A jolly good Post Office


From stamps to tikka masala

*Update* We have now been informed that the Post Office was located in the (now) Beauty & ‘Massage’ parlour, not the restaurant. Same story. Same building. Wrong door.

Continuing our quest to make our local neighbourhood more historical, we turn to the building on the corner of Beaufort and Salisbury Streets in Inglewood. Now the best Indian restaurant in Perth (no argument accepted), we knew this was once a Post Office. But that was not enough. More research was required.

The building screams Art Deco at you. Admittedly a very cheap version of Art Deco. But still, Art Deco. Its date is certainly mid-1930s and so it proved. Approval was given for three brick shops and a residence (at a cost of £2,000, should you care) in late 1935. So they were probably erected in 1936.

The area was then known as Bedford Park and, boy, was it growing. Growing like a plant that grows a lot. A serious amount of plant growth.

In an age before Facebook Messenger there were apparently something called ‘letters’. The Dodgy Perth team does not claim to be familiar with this method of communication, but it turns out to be a real thing. And you had to ‘post’ them. At something called a ‘Post Office’.

Trouble was, the expanding community of Bedford Park didn’t have anywhere convenient to ‘post’ their ‘letters’ in 1938. (We hope we have the language right here.) But the Postmaster General’s Office—the feds who ran the show—weren’t willing to pay for more staff. Imagine that: a government department trying to save money.

The outcome was a compromise called an ‘unofficial post office’. As far as we can tell (and it’s difficult to get accurate information on this one), this meant a deli that sold stamps, collected the letters and parcels, but didn’t get an income from head office. They just made money from selling stamps.

So the shop on the corner of Beaufort and Salisbury Streets got the job of being the local unofficial post office from 1 August 1938, run by John Ramley. But the story doesn’t end here.

Diagonally opposite is a small park, where a war memorial is now located. Bayswater Council offered the site for a permanent Post Office, but this was rejected by the Postmaster General’s Office. The reasons are technical, but basically an A-class reserve cannot be built on without State Government legislation. And this was all too difficult for the Post Office to figure out.

So, our local Indian restaurant leads us to a story about cost-cutting exercises by a federal government department, and their inability to deal with a state government. We guess nothing ever changes.

Fur coat and no knickers

GPO, 1929

GPO, 1929

Reader, you and I have grown quite intimate, have we not? We have confessed our thoughts to each other. Whispered those things of which only true friends can speak.

Yet, there is that one matter we have not dared to broach. And now it is time.

I lean over to you and say in a low voice: “Some of Perth’s heritage buildings are quite disappointing.”

There. It is out in the open.

In fact, right across Western Australia are hundreds of boring brick sheds with corrugated iron roofs, and a thin façade of Donnybrook stone glued on the front.

Lipstick on a pig, as the Americans say.

All fur coat and no knickers, as my mother says.

Or, as one critic said of the General Post Office in Forrest Place: “It’s like a lovely face on a baboon body.”

Next time you’re in the CBD, take a look at the sides of the GPO. You will see they would be easily mistaken, as the West Australian said at the time, for the walls of a factory.

Don’t get me wrong. The façade is charming. Really, really enchanting.

But, like so many buildings in this State of ours, the rest of the edifice has no architectural unity with the front. None whatsoever.

When the GPO opened, the Sunday Times was outraged. (Mind you, the Sunday Times was always outraged about something.)

They would never have done this in Sydney or Melbourne, it thundered, but the federal government feels able to “treat Perth with vulgar contempt.”

Sometimes you see a heritage building and think you’re falling in love. But then you realise that it’s just makeup, and there’s nothing behind it. And all your affection falls away.

Dodgy Perth is sorry we had to raise this issue, but you had to know.

Can we still be friends?

Turn me kangaroo round, sport


Is something happening over there?

Dodgy Perth went to Forrest Place and noticed the two coats of arms on the Post Office had been removed. Both the Australian arms (above) and the British royal coat of arms. They’re gone because of yoof who decided it would be funny to smash them up.


Where’s me kangaroo gone, sport?

Anyway, the office got thinking. We’ve heard various stories about why the kangaroo on the GPO’s Commonwealth coat of arms faces the wrong direction. On all the other coats of arms, the two delicious animals face each other.


Burger time

Or to go all heraldic about it: why does the GPO have a sinister kangaroo regardant?

The best theory says because of swastikas, aliens, Masons, the illuminati and witchcraft. We don’t pretend to follow the argument, but we are convinced. Maybe.

Alternatively, the most popular tale concerns a sculptor who never got paid for his work, so the kangaroo looks back at the treasury as a rebuke.

We thought about this for a while.

So… the sculptor cast the coat of arms knowing in advance they wouldn’t get paid. And then no one noticed the sculpture was wrong when they put it up.

We back the illuminati story now.

But… Dodgy Perth is going can be the first to reveal the real, genuine, slightly mundane truth.

Take a look at the Commonwealth arms below:


Are you looking at me, mate?

This is the Old Parliament building in Canberra. It may look ordinary now. That’s because someone cut the head off the kangaroo and turned it round.

That’s right. The coat of arms on the national parliament once had a sinister kangaroo regardant. You were allowed creative licence in your interpretation in those days.

The reason was simple: both animals were looking at the royal coat of arms, which also adorned every Commonwealth building. It would have been rude for either kangaroo or emu to turn its back on the monarch.


God save our unicorn, long live our unicorn

Same reason goes for the GPO.

But the more observant among you will have noticed a tiny problem with this explanation. In Forrest Place, both bird and marsupial face away from the royal arms, which were on the GPO’s right.

Best explanation: the contractors who put them up weren’t told which one went where, and no one noticed on the day. If anyone commented later, it was too late to do anything about it. So for nine decades, kangaroo and emu have been studiously ignoring a succession of kings and queens of England.

Perhaps, now both coats of arms are in for repair, this is the ideal moment to put things back the way they were intended. Or make a republican statement and put them back the way they were.

One way or the other.

Way out of line

CarnamahThere are not many inviolable rules when erecting a building, but there are some. Dodgy Perth now offers you this planning tip: make sure your building is in line with the street or it will look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Welcome to Carnamah.

In 1932 the good citizens of this small Mid-West town were all excited about the new Post Office being raised by the Public Works Department.

However when the foundations were put down it was noticed that the alignment was completely wrong, and it did not fit with all the other buildings on McPherson Street. The Government was asked to fix this problem before the building itself went up.

At first, the response was that the local Road Board had asked for it to be built like that. Which wasn’t true.

Then the Government said that it was at the request of the Citizens’ Association. Which wasn’t true either.

In the end, the Government simply told Carnamah that if they got any more complaints they wouldn’t build a Post Office at all. So shut the hell up country people.

The Post Office was built and opened in June 1932. With the wrong alignment. And remains just like that to this day.

So when you’re next in Carnamah, raise a glass to the Postmaster General’s Department and their unorthodox approach to making friends in the regions.

Craigslist, 1834 style.

Personals Column Lonely Hearts Advert

Look no further

Now spring is well and truly sprung, a young man’s thoughts turn to things of fancy. To celebrate this, Dodgy Perth presents the 1834 equivalent of Craigslist.

How can you resist him ladies?


A young man about 22 years of age, without encumbrance, wishes to form a union with a young Lady of about that age, prepossessing in person, and competent to manage the household affairs.

The advertiser feels convinced that neither his person nor circumstances can form any objection to the views of any young lady, he having a comfortable home, together with other advantages too numerous to mention in an advertisement.

Letters to be addressed to I. Z. to be left at the Post Office, Perth.

Dirty, dirty perverts

oil-stainIn the early 1950s Melbourne was plagued by a pervert who enjoyed spraying people’s coats with some kind of disgusting heavy, greasy substance. He attacked on crowded trains, stations, buses and busy streets, but was never identified.

The creep had more than eighty victims! Every description of the offender was different. They were old. They were young. They were fat. They were thin. They were blonde. They had dark hair. They were a man. They were a woman.

Eventually it was thought they used a different disguise every time they went out on the prowl.

In Perth, there was one reported victim in May 1952. Jan Banachoski was a customer at the GPO in the city centre when he was attacked. However, nothing more seemed to come of it.

Suddenly in March 1953, the Melbourne sprayer appeared to have moved to Perth more permanently. Although no one really knew if it was just a copycat, or the original crank had actually relocated.

At one suburban hotel, four customers—who were who were unaware of anything amiss at the time, later found the backs of their coats daubed with something unidentifiable, but vile.

Even the cleaners who tried to repair the damage didn’t know if it would be possible to remove the oil.

All the victims were drinking at the bar when the sprayer struck, so quietly that he wasn’t spotted by anyone.

By August 1953, people in Adelaide were being attacked in a similar manner. And the media went hysterical over it.

As far as Dodgy Perth knows, no one was ever caught for this nationwide phenomenon, which makes it all the more mysterious.

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.