Our Big Country Town


I remember all to fondly the trips into the big smoke with Mum and my sister Faye. We’d do all the things you remember like Coles Cafe’, had our photo take outside the bank on Murray Street, gone to the Grand Cinema to watch The Aristocats, played at The Crystal Palace and watched the knights joust over the entry to London Curt as the clock struck on the hour.


It was a big country town recently landscaped to please the eyes of the Commonwealth during The Empire Games of 1962. The Crawley Baths were demolished as Beatty Park had replaced our riverside playground, the Old Swan Brewery installed festoon globes in the shape of ships, we got a brand new airport, a brand new velodrome at Leederville alongside Lake Monger, a million pounds was spent to construct a state of the art playing arena at Perry Lakes and the roads such as Brearley Avenue, The Causeway and Underwood Avenue had a very new Perth feeling about them with street lighting and low kerbs on dual carriage ways matching the new Kwinana Freeway celebrating 60 years of use this year.

Becca Scott kwinana Freeway

The shops closed at Midday Saturday , petrol rosters were accepted, you went to the Orbit Inne at the Airport for an after hours middy watching planes come and go from all over the world from the observation deck whilst the kids played by the pond with the swans.

Perth Airport Orbit Inne

It seemed like we all knew one another being a big country town but can the same still be said today?



In 1984, whilst serving in The Royal Australian Navy at HMAS Stirling, I purchased a car and made a couple of modifications to it. So proud I was and noticing a matching model I proceeded to run the gentleman off the road in Beaufort Street to introduce myself. I did this several times but the friendship that came from this first encounter is still going strong 35 years later.


We had barbecues together and visited Garden Island on one occasion for just that purpose travelling in convoy in our matching Bitsamissings. My new mates partner at the time was a nice woman and we hit it off fine. A transfer here and there with the service until leaving the Navy to get married and I lost touch with my new mate until finding he had parted with his partner and married his wife of 30 or so years today.

Life happens and we have 4 children of our own, the oldest of whom James, goes to kindy and onwards with a lovely lad William. I bond with William’s Dad David instantly, a lovely gentleman I never see enough of but it’s an occasion at the local footy club a dozen years ago where the boys are participating in an under 13s match where we meet David’s new partner and it isn’t until the following week it dawns on us we knew this woman from many years before when she partnered with my new friend in the similar white car!

The big country town thing is on my mind always but bumping into familiar faces happens all so often in Perth don’t you agree but I will continue with the coincidence.

My eldest son James had moved to Dunsborough for a couple of years and was going to date a young lady from Perth and the suburb of Midland. When James told me that the young lady shared a home with the young man William he had gone to kindy with 18 years before, I was so amazed.

I write this to share with you today because fencing in any ordinary back street in the suburb of Mt Lawley this morning, a gentleman I hadn’t seen for several years in company with two others going for their morning coffee and a stroll together stopped to say hello and it was David.

Philip Playford Perth from kings park 1955 A (1)

Our big country town is alive and well and if not for running my dear friend of today off the road in Northbridge in August 1984 I would not be telling you this little part of my life.

I hope you too have random friends and encounters to brighten your life also because it sure puts a spark into my day.

Cheers Duff.


Richmond and Bicton

Formerly Richmond and now known as East Fremantle , the area saw The Castlemaine Brewery operating from 1896-1963.


Photo thanks to SLWA c1902- 1904. Looking from East Street Jetty now we see some impressive industrial structures. Businesses along the riverfront could be serviced from the water by barges. I’m suggesting the Brewery was constructed here due to many springs from the limestone cliffs under Bicton.

castlemaine brewery

Speaking to Craig Bibra recently whose family did well from the gold rush of the 1890s and lived atop the limestone cliff serviced via Preston Point Road in a home built by Herbert Hoover just behind the brewery here. The brothers purchased a farm and hotels supplied by Castlemaine including The National in Fremantle. They decided to part ways with one taking the farm. The gold rush proved to be a bountiful one to publicans but unfortunately for the other brother , a ten year drought saw an end to his good fortune.

Old Brewery East Fremantle

Photo with thanks to the late Jack Lorrimer.

Castlemaine sold their interests to The Swan Brewery in 1927. Swan subsequently closed the brewery, employing the majority of the workforce at the Perth operations.

The building was demolished using too much explosive which sent debris farther than planned hitting vehicles to allow the construction of the new Stirling Bridge.


We have a terrific view down from The Plympton Hotel over Canning Road, behind the Castlemaine Brewery past The Boatbuilders House along the banks of the Swan River and Bicton.

Something I learned this week was John Duffield ,who landed in 1830 aboard the Warrior took up one of 4 land grants of 500 acres in what becamse Bicton. By 1845, Duffield was operating the first commercial vineyard with 5700 vines but in 1860 tragedy struck when his son James and a labourer John Luff were buried alive while sinking a well on the property.

Regular ferry services visited the East Street and Point Walter jetties with a tram passing one and reaching the other at Point Walter Reserve from Fremantle from the 15th December 1915, simultaneously with its opening of the extension of the East line to Stock Road, Bicton.  The opening of this route helped to develop Point Walter into a popular resort and place of entertainment. Along with the trams came electric lighting, and, soon afterwards, well patronised shops and restaurants. Entertainment at Point Walter included a band. There were also panoramic views of the Swan River, frequently dotted with the sails of racing yachts.

East Fremantle Tram.jpg


Photo with thanks to Richard Rigg.

Over time, increasing numbers of motor car owners chose to seek entertainment further away from Fremantle than Point Walter. As a result, the Point Walter resort fell into disrepair, and patronage on the Point Walter line declined. In 1939, the line was closed

After the closure of the South Fremantle racecourse, a course was established in Bicton in 1904 on land leased by the Highams closer to Point Walter. This course too closed due to the WA Racing Restrictions Act in 1917.


On the far left you can see what we know today as The Left Bank formerly the ‘Boatbuilder’s House’— thanks go to Fremantle Library for image no. LH004686

Bicton Baths survives today and was developed in 1926, initiated by the local Melville Amateur Swimming Club, which made good use of the existing animal quarantine station jetty as a swimming platform.  The baths quickly became a very popular location for swimming lessons, races and later water polo.

After the end of the second World War, Bicton expanded quickly with new homes and families settling there in a suburb named after a village in Britain near East Devon.


Gold Rush Railway

The story of Northam versus York in the race to be the pathway to Yilgarn and beyond began after a speech by Governor Sir William Robinson January 22nd 1890. It has been an interest of mine as Northam is where the family called home.
There wasn’t much in it with the line through Northam estimated to cost £216445 and from York £216992, both including rolling stock.


York Station built in 1885 care of Battye Library 5204B/22

Possibly the favourable factor in CY O’Connor’s recommendation in his selection of Northam was the distance to Southern Cross from Fremantle was 15 miles longer via a route through York. A spur line from Spencers Brook to Northam was already in place and was running at a loss to the government so there would be a saving there.


An A Class at Spencers Brook travelling to York c1890 care of Battye Library 28662P.

Various deputations and representations were made to Premier, Sir John Forrest from Newcastle, Northam, York and Beverley but it was The Premier’s view that the shortest course would be taken.


Public Records Office showing routes proposed ACC1590 Item 14410/03


Gold had been found in the Kimberley’s but in small quantities so a discovery in Goomalling was of great interest to those the had the fever. North of Southern Cross, in the Yilgarn Shire and Central Yilgarn (Craton), there was exploration for gold during the late 1880s and 1890s thought to be first discovered in 1887.

448 (2)

Northam Station seen here in 1929 thanks to Edward James Rigg Collection.

In less than two short years, tenders were called for the construction of the railway September 1st, 1892. The Northam to Southern Cross railway opened at 175 miles in length on the 1st of July, 1894. By now, Paddy Hannan had already found gold at Kalgoorlie June 17th, 1893 requiring a further extension of the Eastern line.

Northam 108

Northam station in all her glory, a busy stop sadly bypassed for a faster route in 1966. Very fond memories of playing here in the 1970s.

The Southern Cross to Kalgoorlie line of 138 miles was completed 1st of January, 1897 as Kalgoorlie population approached 2000.


Inspiration thanks to Allan Tilley who researched and produced To Greenhills And Beyond, 1998.


The Spaceship

The Futuro House: Spaceship Living On Earth (1965)

Introduced at the Finnexpo fair in 1968, the Futuro concept was created by architect Matti Suuronen, to be plonked on a block of land ideally as a home away from home.

 01_futuro_sur-768x645. © Matti Suuronen, Espoo City Museum 

Its walls are made of fiberglass-reinforced polyester shells with a sandwich layer of polyurethane foam providing insulation. In order to make assembly and dismantling easier, the house was manufactured in 16 arc segments which could be assembled on site in the space of only two days. A total of 16 double-glazed windows afford a panoramic view right round. There are unfortunately no records of how many FUTURO houses were sold in total. At a conservative estimate there were originally around 70 of them, of which around 60 are still in existence today.

Judy Carroll (11)

With thanks to Judy Carrol.


Interior specifications varied as each one could be purchased either as just a shell, or with various modular interior elements. The most commonly accepted interior specification is of an entrance hall, bathroom, kitchenette, living area with open fireplace and six seat-bed’s, and a bedroom/dressing room.


The unit we refer to at Lost Perth was placed atop an ornamental lake situated at the corner of Apsley Road and Burren Gate and those considering purchasing a block of land in the new subdivision of Burrendah could climb a small set of steps and walk into the Spaceship. A land sales office sat beyond the Futuro for those with queries about the area.

Cathrine Cornish Prins (3)

When no longer required, the spaceship was placed at the corner of Karel Avenue and Leach Highway for many years where so many of us remember it so well.


With thanks to slwa_b3116765_1

The Futuro was launched in 1969 and began to be licensed around the world.
However, with the oil crisis of 1973, the manufacturing costs of the Futuro House tripled and put an end to its hopes of mass production.

The demise of The Leach Highway Spaceship saw the council and Main Roads WA not come to an agreement so the craft was dismantled and given to The Barking Gecko Theatre but with no use it was taken to Maida Vale to with a dream of being reassembled as a dance studio but this never happened and it sits ruined in the bush.

DSCF2614 - Copy - Copy

Can it be resurrected?

A Crooked Road

One accepts a curve in a road today but the most prominent one we may wonder about is where St Georges Terrace meets Adelaide Terrace.

Looking at the image from 1859 which shows Roe’s structure to the left and a shed to the other with the road alignment already having a dog leg in it. I heard it is due to Matilda Roe’s fondness for gardening and it spilling from it’s plot or maybe the chook shed?

You will know Matilda’s hubby John Septimus Roe who set out much of Perth serving the colony as Chief Surveyor for 40 years until the death of his beloved who he married before the ship set sail from England to colonise WA in 1829 having some 13 children.

Roe had a huge impact on WA and arguably the most significant legacy left by Roe was the setting aside of Kings Park. As early as December 1830, Roe responded to a request to cut timber below Mount Eliza with: “Mr. Mews to be informed that the neighbourhood of Mt. Eliza is reserved for public purposes”. Although it is widely accepted that Roe’s successors Malcolm Fraser and John Forrest were most instrumental in the establishment of Kings Park, Roe was clearly responsible for the initial setting aside of the park.14034895_1137695616301491_6102551704382703730_n