I had a few quid to my name back in 1933 when I met Lisa, the tall blonde from Sweden. My mate Wally and I were walking down Hay Street, Perth on our way to The City Bar where we could get a feed for the price of a couple of beers and sixpence.
Unlike the usual pub, The City Bar had an unusual licence in that it could sell grog without being encumbered with the problems of providing accommodation. It was a popular place in the depression years as one could eat his fill of the Oxtail Stew, Curry and Rice or whatever was the going meal of the day.
Wally excused himself to speak to the girl passing by while I waited a discreet distance ahead. After a few minutes he rejoined me and I was quick to reproach him for not introducing me.
“Possess your soul with patience,” he told me with a grin, “we’re meeting her at The Criterion at five thirty.”
After lunch we had a couple of hours to wile away before five thirty so we saw a movie and got to The Criterion Hotel lounge a few minutes before the appointed time. Not wanting my mate to appear a mendicant, I slipped him a ten bob note. He was broke, poor sod, and living off the generosity of his parents.
Wally and I had worked together at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Batavia, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) some twelve months previously. The reason he was broke and I was pretty flush was that I’d had the good fortune to be laid off after the Dutch Authorities passed legislation that foreign firms terminating the services of an employee other than a Dutch National, must pay a severance pay of four months salary.
This legislation was to ensure that foreigners would have the means to return to their own countries and so relieve the Dutch of the problem of unemployed foreigners as well as their own Nationals.
Since Australia had gone off what was known as the ‘Gold Standard’ and Holland was still on it, I was able to turn my Dutch Gilders into Australian Pounds quite profitably. I ended up back in Australia with a couple of hundred quid, a tidy sum in 1933.
All that is by the by however. Lisa turned up a few minutes after us and as she glided towards our table, I completed my earlier appraisal of her. She was not beautiful by any means but very pleasant on the eye with her rounded face and brown eyes, shapely long legs and well-developed but not overly ample, bosom. She spoke good english with an attractive accent.
After a couple of drinks Wally excused himself to make it home by six thirty when his Mum would have supper on the table. Shortly after he left, Lisa also took her leave but not before agreeing to meet me at five the next afternoon. I watched her walk away and registered the fact that she possessed a particularly beautiful bottom.
I met Wally for lunch at The City Bar the next day and I casually inquired what he knew about Lisa. Had he known her long and where had he met her? He was rather vague, saying he’d met her at a party some time ago when he still had a quid.
“I don’t know her all that well,” Wally said and winked, “if you play your cards right though you might do some good for yourself.”
Given the male chauvinistic attitude towards women back in the thirties I was a pretty decent sort of chap, but even I considered all women to be fair game. My ambition, of course, was to get Lisa into bed and I planned my moves carefully.
I met her that evening as arranged and after a drink or two I took her to a nearby restaurant for a meal. With the evening still young, I suggested we stroll up to Marlborough House where I was living and where there was usually some form of entertainment in the lounge of an evening.
Marlborough House could not be described as anything classy. I suppose a rooming house or better class boarding house would best describe it. The accommodation consisted of rooms of various sizes and you could have bed and breakfast or full board if your pocket would run to it. It had a bar and a lounge for guests only but it was permitted to bring friends in for a drink.
Most guests at Marlborough House were young Civil Servants from various State Government Departments in Perth. There was usually a sing-song or some impromptu entertainment going on as money was too scarce for people to go out on the town looking for amusement. There was no law against entertaining in your room so long as there was a low level of noise after eleven o’clock.
Lisa and I stayed in the lounge until about nine thirty when I suggested we adjourn to my room to listen to records. Whilst in Java I had acquired a German-made portable gramophone. It was built into a container that folded up like a small suitcase and unlike most others of its kind, it had a remarkably excellent tone.
As I had intended to stay in Perth only a short time, I had let my head go and rented a decent room. It contained a small sofa which lent itself perfectly to the tete a tete I had in mind. I placed the gramophone on a chair in front of the sofa where it was within easy reach and produced, with a flourish, a bottle of Frontignac, a dark, sweet fortified wine, Western Australian Vintage, guaranteed by the wine merchant to be the greatest leg-opener this side of the black stump.
The only snag to my plan was the gramophone which provided what seemed like a perfect excuse to entice the lady to my room, was fast becoming a nuisance because it required cranking after each record. It was a continual, frustrating interruption to my otherwise smooth technique.
After a few turns of Richard Tauber’s rendition of songs from The White Horse Inn, I decided to get the show on the road without accompaniment. After four years in the Dutch East Indies, I was a reasonably experienced young seducer but I wasn’t getting far having to leave off to change the record which more or less sent me back to square one.
Mind you, it was all enjoyably erotic and I was learning quite a bit about Lisa in the process. In the early thirties in Sweden, things weren’t too good. The depression was a world wide phenomenon and she came to Australia to live with her Aunt whose husband was a shipping agent in Fremantle for Swedish and Norweigian Shipping Firms. Both these countries were big in the Australian grain trade at the time.
Lisa’s parents were under the impression that jobs were easy to come by in Australia and her uncle, through his shipping connections, obtained a passage for her on a Swedish barge/passenger ship for a reduced fare. She celebrated her twenty-first birthday on route to Australia. She had no special skills, having been educated to the equivalent of our intermediate standard which was three years of high school, and since leaving school she had been employed in a handful of short-duration jobs.
In Australia, her uncle placed her on a part time basis in his office and, according to her, her main duties there were fending off his unwelcome attentions. Rather than cause a family rift, she managed to get a part time job at the Strand Hotel in Hay Street, Perth. She left Fremantle with her ears ringing with her aunt’s tearful reproaches.
Suddenly I felt somewhat of a bastard and on a par with her uncle. Whilst my body cried out for satisfaction, my sense of decency and fair play held me back. It was late when I walked her down to the nearby tram stop and saw her onto the tram she had to catch.
I met her again the following day at the same place – The Criterion Hotel lounge. After we had drinks and a meal I suggested a movie but she had brought some records from Swedish composers she wanted me to hear. I couldn’t believe my luck. I had replenished my supply of Frontignac on the off-chance, as experience taught me that this sex business, whether you call it love or lust, has no timetable. Our acquaintance had been brief but a tenderness was creeping into my feelings for her. I didn’t know it right then but I was actually falling in love.
During the songs and music from The Peer Gynt Suite, I was sucking a pair of lovely tits that thrust out like a cantilever verandah and running my fingers through the blonde bush. In the process, I was developing a most acute case of what the layman might call ‘lovers balls’.
I remember coming up for air and replaying a song called ‘Solveig’s Song’, a lovely sad piece. It was then that she delivered the blow that filled me with a sickening hurt that was worse than the ache in my loins.
She told me she wouldn’t be seeing me again. She was leaving for Kalgoorlie at eight o’clock the next morning. She had got a job, she said, as a waitress in a hotel there, secured for her by the wife of the manager of the Strand where she still occasionally worked. She asked me not to see her off as the taxi that was picking her up would also have another girl who was travelling with her to the same hotel.
Well, what a kick in the guts! I was utterly bereft. Instead of getting the girl into bed I’d fallen head over heels in love with her and now the light seemed to go out of my life. I could offer no alternative as I was due to go north again in a week or so because Perth was absolutely hopeless so far as getting work was concerned.
The shock of having the rug pulled out from under me was enough to dampen my ardour and my first instinct was to bid her farewell as soon as possible. I walked her to her tram stop and then got so involved in a last kissing session that we missed her last tram and I had to walk her a further half mile to a taxi rank.
It was just two days later when I met Wally as we’d arranged previously. We went to the nearest pub, The Goldfields, and settled in for a session. I made no mention of Lisa but eventually he brought up her name and asked if I’d done any good for myself.
I told him the whole sad story and expressed the hope that Lisa would get a better break in Kalgoorlie than she had experienced in Perth.
“Don’t worry, mate,” he said, “Lisa has something she can always fall back on.”
Dumbly I asked him what he meant exactly.
He was silent for awhile and then shrugged his shoulders. “You might as well know the truth about Lisa,” he said, “I didn’t meet her at a party. I first made her acquaintance when she was working at Josie’s.”
Now Josie’s was a famous whorehouse in Roe Street, Perth the city’s brothel district. The brothels in Perth were not licensed but no matter the political complexion of the Government in Western Australia at anytime, the brothels had official sanction. The police had instructions to leave the madams and the girls alone unless there was some untoward incident which warranted attention.
“Oh, she a drink waitress then?” says I, my rose coloured glasses still firmly in place.
“No,” he corrected me gently, “she was one of Josie’s girls.”
For a few moments I couldn’t take it in. I’d known Wally for three years in Java and I knew he was a truthful bloke. He was the last one to rubbish anyone let alone a girl. I would have liked to have stopped right there but I had to know.
“I suppose you….” I stopped, unable to put it into words.
Wally, with surprising delicacy relieved me of the need to say the painful words. “Yes,” he said, “I did – several times when I was in the money. She was very popular. You more or less had to stand in line.”
I was desolated. I had a ghastly vision of my lovely Lisa lying with a score of randy males and I just bowed my head and look down into the depths of my beer. Eventually I looked up. “Well, I’ll be buggered.” I said a trifle bitterly and took a long gulp of my beer.
Wally smiled a gentle compassionate smile. “Yeah. It’s a tough old world.” He raised his glass, “To Josie’s!”