swimming costumes

A swim in the river and a day at Manly beach – these photos from our family collection demonstrate what boys were wearing as swim gear in the 1920s and 1930s respectively.  The suits were more likely to have been made from wool and were designed for modesty (although Dave on the left seems unconcerned about that requirement).

Here’s a guide to the cost of suits for boys in Melbourne  in 1923 – Argus – 5 December 1923. They were made of navy cotton or all-wool yarn.  If you were really keen, you could knit one for yourself, taking care to use non-shrink wool.   Sydney Morning Herald – 28 November 1935.

This Canberra Times advertisement of 16 December 1931 was selling the Speedo name on the back of the swimming star of the day, Andrew (Boy) Charlton.

Speedo is a name that is synonymous with swimming in Australia – although the company has long since ceased to be Australian owned. Click on the link for a history.

Lionel Logue

As the film The King’s Speech features in today’s Academy Awards ceremony, here are two 1937 articles about Lionel Logue.

The Australian Women’s Weekly – 2 January 1937 – the article continues…..

and 18 September 1937

Even the prisoners liked Aeroplane Jelly

Musical items performed by prisoners in Goulburn Gaol (Jail) were broadcast as an experiment in October 1938 (The Mail).

In 1952, commercial networks had taken up the broadcasts and Aeroplane Jelly was the sponsor.

Courier Mail – 20 June 1952











.Aeroplane Jelly image – Wikipedia article

Pak-a-pu tickets

The term “like a pakapu (or pakapoo) ticket” means that  something is indecipherable or untidy. Pakapu tickets were introduced by the Chinese to Australia and New Zealand in 19th century when many Chinese people immigrated to the gold fields.  The sale of these gambling tickets caused great angst among the largely protestant population.

This 1905 case (the text of which is provided due to poor image quality) had a (mostly) happy ending for the defendants.

Sydney Morning Herald – 21 December 1905



Tho Balmain Police Court was crowded yesterday morning, in anticipation of the Chinese who were arrested on Saturday last for selling pakapu tickets being dealt with. Seven of those for whom warrants had been issued were secured, and these were formally charged with selling tickets in an unlawful game. Mr F S Isaacs SM, presided. Mr D’Arcy Irvine  instructed by the Crown Solicitor, prosecuted on behalf of the Crown, and six of the accused were  defended by Mr Clark, and the seventh man by Mr Reeder.

At first Mr Clark took a technical objection to the information but Mr D’Arcy Irvine pointed out that this was scarcely what he expected would happen. Representations had been made to the Crown Solicitor that the Act had only come into force on December 9 while the prosecution was initiated on the 15th. The Chinese, it was urged, had started these ticket shops when it was perfectly lawful to do so, and had received no notice to discontinue selling the tickets, and under the circumstances it was suggested that a nominal penalty would meet the case. The Crown Solicit0r had acquiesced in that view, and now this technical point was sprung upon him. If it were pressed he would take out fresh informations, and ask that the highest penalty should be inflicted.  Mr Isaacs thought the accused ought to have been warned.

After a consultation between the solicitors, Mr Clark stated that he would withdraw his objection, and plead guilty on behalf of the six accused.

Mr Isaacs said he thought the accused were not aware that the law had been altered. The High Court had held that it was not unlawful to sell these tickets, but since then a new law had been passed rendering any person so doing liable to six months’ imprisonment without the option of a fine. Under all the circumstances, he would impose a merely nominal penalty, and that was imprisonment until the rising of the court.

The seventh man was then brought in, and Mr Reeder said he could prove that the accused was not the man who sold the tickets at all; it was a case of mistaken identity.  Mr Isaacs said he could not help that – it had been agreed that they should all plead guilty. This man was also sentenced to imprisonment till the rising of the court.

During the progress of the case it was stated that all the shops had been closed.

A Melbourne court case was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 July 1908.  This is one of many newspaper reports of police and citizens attempting to rid the cities of the ‘ills’ of this gambling practice.

Detective O’Donnell said he had had men employed marking tickets for the last ten years and not once in a hundred times had they won even 6d.  They had spent a lot of money in buying tickets for the Government in order to secure convictions, but they had not got    2 pounds out of it in 10 years.

So was it a case of ineffective policing, or something else?

This image of a pak-a-pu or pakapoo ticket comes from The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.   The tiger’s mouth has more detail on pakapoo tickets and their place in the history and heritage of Chinese Australia.

Pakapoo ticket


The good censors of Tasmania caused this cinema ‘considerable extra cost’ when they banned Buster Keaton’s comedy film – Parlour, Bedroom and Bath.  The Mercury – Hobart – 8 July 1931.

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the Keaton image from that film.

Courier Mail on 25 July 1941.

The Australian Women’s Weekly’s  TELEVISION PARADE – 2 January 1957 – praised the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for not editing a potentially offensive word from the broadcast of an Australian play.   The scanned image is cropped so here’s the text of the item.

SOME funny things happen in television. Recently the A.B.C. put on Channel 2 an Australian play by Leslie Rees called “The Sub-Editors’ Room.” The play was out- spoken and the word “slut” was used several times. Full marks go to the A.B.C. for putting on such a play without emasculating the author’s words.

However, with overseas films things are vastly different. The Commonwealth Film Censor recently cut a scene out of the TCN news because it showed a person spitting. A Western was banned because one of the characters had to have his leg amputated and liquor was used to deaden his pain.

The enduring character of Ginger Meggs

Courier Mail – 1 Feb 1934

What do Ginger Meggs and Ethel Turner, the author of Seven Little Australians, have in common?  According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography “before World War I, she had planned to start a children’s newspaper; in 1920 she suggested the idea to the editor of the Sydney Sun; when it fell through, she edited (1921-31) ‘Sunbeams’, the children’s page in the Sunday Sun.”

The Ginger Meggs website adds to the story.

In her book, The Diaries of Ethel Turner, Philippa Poole detailed how Turner had approached The Sun about starting a children’s paper, Rising Sun, in July 1919 but nothing had happened. In September 1921 she agreed to edit the new children’s section Sunbeams, but only on the understanding that the children’s paper would follow. The four-page Sunbeams section was first published on October 9, 1921 and on November 13, 1921 a comic section was added without Turner’s consent.

That comic strip – Us Fellers – penned by Jimmy Bancks, appeared on Sunbeams’  back page.  Ethel Turner was reportedly unhappy with the content.  Us Fellers became Ginger Meggs,  the character which still appears regularly in newspapers across Australia.  After Banck’s death, the cartoonist’s baton passed to Ron Vivian, then to Lloyd Piper, James Kemsley and more recently to Ginger’s current artist Jason Chatfield.


Paper cut outs

The Queenslander – 24 June 1905

City Botanic Gardens

In the 19th century, most of the state capitals had established botanical gardens.  Here’s a taste of their history as well as links to contemporary gardens in each of Australia’s capital cities.


Walter Hill – The Queenslander – 9 July 1904 – the story of a Scottish horticulturalist (one of many as it happens) and his contribution.

About this time the Government of New South Wales determined to establish a botanic garden at Brisbane, and applications for the position of superintendent were made by different candidates. The selection was left to the late Sir William S. Macleay of Elizabeth Bay, who stated that Mr. Hill would accept the appointment, he was the most practical botanist   and horticulturist that could be found, and the latter quite unexpectedly found, himself gazetted as Superintendent of the Brisbane Botanic Garden in February, 1855. On taking charge Mr. Hill found that the garden (in which little had been attempted in the way of cultivation) comprised merely the small area of six acres, a considerable proportion consisting of swampy ground.

Today, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens are located on Mt Coot-tha with the original gardens now called City Gardens.


Founded in 1846 , its 100th anniversary was noted in this Argus article.

The botanist Ferdinand Von Mueller was director of the gardens from 1857 to 1873.  The Australian Dictionary of Biography mentions his arrival, and his departure from that position.

After his return to Melbourne, in August 1857 he was appointed director of the Botanical Gardens while still retaining his post as government botanist from which he had been given unpaid leave. He immediately arranged for the construction of an herbarium, contributed his own already extensive collection and began work on his Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae which was published in twelve parts in 1858-82. As director of the gardens Mueller was responsible for exchanging seeds and plants with botanists throughout Australia as well as European and American herbaria.  [….]

By 1868 Mueller was already answering criticism of his directorship of the gardens: ‘no foundations exist … neither are statues erected … works of art we can call forth at pleasure, while time lost in forming the plantations cannot be regained’. Late in 1871 he lectured on the objects of a botanic garden but his efforts were in vain and in 1873 he was replaced by W. R. Guilfoyle. Mueller remained government botanist and suffered no pecuniary loss but felt the injustice of his dismissal from the gardens; he is reputed never to have entered them again.


These gardens were established in 1818 in Hobart.


Charles Fraser was the first Superintendent of Sydney’s Botanic Garden.  The Australian Dictionary of Biography notes:

Meanwhile in Sydney, on 1 January 1821, Macquarie formally appointed him colonial botanist, and in September Frazer persuaded the governor to form a ‘Botanical Garden’ of fifteen acres (6 ha) at Double Bay in addition to the older ‘government garden’ at Farm Cove; though Brisbane abandoned the former he added five acres (2 ha) to the latter, and in 1825 reported that ‘nearly 3000 varieties of Grapes, Trees, Fruits and other valuable productions of the Vegetable Kingdom have been introduced and cultivated with success’.

In 1952, the Sydney Morning Herald printed Geoffrey Powell’s historical summary of the first gardens – plants and seeds that began Australia’s agricultural and horticultural industries.


In 1841, The Colonial Times in Hobart had this snippet tucked away in the report from South Australia.


Despite much earlier lobbying from correspondents, a Botanic Garden per se was not established in Perth until 1965.

This letter to the editor of the Western Australian Times was published in 1879.


SIR, – It is very amusing to read in the issue of the Inquirer of the 4th June that we are in , possession of a ‘Botanical Garden” under the leadership of a “Curator.’ Brand new discovery that. I am not aware that there is such a garden in existence in Western Australia and if this be the case, perhaps the sapient editor of the Inquirer will not keep this secret and will oblige the public with pointing it out to us?

The use of the above term as applied to this colony is calculated to mislead, and convey a false impression to our neighbours. Knowing very well your readiness, Mr. Editor, to correct false statements, I take the liberty of asking youto make free use of the above disclaimer for public information.

Your obedient servant,

JOSEPH POLACK. Perth, June 5.

And in 1953 from the West Australian …

Hang on…..

Oh the thrill of new technology that makes household tasks more efficient –  Australian Women’s Weekly advertisement – 10 August 1955

1810 – new street names for Sydney

In 1810, plans of new and old street names were published in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser under proclamation of the then Governor, Lachlan Macquarie.

The plan included explanations and references, for instance:

Macquarie Street [named after the Governor just 10 months after he took office]

– The easternmost street in the town, and extending in a southerly direction from the Government Domain to Hyde Park.

York Street (previously Barrack Street)

– Extends from the Barracks, in a southerly direction to the Burying-ground, parallel with George Street.

Prince Street (previously Windmill Row)

– Extending from Charlotte Square and the Government Stone Windmill in a northerly direction towards Dawes Point.

Explanations and references to all City of Sydney street names are available through the City of Sydney’s historian, Shirley Fitzgerald who has compiled a spreadsheet which is freely available here for download.  The spreadsheet includes information on streets (such as Prince Street) which no longer exist.

“Variously Prince/Princes, renamed by Macquarie in 1810. As the most important street in the area, it was named for the Prince of Wales. Previously Windmill Row ‘between Charlotte Sq and government stone windmill northerly to Dawes Point’. Removed for construction of the Harbour Bridge. Now beneath the Bradfield Hwy.”

Courtesy of Google maps, here’s what some of those 1810 streets look like in 2011.