No dirty dancing at Gilkison’s


Young Australia League, Murray Street, under construction in 1924

The young couple are clasping their bodies suggestively close. In typical bodgie style, a cigarette dangles from his lip, and their expressions are fashionably bored.

His right hand is on her hip and her left hand rests gently on his bicep. They bend their knees and off they go, repeating the same three dance steps over and over. The boy going backwards all the time.

Welcome to the most shocking dance craze of 1953: The Creep.

For Sam Gilkison, who operated a dance studio from the Young Australia League (above), this was the type of thing only done by “sensation-seeking drug-addicts”:

“I can’t imagine any teachers having anything to do with teaching this type of thing,” he said.

Old time ballroom dancing was as risqué as it should get. Even modern ballroom, if you have to. But never dance crazes like the Creep, he fumed.

Mr Gilkison was not a big fan, we take it.

In any case Gilkison—who should know—declared that the Creep was not a legitimate dance since it had a “suggestive nature” which risked bringing the dancing profession into disrepute.

The “sex dance menace” alarmed those who had responsibility for the moral well-being of Perth’s youngsters.

Dance hall owners feared controversy if the Creep became too popular, as it threatened to do. So these owners got together to discuss banning it altogether from their venues.

Dodgy Perth nostalgically remembers Goth nights at Gilkison’s, sipping an absinthe cocktail, and seeing dancing on the floor of which Sam Gilkison would definitely not have approved.

We remember little more after the second absinthe cocktail, but hope our own moves were not even close to being of the sex dance menace type.

Bodgies and widgies, leatheries and teddy boys

Helena has kindly lent me The Gap: A Book to Bridge the Dangerous Years.

A terrifying account of how in 1962, Perth’s parents had caused teenage delinquency to spiral out of control, and how the world would probably end because mothers were working and fathers were enjoying a pint in the pub.

Firstly, just admire Paul Rigby’s fine portrayal of the Narrows and Perth skyline.

Then, to whet your appetite for a short series of how people born in the 1940s were never going to grow up to be responsible adults (are you listening mum?), a quick taster:

In the office of Inspector C. E. Lamb at CIB headquarters, Perth, is a big box which could well be labelled “Remember.”

For in a mute, concentrated form it represents the highwater mark of juvenile delinquency as it loomed in this city three years ago.

That box and its contents are kept as a constant reminder of what was, and what could be again.

It is packed with a firm collection of in-fighting weapons.

Zip guns, flick knives, knuckle dusters, slashing dress rings, honed bicycle chains, timing chains, coshes… they are all there.

They were taken from bodgies and widgies, from leatheries and teddy boys, from plain larrikins.