#ThrowbackThursday – This weekend brings us another exciting Rotary Eltham Festival. The first Eltham Community Festival was held in 1975 with great success but it was not always held at this time in late spring. In the 1970s the festival was conducted over a ten day period held during August however in the early 1980s it was reduced to two or three days duration and shifted to mid-late October. From 1984 it moved to its more familiar spot around the second week of November where it has remained ever since.
Up until the early 1990s a highlight of the festival was the Eltham Community Festival Parade which started towards the northern end of the shops, either from Youth Road or Cecil Street, then proceeded south along Main Road, finishing up either at Eltham Lower Park in the first years and later Eltham Common, or more recently Alistair Knox Park where many displays and stalls were set up.
The Shire of Eltham Historical Society (as we were known prior to council amalgamations in 1995) first participated in the Parade in 1979 and was a regular entrant up to and including 1990. During those 12 years the Society won a number of awards including “Best Effort by Locals”, “Best Eltham Theme”, “Best Display” and in 1986 even took out the Grand Prize.
Each year the Society endeavoured to undertake a unique theme for the parade float and display and today we time travel back 30 years to November 7th, 1987 when our float with its colonial washing day theme won the trophy for the best display.
The display was installed on Bruce Ness’ truck using a number of larger implements owned by or available to the Society such as an early washing machine, troughs, copper and mangle. Joh Ebeli and Russell Yeoman set up further items on a trailer loaned by Denis McKay. (Many of these items are now part of the Andrew Ross Museum at Kangaroo Ground.) Members came dressed in appropriate period costume and musicians from the Victorian Folk Music Club who regularly accompanied the Society on the float again joined us in the Parade with their lively music, assembling in Cecil Street at 11.30 a.m. prior to the start of the parade at 12 noon.
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to the turn of the millennium to December 1999 to the corner of Bible and York streets, Eltham, specifically 68 Bible Street. Here we find a small cottage originally built in 1880. In the 1930s it was owned by the then Roads Foreman for the Shire of Eltham, Mr. L. Burke. Originally the house was built with a galvanised iron roof but over the years was modernised with a tiled roof as well as an extension to the rear.
This particular photograph forms part of a Millennium project undertaken by one of our Society’s members, a descendant of the original Shillinglaw family who had become concerned at how the pre 1960s parts of Eltham were disappearing. She wanted to record as many of the older houses in the Eltham township area before they were lost forever. Many of the streets running between Main Road and Bible Street were photographed and these films are currently being digitised. And indeed it is staggering the level of change that the developed landscape has undergone even since 2000.
The property history report for 68 Bible Street reveals in more recent times it was sold in January 1994 for $38,000 but quickly turned over just four months later in May 1994 for $25,000 – that must have hurt. The next recorded sale is in June 1999, just before this picture was taken when it sold for $129,950. Ten years later in April 2009 it achieved $272,000 and again sold just four months later in August 2009 for an undisclosed price. In 2010 a building permit was issued to reblock the house and in May of 2013 it was leased out at $300 per week.
In July of this year, Council issued a building permit for demolition of the existing dwelling, shed’s and associated garage and the construction of a double story dwelling, garage, decks, alfresco area and retaining walls.
By September the trees and shrubs had been removed and construction fencing erected around the property.
Between October 19 and 20, the 137 year old cottage was flattened and Eltham lost another little piece of its history but hopefully not its story.
Some of us were born here, some of us chose to move to Eltham because of its character. That character is changing before our eyes, faster than at times is appreciated. Just because something has always been there during our time does not mean it will remain so. What exists today could well be history tomorrow.
This is not a protest about one little cottage; times change. Not everything old is necessarily significant but it is still part of our community’s history and history matters.
Rather this is a call to be on the lookout for other old homes that may one day also be potentially under threat and to photograph them and record their history before they are lost forever. Eltham District Historical Society is happy to receive all such photos and information in order that we may preserve the legacy of what came before so that our future generations are able to appreciate and understand their roots.
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Main Road and the approach to Eltham shops from Research nearly 50 years ago. It was February 1968 and big changes were in stall for duplication of the road from Bridge street all the way to our vantage point just near Elsa Court.
We can see the shops in the distance and a few cars on the road and on the left hand side are three houses. They are gone now of course and in their place are the Eltham Mind & Body Clinic and Maroush Restaurant. We are not sure who occupied them in 1968 but if we jump back another 30 years to circa 1937 we see the same three houses.
In the 1930s these three houses were the homes (from left) of the Lowerson family, Mowatt family and Mrs. Pratt. At a casual glance it does not look that much different from 1968; progress moved at a slower pace back then as you can well see by the sheep being driven along Main Road. Imagine coming across that scene today!
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back 87 years to March 1930, Main Road, Eltham where Edward Gadd runs his Blacksmith and Coachbuilding operations. They were located roughly where the gardens in front of the Eltham Community and Reception Centre is situated today.
Edward Gadd who was a native of England operated his blacksmith business in Eltham for about 17 years (1920-1937) and had a high reputation in the community for the quality of his work. He lived in Research and was actively involved with the Research Hall having been largely instrumental in its establishment. Gadd always wore leggings and played the violin at local dances. Accompanying him would be Sam Howard who played banjo and Mrs Read (Jock’s mother) who played piano by ear. He died of pneumonia on July 22nd, 1937, leaving behind a wife and three sons, one whom was in Albury and the other two in America. (1).
The poster on the wall of the business is promoting a campaign to protect vineyards by voting No against Prohibition. This would date the photo to c.March 1930 when a vote was being held by the Victorian government to introduce Prohibition. Vineyard growers were opposed to Prohibition due to the ramifications it would have upon the wider industry for dried fruits and table grapes, etc. It was also perceived as being seen to be in direct conflict with the Commonwealth government’s actions to place former WW1 soldiers into vineyards through the WW1 Soldiers Settlements program given the potential of Prohibition to ruin them finacially. (2)
Following Gadd’s death, the blacksmith business was promptly purchased by Mr P. Sloan of Warrandyte who intended to commence operations on Monday August 2nd, 1937, opening on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays or more frequently if demand warranted. (3)
The blacksmith shop is memorialised today with a monument and time capsule installed to commemorate Victoria’s 150th anniversary and the former location of the Eltham Town Centre. The main feature of the monument is a ‘tyring disc’; a blacksmith’s implement that was found on this site. This consists of a large iron disc that was used as a platform for fitting iron tyres (like the one shown on top of the platform) to wooden spoked cart wheels. The local blacksmith and wheelwright worked together to assemble the wheel, which was clamped to the platform placed close to the fire. The red hot iron hoop, previously forged to the correct size was lifted with tongs by the blacksmith over the outside of the rim, then hammered down amid flames from the scorching timber. The wheelwright drenched the tyre with cold water as soon as it was in position. A clamp placed on the naff (hub) and screwed down tightly kept the spokes at a constant angle as the tyre cooled. An even pressure from the contracting tyre tightened the joints at each end of the spokes and formed a vice-like grip, which would last for the life of the wheel.
#ThrowbackThursday – Who can’t resist a good parade? We can’t. A few weeks ago we featured the Eltham Community Festival Parade of November, 1982. Today we time travel back to August 4, 1978 just in time to catch the parade as it passes the service station on the corner of Main Road and Mount Pleasant Road opposite Wingrove Park.
This series of images of is from a recent mystery donation received in August. They were contained in an envelope dropped into our letterbox at 728 Main Road; no explanation or information about the donor. So whoever you are; we thank you and appreciate this valuable addition to our collection.
The photos are an example of the damage that the old-style ‘magnetic’ albums can do to your prints and it is always best to use proper archival storage materials. The images have a significant orange-red colour cast and we have attempted to restore them but the red wavelength has clearly degraded much quicker than the other primary colours, which is why we have purple fire trucks!
All these images are now included in our rapidly growing catalogue on Victorian Collections (@victoriancollections) to help preserve and share these precious moments in time.
The Shire of Eltham Historical Society (as we were known then) was involved with the Warrandyte Historical Society (@warrandytehistoricalsociety) in arranging an exhibition at the Community Centre and also provided notes and a map for a self-guided walking tour of historic buildings and locations around Eltham. The exhibition was divided into two sections. The Eltham Society displayed early photographs associated with the walking tour, whilst the Warrandyte Society showed their photographs and artifacts of the Warrandyte gold era. An outstanding feature was the large “blow-up” photos of early Warrandyte.
Does anyone remember this festival and parade? Did you or your community group participate in the parade? And who is our mystery donor? There was very little information provided other than a motion blurred image of several ladies from the Country Women’s Association Montmorency along with their names; Edi Levi, Joyce Finster, Thelma Smith, Jean Spencer and Norma Williams.
#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.
#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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia