Social Dances

First of all I would like to say something about the accordions because my first experience at dancing was at Pickering where Harry Weston, son of one of the pioneers, bought the barn from the old Pickering Brook Store and shifted it down to his property. Well possibly for starters, as a storage shed, but fitted it out as a dance floor. Polished the floor up a bit. There were no chairs, I think it just had timber forms round for seats, and he used to sit in the corner and play. Yes, we only had an MC really for the square dancer – a caller. But Harry would sit there and play all evening. He’d occasionally go out for a refresher and you could always tell. Harry had a fairly wide ginger moustache and as he walked in the door, afterwards, he always wiped his moustache with the back of his hand to make sure there was no beer froths still there.

I had this experience there dancing with my present wife when we were just courting. She had a friend that used to come up from Perth, sometimes for the weekend, and we were always dancing square dance (I think it was the Lancers) and come to swing partners and swinging round when the music stopped, we stopped dancing – bit unsteady on our feet probably after swinging around so much. The music started again and I stepped backwards and tripped over the musican’s knees and myself and partner sat on his lap and of course the music stopped instantaneously. We were the centre of attention until we recovered ourselves.

There was another interesting accordion player from Bartons Mill. She was an Aborigine, Biddy McKee, and I don’t know if he was a friend or relation, by the name of Sammy Isaac. He also played an accordion and somrtimes they’d play in duo. Sammy Isaacs was different from his brother, Harry. Sammy was a little man with a rather dark complexion. His brother Harry, was a big upstanding Aborigine and was nowhere near as dark. I fancy they had different fathers, but incidentally. the Isaac family were given permanent citizenship rights because of the part played by one of Sammy’s, either father or grandfather, in the shipwreck episode where Miss Grace Bussell, saved or rescued a number of passengers from this boat which was wrecked down the south west. Apparently the whole family then became permanent citizens. Hr was also a character around the place. But Sammy Isaac and Biddy McKee used to both play accordions and we used to call them the “Nigger Minstrels”. They were quite good dance players.

At Carilla (Pickering Brook) our local pianist was a Mrs. Bert Bevan. Bert was one of the settlers and he had a son, Bob Bevan. We didn’t see much of Bob, he worked out of the district. Bert also had a daughter, I think, was Moyna Bevan. But Mrs. Bevan was a very good dance player. She used to play at Carilla (Pickering Brook) and very often play out at Karragullen. When she retired my wife’s sister, Alice Beard, took over the piano for all the local dances and she developed into a really first class dance player. She would play all night almost without a stop because they’re very keen dancers and there wasn’t much time in between dances. Alice would go on and on and they didn’t stop at twelve o’clock at night. And Alice, although she’s like all of us, getting on in years, she’s still a very good dance pianist.

We had violin players. One that I can remember very well was Claude French. he was an loco engine driver and came from the goldfields. He owned a property just behind the school. When I first came into contact with him he was fireman on the loco between Bartons Mill and Pickering. He would join in with Mrs. Beven very often and give us a bit of extra music.

Another pianist who was quite a good violinist as well, was August Kaiser, he was our next door neighbor for quite a few years. He came here sometime in the ’20s – in the fairly early ’20s. We called him Gus. Although he worked an orchard, you could never call him an orchardist. He did what he could. At times he never seemed to work much during the week, but he was always busy on the place during the weekend, even though he lived and stayed on the place. But Gus played the fiddle quite well and at times, he joined in the local orrchestra to provide music for the dances.

Most of the locals walked to the dances but some rode in sulkies and a few came on horseback. A few owned cars. I remember Roy Grey, he had the store at Karragullen and owned a Ford T truck, and he used to bring in quite a few dancers from that end of the world to Carilla (Pickering Brook). At times, on special occasions, he would run a trip down to say the Show Ball or a dance at Kelmscott and we’d all put in a few bob (money) to help pay for the petrol. He was one of the carriers, shall we say, of both goods and personel around the district. But as time went on, most families either had a motor car or had someone nearby and they would arrive at the dances by that means.