By Jim Connor (Reproduced from EDHS Newsletter No. 242 October 2018)
In a world divided over so many issues it can be challenging at times to meet on common ground. Such is the situation we as a community are facing locally with the future of the World War Two War Memorial Complex of three buildings at 903-907 Main Road, Eltham. This complex is a very definite part of our history and once gone can never be replaced. A primary reason for the significance of the complex is for its construction as a memorial with a civic purpose and with a particular focus on the welfare of infants. It was intended to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’. The construction of such a war memorial complex is rare in Victoria.
While these older buildings may not conform with current architectural merits or styles these were designed and constructed to reflect the desires, passions and interests of the era when built, and to symbolise achievements, failures or losses of that time.
These are part of a total package offered for sale in September 2018 on behalf of the Nillumbik Shire Council. It includes the extensive site area between the Eltham Library and the former Eltham Fire Station, and extending west from Main Road to the railway line. This land contains World War One and the World War Two memorials, the Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, the former Eltham Shire Office site and the locally significant Shillinglaw trees.
Both memorials commemorate the sacrifice and commitment of those who left Australia to fight for what they believed in and to protect those loved ones left behind. Despite requests and clear statements by our Society there is no confirmation from Council, at this stage, that these memorials and the Shillinglaw trees will be protected in any future development proposals. Neither memorial should be sacrificed in order to raise funds for other purposes.
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Sunday, March 16, 1975. It is the early hours of the morning, around 3.30 a.m.. The air is still, the temperature a cool 14 degrees and damp from the recent showers. Senior Constable Lew Howard of Eltham and Constable Adrian Bennetts of Greensborough are finishing up on overtime duty in the Eltham police station at 23 Pryor Street. Unbeknownst to them, five youths from Diamond Creek who have spent a night of drinking are now in the process of a shooting escapade throughout the district with a shotgun. There have already been several incidents. An unoccupied police car, parked at the Diamond Creek police station, was fired at from the street, 30 metres away. The front passenger side of the car received the full force of the blast. Hurstbridge and Greensborough police stations have also been shot at along with a public telephone box and a private citizen’s car. And now they have turned their attention towards Eltham.
The five youths turn into Pryor Street from Bible Street; the driver puts the car into neutral and they roll down the hill. Two police are visible through the window. Their police car is locked and parked out back and they have just locked up their weapons and shut everything else down after a night of working overtime. Usually they would have knocked off at 2 a.m. but tonight has been busy helping out Greensborough Police with traffic when a car knocked down a street pole and then attending another incident concerning a stolen car. The youths observe the lights are on in the police station. Out of all the other stations they have attacked tonight, Eltham is the only one with lights on. One of the youths leans out of the car window, raises the shotgun and pulls the trigger. Nothing happens; the gun’s safety is on. The youths decide to proceed around the block and return to the top of Pryor Street where again they put car in neutral, cut the lights, and roll down the hill for a second pass. As they slowly coast past the police station the two constables are standing beside each other near the window. They hear and see nothing. The youth leaning out the window takes aim and fires. The quiet of the night is shattered by the blast and sound of breaking glass. They flee the scene.
Senior Constable Lew Howard is hit in the right arm and Constable Adrian Bennetts has suffered facial cuts from flying glass and wood splinters. Unable to respond, they call D24 for help and the full might of the Victoria Police leaps into action to assist them and hunt the men down.
Both Lew Howard and Adrian Bennetts are treated that night at the Austin Hospital and then released to go home. Lew later states that if they had been standing just a few inches to the side, he or Adrian may well have been killed; the wooden window frame between two panes of glass having taken the brunt of the shotgun force, saving him from far greater injuries.
It is the second time this year that the Eltham police station has been hit by gunfire. In January (1975), bullets were fired into three windows at the station. Fortunately that time, nobody was hurt.
Following inquiries, five Diamond Creek youths, from 18 to 21 years are arrested two weeks later by Det. Sen. Const. Bob Traeger and Sgt. Ian Wright. Four are charged on two counts of grievous bodily harm by negligence and on four counts of malicious damage to police stations; scheduled to appear in Eltham Court on May 6, 1975.
At court, three young men, two aged 18 and one 21, admitted shooting at four police stations and injuring two Eltham policemen. Each was fined $1,000. A fourth man, 19, who fired the shots which injured the policemen was sentenced to 12 months in a youth training centre and given 18 months probation.
Judge Wright said the men were seriously affected by alcohol and that Eltham police station was the only one with lights on. The evidence showed that the youth who fired knew someone was inside the police station. All pleaded guilty to having discharged a shotgun at Eltham police station and causing grievous bodily injury to Senior Constable Howard and Constable Bennetts. They also pleaded guilty to having maliciously damaged the windows, flywire screen and woodwork of the Eltham police station and damaged the woodwork at the Hurstbridge police station. Three of the youths also pleaded guilty to having maliciously damaged louvre windows and a police car at Greensborough police station; maliciously damaging a car, porch and wooden fence at Diamond Creek, and damaging a police car at Diamond Creek.
Whilst the offending youths names are a matter of public record, we, in consultation with Lew Howard, have chosen not to reproduce them here. This incident, whilst it has had a lasting impact upon Lew, was over 43 years ago. The men would all now be in their early to mid 60s, most likely grandfathers.
Senior Constable Lew Howard served at Eltham police station from 9 August 1972 until his promotion to Sergeant and reassignment to Preston police station, 7 June 1976.
D24, the Victoria Police Emergency Communications Centre was located on the sixth floor of the Russell Street Headquarters, in Corridor D, Room 24, behind a door marked ‘D24’.
“Policeman hit in shotgun rampage”, Diamond Valley News, 17 March 1975
“Police station shooting”, Diamond Valley News, 1 April 1975
“$1000 fine for 3 on gun rampage”, Diamond Valley News, 7 May 1975
Sgt. Lew Howard, (Retired), Victoria Police
Eltham District Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the generous loan by Lew Howard of many items for digitising and inclusion in our collection. These include; letters, postcards and photographs of First World War Servicemen of the District sent to Lily Howard; photographs of Howard family members; photograph of the Panton Hill Cricket Club Premiers 1934-35 and 1935-36 Premiers banner; Panton Hill Football League Football Records from the 1970s and a signed photograph of the 1934 Premiers team; various press clippings pertaining to Lew’s police career at Eltham. These items are currently in the process of being digitised and catalogued and will be known as the “Lew Howard Collection”.
#ThrowbackThursday – As we now head gradually into warmer spring weather, leaving behind what many would call a colder than normal winter, can you think back to even colder winter seasons. Have you ever heard of it snowing in Eltham? We have often heard tale of this event but never actually seen any photographs of it. Well, today we are going to time travel back to the morning of Thursday, July 19th, 1951, to Nyora Road, Eltham at the corner with Eucalyptus Road and Pitt Street. But bring some warm, wet weather gear with you, and your camera, because right now the snow is falling.
Standing in Nyora Road just east of Eucalyptus Road, which itself is not much more than an unmade track, we look towards the southeast and the home built by Frank Stokes for his family just a few years earlier. Now the home of Nyora Studio Gallery @NyoraStudioGallery, it was originally built by Frank towards the end of the war over a two year period as he established his orchard to the north east bounded roughly by Nyora, Eucalyptus and Diosma Roads.
Turning to the opposite direction, as we look across Nyora through the wet falling snow, we see the orchard running down the hill and up the other side, a blanket of snow starting to cover the ground. Eucalyptus Road runs roughly along the line of trees to the west.
This event was reported in The Age the next day: –
“SNOW HEAVIEST FOR 20 YEARS: State Shivers in Antarctic Winds”
“Snow falls yesterday were the most widespread in the State’s history and the heaviest in Melbourne for 20 years. Many western, northern and eastern suburbs had snow.”
“Icy winds blowing in from the Antarctic gave Melbourne its coldest July day for 50 years and the second coldest on record.”
“At Eltham an inch had fallen by 11 a.m., and trees were festooned with snow.”
“At noon Melbourne’s temperature of 39.1 deg. was .9 deg. colder than the temperature recorded at Macquarie Island, in the Antarctic, 600 miles to the south. The minimum for the day, however, was 37.2 deg. at 12.50. Through most of the day the temperature was below 40 deg. and the maximum (at 9 a.m.) was only 44.5. Essendon had a record low midday temperature of 34 deg. — two deg. above freezing point.”
Do you remember snow ever falling in Eltham? Do you have photos that you would like to share/donate to our Society? We would love to hear your stories of this event. Perhaps we had better put another log on the fire. . . .
Frank Stokes first traveled to the district by train in 1944 to find land with the intention to establish an orchard. By chance he met Arthur Bird of Bird Orchard (bounded by Pitt Street, Eucalyptus Road and Wattle Grove) and they got talking over their common interest. Arthur put Frank up for the night and pointed out the land, part of Crown Allotment 15, Section 5, Parish of Nillumbik (CA15) somewhat diagonally opposite Bird Orchard. Frank bought the land and for the next two years would travel by train from Melbourne to Eltham every weekend establishing Stokes Orchard and building a home for his family, which they eventually moved into in 1946.
The Society is very fortunate to have recently received a donation of photographs and other items of interest pertaining to the Stokes family, Stokes Orchard and the Stokes Orchard Estate from Beryl Bradbury (nee Stokes), eldest daughter of Frank and Gladys (nee Bolduan) Stokes. Much of the Stokes family orchard history had been held and cared for by Beryl’s younger brother, David Stokes, and was lost during the terrible Black Saturday fires on 7 February 2009, which tragically took David as well.
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to school, Eltham State School No. 209 on Dalton Street, more commonly known today as Eltham Primary. It is 1891 and the children of Grades 3 & 4 and Grade 5 are lined up on this special occasion to have their photographs taken. It is a clunky affair taking a photograph back then. The photographer has to set up his big polished wooden box on to a tripod usually made of wood and brass. He has a large black cape which he covers the rear of the box. He pops his head under the cape to peer through the lens at the front of the box. Everything he sees is upside down. He fusses around to get the children lined up in the right spots, checks his composition once more, places the lens cover back on and then inserts a cassette containing the glass plate negative into the rear of the box. Upon commanding everyone’s attention one more time, reminding them to remain perfectly still till he says they can move again, he removes the lens cap and counts; 1, 2, 3, 4, …….
No one knows how it will turn out until he has processed it that night, but he knows; it is perfect.
And the children will be able to share something very special with their fathers by the weekend. But shush now, that’s a surprise.
The children of Grades 3, 4 and 5 in 1891 want to wish all their father’s a very special day this weekend but also all of the fathers that have come after them a very special Happy Father’s Day this weekend also.
Father’s Day did not actually exist in 1891. It was initially founded in the United States in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910. Her father, a Civil War veteran, William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. We wonder if William Jackson Smart was in any way connected to the Smart family children attending Eltham State School in 1891.
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we travel back in time to May 1968 and a place very different back then, an unsealed lane way running behind the Main Road shops from Arthur Street through to Pryor and Luck streets. It had no name. It did not even appear on the maps of the day until the 1980s. We do not have any stories to share, we are simply going to take a stroll together along the lane from Arthur Street to Luck Street and observe. The stories to be told here today are yours; your memories and recollections of a lane behind the shops before it became a Commercial Place in Eltham Town @mykindatown
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to July 1969 to the intersection of Main Road and Grand Boulevard, Montmorency; specifically the section of land bordered by Grand Boulevard, Main Road and Looker Road. Recently it was announced that this piece of of land was the site for the all new Apex-Diamond Valley Ambulance Station.
Fast forward to 2017 and it has recently been announced that an all new Ambulance Station is to be constructed in place of the old station and that demolition of the old building will commence in November.
Demolition of the original station built back in 1969-1970 commences in November 2017 with the new upgraded station due to open in the second half of 2018.
#ThrowbackThursday – Who does not enjoy the aroma that permeates a baker’s shop? Often when going into a bakery the smell can instantly take us back in time to a favourite bakery of our childhood and the anticipation of some freshly baked bread, still warm from the oven or maybe even some small sweet treat.
Today we time travel back to September 1979 to the old Eltham Bakehouse at the corner of Main Road and York Street. It has not been a bakery for some time now and looks sad and run down.
But this was once at the centre of a thriving community. It is nearly 120 years old and has stood on this spot, still recognisable, since the 1860s. It even holds some secrets; an unsolved murder mystery from the late 1890s. And it seems those secrets may never be revealed for today we are to witness the demolition of this once busy building.
There has recently been a substantial amount of publicity in the local press regarding the demolition of the old baker’s shop on the corner of Main Road and York Street, Eltham.
The old weatherboard building comprises a dwelling with a shop in the front room opening off a timber verandah deck which directly fronted the Main Road footpath.
At the rear is a brick building of much later date which was for many years used for the bakery. The buildings are being demolished for flat construction.
Recent publicity has been oriented towards moves to preserve the weatherboard building. Preservation initiatives have come from a number of individuals including members of this Society. It should be noted that the Society has no official connection with any proposal to retain the building or any part of it on any other site. The issues involved in this matter are part of a wider consideration of the matter of preservation of historic buildings.
In this case the Society and in particular the committee has been aware for some years of the impending demolition. The possibility of the preservation of the building has been canvassed on a number of occasions. The Society’s view is that whilst the baker’s shop is an interesting old building which contributes to the character of Main Road, it is not of sufficient importance to wage an organised campaign for its preservation. It is considered that if the building were to be preserved for historical reasons it would be far more feasible to retain it in its present location than to re-build it on another site.
Unfortunately as we can see standing in front of the building on this grey September day in 1979, demolition is now well in progress. It is not known whether the proposal to retain part of the building for re-erection elsewhere is proceeding or not. Substantial funds would be required for any re-erection and restoration project. The Society considers that at this time the highest priority for allocation of any funds available for local historical preservation works is the restoration and preservation of the old cottage in Ely Street. But that is for the future and another leap in time.
Back to the future – Whilst the Society was not engaged in any preservation efforts, Society member Joh Ebeli along with Howard Elwers certainly did try to salvage some portions of the building. Enquiries today indicate that ultimately nothing came of this but hopefully some of these items; the timbers and fittings did find new life, integrated into the fabric of other buildings, either new or restored. And maybe, just maybe, those other secrets may still be discovered.
EDHS Newsletter No. 8, September 1979
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia