Right: Plunger Washing Machine and 1947
advertisement from The West Australian newspaper:
"Does not injure the daintiest laces of lingerie... The Lehmann is
the only Washer to employ Compressed Air and Suction. When the
plunger is pressed down, the air and suds are forced through the
clothes turning them at the same time."
This washer was used to wash clothes during the 1940s by
Mrs Moreen Reading
Farm in Carnamah.
Many people also manually make their own soap!
Mrs Gladys Armstrong
Farm in Winchester received an honourable mention for her
The Sunday Times
newspaper's 1927 recipe competition:
"Home Made Soap - Six quarters rain water, 6lb. good clean fat, 1lb.
caustic soda, ¾lb. resin, ½lb. borax. Put in a kerosene tin, bring
to a boil and simmer for two hours."
Below: Singer Sewing Machine
Pushing your foot down on a peddle underneath the machine
would pull on a cord attached to a wheel. The wheel would then turn,
moving a shaft that made the needle move up and down.
Mrs Jean Tilly
the below Singer in Adelaide in 1927 and it came with her to Coorow
In 1926 blacksmiths Henry Parkin & Son
of Carnamah expanded their
business with the establishment of a power station that provided
electricity to their premises and The Don Tearooms
Street (now our museum). Within a year they were providing electric
lighting to a number of homes and businesses and were contracted by
the Carnamah District Road Board
to light the streets of Carnamah.
“Mr Parkin, who is undertaking the lighting of the town, was
re-erecting some of the electric wires, and it appears that one was
rather low across the road, and Mr Lang
, who was driving his car,
ran into it, and the windscreen and hood were wrenched off.”
– The Midlands Advertiser
Above: Tom Parkin,
the 'son' of Parkin & Son, behind their electric power
generator at 3 Yarra Street in Carnamah
Parkin & Son began providing a continuous power service in 1933 when
local butcher Fred Lee
Pyramid Tea Rooms
town’s first electric refrigerators. Prior to this time the power
went off overnight and was restarted each morning. An additional
generator was needed but caused a stir when it interfered with the
reception of twelve local radios!
In 1952 Parkin & Son were providing electricity to 87 clients, which
included a few farmers whose homes were close to town. The
powerhouse was sold to the Moora firm Saleebas Pty Ltd in 1953 and
later to Joe Turner and then Bob Kestel. In 1970 it was taken over
by the State Electricity Commission (S.E.C.) who closed it down
after connecting Carnamah to the state network. Until power lines
were built to farms, many farming families had their own 32-volt generator
to provide electricity to their homes.
Below: Receipt to Mrs Kate Kenny for
paying her electricity bill for the month of July 1952, signed by
Please help enrich our collective history by sharing your own comment or
story about life before or after electricity. Click
send us an email to
I remember a large rectangular safe, probably homemade, with wire mesh
front and sides that sat on the verandah of our weatherboard home on the
farm. The mesh kept the flies out but the legs had to sit in small tins
of water so that ants couldn’t get up to the food. Kerosene
refrigerators, although a great advance on Coolgardie Safes, were rather
hazardous – often the cause of blackened ceilings and occasionally of
very destructive fires. The narrow long tank at the bottom had to be
filled with kerosene and the wick adjusted and then it had to be pushed
back in and kept level.
’s Singer Sewing
Machine [featured above] was bought second hand in 1927 and she was
still using it in the 1980s. It is on a solid base and is lowered in the
centre when not in use. It has a foot treadle and three small drawers on
either side – very useful for storing shuttles, cotton reels, elastic,
bias binding, lace, ribbon and anything related to sewing and mending.
Although she didn’t enjoy sewing she hemmed seersucker material to use
as tablecloths, made potholders out of hessian and scraps of material,
patched trousers, cut and rejoined sheets to make them serve longer,
made aprons, and made dresses for me and my doll Elizabeth.
, who was an avid reader
of newspapers, always had trouble with the Aladdin Lamp. It was an
improvement on kerosene lamps with just a wick because it had a mantle
that glowed giving a stronger light. However my father still found the
light weak and hated the hordes of moths that it attracted.
Our Metters wood stove whether on the farm or later in Coorow township
was kept going all day. Ashes had to be scraped out first thing in the
morning and then kindling wood laid and lit. All through the day you
added more wood depending on what you were cooking. Scones needed a hot
oven whereas with meringues you let the heat slowly decrease. The urn
stayed on one side of the stove and its hot water was used for cooking,
washing up, bathing and filling hot water bottles. During cold winter
evenings I can remember seeing my parents and a friend all sitting in
front of the stove chatting with their feet in the oven.