Two prospectors in 1893 thought they had discovered something extraordinary when they found a small patch of ground in outback Western Australia. Today, it remains one of the world's richest gold deposits.
Kalgoorlie-Boulder, 600 kilometres east of Perth, is famous for the Golden Mile that sparked Australia's greatest gold rush.
Once considered the richest square mile on Earth, the Golden Mile has produced over 60 million ounces of gold.
The inland city, Kalgoorlie-Boulder (referred to as Kalgoorlie from here onwards), lies amongst stunted trees and red pindan dirt in the state’s outback. The city’s isolation is the principal cause of the imbalance of young women to single working males in the region.
Prostitution is illegal in Western Australia, but the local police tolerated the practice. Several brothels line either side of Hay Street, one block back from the main drag, Hannan Street.
The year is 1980, and with the gold industry booming, the region attracts hordes of single men to work in the mines. The city’s pubs do their bit to attract drinkers through their doors by paying topless or nude barmaids to serve in the bars.
Not to be outdone, the brothels offer the means for the randy miners to satisfy their sexual needs. Over the years, Madam Rosa’s at 222 Hay Street had advertised the business as the ‘Jewel of the Goldfields.’
Jewel? The miners didn’t use such high falutin language to describe a brothel. They used the names of knocking-shop or knockers and left the other callings; cathouse, bordello, whorehouse, etc., to foreigners.
When a miner moved from a pub to visit Hay Street to get his end in, he didn’t say he was visiting the Jewel of the Goldfields; he said he was heading to the knockers for a root.
The Jewel employed sex workers, Rosie and Petal. Of course, the girls were names drummed up to use when hawking their forks. Rose, real name Mary Gavaranich and Petal, (Irene Whitney), were both new inductees at Madam Rosa’s knocking shop. And, in their short time at the busy night spot, had grown into fierce rivals.
“Petal? Petal, for f***’s sake. You must bring on a good belly laugh when you tell the guys that Petal is your handle.” Rose flounced around her rival colleague while preparing for the night’s work.
“No. None of my clients finds time to laugh; they’re always too busy getting something from me you won’t give them. Oh, don’t you worry, Miss High & Mighty, they tell me stories, and you’re not the Number One girl of the street; of which you think you are.”
“F*** off, Petal. I leave you for dead. You know it, I know it, and the punters know it.”
Rose, a 21-year-old New Zealander, was on a two-year work visa to save enough money to return home, buy a ladies' clothing shop, marry and have children. Soon after she arrived in Australia, Rose discovered getting paid for rooting (sexual intercourse), giving blow jobs, and wristies (hand jobs) benefited more handsomely than picking fruit.
Petal, a 22-year-old from Brisbane, Queensland, had arrived not long after Rose (she just wanted to make quick money). They befriended each other because of the conditions the local detectives placed on them.
As earlier mentioned, prostitution, tolerated though illegal, came with strict controls. The prostitutes needed to register with the police for integrity and criminal record checks. Plus, they could not frequent any hotel, pub, nightclub, or entertainment venue in the city.
For their own recreation, a limit of forty kilometres from the city’s CBD stood. A pub in the ghost town of Broad Arrow, forty-one kilometres to the north, became the ‘go-to’ place for the girls. This they did when they wanted to let off steam. However, if they moonlighted and hawked their fork, police withdrew their right to work in Kalgoorlie.
Rose and Petal, at first friendly towards each other, turned into bitter rivals following a visit to Broad Arrow. A violent set-to caused the fallout by the girls, a happening which occurred in the bar of the Broad Arrow pub.
The bartender, a bloke of at least threescore years, five elderly male prospectors and Rosie and Petal comprised the total inhabitants of the hotel. In fact, at that time, they had the sleepy ghost town to themselves.
After drinking several gin and tonics in fast time, Petal began flirting with the five drinkers. By not wearing a bra, she had no trouble catching the old blokes’ attention with her tit-wobbling.
The bartender joined the drinkers. And, while clapping in unison, to the tune of Dinah, Dinah, show us your leg, sang, “Petal, Petal, show us your tits, show us your tits, show us your tits. Petal, Petal, show us your tits.”
And, true to the applauding audience, Petal lowered her flimsy top, thus allowing her ample breasts to swing free. Steering free of the men’s arm-reach, she revolved around the barroom laughing and making risqué comments, together with hand and mouth gestures, towards the cheering gallery.
Rose, who’d become fed up with her friends carrying on, needed to yell at the top of her voice to gain her attention. “For f*** sake, Petal. Pull your head in, will you? If this gets back to the demons in Kal, we’ll be history. I’ll get my marching orders, as well as you.”
“Oh, piss off, Miss Saggy Tits. You’re jealous of my norks, aren’t you? Hey fellows,” she called while still skipping around the room, wobbling her tits, “Miss Saggy Tits has boobs that are as flat as razor strops. Get her to show you.”
Rose, who’d driven from Kalgoorlie to the pub and, as the skipper, had curtailed her drinking of alcohol. No matter. Petal's insult fired her into such a rage that she ran at the dancing girl and attacked her.
First, she flung her glass of soda water into Petal’s face and followed up by grabbing her hair and swinging her against a pool table. Petal proved to be no shrinking violet and, regaining her feet, grabbed a cue stick and lunged at Rose.
The old prospectors remained transfixed. None moved. They sat open-mouthed in awe as they watched what was unfolding in front of them. Lucky for both girls, the bartender saw fit to intervene and positioned himself between the pair, taking hold of Petal’s makeshift weapon before she could use it.
With Petal’s momentum stalled, Rose seized the opportunity to renew her assault on her bad-mouthing colleague. She reached across the barkeep’s arms and, grabbing hold of Petal’s blouse, ripped it from her body.
Two of the prospectors heeded the bartender’s pleas for help and intervened to break up the pair of screeching women. The men led Petal and Rose to separate parts of the barroom and told to cool their tempers.
“Time to leave.” Rose grabbed her handbag and headed for the door. She contemplated leaving Petal to make her own way home, but decided against that ploy. She didn’t want Petal to do something sillier than what she’d already done and cause them having their work entitlements at the knockers rescinded.
Rose climbed into the driver’s seat of the small Datsun 180B sedan she’d bought, cheap, from a Kalgoorlie used car dealer. Petal did as told and occupied the rear passenger seat.
Neither girl uttered a word on the return forty- kilometre drive to Kalgoorlie.
The next evening, Petal and Rose sat in abutting stalls at the front of the knocking shop. The open-fronted reception cubicles (referred to as ‘starting stalls’ by the punters) fitted with overhead red lights overlooked the footpath of Hay Street.
As they tried to lure customers into their single-purpose bed chamber, the prostitutes showed off most of their feminine assets.
Buses, full of tourists, cruised Hay Street as an essential part of Kalgoorlie’s must-see attractions. Rose glanced up to catch sight of a bus crawling past with faces pressed against window glasses. She performed her obligatory response with a smile and a wave.
The bus continued for several metres before coming to a halt and reversing to a stop opposite her cubicle. She soon realised the bus’s passengers weren’t paying attention to her but to Petal’s stall. She stood and peered around the dividing partition to sight Petal sprawled in her chair, with legs raised and wide apart. With both feet resting on either wall, Petal used her hands to invite the bus patrons to join her.
“Jeez, Rose, you’re a slut. Don’t you have any shame?”
“Me? A slut? Who do you think you are? The Virgin Mary? You’re a slag; that’s what you are, a slag.”
Petal carried on with referring to Rose as Saggy Tits while, in retaliation, Rose used the term Barge Arse to describe her adversary.
Six girls worked at Madam Rosa’s establishment. Petal, Rose, ‘Lay-back’ Leonie, Rita ‘The Meat Eater,’ ‘Fat-legs’ Fiona and ‘Lovely’ Lynn. Fiona and Lynn occupied two of the other four stalls, with Leonie and Rita having the night off because of female monthly inconveniences.
On hearing Rose and Petal going hell-for-leather with their abuse of each other, Lynn left her stall. And, in three or four seconds, put paid to their bickering.
Lovely Lynn, built akin to a brick shithouse, did not suffer fools whatever the cause. One word, ‘shaddup,’ from her restored order. Lynn averaged an income of $200 per week; after Madam, Rosa had deducted her fifty per cent cut. Madam Rosa supplied full board and lodging to each of her workers,
Two hundred bucks a week wasn’t too shabby for 1980. Lynn charged the same fee as the other girls; $20.00 a pop. When viewing the line-up of ladies competing against her, a typical onlooker might think red-blooded males wanting to empty their love sacks ’d overlook her.
But to her credit, Lynn had regular loyal customers who returned to her divan time and time again.
One Sunday evening, a quiet day because of inclement weather, Peta eyed off a potential customer standing at the front of Rose’s stall. The empty cubicle showed Rose was busy entertaining a client in her bed chamber.
“Are you looking for a spot of loving friend? No need to wait for Rose. I’m free.”
“Nah, no can do. I’ve got a voucher to cut out, and it has Rose’s name on it.”
“Yeah. I play footy, and we have a few beers after the day’s game. We run a raffle and the winner gets a voucher to bonk Rose.”
“How long do you get to spend with Rose?”
“I tell you what. Next week, if you see Rosa and change the moniker on the voucher from Rose to Petal, I will extend the time to thirty minutes; if the winner is not shy, he can bring a mate in with him, and we’ll do a threesome. What do you reckon?”
Petal admitted to herself the reason behind her generous offer had nothing to do with being patriotic to the local football club. She’d acted solely to get up Rose’s nose and piss her off no end.
Petty bickering between Rose and Petal continued daily but came to a head the following Sunday evening when two footballers fronted the stall bearing a voucher with Petal’s name endorsed.
Expecting the voucher holder to seek her out, Rose sounded off with a vengeance when she saw them welcomed by Petal. On leaving her stall, she cornered Rose and began laying into her with her fists.
The commotion could not go unnoticed by Madam Rosa. With the aid of Lovely Lynn, she separated the two fighting women and led them to the back of the brothel.
“Okay, you pair. You are both finished here. You have one hour to pack your gear and bugger off.” Madam Rosa seethed in frustration while demonstrating her wide range of cuss words.
"You both have twenty-four hours to leave town."
Petal pouted, “No one runs me out of town. I’ll get a job in a pub. They’re always looking for workers who’ll peel their clobber off and entertain the guys. I don’t know what Rose shall do; with those horrible tits of hers.”
“Shut your lip. Begone by this time tomorrow. The police control the pubs and the bars, and as once registered prostitutes, you’re blackballed from working on licenced premises. I can tell you now that if those demons catch you anywhere after, they’ll arrest you and lumber you with soliciting.”
“They can’t do that.”
“Oh, yes, they can, and they will. Corruption? Call it what you want, but if you stay in town, you’ll cop a charge of soliciting. Rose, you, a Kiwi, risk having your work visa cancelled and deported back to New Zealand. Petal, you’ll be stuck with the stigma of having a criminal record: your choice, girls.”
The next day saw Petal standing on the platform of the Kalgoorlie rail station, awaiting the Indian Pacific train. She’d booked a ticket to Sydney.
Rose decided to try her luck in Adelaide and had organised a berth on the same train. She’d arrived early and, while towing her wheelie case along the tarmac, passed behind Petal.
As she went by her ex-co-worker, she muttered, “Slut.”
Petal spun around, and screamed, “Slag!” She then launched into Rose with both fists flying.
Inside the ticketing office, the stationmaster sighed. “For Christ's sake. We can’t allow those two hellcats on the train. Jenny, please phone the cop shop and have them send a van over here. They’d be more than the train crew could handle.”
Petal and Rose had both prepared for a ride that day. Instead of enjoying the comforts of a train carriage, they got a ride in the rear of a police van.