Remember When: Scarborough’s Infamous Dancing Spot, The Snake Pit

Scarborough Snake Pit
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Welcome to our new series “Remember When”, which as the title suggests is basically just us digging back through Perth’s colourful history to look back on some of the weird and wonderful moments in this city’s relatively short history. First cab off the rank: Scarborough’s notorious Snake Pit…

In case you missed it, we’ve been feeling the love for Scarbs lately – we even funded a huge mural that’s just gone up right on the foreshore! But what about the Scarborough of years gone by?

We’d always heard whispers about the Snake Pit – depending on who you asked, it was either the epicentre of everything cool or a hotbed of iniquity.

Scarborough Snake Pit

Photo via State Library of Western Australia

Although it’s gone down in history as the Snake Pit, the official name of this Scarborough icon was La Spiaggia (“The Beachfront”), an alfresco café opened by US Naval Chief Petty Officer Don Errichetti and his wife Rosina. They met in Rosina’s mother’s Northbridge deli in 1942, and were married in 1944 – the couple had planned to relocate to Don’s home state of Connecticut, but their love of Perth meant that they stayed here, eventually buying a run-down tea room on a sandy corner opposite the Scarborough Hotel in 1953. Today, the corner of Manning Street and the Esplanade is where you’ll find bar and restaurant Oceans.

Scarborough Snake Pit Don Errichetti

Photo of Don Errichetti via Chronicles of Scarborough

Don would go on to import the first ever jukebox in Perth, and their Italian and Latin records were swiftly overtaken by the hot new sound of rock and roll. Hundreds of “bodgies and widgies” – the Australian equivalent of greasers and rockers – descended on the cafe’s paved alfresco to dance the jive.

Photo via City of Stirling History Collection

The go-to uniform of the bodgies was black jeans and black t-shirts. Their feet donned desert boots if any shoes at all, with brightly coloured laces – one of the theories behind the name “the Snake Pit” is that the wriggling laces amongst a sea of black clothing resembled writhing snakes. (Another account is that the wriggling and writhing of the dancers was snake-like.)

Scarborough Snake Pit

Photo via Oceans

This swarm of teenagers was self-policed, overlooked by bodgies like Andy Andros, “The Pit Boss” – paid in hamburgers, milkshakes and a parking spot for organising dance partners and diffusing conflict.

Meanwhile, down the road – on the corner where the Scarborough Beach clock tower is currently located – Ye Olde Kool-Korner Kafe became another favourite spot for dancing teens, who would congregate out the front. Below, a 1958 photo of dancing teens in front of the Kool-Korner Kafe has been colourised by a local Reddit user:

Scarborough Snake Pit, Kool Korner Kafe

Just a few years prior, this photo was taken of the cafe (or “kafe”) in 1951:

Scarborough Snake Pit, Kool Korner Kafe

Photo via State Library of Western Australia

We hope you enjoyed our first fun little trip down Perth’s memory lane, and look forward to sharing more with you in the future!

In the meantime if you dug this, why not check out these amazing photos of Perth’s old nightclub scene.

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