Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1841

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United Service Tavern shortly before demolition

As New Year’s Eve rapidly approaches, the Dodgy Perth team will be undertaking their usual ritual of preloading followed by a night out in a pub with live music, followed by drunkenly trying to get a snog at midnight. Naturally, the venue will not be the Brass Monkey, but you probably guessed that already. (Please note that Dodgy Perth does not condone excessive consumption of alcohol. If you do, it means less for us.)

Which made us wonder which Perth hotel threw the first ever NYE party. And we believe the answer is the United Service Tavern, pictured above. Sadly, this long-standing pub on St George’s Terrace was demolished around 1970 and was replaced by a fairly ugly building.

The original tavern was opened in 1835 by James Dobbins, formerly a private in the 63rd Regiment, who had arrived on the Sulphur accompanying the first wave of colonists in 1829. Keen to attract his former military colleagues to sink a couple of pints, James called the pub United Service Tavern and painted large pictures of Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington on the front. That what was passed for equal opportunities in the 1830s: both army and navy were welcome.

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The original United Service Tavern, pictured here in the 1860s

In 1840, the tavern was taken over by Henry Cole, known locally as King Cole, because apparently that was funny in the 19th century. And it was Henry who seems to have organised the first ever NYE public event in the Swan River Colony for 31 December 1841. Gentlemen’s tickets were 10 shillings each, while ladies only had to pay 7s 6d. Presumably because they would eat and drink less than the blokes, rather than a tacky stunt to get more females into the bar. Maybe.

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We object to gendered pricing policies. Even from 1841.

Later the building came into the hands of Henry Strickland and Stephen Chipper, before being leased by John Giles who added a new front to the original building. It was this frontage, and the 1835 hotel behind it, which were demolished in 1970, including original stables and outbuildings.

So, if you’re heading out tonight to a historic venue, remember to be thankful not everything has been knocked down. Yet.

Otto and the whale

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Why grandma, what a big mouth you have…

A brief recap on yesterday’s post: a Busselton whale was claimed by Daisy Locke in 1897. It was agreed to donate it to the museum in Perth, so it was now an issue for taxidermist Herman Franz Otto Lipfert to work out what to do with it. Now read on…

In later life, Otto Lipfert was described as a bespectacled, white-smocked, fuzzy-haired, lightly-built man, looking considerably less than his seventy-three years of age, with a modesty and manner out of place in modern society. He was said to be soft of speech, unruffled in demeanour, unhurried in manner, painstaking and methodical.  In other words, Perth folk found him a stereotype of German efficiency.

Otto had arrived from Germany at the right time, 1892. A trained furrier and taxidermist, he was exactly what a new museum needed.  Chronically underfunded, the museum eventually offered him a month-to-month contract in 1895 on a salary of £210. Throughout his decades working there, his wage was barely increased, and he had to supply all his own tools of the trade and work in pitiful spaces, originally just a wooden shed out the back.

So how do you prepare a creature that’s been rotting on a beach for some weeks? The annoying thing about the whale, at least for the taxidermist, is that its carcase cannot be preserved. The skin is very thin and attached to blubber up to five centimetres thick. It’s impossible to scrape the blubber away and preserve the surface.

So Otto supervised a man named Hunt and two Japanese gentlemen to remove all the flesh before the bones could be taken above the high-water mark.  It must have been an awful job to undertake. The bones were left there for a few months, to let all the remaining soft body decay and the skeleton to bleach in the sun. The Bunbury Herald blandly reported in May 1898 that the bones had been “sent for exhibition at the Perth museum” from Bunbury Railway Station, but this does not even begin to describe the complexity of the operation.

Otto made another trip down to Locke’s farm, and got busy numbering the bones. Then he supervised the loading of them. The skull alone weighed 1,370 kg, while each of the lower jaw bones weighed 813 kg, so the job of transporting them to the railway line was no easy matter. It needed six men with winches just to place them in position on the wagons. To rail them to Perth, five and ten tonne trucks were needed.  “It was not easy to shift,” Otto understated some years later.

After this, the whale needed to be installed as an exhibit at the WA Museum. But that’s a story for another day.

Getting to the point

hatpins

Inspector White: “Just the facts, Ma’am”

While British women were being imprisoned for demanding the vote, the fair sex in Western Australia was subject to an even more sinister form of control. We refer, of course, to the notorious anti-hatpin crusade of 1912-13.

It all started in March 1912 in Melbourne, when the Australian Women’s National League resolved to start the crusade. If you were to believe the press (although we never do) numerous people were being blinded by the awful hatpins, and even one case of death where the pin pierced the brain of an innocent man walking by.

Sydney responded immediately with a ban on unprotected hatpins, with a fine of £10 for each offence. By May, Boulder had drafted similar laws. After Perth outlawed these dangerous weapons in August, one Perth drapery firm sold thousands of hatpin protectors in a single week.

And Perth City Council wasn’t joking, officers were appointed to walk the streets and take down the names of offenders for prosecution. In one day in February 1913, forty indignant women were charged with having broken the most serious of all laws.

These Perth women were indignant, claiming that the council was oppressing their freedom to dress as they wished. Sometimes they claimed they didn’t know about the law, which led (male) newspaper journalists to bemoan that the feminine members of the community limit their newspaper reading to the births, deaths, and marriages column and social notes.

A huge sweep was undertaken by Inspector White on 27 March 1913, when seventeen ladies were dragged before the magistrate for having worn unprotected hatpins on Hay and Barrack streets.

One of the ladies successfully argued that her pin was too short to protrude from the edge of her hat, even though the good Inspector White gave evidence to the contrary.

Another defendant, Eliza Tuxford, explained that the protector had fallen off her hatpin, so was fined only five shillings. The remaining fifteen were each ordered to pay ten shillings, and warned to never endanger the lives of the public again.

Most Australian cities dropped the laws quickly after this, leading to the end of this oppression. But Inspector White was determined to press on regardless. He was still bringing cases in 1919, leading to allegations he was on a bonus scheme for increasing the council’s revenue. But that could never be true, could it? Like parking inspectors today, he worked for love, not to aid budget lines.

Don’t look back in anger

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What you looking at?

Dodgy Perth promises this is the last time we will ever deal with this controversial issue. Especially since we are going to put it bed for once and all time.

Take a look above at the Australian coat of arms on Perth’s GPO, freshly installed when this photo was taken, with the kangaroo looking the wrong way. As is well known, the sculptor didn’t get paid so the roo is looking in an accusing fashion towards the treasury building.

Wait, did we say this was Perth GPO? Our mistake.

This is actually a picture of the coat of arms installed on the new parliament building in Canberra in 1926. So, evidently this sculptor didn’t get paid either. What is it about sculptors not getting paid in the 1920s?

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Oi, look at me when I’m talking to you!

But sculptors haven’t been getting paid for a long time before the 1920s. Oh yes. This is the old Sydney GPO, which predates the Commonwealth, and the roo is looking in an accusing way towards… well, towards something presumably.

Every time this story gets a mention on local radio, someone rings up and claims their father (or grandfather, or uncle) made the GPO coat of arms, and the legend is completely true.

Well, we’re sorry to say folks, that this is just how some fancy shield things were done in the past. Just is. Nothing more interesting than that.

Is chivalry dead?

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If only he had a hat to doff

Chivalry is dead, goes the cry. Gentlemen no longer hold doors open for ladies, they expect the weaker sex to pay for their own restaurant meals and tickets to the picture house, men no longer stand or doff their hat when in the presence of lady, etc., etc.

Which makes the historian wonder when the golden age of everyone behaving properly towards the fairer half of our population actually was. The 1980s? The 1950s? The thirties? Well, of course, the answer is always and never. There never was a golden age and people have always been complaining that chivalry is dead.

At the end of the end of the 18th century, English philosopher Edmund Burke declared “the age of chivalry is gone” and “the glory of Europe is extinguished forever”. These lines were later invoked to oppose the suffragettes, who were “boring” men with their constant claims for equality.

Here in Australia, in 1884 women were allegedly being “degraded” on roads and in parks, but only because chivalry was dead. By 1905, someone calling herself Beatrice said young ‘hooligans’ were only walking their girlfriends to the bus and forgetting to lift their hat to say goodbye, and not even opening the bus door for her. ‘Jack’ responded to Beatrice, claiming that if women wanted men to be more chivalrous then women should be more thoughtful and ladylike. It’s always the woman’s fault, always.

Try catching a tram from Victoria Park in 1926, because it was clear chivalry was dead when young men were so obsessed with their iPhones (sorry, penny dreadfuls) they weren’t standing for the gentler sex. The following year the West Australian ran a picture of a woman changing her own tyre with the headline “Is chivalry dead?” To which a feminist responded that she bloody well hoped so, since women could change tyres without any help from men.

And this brings us to the real point: few people (read men) ever bemoaned the lack of chivalry without turning it into an anti-feminist rant. If women would stop demanding equality, men would behave better. Curiously, some suffragettes tried to turn this to their advantage by noting that the truly chivalrous should understand women’s claims to basic human rights.

So the next time someone complains that society ain’t what is used to be, just ask them when their golden age was. And then laugh.

Suffer little children

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Eugenics R Us

Here at Dodgy Perth we’re a little over hearing so much praise for St Edith of Cowan. After all, how seriously can you take someone who named herself after a local university?

Should we save her house? Probably. Should ECU have spent $715,000 on a tent to name after her? Probably not. Because she was Australia’s first female politician should we assume she was Gandhi and Mother Theresa rolled into one? Absolutely not.

What really gets us is the way everyone keeps going on about how much she loved all of the little children? Did she? Let’s take a look.

In 1929 the Government proposed a new law which would sterilise any girl who they decided was ‘mentally defective’. This was needed, it was said, because the ever growing number of mental deficients were “poisoning with their hereditary taints the lifeblood of the State”.

Edith Cowan, who loved children you’ll remember, was outraged and demanded the bill be changed. She didn’t think, of course, the bill was offensive, but that it did not go far enough. The proposed law said parental consent was necessary before sterilisation, and Edith thought this was wrong. Parents were being cruel by letting their idiot children breed, and “the moron girl should be so treated that she would not become a menace by reproducing her type”.

Fortunately, the bill was shelved and before the Government could reconsider it the Nazis had given that kind of thing a bad name.

Edith Cowan did many great things in her life, but she also held some extremely offensive views. Let’s not create a saint from her life story but remember her as an all-too-real complex human being.

 

How WA invented Pommies

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A picture of whining poms

Western Australia is famous for many things but, up until now, it has not received credit for its greatest contribution to Australian culture. We invented the word ‘pommy’. Dictionaries like to say the origins of the word are obscure, but they aren’t. It started here.

On the goldfields they liked to play with words. Immigrants got called ‘Jimmy Grants’ because someone thought that was funny. Then it was taken too far. From ‘pomegranate’, Jimmy Grants became Pommygrants. And after that it quickly became the word Pomegranate itself, before getting shortened to Pommy. All this in Western Australia in the first years of the 20th century.

Dictionaries are also wrong when they claim Pommy first appeared during World War I. It is much earlier than that, and even appears in print in WA in January 1912 when immigrant British policemen were referred to as Pomegranate Johns, or Pommy for short. The word quickly spread around the whole country, and by 1913 the whining Poms were claiming it was a racially abusive word and should be banned. A joke from that year went like this:

A canvasser visited a house in Perth, and was referred by the good wife at the door to the “Old Man”, in the garden. He found that the “Old Man” was a Chinaman. “Do you mean to say you’ve married a Chinaman?” he said incredulously to the woman. “Why not?” she replied, “the woman next door married a Pommy.”

Before he died in 1950, John Jones of Leederville used to boast he had invented Pommy while perving on English girls on Hay Street. This is unlikely to be true, but does show that Western Australia has always claimed to be the origin for the word. It is time we were once again proud of our heritage.