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The war years

The beachfront at Cottesloe provided many facilities to entertain beach goers including hotels, guest houses, cafes and kiosks, surf life saving and sporting clubs, dance venues, an outdoor picture garden, a bathing pavillion, a fun fair, a promenade, a pier and band rotunda.

Before the Japanese entered the war, beachfront life at Cottesloe continued on as it had previously. People used the beach for swimming, walked along the promenade, enjoyed the fun fair and went to that brightly lit night dance spot, the Palais de Dance.


Centenary Pavillion, Cottesloe Beach, 1940s

The Centenary Pavillion on the beach at Cottesloe, 1940s.

Courtesy Town of Cottesloe


After the bombing of Darwin, however, blackout regulations were enforced. Some features of the beachfront life, such as the Palais de Dance and the fun fair, both of which operated at night in summer, closed down because they were unable to comply with the new regulations.

The arrival of hundreds of American servicemen in early 1942 had a big impact on entertainment. Cottesloe, like Perth experienced a boom in night life. Dances were a popular way to entertain servicemen. The Lido Cabaret was one of Cottesloe's night spots and local church halls were used regularly to host dances for servicemen.

American servicemen introduced girls to dances like the boogie woogie and the jitterbug and sometimes a dance night romance ended in marriage.

Pier and Pavillion at Cottesloe lit up at night

The pier and Pavillion at Cottesloe beach lit up before blackout regulations came into force.

Courtesy Town of Cottesloe


15,000 girls left Australian shores at the end of the war either as the wives or fiances of American servicemen. 1,000 West Australian girls were amongst them.

Other girls married British and Dutch servicemen who were also represented in considerable numbers in Australia during the war.

Listening to the radio was one of the most popular means of entertainment and relaxation in the war years. It offered serials, comedy shows, news broadcasts, music and plays. Most radio stations were commercially operated but the ABC was also an important force in radio entertainment.

View a slide show on the early days of ABC Radio in WA on the ABC's web site at http://www.abc.net.au/wa/stories/s426825.htm

West Australians had a relatively high radio ownership rate at over 80% and the ratio of stations to population in Australia was double that of the United States.

American servicemen at a dance

Servicemen and young women at a dance in the war years.

Courtesy National Library of Australia


Restrictions were placed on radio broadcasts during the war years. No advertisements were allowed for dresses or fashion items, holidays or other luxury items and news programs were censored.

Cottesloe residents could listen to ABC or commercial stations such as 6PM and 6 PR. Programs such as 'Rise and Shine' could be heard all over Australia during the war. This program was compered by Jack Burgess and was broadcast from various Army, Navy and Airforce bases around Australia. Members of the services participated in quizzes and led community singing. A variety of talent shows were also popular and included 'Amateur Hour' which broadcast a mixture of singing, music and other entertainment.

Popular music of the war years included 'In the Mood' and 'Moonlight Serenade' which were performed by the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, led by Glen Miller. British singer Vera Lynn was another great favourite with songs such as 'The White Cliffs of Dover' and 'Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye'.

Advertisement for radio play, 1942

Advertisement for the radio play 'The trial of Mary Dugan' broadcast on Sydney Radio Station 2GB

Women's Weekly, 10 Jan 1942


Going to the picture theatre was a popular pastime during the war. Cottesloe had two theatres: The Lido outdoor picture garden was located on the corner of Forrest Street and Marine Parade, close to the waterfront and the Cottesloe Picture Theatre was on the Perth-Fremantle Road at the corner of Leake Street. John and Elsie Curtin were regular customers of the picture theatres in the days before Curtin became Prime Minister. Their home in Jarrad Street was just a short walk from both of the theatres.

Wartime picture shows usually began with the singing of songs like 'There will always be an England' or 'Land of Hope and Glory' followed by a newsreel about the war and then the feature film. The Hoyts Cinema chain dominated cinema ownership across Australia in the 1940s but the Cottesloe Picture Theatre was privately owned by the Hadfield family. A cinema seat cost just under 2 shillings (20 cents) per person.

Australian 'Mick' Wood acted in the film 'The Flying Fortress', 1942

Australian pilot 'Mick' Wood played the part of the 'ideal airman' in the British film 'The Flying Fortress'.

Womens Weekly, 10 Jan 1942


The post-war years

The end of the war brought the welcome return of Australian servicemen and the sad departure of American, British and Dutch servicemen.

Many of the activities that Cottesloe had been used to before the Japanese threat arose returned to their former glory.

Bowler's Fun Fair re-opened with its dodge 'em cars, scoota boats, hit 'em and knock 'em stalls and fairy floss booths. The fair, along with the promenade and Palais de Dance, could once again be lit at night.

Dodge-em cars at Cottesloe beachfront, post-war

Dodge 'em cars were a popular ride for the young at Bowler's Fun Fair post war.

Courtesy Town of Cottesloe


Surf carnivals were scheduled again once sporting clubs began to return to their former strength.

Dancing continued to be very popular. Local halls like St Columba's in Johnston Street Cottesloe were used for debutante balls which were an important rite of passage for young women.


The pier at Cottesloe

The pier at Cottesloe was a popular diving spot.

Courtesy Town of Cottesloe


The re-opening of the Palais de Dance was welcomed by regular patrons. Gone within 18 months of the end of the war were the servicemen in uniform. As rationing was phased out women could be seen at Cottelsoe dances in new look long silky evening gowns and men could purchase double breasted suits or evening suits once again.

Dancing was a popular way for young people to meet prospective partners and weddings nearly always included dancing.

Debutante Ball

One of the many debutante balls held in the Midland Town Hall, 1946

Courtesy Evelyn Christie


Live three piece bands, such as those hired in the war years provided the music.

Bands usually had a drummer, a pianist and a saxophonist who doubled as a singer. Bigger bands included more instrumentalists and at least one singer.

The war time music of Glen Miller continued to delight dance goers for a long time after the war.

Advertisement for Lido Cabaret, Cottesloe, 1948

Advertisement for the Lido Cabaret, Cottesloe

Daily News, 20 Nov 1948


Radio continued to be an important and inexpensive means of entertainment post-war. Residents of Cottesloe fondly remember long running serials like 'Blue Hills' and children enjoyed 'The Argonauts Club'. The ABC provided educational broadcasts in the 1940's and by the end of the decade students in Cottesloe schools were listening to these programs.

Well known personalities from radio station 6PM compered 'Relax Community Concerts' at Cottesloe beach in the post war years. Temporary stages were erected on the sands and families sat on the lawns above them to listen to comperes John Luke and Les Adams. Singers Nell Shortland-Jones and Yvonne Carrier accompanied by Letty Hoskins on the piano led sing-a-longs of popular favourites of the time like 'Let Me call You Sweetheart' and 'By the Light of the Silvery Moon'. Radio stars of the post war period were as popular as TV stars today. [13]

Advertisement for Children's Radio Club, 1948

Perth radio station 6IX-WB-MD ran a Children's Radio Club to involve youngsters in programs especially for children.

Western Mail, 2 December 1948


In the post war era movies continued to be popular as they were an inexpensive form of entertainment. In winter the Saturday matinee with its regular serials was popular with children. Saturday nights in summer were family nights at the outdoor picture gardens.

Cottesloe resident Dr Jim Graham recalls that at the Cottesloe Picture Gardens the better seats were deck chairs and cheaper ones wooden benches. You could bring your own cushions or you could hire them. [14]

'The Best Years of Our Lives', The Treasure of Sierra Madre', All About Eve' and 'The Third Man' were classic movies of the post war years, starring the same famous names as Cottesloe residents had come to know during World War 2.

Advertisements for feature films at Perth theatres, 1947

Advertisements for the feature films at the Piccadilly and Theatre Royal, Perth, 1947

West Australian, 1 July 1947

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