What we used to believe

In this secular age it is hard to remember that Perth residents were once a very spiritual lot. A number of rituals, some last performed only recently, made up significant aspects of their lives. Although the meaning of many of these rites is now forgotten, it is important we preserve some record of this non-tangible heritage for future generations.

The Temple Visit


As we become less religious, our houses of worship are disappearing

Once a week, usually on a Friday, someone from each household was tasked with carrying out one of the most bewildering (to us) rituals.

They would drive to a temple known as a ‘Blockbuster’ and, for generation after generation, the same sacred exchange would take place with the high priest behind the counter:

Do you have a VHS copy of Lord of the Rings?

Sorry, we’re all out at the moment.

Okay then, I’ll borrow a Will Ferrell movie instead.

There are a number of theories as to the meaning of these words, but none are satisfactory. However, there is general agreement that the name of God was so sacred the phrase ‘Will Ferrell’ was used in its place.

Speaking with God


Ever wanted to hear the gods sing?


In a simpler age, before the advent of modern science, Perth people actually believed that a 12” piece of plastic would allow them to hear their gods singing to them, most notably the Madonna herself. Despite repeated evidence this did not work, the rite of placing the blessed circle on a potter’s wheel and lowering a blessed ‘needle’ was undertaken over and over again.

All they ever heard was a strange noise, after which the ancient words “Bloody kids have scratched it!” would be uttered in a peculiar voice.

Some radical anthropologists have speculated that in the long-distant past it was possible to hear the Madonna communicate to them. Others even suggest that if you wait three hours she will actually turn up herself.

The Role of the Priest


We literally have no idea what this is


With modern communication techniques it is easy to forget it was once difficult to speak to people who were far away. Early Perth residents were fooled into believing one of their gods, Telstra, could send voices along thin pieces of copper. Some historians venture this was a pre-cursor of science, but we prefer to take a Marxist reading.

Recognising the desperation of some people to communicate with a loved one, the high priests of Telstra forced Perth people to stand in one spot with a bizarre contraption on their ear and, this always comes a surprise to those who haven’t studied religion, a wire linked to a heavy weight known as a ‘telephone’.

The similarities between this and the Medieval imprisonment technique of ‘ball and chain’ make to all-too-obvious that the purpose of the ritual was not communication but control of the worshipper. While frantic to speak with a beloved, the body was held firmly in one position, and thus was easier for the high priests to begin to control other aspects of the believer’s life.


We here at Dodgy Perth firmly believe that more research should be undertaken into Perth’s religious history before this knowledge is lost forever.

TelCo contracts, 1887 style

"You charge how much per megabyte?"

“You charge how much per megabyte?”

As is well known, the only thing that separates us from the animals is the tiny amount of data mobile phone companies provide us on a monthly allowance. Before tipping us upside down to shake out a few more pennies. We’re looking at you Telstra.

But this did make us wonder what the first telephone contracts in Perth looked like. As it happens, we have a copy in front of us. If you’d signed up in 1887 to be one of the first subscribers to this exciting new technology, you first had to agree to the following.

Calls were not charged individually, but there was a subscription of fee of £15 a year if you lived within 800m of the Perth or Fremantle exchange, and an extra 25 shillings for each additional 400m you needed further away. For your money, you would be provided with one telephone and a connection to the exchange. A bell cost extra.

It’s not easy to say how much money £15 a year would be today, but you could rent a cottage in Bunbury for the same amount. If you wanted to live in Bunbury, of course. If.

Whether you lived in Perth or Fremantle, you were allowed to talk to someone in the other city. Which is nice. Except under the fair use policy, no call between Perth and Fremantle could exceed five minutes.

Oh, and you could only call between 9am and 6pm on weekdays, 9am to 1pm on Saturday, and not at all on Sundays or public holidays.

A subscriber could not allow their telephone to be used by anyone else except their own personal servants. That is, unless the borrower had a telephone at their own residence.

Finally, there was the usual legalise you would expect:

No responsibility is assumed by the Government for any errors, omissions, or delay in the transmission or non-transmission, delivery or non-delivery, of any message, arising from any cause whatsoever.

No mention of a data allowance anywhere, or what happens if you want to upgrade to the latest iPhone. Probably in the small print somewhere.