The Phantom Buggy

Sergeant Hobson of the Western Australia Police Force started his shift at five in March 1917. As he rode his bicycle along Beaufort Street, the early morning light struggled to break through the heavy clouds.

Ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop. A fast-moving horse put him on alert. Ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop. Where was it coming from? Ka-lop, ka-lop. It was too early for a horse to be travelling that fast. He stopped cycling, placed his feet on the ground, and held onto the handlebars as he listened. The sound became louder as the horse approached.

He looked north. No horse. He looked south. No horse. Puzzled, he looked north again. A driverless horse and buggy flew past his line of sight, travelling on the wrong side of the road. “Bloody hell,” he swore as he scrambled back onto his bicycle.

A horse and buggy circa 1905. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call Number: 006595PD).
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Married by Hoyts

Determined to help during the depression, ‘The Daily News’ established The Golden Apple Appeal as a way to raise money for single unemployed women, children of the unemployed, and orphanages. The Appeal involved selling apples (provided by Western Australian growers) in Perth. Each apple was wrapped in paper and cost one shilling. The paper had a number printed on it, which the buyer kept until the officials conducted a raffle. There were two prizes, and the people with the winning numbers could win either £50 or £100.

A stand during the Golden Apple Appeal.

The Appeal was popular, and interest only grew when Hoyts Theatres Ltd agreed to help. On the 18th and 19th July 1931, apple sales exceeded expectations, and funds raised totalled over £2,000. For the following weekend, the publicity manager of Hoyts, Bert Snelling, came up with a novel idea to generate further interest: an open-air wedding.

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Monster Christmas Cake

In 1894, Veryard and Son’s of the Roller Bakery in Perth baked a large Christmas cake weighing six hundredweight (over 300 kg). It was incredibly popular, and, whether they meant to or not, a Christmas tradition was born. They continued to bake cakes, and, each year, the weight increased. In 1895, the cake weighed ten hundredweight (over 500 kg), and in 1896 it weighed fifteen hundredweight (over 750 kg).

Regardless of the size of the cake, every piece sold. Many customers missed out, and, as 1897 progressed, they decided that the Christmas cake for that year had to surpass that of previous years.

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Seven of Diamonds

On 11 August 1921, the Minister for Agriculture, Henry Maley, collected his morning mail. Among the envelopes was an ordinary grey one, postmarked Mornington Mills. He opened it. Inside was a single playing card, the seven of diamonds.

There was nothing written or drawn on the card. Assuming it was a prank, he tore it up and threw it in the bin. Later that day, he attended a meeting of the Executive Council. During the meeting, Chief Justice, Sir Robert McMillan, showed that he too had received an identical envelope, also containing the seven of diamonds. He further revealed that Justices Robert Burnside and John Northmore had received the same.

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Moore’s Escalator

As early as 1898 Western Australians were aware of the invention of the moving stairway (escalator) when The Daily News published a story about Bloomingdale’s (New York) installing it in their store. It allowed shoppers to go from floor to floor, from department to department without having to move and was “like the magic carpet of the Arabian Nights“.

Illustration of an escalator circa 1902.

London railway stations followed department stores and had escalators installed. Reports highlighted the advantages of such technology which included transporting a large number of people from one place to the other without having to wait (such as in the case of lifts). Despite reading about them in the newspapers, many Western Australians would not have the opportunity to see one until 1929.

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Battle of the Bellmen

Courtesy of Libraries Tasmania

On 21 May 1886 Tommy Hopkins was walking down Hay Street, preparing to ring his bell and announce to the public that Messrs. E. Solomon and Co. had a sale.

Eyeing him as he traversed the streets, Billy Boy the Bellman was far from pleased. As town crier, Perth was his domain while Tommy had the run of Fremantle. Two bellmen in the city would never do.

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The Great Jansen

The Great Jansen (Harry August Jansen) was touring Australia for the first time and was scheduled to perform at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth for two weeks. Opening on Saturday, 27 July 1912 he was described as a magician and illusionist and it was stated that his magic “eclipses anything hitherto attempted.

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Christmas in 1899

Hay Street in Perth circa 1899. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

[It matters little] …whether we make good cheer snugly within four walls and with closed windows, or beneath the verandah or spreading tree, or in the house with doors and windows open to the most welcome of guests, the breeze – Christmas is ever the same, the day when we give ourselves up to friendship, to merrymaking, to pleasure, and desire nothing better of Fate than that it shall “let every man be jolly.”

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A Short-Lived Telephone Box

In mid-April 1912, the Postmaster General’s Department erected a telephone box close to the centre of the St Georges Terrace, Adelaide Terrace and Victoria Avenue intersection in Perth.

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The intersection of St Georges Terrace, Adelaide Terrace and Victoria Avenue circa 1934. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

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