Friday, July 29, 2016

Fitz Noir: stories from Fitzmaurice Street 1920- 1925

the Daily Advertiser, Tuesday 18 August 1925

Many publications printed by groups of businessmen over the years, have presented Wagga Wagga as a stolid, staid and stuffy town. Despite this attempted gloss, the early history of Wagga Wagga turns up many gems, and the early 1920s was particularly rich in surprising events. 

Fitzmaurice Street in the early 1920s was a lively place, with the top four infringements people were charged with appearing to be as follows: Offensive behaviour, Riotous behaviour, Indecent language, and Loitering. Of these, riotous behaviour was the most popular, often involving drunken brawls, and other alcohol fuelled behaviours that were puzzling to hapless bystanders.

Indecent language was also popular in 1920s Wagga, with the actual language or words used described in very decorous and demure terms that gave no hint of the content, but the people of the time must have known what swear words of the day were most frequently used. Again it was mostly alcohol affected people loudly disclaiming near a convenient policeman on street patrol, with hopefully a group of suitably shocked persons witnessing the “crime”.
                                      the Daily Advertiser, Friday 22 April 1921                                            

Offensive behaviour was prevalent, though again, descriptions given were mild in comparison to today’s standards, and thumbing your nose at a policeman could get you arrested. 

the Daily Advertiser, Monday 9 February 1925

The other startling statistic from this time is the high number of traffic accidents, involving bolting horses, runaway horse and buggies, and car and motorbike accidents. Men of this time were used to performing great acts of derring do, leaping into runaway carts and pulling up the horse and saving the occupants of the cart or buggy. Men would do this at a moment’s notice so it must have been a fairly common occurrence to be that prepared and confident to stop a bolting horse. Mr Minty, of Minty’s garage fame, made it into the Daily Advertiser as one of many men who rescued people this way.

the Daily Advertiser, Tuesday 29 June 1920

Drink driving in cars was also common, and caused many fatalities and injuries ; people usually had excuses for their bad driving behaviours, as did this fellow ”it wasn’t the drink, it was the brakes Your Honour”

the Daily Advertiser, Monday 15 June 1925

Opium smoking was a social problem of the time, generally inhabitants of the town knew where the opium dens or smoking establishments were, and of course illegal gambling was huge at the time along with other less troubling entertainments. Unconscious people were often found lying in the street, sometimes outside opium dens, or pubs. The gaming house was shut down, as were the opium dens (eventually).

 the Daily Advertiser, Tuesday 24 February 1920

the Daily Advertiser, Tuesday 29 September 1925

But the best of all these stories are the oddities of Fitzmaurice Street. 

There was the shopkeeper’s parrot, who regularly drew an appreciative crowd: 

                                              the Daily Advertiser, Thursday 27 March 1924

The giant cod displayed in an oyster saloon window, and the story of the gruff fisherman who bagged the giant fish:

                                                the Daily Advertiser, Friday 14 March 1924

The Great Lobster Price Outrage of 1925:

the Daily Advertiser, Monday 10 August 1925

And finally,  the man who proudly displayed his arm length tattoo of a naked lady, was arrested but let off with a warning (after having the judge examine the tattoo closely) (and at length) to “keep your arm to yourself in future”

the Daily Advertiser, Tuesday 10 February 1920

You can uncover your own 1920s gems through Trove's newspaper search

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