When Hammersley Iron was looking to recruit employees in the late 60s, and more importantly retain them, they had to make conditions the best they could for the things within their control. To this end they provided married folk with fully air-conditioned furnished modern housing with big house blocks and a nursery where most plants cost 10 cents. In those days water ( that’s bore water ) was freely available so gardening was a popular past time and the township became a green oasis in the shimmering red arid landscape.
The company also had a very active parks and gardens focus so wide areas were set aside to green up the center of town. It worked beautifully. The standard grass employed was couch and it turned out to love the hot climate as long as you kept the water up to it. If you added fertilizer to it you had a lush green lawn that needed a mow every couple of days and on more than one occasion an employee would “borrow” some ampho explosive to top dress the lawn for stunning results.
Of course the traditional human game of “oneupmanship” was actively pursued and with folk on excellent wages, the sky was the limit. With the houses being furnished by the Company, we had the same brand of furnishings across the town so shipping up a fancy lounge room ensemble the 1,000 kilometers from Perth was not unheard of.
But one chap very nearly set the gold standard by ordering white shag pile carpet for the lounge room.
The Company provided a type of linoleum tile flooring which could be buffed to a high gloss. It was easily cleaned which was a real asset because folk would sometimes come home from a day at the open cut mine with a blue sheen from the iron ore dust that mixed with their sweat. Invariably the trip from the front door to the bathroom dislodged some dust on the way through.
As a consequence, few people had carpet and those that did tended towards the more practical low profile, easily cleaned style. What better way to leap into the oneupmanship lead than a totally white impractical heavy shag pile carpet?
The carpet was duly ordered and shipped up from Perth and installed. The rule in polite company was to leave your shoes at the door and this was strictly enforced. So far so good. Then the house proud owner had a brainwave. How about a house warming party to celebrate the new carpet and also draw attention to his new status symbol?
The party was planned and the guests arrived. The host hovered over his guests as the time honoured tradition was followed of getting totally smashed in as quick a time as possible. Shoes were discarded on arrival and plates of nibblies were carefully manoeuvred around the room. It was all going to plan.
One of his mates who was leading the race towards getting totally stone motherless, found the beer was in furious argument with whatever he had had for lunch. A technicolour yawn was fast approaching but he had a plan. The place was crowded but he managed to place himself right next to the lounge room window so things were under some form of control. He knew what to do.
Unfortunately his host spied him across the room and charged through the crowd, grabbed his arm, and assisted him outside the house. On the face of it, it was a good plan except that his inebriated friend was so far gone he wasn’t fully aware of his location. As the eruption approached he spied the window and thoughtfully staggered to it and dropped the contents of his stomach through the window right on to the white shag pile carpet. Impressive.
I guess it was inevitable that some disaster would befall the status symbol over time but this event was very early, very public and very permanent.