#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 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.
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.
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.