Perth’s Past #12 (Conclusion)

Around the 1940’s or 1950’s we used to have the “Candid Cameraman” who would take your photo while you walked down the street. Having given you his card, you visited the studio to see if you liked the print. If you did, you could buy it. Some of the best of our photos were taken this way. Shirley (b 1932)

We were not called teenagers in those days. If anything, it was “flappers”, because of the large bows that were fashionable to wear at the back of the neck, fastening our hair back. We had never heard of generation gaps and young people, especially girls, had very few rights. You did as you were told until you turned 21 or were married. Except for an evening at the pictures, which did not finish until 10.30, and later, if we were taken to a show, we were expected to be home by 10.00 o’clock. It seemed that “sin” started at that hour! No “decent” girl would be on the streets at that hour. In fact, a few days before I was married, Ern and I went for a walk and didn’t get in until 10 past 10.00. Mother didn’t approve and told me so! I’m afraid I got a little cross, I was 22 at the time. But things were worse when she was a girl. She told us that when my father came courting, her mother started to wind the clock at 9.00 o’clock, surely a broad enough hint to him that it was time to go. Myrtle (b 1906)

Perth had its share of colourful characters in those days.

Percy Buttons would entertain theatre queues by turning somersaults and standing on his head and then putting it in his hat, which he then passed around. It was said of him that occasionally the Police would put him in gaol for a couple of days, while they cleaned him up a bit and gave him a decent meal.

“Matches” shuffled around Perth streets with a tray of boxes of matches. I think the idea was that you put your money on the tray but did not take the matches – begging in the streets was prohibited. He was reputed to be a Police “nark”, but of that I would not know.

There was Percy Brunton, who went around immaculately dressed, with a top hat with a Union Jack draped around it. He always wore a mauve waist-coat and pushed a baby’s pram around with his pamphlets in it. He was a fluent speaker and very clever at repartee, and usually attracted a large crowd when he spoke on the Esplanade. He put up for Parliament once, but I think he lost his deposit. He was really clever, and no one knew why he chose to live as he did.

“Pink top, lolly pop. Lemonade, all in the shade” – I don’t remember the rest but this was the cry of “Pink Top” one of our most colourful characters. He had a fruit barrow outside Perth Station, and afterwards bought into a sweets shop in Barrack Street. While he had the barrow, my mother bought fruit from him as she walked to the station for her train. She told how he counted the dozen oranges …”one, two, three…”, up to 12, “…and one for the baby”. She watched carefully but there were always just twelve when she got home!

Another figure was “Drewy Dyson”. A huge mountain of a man who drove around in a sulky with a miserable looking pony in the shafts. “Fat as Drewy Dyson” was a common expression to describe a very fat person.

“Jimmy Foureyes”, a black-skinned man who pushed his barrow around the streets, sharpened knives and scissors.

“Giblets” too, went around Perth with a tray around his neck containing studs, bootlaces and other oddments. Myrtle (b 1906)

Very different social attitudes from the present day are reflected in the newspapers of fifty years ago. The “Public Notices” column makes interesting reading …..

“Mr. J.E. Jones is not the John Edward Jones referred to in the Divorce Court last week”.

“As my wife Mrs. Florence Jones is no longer under my protection, having left the family home against my wishes, I will no longer be responsible for any debts incurred by her. Signed: John Edgar Jones, Guildford.”

“Mrs. F. James of Devenish Street, Cottesloe, wishes the public to know that Miss R. Roe, convicted of stealing in the Police Court on Tuesday, was only a boarder in her house.” Shirley (b 1932)

2 responses to “Perth’s Past #12 (Conclusion)

  1. I have black and white photos of my parents taken walking in the streets, they’re really lovely shots.

    lots of our patients have those old street photos too. it was a nice custom

    It was. I can remember seeing street photographers in Perth into the 1960’s


  2. Great post – I’d liked to have seen links to the other Perths Past posts as obviously I have some catching up to do; I’ll trawl when I can.

    The post made me think of some young peoples opinion today that over 40 one is practically dead.

    Where is this from? Are Shirley and Myrtle relatives? Family photos can tell us so much about the time and the culture. Years ago it was only those rich enough to afford paintings such as Napoleon by David. In fact he crossed riding a mule not astride a great steed as depicted in the painting. I like Man Ray too but that’s decoration really, there have been some iconic images from photojournalism like the Man Falling and a picture of the outline of a womans body that had melted the snow beneath it in a war zone, like a snow angel. But I like simple family photo-documents. I liked the series of films that were shown here recently too, just of normal people living life.

    I’m going to make a separate page for them in my “Writings” tab. It is from a book of family history which I helped write. There were four people who contributed to the “Memories” chapter and yes, they were all relatives. I am a bit of a genealogy freak although I tend to concentrate on the social history.


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