Bang bang, I shot you down

Door to Churchill Avenue house, showing bullet hole

Door to Churchill Avenue house, showing location of two bullet holes

IN the early hours of Saturday, 14 August 1937, Stanley Hussey was opening the door to his home at 28 Churchill Avenue, Subiaco. The stillness of the night was shattered by the sound of a revolver. Hussey staggered, shot twice.

In the flash of the explosions he recognised his assailant, then he stumbled to his next door neighbour.

With blood dripping from his wounds he frantically pressed the doorbell. “I am shot!” cried Stanley, as he was hurried into the house.

The police were called, but less than an hour later Dora Simons, Hussey’s sister-in-law, attempted to take her own life on the lawn of a nearby flat.

She was found with a gaping wound in the mouth. A .44 calibre revolver was nearby, and her false teeth had been smashed into tiny pieces by the force of the explosion.

Dora was, to put it mildly, a fruitcake. She had been stalking Stanley and his wife for so long the couple had resorted to seeing a lawyer to get her to keep away.

The trouble seems to be that Dora was obsessed with the idea that Stanley fancied her, and had made repeated advances. This didn’t seem very probable at the time, and still doesn’t seem likely now. These advances were just in her head.

Tried for attempted murder, Dora claimed she thought the gun was only loaded with blanks. After seeing she had shot Stanley, and afraid he was dead, she tried to take her own life. What she was doing in Stanley’s house was never quite explained to the jury.

Bizarrely, the jury decided she was not guilty of attempted murder, only of common assault, and she was immediately released from custody.

She didn’t learn from this, however, and continued to stalk and harass Stanley and his family, until she was finally jailed two years later.

The house where this all took place, 28 Churchill Avenue, is still very much there, looking little changed from 1937. We wonder if the current occupants know the story.

Subiaco’s tuba war

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Q: What is the range of a tuba? A: Twenty metres if you’ve got a good arm.

Ever had a neighbour play loud music? That one song they currently adore, over and over again. Then you will sympathise with William Cooke, a Subi resident in 1902.

His neighbour was Edward Jewell, house painter and enthusiastic musician. Unfortunately, every time Edward came back from band practice, he would pass William’s house playing his instrument. And what an instrument. A ‘Monster Double B Flat’ tuba, the largest and loudest member of the brass family.

Hearing the same song each evening, ‘Johnny, Get Your Hair Cut’, drove William insane.

After a number of heated arguments, William wrote to the army for help. Although military assistance was not forthcoming, this didn’t stop him painting on the side of his house, in letters large enough to be seen 100 metres away:

Loony Jewell is going to lose his trumpet. Major Campbell is going to take it from him.

This did not calm matters in Subiaco. Edward retaliated by putting up an enormous wooden hand with a finger pointing straight at his neighbour’s property with the words ‘Lunatic at large’ on it.

Surprisingly, things settled down for a while until Edward spent one summer’s evening in his backyard practising the recent No. 1 hit, ‘Goodbye Dolly Gray’ (Collingwood fans may recognise this ditty):

William suddenly appeared, brandishing a large and heavy axe, shouting, “Where is that bastard Jewell? I’ll kill him!” He swung blow after blow at Edward’s head, forcing the terrified musician to use his instrument as a shield.

“You bastard! I’m going to murder you!” shouted William as he pursued Edward across the garden.

The victim scrambled through the fence and fled to the police station. William turned to the astonished Charlotte Jewell and said: “If I catch your ––––– ––––– of a husband, I will murder him.” The police intervened long before this threat was carried out.

The jury, sympathetic to someone with a noisy neighbour, found William guilty only of assault, dismissing a charge of attempted murder. The judge was also compassionate, refusing to jail the axe-wielder.

So, next time you hear Taylor Swift coming through your walls at one in the morning, you know what to do.

The war over the memorial

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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

The Highgate Rain Baby

No, it wasn't there in 1932, but it's still a great tower

No, it wasn’t there in 1932, but it’s still a great tower

There are some things you don’t expect to find in Lincoln Street. A large tower to stop the sewerage smelling, yes. A weirdo dressed only in an overcoat and a pair of shoes, no.

Late one evening in June 1932, 28-year-old Stewart H. carefully folded his clothes and placed them under a tree. It was raining heavily. He told the arresting officer, Constable Weaver, he was simply having a shower. #YOLO

During the subsequent trial the media christened him the ‘Rain Baby’. As a defence, Stewart said he was unemployed and had been declined a chance to get to the Blackboy Hill Unemployment Camp to work for the dole.

The magistrate ordered him to pay costs, and ensured that he was found a place at Blackboy immediately. Sometime it pays to have an unusual shower.

Eighteen years later, Stewart was arrested in Roberts Road, Subiaco, dressed in women’s clothing and with powder and rouge on his face.

The clothing he was wearing was produced in Court. It consisted, as the newspapers carefully detailed, of a woman’s overcoat, dress, brassiere—packed with linen—a scarf, and women’s shoes. He was carrying a handbag and umbrella. Worst of all, according to the media, Stewart was wearing nothing under the dress.

“There seems to be something queer about you,” observed the magistrate.

Four years later in Kewdale, Stewart was charged with “alarming women and children” by lurking while dressed in women’s clothing. He had fled before the police arrived, but had already been recognised.

As the police explained in court, when they turned up at his East Cannington home he was wearing only blue swimming trunks and a dressing gown. This time he got fourteen days.

North Perth. Subiaco. Kewdale. Cannington. At least Stewart’s hobby got him out of the house.

Don’t mess with dog lovers

Forget the fact that World War was imminent. In August 1939 only one subject preoccupied the good people of Perth: stray dogs.

It all kicked off with a short letter from a Subiaco truckie who signed himself ‘Anti-Pest’:

Is there no authority to control dogs on roads? As a truck driver I am continuously harassed by the pests which infest suburban streets, and I never miss an opportunity of running over and destroying a stray. What about other drivers joining me in a clean-up?

You can image the howls of outrage from the canine fans. And boy, did they howl.

Anti-Pest was described as a ‘cruel devil’ and a ‘dirty brute’. A Mt Lawley correspondent threatened to simply put him in Karrakatta. While a Perth writer was more specific, offering to attach the truckie’s neck to a tree with a stout rope.

Another dog lover was a little more forgiving, simply promising to “playfully” run over Anti-Pest with his own truck a few times.

Although one truckie meekly tried to offer some support to his colleague, the message came through loud and clear: don’t mess with the crazy dog ladies.

A cycling Lady Godiva

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This lady has many more clothes than the star of our story

The scene is Thomas Street, at the Subiaco end. It is midnight on a Wednesday in August 1938. Two young fellows were walking home. We don’t know exactly where they’d been, but is easy to image they’d probably had a pint or two.

This particular Wednesday night was to prove an experience these two lads were never going to forget. They were walking on the right hand side of the road when a bicycle came towards them. So far, not very out of the ordinary.

Although the bike didn’t have any lights, it was, in fact, simply a young lady in a large overcoat pedalling her way home.

Pulling level with our heroes, she suddenly whipped open the fawn-coloured coat and revealed. Well. Everything. Or nothing, take your pick.

She was stark naked underneath and the two fellows could do nothing but stand there, jaws open. Or, in the words of one of them:

You can guess the shock I got when I saw she had nothing under it. We just gaped at her. Well, we couldn’t do anything else. And next minute she was gone. One thing I’m sure of is that she didn’t have anything at all on the front of her body.

She didn’t say a word, or laugh, or even look at the astounded observers. In any case, they don’t think she did. They weren’t paying too much attention to her face, it must be admitted.

After all, if a chap suddenly sees a girl’s nude body in front of him, he can’t remember for sure whether she’s laughing or not.

As she rode off into the distance, they did note her bare legs, but were unable to say for certain if she had shoes on.

By the time our brave Subiaco boys recovered, she was round the corner and lost to sight. Could they describe her? She was a brunette. That’s all they could remember. Definitely a brunette.

The media wondered if this cycling Godiva would encourage more Subiaco men to take midnight strolls. But not our gentlemen informers. No way, sir. They had no intention of spending any nights wandering round the suburb hoping that she would turn up again.

At least, that’s what they told the newspapers.

That damnable trolley bus

trolley bus

Ugh!

It won’t surprise anyone to discover that there is a difference between nostalgia and history. Of course there is. But it is easy to blur the lines if you’re not careful, and the old trolley bus service is a case in point

Who doesn’t love Perth’s old trolley buses? You can even purchase a book showing how delightful they were:

Tracks-by-the-Swan

So, it is reasonable to assume they were much loved in their day. They must have been. Mustn’t they?

Let’s ask legendary town planner, Harold Boas. He was responding to a 1936 proposal to extend the trolley bus service to Subiaco, which would involve the service using Mounts Bay Road or Kings Park Road. Harold’s opinion:

We have been battling to improve our highways, and now the Government comes along and is prepared to set us back a quarter of a century.

Basically, the trolley bus service, which had commenced in 1933, was seen as ruining the streetscape by disfiguring it with poles, overhead gear and wires. Oh, so many wires. Or as one grumpy writer to the newspaper put it:

I think most residents do not realise that not only more heavy overhead wires would be stretching across these otherwise beautiful thoroughfares but, worse still, an extra number of ugly poles, set at different angles, would spoil any claim to beauty.

Nor were these the only people who wanted less trolley buses. Two years after Boas’ damning statement, traders along St Georges Terrace were up in arms:

Strong protests continue to be made regarding the proposed use of St. Georges Terrace. General trend of those opinions is that the use of the Terrace as a trolley bus route would spoil one of Perth’s prized streets. On aesthetic grounds strong protests continue to be made.

So, while it’s wonderful to reflect nostalgically on trolley buses, don’t assume that everyone at the time actually liked the buggers.