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This is the chapter, “Mona The Madam: When is a brothel not a brothel?,” from Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures: Four Decades – Full Circle (West Perth, Australia: Mannwest Group, 2009), pp. 177-79. The 18MB bookmarked PDF ebook is here. The website for the book is More on Ron Manners at and

Prostitution has always been an integral part of mining towns, which can be pretty rough places at times, especially for barmaids who expand their horizons.

Well-remembered is one barmaid at the mining town of Broad Arrow.

She stayed there 12 months, served the thirsty during the day and the love-hungry at night. When she decided to quit and return to the coast, a large crowd of prospectors turned up at the station to wave goodbye.

One pretty hard case in the mob said, “You must be going away with a pretty good bank balance. How much are you worth?”

She looked at him with a gentle smile and said, “If I had another shaft on the lease I could have put through another 2,000 crushings.”

I realise that writing about such delicate subjects as prostitution, in this “politically correct” decade, should cause me to give a disclaimer to the effect that writers simply write about their own observations, neither sitting in judgment nor making any recommendations.

Political correctness has damaged our language in a way that currently causes “drug addicts” to now be referred to as “victims of substance abuse”.

On the same basis brothels are probably no longer brothels, but instead are “houses of negotiable happiness”.

This reminds me of Mona, the leading Goldfields Madam of the 1970s, who always referred to her establishment as a bordello.

I first met Mona when I was the President of the Kalgoorlie Chamber of Commerce and enjoyed our discussions immensely.

Although she was about twice my age she maintained an elegant vitality which caused me to ask of her on one occasion, “Mona, are you still active, in that sense, anymore?”

She said, “Oh, Mr Manners, not so much these days but when some of the young School of Mines students come in for the first time they are a bit shy with the younger girls, but with me it’s different, it’s more the mother image.”

Mona had this fabulous player piano (yes the old style with large pedals and Pianola music rolls) in her central service area and I asked her, “Mona, what’s this doing in here?”

She replied, “Well it’s the greatest investment that I’ve ever made because the boys come in here and then they go into the bedrooms and then they come out and we give them a cup of tea and then they play the piano and, with all that leg work, before long they are back in the bedrooms!”

Actually, it was just after being elected as the President of the Chamber of Commerce, that Mona first made contact. I was in my office one day attending a meeting and the phone rang — it was Mona. She said, “Mr Manners, I wish to ask you a question.” I replied, “Mona, I’m a bit busy, can you ask it quickly.” She said, “Yes, what is it we call a prostitute’s vagina?”

I don’t know if anyone else in my meeting heard but I said, “I don’t know Mona you’ll have to tell me because I’ll never guess!”

She chuckled and said, “I’m ringing you because you are now the President of the Chamber of Commerce and we call a prostitute’s vagina a Chamber of Commerce!”

The next day I called her back and said, “Mona, you are not even a member of the Chamber. You really should become a member if you wish to call about Chamber business.” She replied, “I can’t be a member because you haven’t got a category for me.” I said, “We have.” She said, “What is it?” I said, “Here it is: Essential Services!”

Mona said, “Well, I know what I can do for you guys, but what can you do for me?”

I said, “Well if you are ever in trouble with the bureaucracy, come and see us?”

About three months later she rang me and said, “Mr Manners I need your help, I’m having trouble with the Kalgoorlie Council.”

She’d lodged a building application for a long transportable house and included as description “residence”. It had three doors along the front.

The Mayor, Ray Finlayson knocked it back and she’d lost her $10 building application fee. The Council advised that she could not build a “residence” in Hay Street, Kalgoorlie because it was zoned “industrial”.

Mona explained to me that all she was trying to do was to bring Kalgoorlie up to modern standards to cope with the expansion. The Council, unfortunately, was preventing her from moving forward in this way.

So, Mona brought the plan around to me and asked what she should do.

I advised that we would fix it. I got a pen, drew another five doors on the front, and then crossed out “residence” and wrote “hatchery”.

She delivered this back to the Council with a note saying that we would phone the Mayor direct.

She came into my office the next day to make the call. The Mayor said, “This is very embarrassing because Mona is going to lose a second deposit because all you’ve done is put a few more doors on it and changed ‘residence’ to ‘hatchery’.”

I replied, “Mr Mayor, it now fully complies with the industrial zoning.”

He said, “Well, what do you mean, hatchery?”

I replied, “It’s a hatchery by definition because Mona raises a thousand ‘cocks’ a week.”

Well, without any further complications, she got it through the Council and that building, complete with multiple doors, became famous as the ‘starting stalls’.

Life is full of misery,
loneliness, and suffering – and
it’s all over much too soon
— Woody Allen (who apparently never visited Mona’s)