When blacking up was controversial

Young Australia League under construction, 1924

Young Australia League under construction, 1924

Above is the Young Australia League building on Murray Street. The Dodgy Perth team remembers it as a place to drinking absinthe cocktails during Goth nights there some years back. Not that we remember much after the fourth such beverage.

Founded in 1905 by ‘Boss’ Simons, the YAL was intended to promote patriotism, health and education among young Western Australians. So far, so good.

Before we continue, Dodgy Perth warns readers that the following contains racially charged language. Still here? Then we’ll continue.

For several decades, to raise money for the League, the boys would tour WA with a ‘nigger minstrel show’. In other words, they would do blackface and perform humorous sketches and songs. In other words, they mocked African Americans. To use their words, they did ‘clever coon impersonations’.

In the 1910s, these tours were immensely popular on the Goldfields and, for some strange reason, in Bunbury. They formed a major source of income for the League.

Unsurprisingly, they were also extremely controversial. But not for the reason you think.

Mr C. James of Cottesloe was outraged about such blackface. He noted the YAL’s motto was ‘Australia First’ and that they preached White Australia to their members.

So why were they doing an American form of entertainment? Why were good white Australian boys using burnt cork to pretending to be Negroes, complete with plantation songs and ‘nigger jabber’? Surely representing African Americans as a source of fun was contrary to the nationalistic ideals of the YAL.

But Mr James’ criticism was mild compared to that of Mr N. F. G. Wilson of South Fremantle.

He was sickened by seeing forty or fifty youngsters imitating a class of humanity that should be erased from the face of the Earth, if we were to remain true to our White Australia principals.

How can young Aussie lads, with their impressionable minds, honour their race when they are encouraged to dress up as “sons of Ham”? Boss Simons should realise that kids can never grow up to love their country and everything Australian if they are blacking up for fun.

And that, dear reader, is why the Young Australia League was controversial. Un-freaking-believable.

When museums were fun

two_headed_calfThe Western Australian Museum used to be interesting.

No. Wait. Hear us out. We’re serious.

In 1888 they displayed a (dead) chicken with three legs.

The following year they outdid themselves and had a four-legged chicken on display. 1890 appears to have passed without the number of legs on chickens increasing.

Not until 1903 did the museum collect a small dead wallaby with four hind legs and two pouches, which was shot somewhere near Bunbury.

1906. Two headed calf from Australind.

1910. A Bunbury lamb that looked like a rat.

The following year another four-legged chicken (yawn). This one pickled in a bottle of spirits.

In the middle of World War I, the museum obtained a fish with the body of a snake but the head and tail of a fish. They think of naming it the Anzac Frost Fish.

1920. Two headed lamb (haven’t we had one of those already?)

In 1936 Otto Lipfert, the museum’s taxidermist, stuffed Bricky, the Bayswater freak calf, and put him on display. Bricky later went on tour to UWA.

During World War II, two-headed lizards were all the rage. (And also in Japanese horror movies in the following decades.)

After that there were a whole string of two-headed lambs, bobtails, and the like.

The WA Museum should open its archives and redisplay each and every one of these donations. Or explain why they’re hiding them.

Also, a new museum is about to open in Perth. It had better have at least one freak of nature, or it’s letting the side down.

Face it, you need a cold shower

PSYCHO-001

Dodgy Perth understands that some of our readers still do not know how to take a shower.

As a service, then, we offer the following advice from a Bunbury newspaper in 1928.

If you want a beautiful complexion, you will need a daily cold shower.*

The shock of the cold water stimulates the skin over the entire body. But in particular, your face will look horrible if you do not have cold showers.

“I love showers,” some of our readers will say, “but I can’t stand the shock of the cold.”

That’s because you don’t know the right way to take a shower.

Having tucked up your hair in a bathing cap, turn on the shower full strength. Before going under it shut your eyes and place both hands so that the thumbs close the ears and the tips of the little fingers press the nostrils shut.

Fill your lungs with air, then close the mouth and hold your breath as you step under, throwing back your head so the full force of the cold water falls on your face.

No matter what the temperature is outside, you will find this a delightful sensation.

Keep this position while you count to twenty.

Then, as you open your mouth to gasp, duck forward so that the water strikes the top of your back, still keeping your hands in position.

Repeat this two or three times and you will discover a delicious glow of freshness.

Not only will your body improve (your face will certainly look better), but your mind will be cheery and you’ll be ready for whatever the day throws at you.

This has been a public service announcement from Dodgy Perth in the interests of improving people’s faces.

* It will be seen that hot water is not involved in these showers, which should please the paleo lifestyle reader. (Are there any paleo people among Dodgy Perth fans?)

Anzac profits

anzac_4_sale

A few Anzac gifts available from the Post Office

As you bite into your Anzac biscuit, preparing to celebrate Anzac Day at Anzac Cottage, or maybe have a pint at the Oxford Hotel on the corner of Anzac Road, or…

You get the point. Anzac is a bit more than a military term. It’s a word full of emotion and value. Value in the ‘give me all of the money’ sense, that is.

The wonderful Ms History Punk has exposed the cashing in immediately—really immediately—after the word Anzac was coined. It wasn’t even an official word at first, just a nickname. It wasn’t even popular with some soldiers. So Ms Punk explores the seedy world of business folk safe back home in Australia who never missed a chance to make a little extra.

Like the Imperial Boot Co on Hay Street who announced an Anzac Sale in 1916. Yep. Apparently all those Anzac heroes going off to war meant they weren’t buying footwear like they should have been. And the poor shop was overstocked. So here was your chance to get some cheap shoes before the soldiers came home and the prices went back up again. That’s what they meant by Anzac Sale!

If you were in Bunbury during WWI and fancied a cool drink, fruit, lollies, or perhaps some beef or ham, we’d recommend the deli quickly renamed The Anzac to catch the current mood. Or if you were in Kalgoorlie, why not eat at the Anzac Grill Rooms?

Didn’t get a residence built for you by the local community? Presumably that’s because you weren’t a wounded serviceman. Never mind, estate agents will still sell you a lovely house as close as possible to Mt Hawthorn’s Anzac Cottage. Really close if you can afford a bit extra.

And finally, not serving overseas? Well you can pretend you are by buying some Anzac badges and Anzac hat pins to wear on Anzac Day. Then you can imagine you’re playing your part. And Boans can make a profit. By coincidence, of course.

It was all getting so out of hand that the WA poet Dryblower (aka Edwin Murphy) imagined a dystopia where:

It’s ‘Anzac Cottage’ and ‘Anzac-street,’
Anzac sox for your tender feet;
Anzac collars and Anzac ties,
Anzac puddings and Anzac pies.
Anzac stockings and Anzac shoes,
Anzac buttons and Anzac booze.
There’s an Anzac hat for an Anzac head,
And an Anzac bridegroom newly wed,
While spoony pairs will be sighing soon
For a sweet little Anzac honeymoon!

We were spared this nightmare when the Government suddenly banned the use of the word on anything commercial.

But you should still go to Anzac Cottage. And eat an Anzac biscuit. And be thankful we were spared Anzac socks. Although a pint of Anzac booze would go down nicely right now.

Black mail

With love, from me to you

With love, from me to you

The first posties in Western Australia were the colonists themselves, but they quickly priced themselves out of the market. So the Government decided to turn to a cheaper option.

Since Rottnest Island was a harsh prison for Aborigines, it was from here the new posties were ‘recruited’. In exchange for basic rations, sometimes just a handful of flour, Indigenous men were forced to carry the mail all over WA.

Failure to fulfill any part of the ‘bargain’ would mean an instant return to the hell that was Rotto.

So from October 1848, a new (almost free) postal service was in place. The lucky ‘employees’ had to walk with a hefty bag from Perth to Mandurah, or Mandurah to Bunbury, or Bunbury to Busselton. They could easily rack up more than 200 km a week.

Unsurprisingly, some Aboriginal posties became injured through exertion, alarming the Government who wanted no interruption to their bargain-priced mail service.

As the number of leg injuries continued to rise, one kind soul suggested the posties be given ponies to ride. Fortunately, colonists were not heartless. Letters poured into newspapers protesting this proposed scheme.

How dare we think of doing that to the poor animals? Anyone familiar with brutish natives would know they would mistreat the poor ponies! Far better to break a few Aborigines, than one four-legged friend should be put at risk.

So the posties were forced to keep up the long walks, for no pay. The only reward being to keep out of Rottnest Prison.

Eventually mail bags became so heavy, the posties couldn’t lift them any more, so good white folk once again took over.

Naturally, they used a horse and carriage. Any other way would be unthinkable.