Keeping Up With Local Gossip?

H Newell and children in front of Kelmscott Garage, ca 1940 petrol

Since cars began to compete with horses, service stations have been around such as Newell’s on Albany Road Kelmscott opposite The Ponderosa.

Whilst offering fuel and oil, the attendants would check your tyre pressures, fluid levels, wipers and battery whilst keeping up with the local gossip. Original servos offered several brands of fuel, it wasn’t until Golden Fleece came on to the scene that suppliers began to establish themselves such as Plume, Esso, Shell, Mobil, BP, Caltex, Neptune and others.

Shell Floreat 1967

Shell seen here in Floreat and Esso on Central Road Rossmoyne would employ up to 7 local children of a Saturday morning to cope with the number of locals filling up before the stations closed at midday. Friendly cheerful service and if they noticed anything, a service area attached to the servo always had a mechanic on hand to look after any issues.


In the case of Mr and Mrs Mercer’s garage, they stored peoples caravans onsite, serviced peoples cars, motorbikes and engines plus their son built race cars to go to Wanneroo on the weekends.

petrol tins bp zoom

Each service station began to appeal to customers offering their own brands of lubricants , boat and lawn mower fuels  to keep you coming back. These tins and oil bottles are highly sort after today.

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And speaking of the weekend, servos would close by law at midday Saturday and a sign such as this would be hung in the window to display the nearest roster station. It never paid to run your tank low because some rosters would be a fair hike to reach. It often paid to check the Western Mail and Sunday Independent for locations.

Iam Surferboy - Copy

The Independent service stations that were taken for granted were swallowed up from the late 70s by their fuel suppliers bringing out self service pumps assuring us of lower prices. I don’t know about you but I would pay a little more to have that opportunity for a chat and my tyres filled with air such as the only remaining example of the past at Lori’s of Kelmscott.

On This Day

It was June of 1893 that Paddy Hannan found gold at Mount Charlotte beginning a gold rush that at today’s rate has hit 100 billion dollars extracted from the ground.



Also in June 1893 saw Samuel Pearce and William Brookman credited with the discovery of the Golden Mile, a term that became popular in 1899. William’s brother George financed the purchase of the ten paid shares of £15 each and five free shares. William went on to become Perth Mayor building what we know at The White House in Langford and what became The Peninsular Hotel at Mandurah.

Times were harsh with little or no water and water costing more than whiskey. A scheme was hatched to construct a pipeline to Coolgardie in 1895. On 16 July 1896, John Forrest introduced to Western Australian Parliament a bill to authorise the raising of a loan of £2.5 million to construct the scheme: the pipeline would pump 5 million imperial gallons (23,000 m3) of water per day to the Goldfields from a dam on the Helena River near Mundaring Weir in Perth, pumped in eight successive stages through 330 miles of 30-inch-diameter (760 mm) pipe to the Mount Charlotte Reservoir in Kalgoorlie. The water is then reticulated to various mining centres in the Goldfields.

CY O’Connor performed many engineering tasks deemed impossible in Western Australia since his arrival including opening and constructing Fremantle Harbour. O’Connor was subjected to prolonged criticism by members of the press and also many members of the Western Australian Parliament over the scheme. John Forrest, always a supporter, had left Western Australian politics to become federal defence minister; defamatory attacks by the press had wounded him. O’Connor took his own life on 10 March 1902, less than a year before Forrest officially commissioned the greatest engineering project on earth at the time, by shooting himself while riding his horse into the water at Robb Jetty at 4:40am, south of Fremantle.


Almost 10 years later, today since Paddy’s discovery in 24th January 1903 marks the official opening of the Goldfields Water Scheme at Mount Charlotte.
There were 2 opening ceremonies on the day – the first was at Coolgardie, where the pipeline was originally intended to terminate.
When the project was first proposed in 1895 Coolgardie was the centre of mining operations but by the time the pipeline was completed Kalgoorlie-Boulder had boomed and the pipeline was extended east to Mount Charlotte, the sight of the find sign of gold.
This photo shows the reservoir without its roof. The roof was added later to prevent evaporation and keep the tank and water clean.

The myth persists that it was roofed following a drowning.

Quite fascinating what we don’t learn in school?

Return of the Polly Waffle

Pool party fun again as the Polly Waffle is about to make a comeback!!
South Australian chocolate maker Robert Menz, who bought the rights from Nestle’ to manufacture the Violet Crumble last year using the original Hoadley’s recipe  has now bought the rights to the original Polly Waffle recipe and plans to start making the Polly Waffle again at their Adelaide factory.
After 10 years wishing for it’s return, it’s now true.

You beauty!

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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.

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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.