During and immediately after World War II, governments everywhere looked with dismay at their non-functioning factories, empty warehouses, and depleted male workforce. Even though the normal economic response to such shortages would be for prices to go up, it was politically vital under the circumstances to prevent profiteering, exploitation, and inflationary pressure from disrupting domestic marketplaces yet further.

In the Commonwealth, legislation was brought in during 1939 to control the prices of many key goods, commodities and supplies: this was known as the Commonwealth Prices Branch. In Australia, this was implemented by appointing a Deputy Price Commissioner for each state, who was tasked with assessing the correct level that specific prices should be. These commissioners were also given the power to investigate and enforce those “pegged” prices (quite independently of the police): the price controls continued until the 1950s.

(Archive material on price control in South Australia is indexed here. For what it’s worth, I’m most interested in D5480.)

Black Markets

While this legislation did (broadly) have the desired effect, the mismatches it introduced between the price and the value of things opened up numerous opportunities for short term black markets to form. One well-known black market was for cars:

15th June 1948, Barrier Miner, page 8:

HINT OF FALL IN USED CAR PRICES
Melbourne.- If control were lifted, prices of used cars would fall and the black market would disappear, men in the trade said today.
  Popular American cars would settle to slightly below the former black market price and expensive English cars to below the pegged price, they said.
  The pegged price for a 1938 Ford has been £235, and the black market price £450. Buicks, Oldsmobiles, Chevrolets, and Pontiacs might sell for 75 per cent more
than the pegged price.
  There was no shortage of English cars, so a 1937 Alvis, now £697, could go down to about £495. The classic English cars of the late 20’s and early 30’s, pegged at about £300, would probably sell at less than £100.
  Every car would then find its level. Drivers who had kept their cars in good condition would be able to sell them in direct relation to their values.
  Men in the trade said honest secondhand car dealers had almost been forced out of business during the war. Records showed that 90 per cent of all used car sales were on a friend-to-friend basis and they never passed through the trade.

But because you could be fined or go to prison if you bought or sold a car for significantly more than its pegged price, to sell your (say) fancy American car on the black market you would need two separate things: (1) a buyer willing to pay more than the pegged price, and also (2) someone who could supply nice clean paperwork to make the sale appear legitimate if the State Deputy Price Commissioner just happened to come knocking at your door.

And yet because back then cars were both aspirational and hugely expensive (in fact, they cost as much as a small house), so much money was at stake here that it was absolutely inevitable the black market in cars would not only exist, but, well, prosper.

So this is the point where Daphne Page and Prosper Thomson enter the room: specifically, Judge Haslam’s courtroom… I offer the remainder of the post without comment, simply because the judge was able to read the situation quite clearly, even if he didn’t much like what he saw:

Daphne Page vs Prosper Thomson

21st July 1948, Adelaide Advertiser, page 5:

Sequel To Alleged Loan. — Claiming £400, alleged to be the amount of a loan not repaid, Daphne Page, married of South terrace, Adelaide, sued Prosper McTaggart Thomson, hire car proprietor, of Moseley street, Glenelg.
  Plaintiff alleged that the sum had been lent to defendant on or about November 27 last year so that he could purchase a new car and then go to Melbourne to sell another car.
  Defendant appeared to answer the claim.
  In evidence, plaintiff said that before she lent defendant the money she asked for an assurance that she would get it back promptly. She had not obtained a receipt from defendant. After several attempts had been made later to have the loan repaid by Thomson, he had said that the man to whom he had sold the car in Melbourne had paid him by a cheque which had not been met by the bank concerned. When she had proposed taking action against defendant he had said that if she took out a summons she would be “a sorry woman”. He had threatened to report her for “blackmailing.”
  In reply to Mr. R. H. Ward, for defendant, the witness denied that anything had ever been said about £900 being paid for the car. She had never told Thomson that she wanted that sum for it. The pegged price of the car was £442.
  Part-heard and adjourned until today.
  Miss R. P. Mitchell for plaintiff.

22nd July 1948, Adelaide Advertiser, page 5:

BEFORE JUDGE HASLAM:—
Alleged Loan.— The hearing was further adjourned until today of a case in which Daphne Page, married, of South terrace, Adelaide, sued Prosper McTaggart Thomson, hire car proprietor, of Moseley street, Glenelg, for £400, alleged to have been a loan by her to him which be had not repaid.
  Page alleged that the loan had been made on or about November 27 last year so that he could purchase a new car and then go to Melbourne to sell another car.
Thomson said that in answer to an advertisement Page had approached him on October 39 with a car to sell. She wanted £900 for it. On November 11 she accepted £850 as the price for the car and said that the RAA had told her that the pegged price was £442.
  He drew a cheque for £450 and gave it to Page, who told him she had made out a receipt for £442, the pegged price. Early in December he went to Melbourne to sell a car for another man. On his return to Adelaide be found many messages from Page requesting that he would telephone her. He did not do so, but about a week later met her and told her that he could not pay her the £400 “black market balance” on the car because he had had a cheque returned from a bank.
  Page had said she wanted the money urgently, as she had bought a business. Witness “put her off.”
  Later, just before a summons was delivered to him, Page had telephoned and asked when he intended to pay the £400. She had spoken affably, but when he told her that he had had advice that he was not required to pay more than the pegged price of the car and did not intend to do so, she had said she would summons him and “make out that the money was a loan.” She had said that she would bring forward “all her family as witnesses.” He hung up the telephone receiver. He had never borrowed money from Page.
  Thomson was cross-examined at length by Miss R. F. Mitchell, for Page. Mr. R. H. Ward for Thomson.

23rd July 1948, Adelaide Advertiser, page 5:

BEFORE JUDGE HASLAM:
Claim Over Car Transaction.
  Judgment was reserved yesterday in a case in which Daphne Page, married, of South terrace, Adelaide, sued Prosper McTaggart Thomson, hire car proprietor, of Moseley street, Glenelg, for £400, alleged to have been a loan by her to him which he had not repaid.
  It was alleged by Mrs. Page that the loan had been made on or about November 27 last year so that Thomson could purchase a new car and then go to Melbourne to sell another car.
  Thomson denied that he had ever borrowed money from Mrs. Page. He alleged that she had asked £900 for a car, the pegged price of which was £442, and had later agreed to accept £850 for it. After the transaction he had given her a cheque for £450 on account. Mrs. Page had made out a receipt for £442. When she had pressed him, later, for the remaining £400 of the sale, he had told her that, acting upon advice, he did not intend to pay her more than he had. She had then told him that she would summons him and make out that the money at issue was a loan.
  Mr. [sic] R. P. Mitchell for plaintiff: Mr. R. H. Ward for defendant.

7th August 1948, Adelaide Advertiser, page 8:

NEW Olds sedan taxi, radio equipped, available weddings, country trips, race meetings, &c.; careful ex-A.I.F. driver. lowest rates. Phone X3239.

17th August 1948, Adelaide News, page 4:

WON CASE BUT NO COSTS ALLOWED

  While he gave judgment for defendant in a £400 loan claim in Adelaide Local Court today in a case in which black-marketing of a motor car was mentioned, Judge Haslam refused costs because of defendant’s conduct in the transaction.
  Mrs. Daphne Page, of South terrace, City, sued Prosper McTaggart Thomson, hire car proprietor, of Moseley street, Glenelg, for £400 alleged to be the amount of a loan not repaid.
  His Honor said if it were not that the Crown would be faced with evidence of plaintiff in the case, he would send the papers to the Attorney-General’s Department with a suggestion that action be taken against defendant for the part he claimed to have taken in an illegal transaction.

“Direct conflict”

  His Honor said there was a direct conflict between an account which alleged a simple contract loan of £400, made without security and not in writing, and one which set up that the £400 represented the unpaid balance of a black-market transaction.
  Evidence was that in November last Mrs. Page had agreed to sell a Packard car for £442, but accepted a cheque for £450, defendant explaining the extra would cover the wireless in the car. Plaintiff gave a receipt for £442, the pegged price.
  Plaintiff claimed that in November she lent £400 cash to defendant with which to buy another car in Melbourne. Defendant’s account was that Mrs. Page said her lowest price for her car was £900 and that she afterwards accepted his offer of £850. He said he would give her £450 next day and would want a receipt for the fixed price of £442.
When he gave her the cheque, plaintiff said she did not want a cheque for £450 when the pegged price was £442. He told her not to worry as the unexpired registration and insurance would cover the £8 difference.

Borrowing denied

  Defendant said in evidence he did not pay the £400 balance and never intended to. He was advised of a new car being ready for delivery in November, but denied having borrowed £400 or any amount from Mrs. Page.
  His Honor said there was little support for Mrs. Page’s account as to the terms on which her car was sold. He was of opinion plaintiff had not shown on the balance
of probabilities that any amount was lent to defendant.
  Miss R. F. Mitchell appeared for plaintiff, and Mr. R. H. Ward for defendant.

18th August 1948, Adelaide Advertiser, page 5:

Black Market Sale Alleged
BEFORE JUDGE HASLAM:
  In a case arising from the sale of a motor car, in which his Honor yesterday gave Judgment for the purchaser, he refused him costs because of his conduct in the transaction.
  The evidence, he said, had produced a direct conflict between an account alleging that a simple contract loan of £400 had been made without writing or security, and one which set up that the money represented the unpaid balance of a black market deal.
  The plaintiff, Daphne Page, married woman, of South terrace, Adelaide, claimed £400 from Prosper McTaggart Thomson, hire car proprietor, of Moseley street, Glenelg, alleging the sum to be the amount of a loan not repaid.
  It was alleged by the plaintiff that the money had been lent to the defendant on or about November 27 last year, so that he could purchase a new car, and then go to Melbourne to sell another car.
  His Honor said he was of opinion that the plaintiff had not shown upon the balance of probabilities that any sum had been lent to the defendant. Were it not for the fact that the Crown would necessarily be faced with the evidence given by plaintiff in the case, he would send the papers relating to the proceedings on to the Attorney-General’s Department, with a suggestion that action sbould be taken against the defendant for the part he had claimed to have taken in an illegal transaction.
  There was little to support the plaintiff’s account regarding the terms upon which the car had been sold by her to the defendant, his Honor said. According to her, the price had not been specifically agreed upon, but left to be ascertained by reference to the pegged price, which was £442.
  The defendant’s account, his Honor continued, was tbat the plaintiff, after having first told him that £900 was the lowest price she would take for the car, had later accepted his offer of £850 for it. He had paid her £450 by cheque, telling her that he would have to borrow the remaining £400 from a finance company, and adding that he would want a receipt for the pegged price, and the registration to transfer the car into his name. The plaintiff had given him a receipt for £442. The defendant had not paid the £400 balance, and had never intended to do so.
  Miss R. F. Mitchell for plaintiff: Mr. R. H. Ward for defendant.

11 thoughts on “Daphne Page vs Prosper Thomson…

  1. milongal on June 14, 2017 at 5:13 am said:

    My initial reaction was that South Tce seems a slightly odd place to live. While there are townhouses there today, Adelaide’s original plan was a city square mile surrounded by the 4 terraces separating the city from the parklands, so I’d assumed it more attractive for business – however records of the times seem to tell us otherwise.

    According to the 1947 directory (from Prof Abbot’s site) there were 2 Page’s on South Tce – both at #73 I.M Page and T.M Page; and the only D Page is in Boswell Pl, Norwood (these days an affluent suburb just outside the city).
    Searching for “Daphne Page” online yields multiple “Miss Page” from around the country but only a handful of “Mrs” (one from Victoria which is perhaps mildly interesting). There is a “Miss Daphne Page” who married in 1944 in SA, but I’m not sure it would’ve been common for women to keep their maiden name back then (unless they were really prominent (such as the aviator from QLD – although I seem to be finding both a Daphne Anita Page and a Daphne Grace Page described as an aviator), or perhaps they reverted if widowed – but all the articles are quite adamant she was married).
    Totally to the side, I did come across an organist “Daphne Page”….

  2. milongal on June 14, 2017 at 5:26 am said:

    Although there is this from 1953:
    PAGE — RITCHIE. — The engagement is announced of Roma Gibson, youngest daughter of the late Daphne Page, to John, only son of Mr and Mrs. R. Ritchie, ol
    West Mitcham.

    Which seemingly relates to a Daphne Vervine PAGE who died in 1950 aged 53 (of Goodwood – a couple of suburbs South of Adelaide)….
    PAGE (formerly Gibson). —On September 12, at hospital. Daphne Vervine. beloved wife of Noel Page, of 125 Goodwood road. Goodwood, loving mother of Joy and Roma. Aged
    53 years.

  3. milongal on June 14, 2017 at 5:42 am said:

    Sorry for the spam….
    There is a birth record of a Daphne Vervine GIBSON born 1897
    There is a marriage record of a Daphne Vervine GIBSON in 1926 (Barossa Valley)
    There is a death record for a Daphne Vervine PAGE in 1950 (aged 53).

    The marriage record is a to a Norry Charles YELLY, not Noel William PAGE….

    Now I don’t do genealogy stuff, so there might be a simple explanation, but in SA there appears to be no record of D Gibson marrying N Page, and no record of a D Yelly dying…..(mainly from genealogy SA website)

  4. Byron Deveson on June 14, 2017 at 6:46 am said:

    Milongal, the surname was Yells, not Yelly. Daphne divorced him in WA – see the West Australian 13th February 1937 page 21.

  5. milongal on June 15, 2017 at 12:41 am said:

    Thanks BD – I mis-scribbled it and then went chasing a dead end….

    I’m wondering whether the news assumed South Terrace referred to Adelaide (there are many more in suburban Adelaide – not that I can find a ‘Page’ there, and more again interstate….

    A closer look at the directory possibly also shows an “R.M. Hill” and a “J. J. Conroy” at 73 South Tce….perhaps they’re not very accurate records (it would be hard to keep something like that ordered pre-computer). Might check out the 1948 and 1950 ones to see what they say…

  6. milongal on June 15, 2017 at 1:04 am said:

    ok, she appears in the 1948 one:
    309-310 Page, Mrs. D., gst hme
    (there’s also an F.C. PAGE at 73 South Tce now, and T.M. is no longer there
    So I guess that’s the business she wanted money for….
    In the 1949 one she is replaced by a “Mrs DELEHANTY”, “Mrs L CREMER” and “J. H. MOORE”….so perhaps she’d fallen ill by then (given she died in 1950 in a hospital)….

  7. milongal on June 15, 2017 at 3:12 am said:

    last one….
    Sat 25 Oct 1941 in The Mirror (a Perth paper – which is sort of interesting given Daphne apparently split with her first husband in Perth), a story from Adelaide:
    WIFES PLEA FOR HUSBAND
    Adelaide, Today.
    It s a woman’s privilege to change her mind – if ever she gets around to making it up – but where Iimitations are concerned there’s no shaking her.
    Take the wife of Noel William Page, for instance. Her man was up
    for two years’ arrears In maintenance for another woman’s child. But
    Mrs. Page loved her husband, and put up a brave and poignant plea on his behalf. Reason Hubby couldn’t come along to speak for himself was that he
    couldn’t lose time at his work. But it was only since they were married in
    June that the department and the other woman took action, said Mrs. Page, although the arrears had been amounting for two years. ‘I knew about the order,’ she admitted. ‘Since we’ve been married, he’s only missed a couple of payments. My husband hasn’t been earning enough money to pay taxes. We
    were married with my old wedding rinq. that’s how things were.
    ‘We were prepared to take the child and keep it. but we don’t know
    where it is. The mother hasn’t got it. I’d like to have the kiddie.’
    Mrs. Page pointed out that she has two children of her own, but the
    other, now aged eight, would be very welcome. Despite her plucky effort, she was informed that her husband would have to appear in Court himself.
    The case was stood over for a week.

    I think there’s a few of things to take from that (big assumption the Mrs Page here is one and the same)…
    1) They were not well off, so how does buy a place at the East end of South Tce
    2) In that context, 400 pound seems a lot to loan someone (and probably makes it more likely she knowingly did a black market job, I’d say – desperate for money)
    3) She seems to wear the pants in that hose – in fact it’s very difficult to find anything at all about Noel William. There’s a record of a Noel William PAGE from WWII (who would’ve been 15 years younger than her) who seems to have hailed from SA (though not Adelaide, specifically) and died in 1966 in Adelaide – but this means in ’41 he would have been 29 and they’re married within 4 years of her divorce (assuming of course we’ve connected the dots correctly – which there’s probably a good chance we haven’t)
    4) She wasn’t afraid of the court system (to me this leans me toward thinking the Mrs Page above is the same)

  8. milongal on June 15, 2017 at 10:35 pm said:

    There seems a Perth connection (at least to Prosper and Page) yet we always seem to look East. Prosper appears to have been doing naughties* in Perth in the late 30’s and Page divorced her (first) husband in Perth around the same time. I can’t find a record of Page’s marriage in Adelaide or Perth (but the public record in Perth appears to only go to 1936, so not surprising).
    There’s only a birth and death record for Noel William Page too – no record of a marriage in SA, or any children either despite the fact that there’s a claim by his ex (above) – which suggests either all of that happened interstate (from memory he joined the forces in Vic – but can’t seem to find any records there either (nor QLD nor NSW). so etiher his first marriage is already after the date limit on the records, or…..)

    *The newspapers talk about “Victoria Park” and given it’s a Perth paper, I assume it refers to a Perth suburb of that name. There is also a Victoria Park in Melbourne (home ground of Collingwood Football Club), Adelaide (the racecourse on the city fringe), Sydney (by the University) and likely in hundreds of small towns too…..

  9. milongal on June 16, 2017 at 1:24 am said:

    Genealogy SA only seems to have marriages up to 1937. NW Page married DV Gibson/Yells in June 1941. So that explains that.
    Wonder whether his first marriage was in that short gap too – it’s be cutting it fine seeing as in 1941 Page was already 2 years behind on child payments – and that the child would be 8 (ie born 1933). Perhaps there was no marriage.
    It is interesting how they avoid using a gender for the child – and how they know the ex isn’t actually looking after them too…..

    Looks like their birth records cut out at about 1927….

  10. milongal on June 16, 2017 at 1:53 am said:

    Daphne seems a very interesting character….
    Her divorce from Norry Charles was on the grounds of Desertion sometime after 1933 (West Australian, Dec 23 1936):
    Daphne Verine Yells, for whom Mr. H. Haynes appeared, petitioned on the ground of desertion against Norry Charles Yells. Petitioner testified that the marriage -was held at Gawler, South Australia, and there were two children of the union. In 1929, while they were living at Highgate Hill, petitioner and respondent had rows because the respondent stayed out late at night. Following one quarrel in August that year respondent left home, but some weeks later he returned. In June, 1933, he again left and he had refused to return. He had since maintained her and the children, but occasionally
    she had earned money for herself.
    His Honour adjourned the petition to enable formal proof of the marriage registration in South Australia to be produced.
    —–

    At about the same time, it looks like the poor couple may have had some financial hardship (West Australian 11 Feb 1933):
    The adjourned examination of Daphne Verine Yells was continued in the Bankruptcy Court yesterday by the Official Receiver (Mr. M. M. Moss) before the
    Registrar (Mr. T. F. Davies). Mr. H. Solomon, for Mr. M. Crawcour, representing the petitioning creditor, Mrs. Chalker, questioned debtor concerning items in a
    statement of proceeds from the sale of the Model Meat Store, Hay-street, the
    business for which Mrs. Chalker had advanced her a substantial sum of money.
    Debtor’s husband, Norry Charles Yells, was also questioned concerning certain
    items, under summons of discovery.
    —–

    NB: All these articles seem to be linked to someone’s research on “The Crabb Family”

  11. Byron Deveson on June 16, 2017 at 6:39 am said:

    Milongal, my notes indicate that Daphne was born at Adelaide 31st December 1897. Her father was Edward James Gibbson born 1867 at Bowden, South Australia. Died 1937. Her mother was Lydia nee Crabb born 1869 at Watervale, South Australia. Died 1951. This explains why the Crabb family are interested and they might have something to add.

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