Ellie was way ahead of the engineer quoted in the above poem, mounted in pride of place on the glorious knocked-down-and-rebuilt dunny at Newdegate in the WA southern wheatbelt.
About a dozen years ago Ellie was a regular offsider for her dad Mike Naisbitt. She loved helping him measure up and do other little jobs and had developed a critical eye for the rudiments of the building industry.
When she went with him in 2002 to measure up for the brickwork at the new Newdegate public toilet block, Mike was startled at his young daughter’s unusually strongly worded appraisal of the newly poured slab. On closer inspection he had to agree. The concrete foundation was too thin.
And there started the tale of the demolishment and rebuilding of the divine dunny.
Newdegate is mightily proud of owning the finest public convenience block in the west as so it should be but when I read the poem it was clear there was more to the story.
Here was the obviously rebuilt dunny in all its sanitary splendour but little Newdegate was pretty much shut up on Easter Sunday. We couldn’t find anyone to ask about what had actually happened.
Glory be. Just a short drive further east lay Lake Grace, an open-even-on-Easter-Sunday information office and Anna, a lively tourist officer who just happened to be the wife of Mike Naisbitt and mother of smart little Ellie.
Anna (above) was only too happy to fill us in on the story behind the flash flusher and the poem because she wants to make it clear that her husband had been forced to fix bricks on a brittle base. Never should there be any suggestion that his fine professional standards had been tarnished by the sanitary stuff-up and triumph.
Before we wandered on to Lake Grace we revelled in the finest public convenience block in the west. Both men’s and women’s toilets (three cubicles) had showers; the disabled booth had a superb detachable hose and rose. The tiles, walls and fittings were pretty much spotless.
A sign said they were cleaned Monday and Friday and if any problems were found could visitors please advise the council (although that might have been a fruitless exercise on Easter Sunday because even the town’s service station was shut).
Sparkling mirrors, thick paper towels and soap completed the ablution assets. Testaments from tourists and truckies hung on the walls. A framed letter from Joan and John Hoskin commended the person who looked after the Newdegate restrooms: “They are a pleasure to use …. We have travelled the world a fair bit and they are the cleanest and tidiest restrooms we have come across ….”
We agreed … but what the heck happened? Anna filled in the gap. After Mike and little Ellie had looked with horror upon the thin slab, Mike had advised the engineering staff it was unsuitable. His misgivings were dismissed. He was told to go ahead as contracted with the brick walls, which he did when he realised he was banging his head on a brick wall trying to tell council staff that the slab was shoddy.
Funny to build a dunny on a crappy slab you know will never pass inspection. If the councillors were pissed off when the big demolition ball splattered the bricks and base, imagine how poor Mike felt. Resident Pat O'Neill thought it was highly amusing and penned his humorous poem.
All’s well that ends well. The No. 2 version has its accolades as hoped (although its virtues could be trumpeted a little louder), Mike continues to lay bricks and pavers around the region, certain staffers have moved on and little Ellie has hard-wired herself into the building industry as an apprentice electrician.
You might not be busting for a toilet when you approach Newdegate but the public convenience block, with a pretty picnic park across the road, deserved a halt so it can admired.