any case, King’s Park was an awful idea for a proposed location, since it was in danger of becoming nothing more than a “glorified cemetery.” Shouting broke out and the Premier had to repeatedly bang on the table to restore order.

The Mayor of Fremantle seconded his neighbour, and declared there could only be one realistic location for a state memorial: Monument Hill in (ahem) Fremantle. He was never going to put his money into the city of Perth. And would the Premier like to have a look at Freo’s plans for a memorial? The Premier did not care to do so.

William Berryman, a former Subiaco mayor, had no interest in monuments. We need hospitals he said, not pointless memorials. This made Michael Cavanagh cross, and he mocked the erection of “maternity hospitals” to commemorate the dead. A row then broke out between the architect and the Colonial Secretary, who apparently did like maternity hospitals.

South Perth’s William Reid also wanted to boycott a monument in Perth. Somewhat imaginatively he proposed a war museum, with an inner shrine containing the body of an unknown Australian soldier. Or perhaps the money could be used for a ‘Hall of Industry’, where the State’s products could be exhibited.

No one listened to the dissenting voices and it was decided that King’s Park would be the location, with no Government money made available.

The subsequent outcome was predictable from the start.

h/t Museum of Perth