ThrowbackThursday: Jock Read, School Crossing Supervisor

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to February 1980. It’s a school day and the Eltham High School students are approaching the crossing of Main Road at Dalton Street where they wait patiently until the crossing supervisors signal for them that it is safe to cross. Unlike other crossings this one has two supervisors to ensure the children cross safely, Jock Read and his faithful horse, Eddie.

Jock Read on his horse, Eddie supervising Eltham High School students crossing at Main Road near Dalton Street, c.Feb 1980 (Photo: Arthur de la Rue, originally published “THE CLIP-CLOP LOLLYPOP,” The Age, 22 Feb 1980, p3; Eltham District Historical Society Collection)

Jock was a well recognised and much loved figure around Eltham in his later years, including when he rode his horse leading many Eltham parades and ANZAC Day marches. After his retirement from full time employment Jock worked as a school-crossing supervisor at local schools for about 20 years and children during that time will remember Jock, who often had his horse with him. He was involved in various community activities for many years, including with the Eltham RSL, Legacy and our Society. Jock had a remarkable and detailed memory about his life experiences, especially his early days in Eltham. Jock passed away on 22nd December, 2010. and he is sadly missed by generations of Eltham people.

No doubt many will have fond memories of Jock either leading parades on his horse or as a crossing supervisor and we would love to for you to share those stories with us.

Jock Read on Lofty, Eltham Festival, November 1989. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society – the Shire of Eltham Historical Society’s float in the parade featured a Gold Mining theme for 1989.

Much of Jock’s detailed knowledge of Eltham and its residents comes from the time in the mid 1930’s when he worked as the delivery person for bakeries at Eltham and Research. His delivery lists provide a who’s who of the Eltham of that time, Jock’s excellent recall of that time enabled him to verbally reconstruct the Main Road properties of the period.

JOCK READ’S EARLY HISTORY (Newsletter No. 194, September 2010)

An edited version taken from interviews with Jock Read by Peter Bassett-Smith and with contributions by Doug Orford and others (2002).

I was born in 1915 and visited Eltham on and off until we came to live here about 1920, when I was about 5.

I went to school at the State School in Dalton Street and then over to the High School. They started off using a slate at school and then graduated to books, which later had lines in them. There were copybooks with the alphabet and you copied onto other books and learnt to write. Games they played were marbles (alleys), hopscotch, skipping, cricket and football. There was another game called tick-tack – this was played with a large stick with a point on each end. The schoolroom was comfortable and there were not very many in the class. We wore shorts at primary school and ordinary clothes at High School (no uniform).

I learned how to milk cows and used to do the milk round before school on horseback. I had to get up very early. I took two or three cans with two or three gallons of fresh milk. I had a nice quiet pony and used to go along and people would have their billy-cans on the fence. I would ladle the milk into them. I did that until quarter to nine and then went to school.

I didn’t have any real hobbies – I used to go rabbiting but didn’t go fishing very much. We used to go camping a lot – three or four of us would go and cook up some chops and spuds for lunch, then we might walk to Diamond Creek or somewhere out the back here -out through Laughing Waters. We had no means of transport, there were horse drawn vehicles and pushbikes, but I didn’t have one for quite a while. We mostly walked.

I went to the Higher Elementary School when it first opened in 1928.

I worked on Eddie Anderson’s orchard when I left school and also for Arthur Bird in Pitt Street. I had a few pigs, which I used to fatten up to sell for bacon – I knew a butcher bloke who used to cart them for me when I used to send them into town. I got 3/- for them after they had taken the commission out. That was during the depression.

My Father came from London. He came out to Australia when he was about 5 or 6 years old with my grandmother and my grandfather. My grandfather worked in London on the Railways. My grandmother came from Scotland – up north somewhere. She belonged to the Fraser clan – on the Firth somewhere.

My grandfather lived in Brunswick and he started a wood yard as far as I can recall. My father and his two brothers worked in the wood yard and then they started a carrying business about 1920 and they were going fine until the depression wiped them out. They were then just doing odd jobs around here so they bought a horse and cart and were doing odd jobs including ploughing, so I learned to plough, my father taught me to plough. He used to do odd jobs fencing, clearing scrub and so I helped him and then he got a job on the Council later on. That is how I learnt about horses and so on, I also used to spend time breaking in horses. I worked with heavy horses as well and that’s how I learnt to plough with a horse and scoop, digging, building dams, using a one -horse bucket. When I was working on the orchards they had two horses so I worked with the two horses.

1932 – This was in the depression time and my father said I had better go out and get myself another job so I started a mail run for people around the area. I had about 30 customers and charged them 1 /- per week. I used to go to the Post Office to pick up letters and deliver them to the people and then pick up their mail and take it back to the Post Office. The mail was picked up from the Post Office run by Miss Hunniford. I did that for a long time. I also delivered newspapers for Mr. Andrew.

It was 1934 when I was on the baker’s cart. It would have been Trevenas at the old bakehouse at the corner of York Street. We drove all the way up to Wellers Pub and went up to Pitmans. I used to go south as far as Lower Plenty pub, then down Bonds Road and those places. Also Kent Hughes Road and out the back to Reynolds Road, in a horse and cart.

I left there and went to lngrams Bakery in Research. I worked there for 3 years – they had a motor vehicle so I had to drive a motor then. I used to mix the dough at the bakery, I put the loaves in the oven and pulled them out again and put them on the bench to cool. I used to weigh the dough and when the dough was ready you would pull it out on big long troughs. You would pull it out and slap it on the benches and cut it into 2 pound loaves. You weighed the dough and then you cut it after you kneaded the dough and put them in the tins, and then into the oven. The ovens were wood fired. They used to use three-foot lengths of wood.

When I was on the baker’s cart I used to get their daily paper for them. Their mail and groceries – any little message they wanted. I picked up the mail and delivered it with the bread. I did not get paid. The customers were very nice people. You knew everybody, it was just a village. They would always have a cup of tea for me you know, some even would give me a hot lunch.

It used to cost me about 5/- a bag for my horse – chaff and bran – that would last me about a week. The oats and chaff came from Burgoynes. Chaff was about 5/- a bag, cow chaff 4/- a bag – that was rough cut about a couple of inches long. Instead of cutting it up fine like you do for the horses it was cut up a bit longer for cow chaff, and it was good. It could have come from Kangaroo Ground, or sometimes it was from Shutt & Barry – a big chaff and hay and corn place from down Footscray way.

It would come up by goods train and they would ring up whoever ordered it and they would go down and cart it from the station. There was chaff, wheat, oats, barley, bran and all that. The place was full of gigs and jinkers and carts.

I went into the Navy cadets from about 1934 at Bay Street, Port Melbourne – down near “Lonsdale” Naval depot. Then I went into Naval Reserves – did all the naval things. During the war I was trained in the Navy on HMAS “Vampire” and then the “Yarra”. I was on a minesweeper training in 1939 for about 4 months or so – just outside the Heads in Port Phillip Bay. I then went on to the “Manoora” in Sydney in 1939/40. I was a seaman’s gunner in the Navy and we went around Australia, Darwin, New Guinea, Singapore, Java and the Indies and then all around Borneo and the Phillipines. I was lucky I was never wounded. I was discharged in 1945/46 and was drafted to the Corvets.

After the war I was in and out of hospital and then I joined the Corps of Commissionaires in 1955. They got me a job at an Architects firm – Stevenson and Turner. I drove Sir Arthur Stevenson – he was a top architect. I used to do the messages etc. and I stopped there for 20 years. He passed away after about 10 years and his son took over and I drove him around. At 60 I told them I have had enough and that if I carried on much more I might not last, but I have.

Jock Read with the Eltham Horse and Pony Club, Eltham Festival Parade, Nov 1982 (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)


UPDATE: Jock’s daughter, Sue Johnson has informed us that the horse Jock was riding in the school crossing photo was named Eddie, a big bay gelding. Eddie was an ex-race horse (a pacer) and Jock looked after him for quite a while for some friends of his. Sue also informed us that she believed the photo had been published in The Age newspaper c.1979 and indeed we have located that article, “THE CLIP-CLOP LOLLYPOP” published The Age 22 Feb 1980, p3 and have updated the dates and source references in this post accordingly.

ThrowbackThursday: Arson Fire At The Barrel

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Sunday evening, June 4, 1989. It’s just after 7.30 pm and tea is all but wrapped up when the call goes out to Bernie Murray, a member and one time Captain of the Research Fire Brigade; “Kitchen fire at The Barrel.” Bernie and his fellow crew members race to the scene. Around 60 firemen from 13 units battled the blaze for over six hours but the battle was lost and Eltham and Research lost an iconic building forever.

Scanned from prints loaned by Bernie Murray 17 Jul 2017 bernard murray

Eltham District Historical Society was recently honoured to receive a donation from Bernie of some of his personal photos of the Barrel from that fateful night including it’s subsequent demolition.

The remains of the Eltham Barrel, Wednesday, 7 June, 1989. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society, donated by Bernie Murray, photographer)

The Diamond Valley News ran the following story about the fire on its front page, Tuesday, June 13, 1989

Barrel fire was arson by Catherine Magree

Police believe the fire that destroyed the Eltham Barrel restaurant last week may have been the work of a professional arsonist.

About 60 firemen from 13 units battled for six hours to quell the blaze which broke out at 7.30pm on Sunday, June 4.

Arson Squad detectives have confirmed that the fire was deliberately lit. One detective said a fire accelerant had been found on the premises.

The coroner, Mr. Hal Hallenstein, is investigating the fire. His office has refused to comment on the course of the investigation.

A waitress at The Barrel told the News that fire may be connected to recent burglaries and threatening phone calls. Police confirmed that there had been burglaries at the restaurant.

The waitress, who did not want to be named, said the restaurant had a “lot of trouble” ever since it reopened in March following renovations.

“We were broken into four times, and received threatening phone call,” she said.

Tills smashed
The most recent burglary occurred last month. Intruders jemmied open the office door and smashed tills, she said.

The woman was the last to leave the restaurant before it was consumed by flames. She said she locked up on Sunday night at about 5.30pm.

She denied rumours that business at the restaurant had been poor.

“It was only just getting a new name. Business was going well.”

The Barrel was purchased by former Sydney Swans footballer Mr Paul Morwood and his wife Linda last December.

Detectives are keen to talk to a man who was seen near the restaurant at the time of the fire.

Man sought
He is aged between 35 and 40 years and has a receding hair-line. At the time of the fire he was wearing glasses, a V-necked jumper and a light colored shirt and was seen driving a dark blue VN Commodore.

Police believe the man can help them with investigations. Anyone with relevant information should ring the Arson Squad on 265 2487.

The Insurance Council of Australia has offered a reward up to $25,000 for any information leading to the conviction of the offender or offenders.

Last of the Eltham Barrel, 1 November, 1989. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society, donated by Bernie Murray, photographer)
Eltham Barrel, 17 Nov 1968, showing the entrance portico with ‘The Eltham Barrel’ carved into the large timber support beam. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society, donated by Bernie Murray, photographer)

The Barrel was originally built in the late 1960s using timbers recycled from the old Cliveden Mansion in Melbourne, site of the present day Hilton Hotel. And like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, some of these historic old beams were saved and re-purposed again for a further life of storytelling. One such example is in a private home in Eltham, which incorporates two massive timber beams previously used at the restaurant, including the one that spanned the entry portico carved with the Eltham Barrel name. The owners also used about 15,000 old hand made bricks from the building in the construction of their home.

The carved Eltham Barrel beam recycled in a private Eltham home (Photo from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

And from the collection of the State Library of Victoria are two images of the newly built Eltham Barrel in 1968 in its original glory.

Title: The Barrel Restaurant. Main Rd. Eltham. Vic. John F. Tipping. 1968. [picture]
Author / Creator: Peter Wille 1931-1971 photographer.
Contributor(s): John Tate
Date: [ca. 1950-1971]
Description: 2 transparencies : colour slide ; 35 mm.
Copyright status: This work is in copyright
Terms of use: Use of this work allowed provided the creator and SLV acknowledged.
No known copyright restrictions apply.
Identifier(s): Accession no:H91.244/4735
Series / Collection: Peter Wille collection of architectural slides
Link to online item:
Link to this record:
Title: The Barrel Restaurant. Main Rd. Eltham. Vic. John F. Tipping. 1968. [picture]
Author / Creator: Peter Wille 1931-1971 photographer.
Contributor(s): John Tate
Date: [ca. 1950-1971]
Description: 2 transparencies : colour slide ; 35 mm.
Copyright status: This work is in copyright
Terms of use: Use of this work allowed provided the creator and SLV acknowledged.
No known copyright restrictions apply.
Identifier(s): Accession no:H91.244/4736
Series / Collection: Peter Wille collection of architectural slides
Link to online item:
Link to this record:

ThrowbackThursday: 1934 Diamond Creek Flood

#ThrowbackThursday – In our July 6th post on Ansell and Muir’s chicken shop, we stated that because the store stood within the 1934 flood zone, the property was unable to be redeveloped. Consequently the former Shire of Eltham acquired the land and the building was subsequently demolished. But why did 1934 become the benchmark for our modern day flood zone planning laws? Well today we time travel back to November/December 1934 where we can gain some appreciation of the devastation that flood brought to the district; to its infrastructure and the community.

In early November 1934 much damage was done around the Shire from recent rains, detailed at the Council meeting held Monday, 5th November 1934 (1).

However, worse was to come. On Thursday evening, November 29th, the rains came again, ceasing the following Saturday morning, December 1st. It was reported in the Advertiser on Friday November 30th, more than 8 inches of rain had been recorded at Eltham North that morning; 80% of the annual total and nearly five times that of the previous November (2).

1934 Diamond Creek flooding across Main Road looking towards Eltham at the intersection with Falkiner Street; a Council truck blocking Main Road; Eltham Lower Park on right; Eltham Park Tea Rooms (later Ansell and Muir) on left flooded. The bridge can just be seen on far right centre (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society, donated by the former Shire of Eltham)

The flooding was the highest level recorded in the district for over 40 years. Lower Eltham Park was under 5 feet of water which also covered Main Road  for over a mile (3).

Floodwater from Diamond Creek across Main Road in 1934 at what is present day Wingrove Park. In the distance, left of centre, is Mr. Montieth’s Ford Wagonette stranded in the floodwater near Wingrove Cottage looking up Main Road towards Eltham. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society, donated by Peter Bassett-Smith)

The Diamond Creek rose rapidly engulfing all before it; houses and shops were submerged, livestock and poultry swept away and drowned in the raging torrents, bridges severely damaged or destroyed, fences laid flat and trees uprooted. At 1pm on Friday December 1st, Main Road was under water and cut off. Early in the afternoon, Mr R. Monteith’s ‘bus became stranded near the concrete bridge. The driver and passengers escaped but the bus was stuck there till  the floods receded the following Tuesday morning. By that afternoon it was back in service and people could start returning to their homes. What they found was a six inch layer of slime, which covered floors, furniture and bedding; crockery piled up against doors and window openings, bodies of dead pets which had failed to escape. And in some cases, snakes had sought refuge in the houses. Not since 1868 had floods caused so much damage. The levels recorded were now reported as the highest in 60 years (4).

At a Special Council meeting held Wednesday, December 12th, the Shire Engineer reported that damage was estimated to be £2,000 to roads and bridges; two large bridges being completely washed away. In today’s terms, based on economic project costs that would equate to almost $4 million. A detailed breakdown of damage throughout the Shire and private property was reported. Council applied for a grant towards the cost of repairs and opened a local relief fund through the Lord Mayor of Melbourne’s Flood Relief program for those whose homes had been inundated. It was noted that whilst other districts also suffered, Eltham Shire was particularly impacted not just through the loss of livestock but also because some of the cultivated land had been totally washed away rendering it unusable in the future for further cultivation (5).

Of course over the years Eltham has seen further regular flooding, the most recent significant event occurring Christmas day, 2011. Some of our members can remember the 1934 floods but they were only very small children then. What are your experiences and memories of floods in the area? Do you have any photos to share?

Main Road looking north adjacent to Lower Eltham Park near Falkiner Street in 1986. Ansell and Muir’s Chicken Shop (former Eltham Park Tea Rooms) can be seen at centre.(From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society; Photo: Marjorie North)
Main Road looking north adjacent to Lower Eltham Park near Falkiner Street, Feb 2017 (Google Street View)
Main Road looking north towards Wingrove Cottage adjacent to Wingrove Park, Feb 2017 (Google Street View)
A view of the area showing it in 1945 (Melbourne 1945)


  1. 1934 ‘Eltham Council’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 9 November, p. 6. , viewed 17 Aug 2017,
  2. 1934 ‘DARING RESCUES AT NORTH ELTHAM’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 7 December, p. 2. , viewed 17 Aug 2017,
  3. 1934 ‘DISTRICT’S RECORD FLOOD’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 30 November, p. 7. , viewed 17 Aug 2017,
  4. 1934 ‘FLOODS AT ELTHAM’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 7 December, p. 1. , viewed 17 Aug 2017,
  5. 1934 ‘SPECIAL ELTHAM COUNCIL MEETING’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 21 December, p. 2. , viewed 17 Aug 2017,


ThrowbackThursday: Were St, Montmorency

#ThrowbackThursday – At last night’s Society talk, “The Shallards of Montmorency,” we heard from Margaret Deighton, daughter of Blanche and Jack Shallard, about growing up in Montmorency in the 1940s and 1950s. So in keeping with that theme; today we time travel back to Were Street in the 1940s where we shall meet a dog named Jack.

Jack, an Alsatian was owned by Mr. and Mrs Musselwhite who ran the local post office from around the mid 1930s to circa 1950. The Musselwhites had trained Jack to go down to the railway station each day about 3pm and collect the daily parcel of evening newspapers delivered by train. Jack would then carry the bundle of newspapers up Were Street to the newsagency where they would then be placed on sale for the locals.

Jack, the Alsatian, carrying the daily bundle of newspapers up Were Street to the Post Office, c.1940s. (Source: Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photo Collection, no. 402, held in conjunction with EDHS and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

In those days (as we also heard from Margaret), Were Street was a one shop stop; very different from today’s thriving little shopping precinct.

Another view looking down Were Street towards the railway station, c.1940s (Source: Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photo Collection, no. 805, held in conjunction with EDHS and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

Did you grow up in the same time period as Margaret? Do you recall Jack? Being an Alsatian, he would have been a very distinctive dog in those days. Or do you have more recent memories of Were Street and its growing number of shops from the 1960s on?

Montmorency Village Shopping Centre Looking south-southwest from the railway station up to the Were Street shops, Montmorency, 1986 (From the collection of EDHS)
Montmorency Village Shopping Centre Looking south-southwest from the railway station up to the Were Street shops, Montmorency, 8 Feb1986 (From the collection of EDHS)
Montmorency Village Shopping Centre, looking north along Were Street towards the railway station, 8 Feb 1986 (From the collection of EDHS)
Looking down Were Street towards the railway station, Sep 2016 (Google Street View)

Heritage Excursion: Saturday 2nd Sept. – An Eltham South Ramble

Photo: Old Main Road Bridge over Diamond Creek, Eltham; a timber trestle bridge which was damaged in the 1924 floods and subsequently replaced in 1926 with a concrete structure. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society) – Turnaround point for this heritage excursion.

Saturday, 2nd September, 2017 at 2.00pm

This walk was originally scheduled for May but for several reasons including inclement weather it had to be postponed. We hope for better luck this time.

Early view of Main Road looking south from Brougham Street to Dalton Street; site of the Avenue of Honour in memory of the 1914-1918 War.

In the early days of our Society our excursions were usually bus trips to places of historic interest away from Eltham. For nearly 20 years our excursions have been far more local, mainly comprising walks around many parts of the Eltham district. The first such walk was a leisurely stroll through the Eltham South area.

Although that walk has been repeated several times with some variations it is considered appropriate in this our 50th year to again take a ramble visiting historic sites in Eltham South. On the way we will pass artist Percy Leason’s house “Landscape” where we will read from Margot Tasca’s recent book on Leason’s life about the construction of the house and studio. Other sites will include White Cloud Cottage, the old buildings of Eltham Primary School and teacher David Clark’s cottage, “Shoestring”. We will walk through the historic Eltham Cemetery and Wingrove Park, a site of Aboriginal significance.

This walk on Saturday 2nd September 2017 is about 3.5 km in length and will take 2 to 2.5 hours. It will start at 2pm at the Eltham Local History Centre 728 Main Road (Melway ref 21J7). Our early walks finished with a cuppa and biscuit and we will reinstate that feature for this walk.

This free walk is open to the general public as well as Society members. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions. The phone number for contact on the day is 0409 021 063.

Photos of Percy Leason’s Residence Studio “Landscape” by David Bick from the Shire of Eltham Heritage Study 1992.


August Meeting – The Shallards of Montmorency

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

9th August at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Were St., Montmorency, 08 Oct 1950
Source: Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photo Collection no. 805 held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library. Original donor-Mrs. Dandy, Montmorency

Blanche and Jack Shallard were involved in many activities in the Montmorency community throughout their lives. They observed Were Street grow from a one shop street to a bustling shopping village. Jack was a local solicitor and on the Board of the Diamond Valley Community Hospital, while Blanche was a member of the Hospital Auxiliary and the Eltham District Historical Society. They were also connected with Montmorency State School and St Faith’s Church in Montmorency.

At this meeting we are pleased to have their daughter, Professor Margaret Deighton, speak about her family and her recollections of growing up in Montmorency.

As at all of our meetings, new members and visitors are most welcome.

House originally owned by the Shallard family then later by F. Squire; situated off Lilicur Road, Montmorency. From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society; donated by: Deirdre Nedwell, Bulleen

History Matters

Photo: Eltham c.1900 (from the collection of EDHS)

History Matters by Jim Connor

“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
          – Martin Luther King Jnr.

History matters… to our sense of place, where we are both physically and mentally, where we fit into the place where we are and how we relate to our surroundings.

History matters… when locating yourself in time, in your part of your own history, whether it is your family, your community, your culture, your lived life experiences. These all form part of our own history we carry with us and build on as we proceed on our life journey.

History matters… to the political climate of the time, what has or has not occurred and how those decisions impact on our past, current and future history.

History matters… to how we honour our own history and of those we relate to.

History matters… to how our built and natural environment evolves, how it reflects and respects the past and how it is developed or changed around us and by us.

History matters… if we think it does, if we believe it does, if we encourage others to understand it does.

History matters… to our memories that retain our history and to the memories of those around us.

History matters… to the stories we know and tell and the stories of other people.

History matters… to how we see ourself in the world.

History just matters!

Stories of history we tell not only shape our past, they shape our future as well.

ThrowbackThursday: Eltham Art and Craft Market 1988

#ThrowbackThursday – The 1980s; big jeans, big shoulders, big hair (and short shorts, aka Stubbies, on blokes). And 1988 was probably the pinnacle of that 80s fashion.

Today we time travel back to June 1988; to the carpark between Safeway and Commercial Place, site of the  regular @Eltham Community Craft and Produce Market where all that was fashionable was available.

These images are from a roll of film recently digitised as part of our 50th Birthday project to catalogue our collection on Victorian Collections to help preserve and share these precious moments in time. The full roll can be seen in our catalogue on Victorian Collections.

No doubt most Elthamites have at some stage or other spent time wandering around the Art and Craft market. Do you recognise anyone in these images? Do you recognise yourself? What are your memories of time spent here and purchases made?

And don’t forget to check out the backgrounds to see what has changed and what is still the same.