Roma Loo talks about the Coolbaroo Club dances
Roma Loo (nee Kickett). Permission Roma Loo, courtesy Stephen Kinnane collection
Roma Loo: My name is Roma Loo, nee Kickett. I was born at Badjaling Mission, 1936. I went to the Coolbaroo Club when I was about 17 and I was there for – going for about three to four years, and that was the good years too, and then I ended up getting married. The years I was there was 1953, ’54, ’55, ’56. So were going that time at the Coolbaroo Club, ‘til I got married.
Denise Cook: So what was important about the old Coolbaroo Club dances?
Roma Loo: They’re very important because those days we weren’t allowed to go anywhere. We were sort of restricted where we were supposed to go, and you weren’t allowed to go to pubs or clubs. So they formed the Coolbaroo, and that’s where we – we used to go a lot. I used to go every Friday nights, meet up with all our friends and I used to look forward to that because after you’re working for five days a week, Friday night come, you go to the dance. Yeah.
Denise Cook: What kind of work were you doing during the week?
Roma Loo: What type of work? Yeah. I used to work at the Egg Marketing Board and – ‘cause we used to board with white people, ‘cause no Aboriginal people had houses those days ‘cause was just after that, that Homeswest had houses for Aboriginal people. And so we boarded with white people, especially Irish people, and we boarded at Subiaco. And I used to catch the tram to work, get off George Street and go down to where I used to work.
Denise Cook: When did you start going to the Coolbaroo Club dances?
Roma Loo: I was 17, about, yeah, and just after turned 16, going on 17, and I used to look forward to the dance because that’s the only thing we had. And we used to go every Friday nights, get dressed up or whatever, and that was very important to us because that’s the only thing we had going for us.
Denise Cook: Who was playing the music then?
Roma Loo: The music was played – we had a white lady playing the piano. My brother [Ron Kickett] used to play the drums and the sax and that – that’s all we had, but it was good music. We used to have the dance there and that was really good. Then there was no alcohol allowed and then we had cup of tea and coffee and biscuits if we wanted that.
Denise Cook: And where – where was the dance?
Roma Loo: Oh, the dance was held at Stirling Street and Braille Hall in Stirling Street there, on the corner. It was only a small place, but it was big enough to hold a dance. And we had no – we had chairs all around, no tables. And there were small kids used to come in with their mums and dads. And it was really good. Everyone behaved themselves and so everyone got on with their job and did dancing. We really enjoyed ourselves with the dances.
Denise Cook: Did you know how to dance already or did you learn?
Roma Loo: I didn’t know how to dance, so when – I had cousins, you know, they were blokes, so I used to get them to teach me how to dance. And we also had dancing teachers coming in to show us how to dance, and so I learnt – soon learnt that way. And my cousin, you know, there used to be two of them, and they’re not here anymore now, but they’re the ones that learnt me how to dance too, yeah.
Denise Cook: What were some of the dances that you did?
Roma Loo: Oh, we loved the old Barn Dance and the Hokey-Pokey, that was the main ones. Then we might have had Pride of Erin, I used to like, the waltz, Gay Gordon, Gipsy Tap, oh some of the others, oh the Velita Waltz, that’s right and that was all the dances we learnt, yeah.
Denise Cook: Who were the people organising the dances?
Roma Loo: I think it was the ones on the committee did that. They used to put – in the front they used to have what dances would come up next on the board, so you’d know what was going on. And that was really good, so people knew how to dance. They were very good dancers there, really, really good, yeah.
Denise Cook: Is there anything else you want to say about the dances or about the Coolbaroo League?
Roma Loo: Yeah. That dance was really – ‘cause when my brother, he was there and he died, was very young, oh, age of 27, and so it fell apart for a while, the Coolbaroo, but then they picked up and had the dances. They had also going to country towns like Katanning, Narrogin, or there was Northam, I think it was. That was very good. But I think only for the Coolbaroo Club, we wouldn’t have been – we would have been stuck, you know, didn’t have nowhere to go. And so that was really, really the best thing that ever happened to us.
From: Roma Loo interview for South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, 8 June 2011
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Note: In some cases the written transcript has been edited with permission from the person interviewed and may differ slightly from the audio recording.
Permission to use this audio recording kindly granted by Roma Loo (nee Kickett)