Before Electricity
Round Hanging Meat Safe
Electricity runs the world!

Today electricity powers almost everything we use in our homes and workplaces. However, this hasn't always been the case.

This exhibition takes a look at some of the household items that were used for everyday tasks in the days before electricity. Some take advantage of nature while others are mechanical or involve a lot of manual labour.

Left:  1920s Meat Safe used by the Reading family on Wellmeadow Farm in Carnamah.

Prior to kerosene and electric refrigerators, meat safes were used to keep meat and other food cool and fresh. They also kept flies and other insects away from the food.
Right:  Helen, Bob and Jean Caldow in about 1930 on the vernadah of their home on Glencairn Farm in Three Springs. A round meat safe can be seen hanging in the background. In 2011 an 87 year old Jean recalled that at the time it was "a very modern way of keeping meat".

This particular type of meat safe was designed to be hung in a cool place out of the sun where it would catch the breeze and be out of reach of ants. Below is a 1932 newspaper advertisement for Foy's department store in Perth from The Daily News.

1930s Round Hanging Meat Safe
Caldow children of Three Springs with hanging round meat safe in the background
Kitchen Mixer
Left:  Kitchen Mixer used by the Heinrich family on Wongyarra Farm in Carnamah.

This revolutionary device meant you could move two mixers with the turning of just one handle! Turning the handle moves the large cog underneath, which then turns the two smaller cogs which move the mixers.

The mixer was used to combine the ingredients for cakes and also had a hook for the mixing of dough to be made into bread.
Right:  Aladdin Kerosene Lamp

Candles, open fireplaces and lamps that burnt oil or kerosene were used to provide light during the dark of night. However, this came with its risks.

George Salter of Karina Farm in Carnamah was playing his guitar-mandolin-harp one evening in 1935 when he paused to fill a lamp with kerosene. In the process the lamp burst into flames and set his kitchen on fire. He found water did little to extinguish the flames so soaked a hessian bag in his bathtub, which was fortunately full of water, and used that to successfully beat out the flames. Others weren't so lucky.

Below is an advertisement from The North Midland Times newspaper announcing Cowderoys store becoming Aladdin lamp dealers in 1936.
1930s Aladdin Kerosene Lamp
Left:  Stovetop Kettle used by the Carnamah Bowling Club in the 1960s

Boiling water for a hot cuppa was once a much more arduous task. A wood fire would need to be lit and burning in the stove and a kettle would then be placed on the metal stovetop to be heated up by the fire underneath.
1960s Metal Stovetop Kettle
Charcoal Clothes Iron
Above:  Metters Improved No. 2 Wood Stove

A fire would be lit behind the two small doors near the top, which would then heat both the stovetop and the oven underneath. It was effective but resulted in a very hot kitchen during summer. The above stove came from the house behind the butcher's shop at 14 Macpherson Street, Carnamah.

Left:  Charcoal Clothes Iron

This iron could be heated by leaving it on top of the stove. It could also be filled with hot coals from a fire to keep it hot for longer.
Right:  1930s Petrol Clothes Iron

This Coleman Petrol Iron was advertised in The Sunday Times newspaper in 1937 as being "worth it's weight in gold" as it was a big improvement on previous irons that had to be heated on a fire.

"Lights instantly, no pre-heating whatever. You just strike a match, turn a valve and it's going. You can regulate the heat... hot, medium or low... for any kind of ironing you want to do."
1930s Coleman Petrol Clothes Iron

Above:  Manual hair clippers used by Tom Poole of Elberton Farm in Winchester.

Pulling the two handles of the clippers inwards moves the blades. Tom Poole, pictured standing on the right, regularly cut local men's hair during the 1920s and early 1930s. The above clippers returned to England with him in 1938, however, made their way back to the Carnamah district by post 75 years later in 2013, thanks to Tom's grandson!
Remington 30 Typewriter
Above:  Remington 30 Typewriter

Typewriters allowed people to produce neat printed letters. Each key is on a lever and when the key is hit it lifts the other end onto a ribbon containing ink, which then marks the paper with the letter. Prior to computers many people took courses on using typewriters and worked full time as typists.

Right:  1920s Glass Washboard

Washboards were used to wash clothes manually by hand. The washboard would be placed in a laundry trough or large bucket, and marks or stains on clothes would then be rubbed with soap and water against the corrugated glass.
1920s Glass Washboard
1940s Lehmann 5 Minite Washer
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 on Wellmeadow Farm in Carnamah.

Many people also manually make their own soap! Mrs Gladys Armstrong of Petan Farm in Winchester received an honourable mention for her soap in 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 purchased the below Singer in Adelaide in 1927 and it came with her to Coorow in 1936.
1920s Singer Treadle Sewing Machine
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 on Macpherson 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 in 1927
Advertisement for Carnamah Electric Light and Power Station
Carnamah Power Station
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 and the Pyramid Tea Rooms purchased the 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 Elsie Parkin
Receipt from the Carnamah Electric Light and Power Station
Your comment or story

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Eileen Smith (nee Reading)

Gold Old Washing Days. Married during 1935, my Mother moved from the city lifestyle of Perth to begin life with her husband on a farming property at Carnamah.

Washing clothes was not an easy task. Firstly the copper needed to have water put into it, by carrying water from the rainwater tank, in a tin bucket. The fire was lit under the copper, using small pieces of wood collected from around the farm. Mum used stones and cement to build the fire box, and the walls around the copper. When the water heated to the required heat, water was bucketed into the twin concrete wash tubs, soap flakes were added, stirred with the wooden stick (broomstick) until dissolved, then the washing items put in, pushed up and down with the stick, and left to soak in the water, with a prod with the stick every so often. Then using a scrubbing board, corrugated glass in a wooden frame, that stood in the water, resting against the inside of the front of the trough, and velvet soap, clothes were soaped and rubbed up and down the glass to remove stubborn soiled marks.

The second trough had the rinsing water in, into which Reckitt’s Blue had been added, to give the “Whites” a fresh clean look. A hand turned Wringer was mounted on the trough divide, squeezing the water out of the washing as it passed through, between the rollers.
How great it must have seemed when a Lehmann wash tub [pictured further above] was added to the laundry. This was like a drum on legs, with a cone plunger that was worked up and down on the washing within the drum. A long handle attached to the top of the cone was used to lever it, the plunge action lifted the washing, then when lowered the washing went back into the water, the action was repeated until satisfied that the clothes or sheets etc. were clean, then into the troughs for the rinse, and wringing, before taking out to the clothesline.

The clothesline consisted of two sturdy timber posts, with cross arms. The posts were secured in the ground some distance apart, with the clothesline wire run from both edges of the cross arms on one post to the other post. The cross arms were held with a bolt that allowed the arms to move. A long strong bush branch with a fork shape at one end was used to prop the line up, to keep the washing off the ground. A prop for each line. On windy days the washing would flap around, causing the props to move, letting items fall onto the ground. Then it was "a good shake or a rewash".

Jill Tilly
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.

My mother’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.

My father, 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.

Helen Coghill

I remember the Tilley lamp well and was so frightened of it. Electricity was not connected to our farm until 1947. The flat iron sat on top of the wood stove until hot enough to use and the backyard water pump needed to be primed to encourage the water to eventually appear. My Father shod the horses as he was also a Farrier and I 'pumped' the bellows for him on occasions. During the shearing season I helped in the sheds and knew how to throw a fleece and skirt it by age 14. The shearers were very fussy about conditions and food. If a sheep was cut I had to have the tar brush ready after they stitched the wound. Life was hard but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Oh! and the toilet was a very deep hole in the ground away from the house with a covered structure over it for privacy and when necessary it was filled in and the whole thing moved to another location.

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