SUNDAY BEST IN THE GOLDFIELDS.
Kalgoorlie proved to be no different to anywhere else in outback Australia on Sunday 02 August 2015. Instead of church bells ringing on a Sunday I woke to the sound of gentle rain pounding on my patio window. The rain was sweeping away the red earth on the footpath below deposited during the night’s winter deluge.
To enjoy my travel-free day before the Diggers & Dealers Mining forum began, I decided that as an oral historian* I should appreciate some local history. So on this Sunday in the Goldfields, I walked down the street with my Kalgoorlie map and headed for the civic centre. The street gardens and medium-strip plantings looked refreshed after the overnight rain.
At the corner of Maritana and Brookman Streets is the Hannan Club with tidy lawns and white picket fence. The Club was closed but the lawns and building façade were clearly maintained waiting for a better day. I walked into the CBD and found the statues to wool, water pipelines and goldfield diggers adorning Hannan Street. The marketers for the Kalgoorlie Markets, near the corner of Maritana and Hannan Streets, were well prepared for rain with their tables nestled under awnings and clear plastic wrap covering items for sale. There was plenty of gold jewellery available but no way of measuring or weighing the items. I decided to hold back for a while. Kalgoorlie has at least five jewellers and gold merchants on Hannan Street so there’s plenty of opportunity to search for 9-24 carat jewellery during the working week.
Between Hannan and Egan Streets, on Maritana Street, I found a church open. Many Kalgoorlie buildings erected pre-WW1 are built from stone rather than brick. The architectural merits of stone masonry work with this church are clearly evident; and the People’s Church is an example of solid outback masonry.
Other forms of street artwork included a statue of the goldfinder Paddy Hannan and the plaque unveiled on 15 June 1968 by the Mayor of Kalgoorlie Mr A.L. Alman. This plaque commemorates the 75th anniversary of the first finding of gold in Kalgoorlie by Paddy Hannan, Tom Flanagan and Dan Shea (on 17 June 1893).
I walked all over Kalgoorlie CBD and was in need of a warming coffee. One of the female marketers had suggested that the Exchange Hotel served coffee. I mentioned that as it was a Sunday, would Sunday rites be observed in Kalgoorlie? By that I meant that merchants could not open during congregation times. I was assured I could buy a coffee at the Exchange Hotel without causing embarrassment. “Business is business”, she said.
Having lived in a remote location in the Northern Hemisphere I was used to stopping in at the local hotel (pub) for a morning coffee. It was the only place where hot and cold beverages were served with seating. However, on that remote island on a Sunday the hotel was closed.
I went to Exchange Hotel on the corner of Maritana and Hannan Streets and found what I thought was the front door to the venue. I pushed open the wooden swinging doors. The hotel appeared to be open. Inside was a large bar with several girls standing behind the counter. I walked over to the bar and asked if I could order a coffee. Two girls in bikinis – in the middle of winter – were serving behind the bar. They are what is termed ‘skimpies’ (aka ‘The lost Delilah’)^… bar maids wearing little ‘uniforms’. I hadn’t thought they’d be working on a Sunday morning. I walked into the next room and looked for the café.
After ordering a coffee I sat by the large windows overlooking the Palace Hotel. Why, I don’t know, but I began to think of home. My coffee was hot, full of flavour and appreciated. I thought again about my discovery of ‘skimpies’ working in Kalgoorlie. I guess there’ll always be someone needing a quick dollar. I needed to find some more upbeat aspects of Kalgoorlie to photograph on a Sunday morning!
Leaving the hotel behind, I continued my tour of Kalgoorlie and found an art gallery open. I was keen to see community art, view paintings, prints, and other forms of decorative and fine arts. Near the Western Australian School of Mines (WASM) I found a bank of ‘knitted trees’. Some of the native trees in Kalgoorlie are decorated with colourful knitted patches. Artists knit the patches and then wrap them around the trees for decoration. In my view, the best selection are on Egan and Macdonald Streets near the Fossicks Gallery and WASM.
At 1pm the registration desk opened for the 2015 Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum in the Goldfields Art Centre. My chief event for travelling to Kalgoorlie was about to begin.
*I was in Kalgoorlie for professional networking and business development opportunities. I interview geoscientists as part of the History of Australian geoscience oral history project for Geoscience Australia. The interviews are available for listening via the website listed here https://beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid/collection/data/878076439.
^ The Lost Delilah is mentioned in the poem ‘Hire and Sale’ in Jarraland Jingles, a volume of Westralian verse by Edwin Greenslade ‘Dryblower’ Murray, (1908) Perth, pp. 155-156.
Text and photographs copyright Fiona Rothchilds 2015 other than acknowledged sources.
Uploaded 08 September 2015 Canberra. Updated 27 September 2015 and 02 October 2015.