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.

On 18 February 1928 the Mirror announced that Moore’s Department Store in Perth was expanding. They already had a shop fronting Hay Street and were planning to construct a new building that fronted Murray Street. The ground floor of the new building would connect to the basement in the old one while the main floor of the Hay Street building would connect to the top of the Murray Street building. To enable the public to travel from one floor to another, lifts and staircases would be provided as well as an escalator.

To many people who have not travelled beyond the bounds of Western Australia, escalators – or moving staircases – are a mystery.

Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 1956); 18 February 1928; Page 10; Moores Build Big
An engraving of the facade of Moores new building.

It was to be the first escalator in the State. Naturally it attracted considerable interest and was expected to become “a novelty in Perth.

By November 1928, Truth printed all the details of the escalator. It was an Otis Waygood escalator consisting of a “single staircase with the moving stairs about three feet wide” and was to be installed by Unbehaun and Johnston Ltd. The reporter declared that the installation of the escalator “opens up a new era in the progress of the West” for which Moore’s should be congratulated.

Construction began and the grand opening of Moore’s was due to occur on 22 April 1929. As the date approached, a large article about the new store was featured in The West Australian and full page advertisements were printed in several newspapers. The new escalator featured heavily.

Moore’s escalator courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call Number: 013016PD).

Capable of carrying up to 4,000 people per hour, it was positioned in the centre of the store in the bazaar (the location of their cash and carry section) and transported patrons from the Murray Street level to Hay Street. Moore’s proclaimed that using their escalator was a shortcut and therefore the quickest way to get to Hay Street.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of the escalator, a detailed description as to how it worked was provided. Modern day readers will find nothing new in it however it is nevertheless a charming reminder of how something commonplace in today’s world was once new and exciting and warranted explanation.

If the escalator was not enough of a drawcard to generate foot traffic, strategic advertisements were placed nearby and were referred to as “Moore’s super-magnetic DAILY ‘ESCALATOR’ SPECIALS“. Daily visits were recommended and those visiting from the suburbs were especially advised to not leave Perth without having first seen the specials.

In any case, see MOORE’S ‘ESCALATOR’ SPECIALS whenever you are in town; to go home without having done so would be to throw money away.

The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950); 17 April 1929; Page 2; Advertising

The opening took place on the 22nd without any problems and the escalator was (as predicted) a hit. A Perth writer for The Albany Advertiser stated, “…you should have seen the crowd!” While the bazaar and the various games were also popular, the escalator was by far the “main interest“. All day long it was filled with adults and children alike going for rides. It was so popular that the writer shrewdly noted that they couldn’t all be using it to simply go upstairs. Unfortunately I found no first hand accounts of people’s opinions of the escalator however it appears to have been a sought after experience in April 1929. According to the Sunday Times the question on everyone’s lips during Moore’s opening week was, “Have you escalated?



Police Court Habitué

…there are some who have the leisure and the inclination to make the police court their drama, their comedy, their pulpit.

Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 – 1956); 31 May 1924; Page 3; Just “Ginger”

Long retired and seeking something of interest to do, Ginger started attending the Perth Police Court. In contrast to other people who regularly sat in the public gallery and were regarded as “dead-beats, hoboes and beer sparers” he was considered “different from the usual type.” He was short, stocky, middle aged and sported a walrus moustache that “covers his mouth and sends out lobster-like tentacles…” He was going bald but what remained of his hair was red. No one knew his real name and thus the nickname, ‘Ginger’ stuck.

Whether indulging a morbid taste in amusement, or an interest in human nature, warped by circumstance or crime, “Ginger’s” unchanging expression does not reveal, but he has seen innumerable unfortunate citizens, and the dregs of humanity caught in the toils of the law, and has watched many faces turned from freedom towards the temporary oblivion of the prison.

The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954); 15 December 1924; Page 8; News and Notes
The Perth Police Court circa 1911
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Murder of Ah Yet

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following blog post may contain images and names of deceased persons.

A well-known face in Donnybrook, 25 year old Ah Yet regularly loaded up his cart with vegetables from his garden and on Fridays and Saturdays he travelled from house to house offering them for sale. On 21 and 22 March 1902, he did not show up.

Knowing that his absence was out of the ordinary, John Vennell went to look for him at 3 pm on the 22nd. He first peered through the open door of Ah Yet’s hut but found it deserted. He then walked through the garden, passing cabbages, radishes and other vegetables growing profusely. As he came to the well on the property, he found him. Ah Yet was dead.

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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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Frog in a Hole

Harry Ainsworth had done it all. He’d struck gold at Lake Austin, made his fortune, moved into a grand house in Geraldton and in 1895 became Mayor. By the 1900s he’d lost everything. Hoping to recover some of his fortune, he returned to Lake Austin and once more began searching for gold. What he didn’t expect to find was a frog.

Lake Austin with The Mainland in the middle. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call Number: 9022.M95H2).
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The Drummer’s Death

The regular jazz drummer who played in the orchestra at the Empire Dance Hall couldn’t make it to the flannel dance held on 9 December 1932. A call was made to Edward Cassey asking if he could fill in. Despite having never played at the hall and not knowing its location, he said yes.

Edward Cassey
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Gus & June

While the personal ads in newspapers were most often utilised as a tool for people to seek love and make connections, they also appeared to have been used as a way to communicate clandestinely.

This is the story of Gus and June. From 1950 until 1951 messages between the couple were placed on an almost monthly basis in the personal column of The West Australian.

31 March 1950
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The Inimitable Mrs Tracey

From the 1870s onwards, Mrs Eliza Tracey was a serial litigant within the Western Australian Courts. Initially her husband, James, brought the cases but it is likely that he did so with the firm backing of his wife.

By the 1880s the Traceys had mutually separated and Mrs Tracey continued to pursue her own lawsuits. While she had the occasional success, for the most part, she barely won a case.

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