On the buses


The bus to Belmont, 1912

Every few days you can pick up a copy of The West and read about how much taxi drivers hate Uber. If you’d picked up the paper a century ago, they were grumpy about these damned novel buses that were taking their business.

On St George’s Terrace in the first few years of the 20th century, one motor bus was brave enough to try and take people to Ascot Racecourse. There was almost a riot.

Angry cab drivers surrounded the bus and shouted threats and curses. Anybody who attempted to board was vigorously abused. Nevertheless, the bus managed to gather enough brave passengers to make a successful trip to the races and back.

And customs on buses were different in those days.

On the Belmont route, when the bus was overcrowded, it was expected that a lady would stand and let a gentleman have her seat.

Then she would then sit on his knee. Seriously.

Dodgy Perth believes that TransPerth should bring back this etiquette today.

Bus drivers could be a little, let’s say, less professional from time to time a century ago.

One driver, who was a little ‘under the influence,’ had an argument with a passenger as to whether he had paid the correct fare.

To settle the argument the pair left the bus at Barrack Street, and the fight was only interrupted by a policeman, who arrested them both.

When this news reached the waiting passengers, they went straight to the police station to demand the driver’s release.

When the sergeant in charge pointed out that the bus company employee was obviously drunk, one lady passenger explained: “Oh, he is all right. I’ve sat beside him before when he was like this, and I always pull the bus back if it goes off the road.”

Satisfied that the bus was in good hands, the sergeant released him.

Ah, public transport. How disappointingly boring you are today.

Free and easy on the buses

So, taxi drivers are complaining about Uber. A century ago, they were complaining about these new-fangled motor buses. Nothing ever changes, does it?

On the first Saturday that a motor bus tried to take passengers to the races from the rank in St. George’s Terrace there was almost a riot. Angry cab drivers gathered round and shouted threats and curses. Anybody who attempted to enter the bus was vigorously hooted. Nevertheless the bus got a load and made a successful trip to the races and back.

On the Belmont run, ‘when knighthood was in flower,’ it was the custom when the bus was overcrowded for a lady to rise and let a gentleman occupy her seat; she would then sit on his knee. Free and easy were the conditions of those days.

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The racecourse whisky scandal


A little too much racecourse whiskey perhaps?

Apparently today is something called the Melbourne Cup. Unlike those lazy Victorians, we in the Dodgy Perth office are expected to work all day. Anyway, because we will be sneaking off to the Civic Hotel for a lunchtime flutter and drink, we present the local scandal of ‘racecourse whisky’.

Racecourse Whisky was not a nobbled horse. Nor even a nickname for the lovely lady pictured above. Instead, it was low-grade, adulterated liquor sold to the general admission patrons at Ascot.

Half a public health concern, it was also half a joke. People charged with being drunk and disorderly would sometimes claim, “It wasn’t me, your Honour, it was the racecourse whisky.”

There were regular debates about who should run Ascot’s bars, professional publicans or the Western Australian Turf Club. But very little was done to improve the standards of the alcohol served at the course.

For all those who overindulge today, listen to plea from a Belmont racegoer a century ago:

To the Editor

Sir, May I ask a little space in your paper to protest against the class of liquor dispensed to patrons on our leading course at Ascot?

It is scandalous the class of drink served out to customers there. I think the caterer must make it his business to secure all the oldest and unsaleable stock he can manage to get hold of.

Where are the inspectors? I remember once seeing an inspector make the caterer remove a dozen or more bottles from the shelves as unfit to be sold to the public. Still even then I do not think there was a prosecution.

I think it only a fair thing to patrons of the leger that they be protected by the clubs which they patronise. Clubs should see that only the best liquors are on sale and do away with what is now termed ‘racecourse whisky.’

Yours, etc.,
C. D. Lester, 861 Murray Street, Perth, Nov. 16