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Coogee Store and Post Office

Coogee Store and Post office

Late in 1901 Walter Powell had a small building erected in the grounds of the Coogee Hotel. It began life as ‘Powell’s Coogee Store’, and its history is inextricable from the Powell family tree. Members of the Powell family would run the store for the next forty years, and the store would stay in operation until at least the 1950s.

Blanche and Frederick Powell

Walter Powell’s brother and sister Blanche and Frederick were closely involved with his work at Coogee. All three were born in England and followed their father, convict Edwin Powell, to Western Australia in the 1880s.

Blanche Elizabeth Powell

Blanche, a year older than Walter, owned the block of land adjoining Walter’s, directly south of the hotel. When Walter left his supply store in Fremantle to open the Coogee Hotel in 1898, Blanche took over the running of the business.
Local band at Old Coogee Hotel

She was listed in address books as the postmistress at Coogee from 1901 to 1917, a fact also noted in her obituary. During the early 1900s she was also an electoral registrar at the Coogee Agricultural Hall, a mile further down the road, when the hall would have been used as a polling place in elections.

Frederick Arkley Powell

Frederick, ten years younger than his brother, had been a sailor before going to work in Walter’s first store in Fremantle. It seems fairly certain that from at least 1903 and probably since the beginning in 1901, Frederick Arkley Powell was the manager of the small store at Coogee.

He was listed as ‘storekeeper’ or ‘grocer’ on Rockingham Road, Coogee, on every electoral roll since the first roll was compiled in 1903. In 1912 ‘Fred Powell, Coogee Store’ advertised a 50-acre block of limestone land for lease, opposite the railway siding. The last roll to record his profession as ‘grocer’ was the 1925 roll, and when he died in 1928 his obituary stated that ‘for the last 43 years he was in business as a storekeeper with his sister Miss B.E. Powell at Coogee’. Neither Blanche nor Frederick ever married.

Entrepreneurial Walter

As Blanche had taken over Walter's Fremantle store when he moved to Coogee, Frederick began running the Coogee store soon after opening, and various of Walter's sons managed the hotel throughout the 1910s and 20s, it seems evident that Walter was an entrepreneurial type who got businesses up and running and then handed them onto family members while he pursued new areas. It was around the time of the store opening that Walter was putting a lot of time into his racecourse, which would explain his absence from the store.

George Frederick Powell

From 1918, George Frederick Powell, Walter’s second eldest son, took over at least some of the duties of storekeeper and postmaster at Coogee. Running the dairy - possibly on Blanche's block of land to the south - became George's primary occupation, and continued on in his family for some years.

In the post office directories for 1917, Blanche is listed as postmistress, Frederick as storekeeper, and George as ‘dairy’, but by 1918 George is listed as ‘dairy, store and p.m. [post master]’ and neither his aunt or uncle are listed under Coogee any longer. He remained listed as all three in post office directories until 1932.
 

Moving the post office south

In 1933 the official duties of postmaster appear to have transferred to Richard Sawle, who lived on Russell Road nearer to the relocated Coogee Agricultural Hall in South Coogee. He probably ran the post and telephone office from his house, as was common at the time.

Moving the post office further south would have better served the more isolated settlements at Mandogalup and South Coogee, and the Coogee Beach area could be served by the growing Spearwood township instead.

The Coogee Beach shop: Lottie and Jock McKinnon

The Coogee store continued running, now known as the Coogee Beach shop, and Walter’s daughter Charlotte (known as Lottie) and her second husband John McKinnon (known as Jock) moved into the area in 1935 to run it. Both their addresses in the 1936 electoral roll are listed as ‘Beach Shop, Coogee’.
 
Mr. G.F. Powell on his high milk cart.
Lottie had married James Hoult in 1910 and they moved to South Coogee to work on a market garden. When James died in 1918, Lottie moved away, and eventually got remarried to Jock McKinnon in 1926. They lived in North Fremantle for some time but moved back to Lottie’s home in Coogee to run what became known as the Coogee Beach shop.

Coogee Beach post office

Many people recall Lottie as the Coogee postmistress, though there was no recorded post office at the Coogee Beach Shop during her tenure there. Once the official Coogee post office moved to South Coogee, there was probably still some mail distribution to be done at a local level. This was most likely to do with the caravan and camping site that grew up in the Coogee Beach area during the late 1930s, which became a permanent home for many during the post-war housing shortage. Lottie and Jock were also involved in the leasing and hiring for the campsite.

In 1940, Lottie applied to the Anglican Church Orphanage Board, who owned the shop along with the old hotel, to be allowed to transfer the shop to her son from her first marriage, Warren Hoult, who lived in nearby Hilton. It does not appear that he was ever officially handed the shop, but he may have helped his mother out as she was finding the day-to-day work of running the store difficult. Lottie died in 1951, after apparently handing the shop on to a younger couple who were not related to the Powells, the first time the business left the family.

The Lockwoods

By 1949 a new couple were running the shop: Cecil and Catherine Lockwood, who had family in Fremantle and Hamilton Hill, and were raising their children at Coogee. On the 1949 electoral roll Cecil is listed as ‘storekeeper’ at Coogee Beach.

It was Cecil Lockwood who was written about in an article on holiday parties at Coogee in 1953, when a ‘Mr Lockwood, of the local general store, has installed an amplifier and turntable, which greatly adds to the attraction of the beach’.

Other names and associations

Some sources list the names of Mrs and Mrs Burnett as running the store. This does not appear to be the case, though the Burnett family certainly had a close connection with the Powells. Walter and Letitia’s youngest son, Frank, married Ruby Burnett and lived with her at the Coogee Hotel for many years while he was the manager and licensee of the hotel. Ruby’s father, Henry, lived with the couple during the last years of his life, around 1927-1928.

Ruby’s brother Herbert Burnett and his wife May lived on Ocean Road, directly north of the store and hotel, and ran a small farm, while Herbert also worked for the abattoirs at Robb Jetty. Neither appear to have worked at the Coogee property.

References

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9 Coleville Crescent,
Spearwood 6163

Po Box 1215, Bibra Lake DC,
Western Australia, 6965

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