Ode to the Coolgardie safe

YourLifeChoices’ 90-year-old columnist Peter Leith has covered a lot of territory in recent weeks, from lobbying the funeral industry for being too wasteful to expressing his delight in donating his body to a university for research. Today he returns to his Vanishing Australia series.


When we arrived in Perth late in 1938 from India, the furnished house Mum had rented in Coode Street, South Perth, was equipped with a Coolgardie safe.

To kids like us, brought up on Meccano and Minibrix sets, this was a revelation!

For those of you who are too young to have experienced such a miracle, let me describe a Coolgardie safe.

Essentially it is a wooden framed cupboard with fly-wire walls standing on four legs a couple of feet high. On top is a galvanised iron tray about four inches deep. Hessian ‘curtains’ run from inside the tray down all four sides of the cabinet.

The tray is kept partly filled with water and capillarity [the movement of a liquid through or along another material against an opposing force, such as gravity] keeps the hessian wet.

The Coolgardie safe is kept in a spot with a good, consistent air-flow. The evaporation from the damp hessian walls keeps the safe and its contents many degrees cooler than the ambient temperature. 

Smart, eh?

It was not long before Mum moved up-market, to an ice chest, but I have remained faithful to the Coolgardie safe. 

It is enshrined in my memory.

Did you ever use a Coolgardie safe? Does Peter’s story revive old memories?

Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to sunday@yourlifechoices.com.au and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line. 

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Related articles:
Do-it-yourself anti-dementia
Have we forgotten how to listen?
Makes you think

Written by Peter Leith

Leave a Reply

Top five tips for touring Toronto

Mushroom and Feta Omelette