The ins and outs of life in downtown "Kal"...
Trip Start Apr 13, 2011
32Trip End Jul 13, 2011
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Not only that, it had rained in the night, and was still raining
Feels like it’s been a long day, but we have really spent most of it simply going around in circles. It was time for a domestic day again, and we really only had two items on the agenda – find the Subaru dealer and get him to fix the doorhandle I accidentally wrenched off in Ceduna; and buy a charger for the rechargeable light we bought in Adelaide. We had already lost one of our two chargers early on and the new one stopped working after three days. Nonetheless, how hard could these two puzzles be in a town this size?
Ha, ha – well, think again – to cut a long story short, we have circumnavigated every corner of Kalgoorlie today. And we have met EVERY local involved in the selling of camping equipment, car parts and every other possible variation on those three themes. It’s been like a bad episode of the Chaser, each new acquaintance sending us to someone and somewhere else in town. But each time we’d arrive somewhere and tell our story, without fail they would shrug their shoulders and recommend the place we had just come from. Then we would point out that those people sent us to them
Another accidental highlight for today was the Brothel Tour we didn’t know we were going to do. We had staggered the length and breadth of the inner "city" and I was nearly passing out with hunger, when I spotted a Rivers Clearance store. This is always an omen, especially in regional centres where there is heaps more stock. I ducked in to check whether they had any cheap tank tops for when the weather improves, and of course they did, although it was almost too dark to see in there. A throw-away comment about the mood lighting at the checkout led to a raucous exchange of giggles and useful information from two bored but very friendly locals. Apparently the building used to be the Majestic Theatre, hence the weird white wall (the old screen) and two columns up the back of the store – they were obliged to keep these in honour of the building’s heritage. The most useful tip they gave us, though, was not to miss the brothel tour – and they were most adamant about which one they meant - not the swanky one run by the newish brothel that calls itself a motel on its rates notice – the REAL one
Things I remember from the madam’s talk:
- The girls had to live on site in the house for which they worked.
- They could not come to town unless they already had a job lined up in one of the houses, and had to register at the police station when they arrived.
- They had to be on duty from dusk to dawn.
- If they broke any rules, they had to leave town for two weeks, a detective would take them to the station and wait till the train left. Second offence – barred for life.
- They were not allowed to socialise in town or hang out in places “where people congregated”. This rule only changed in 2007. When the girls had their day off, they would go to a pub out of town and come back in by taxi.
- They were not allowed in town by themselves, as this was regarded as soliciting, so the madam had to accompany them on any shopping trips. They got 10% off in most shops.
- The madam spoke as if these rules still apply.
- The police still control what goes on in the street, and they are changed over every three years to make sure corruption doesn’t take hold.
- These days, the first 15 minutes costs $120, a full hour is $280. You get five minutes to shower before the clock starts.
- The quickest recorded visit was 4 minutes, the most visitors to a single girl in one night was 70 men!
- They still use the "starting stall" concept from the "good old days", where the girl sits in her chair in a little alcove in one of the gates (see the photo with all the pink doors). The men wander past, and if they are interested, they nip in off the street so they can discreetly negotiate whether they'd like to go into the house itself for a "rendezvous".
After our brothel tour, we resumed the hunt for someone who could help us with the door handle, finally finding Coventry’s Fasteners, as tip we’d been given earlier in the day but had half-forgotten in our goose chase for a charger. As luck would have it, though, ten minutes before close of business, we finally struck gold. We were in Kalgoorlie, after all. The nice lady at Coventry’s finally gave us what noone else was willing to hand over – the name of a good old-fashioned mechanic! She gave us four, actually, but pointed to the one who was most likely to take pity on us and actually help us out. Well, we hightailed it out of there and hooned around the bypass again, as familiar with all the shortcuts now as any seasoned local, only to screech to a halt outside Peter Hadfield’s premises just on five (and dusk). What a star! He was drowning in work from the mines and private customers, but he made time to have a look at our quirky little problem, whipped the inner door cladding off, and with the care and precision of any surgeon, extracted the missing screw from the depths of the door cavity and fixed the problem then and there. I was fascinated by the array of groovy gadgets he got out for this little piece of surgery, and have left with a list of things to look for when it’s next time to buy presents for my Dad – finally found something more useful than a hand-made comb holder, or another box of chocolates with a bottle of Baileys. Can’t say what it is, though, as I am hoping he will read this and the surprise will be ruined! Peter Hadfield turned out to be a goldmine in lots of ways – he was full of anecdotes about the bomb trucks on the mines and the stringent standards his work has to measure up to.