Category Archives: Streets

OTD: “The game’s on!” Wild Gunfight at Commercial Bank, Eltham, 15 Dec 1949

Are you familiar with the little yellow and orange brick Op-shop building at 810 Main Road, Eltham, just in front of the Uniting Church (formerly Methodist Church)  on the corner of John Street? Nowadays, not many people may realise that this was once the Eltham agency of the Commercial Bank of Australia. Measuring just 3.6 x 4.5 m inside, it was built in 1878 by George Stebbing and is said to have stored gold in the early Eltham-Research mining days.

Well . . .

The Commercial Bank at Eltham, The Age, 16 December 1949, p1

#OnThisDay – 70 years ago #OTD Thursday, December 15, 1949, the quiet little bank was embroiled in an infamous wild shoot-out between a daring thief and two bank officers. Today, the building still carries the scars ; a bullet hole remains visible in a cedar bench testifying to the events that played out that day.

But let us first time travel back to a few days prior to this incident. It is 3.30 a.m., Friday, December 9. The manager of the Commercial Bank branch at Greensborough, Mr Harry Wallace and his wife are asleep in their bedroom of the little house behind the branch. Harry is awakened by a noise and sees an intruder in a corner of the bedroom. He calls out but the intruder who has switched off the power in anticipation flees through a side door and scarpers down Main Street. Harry summons the police but a search by First Constable Thomas of the Greensborough Police assisted by a wireless patrol car is unsuccessful. A report is filed noting the theft of a .25 calibre pistol from the wardrobe.

Scene of the gun battle at Eltham (Vic.), The Daily Telegraph, 16 december, p1

Fast forward six days to Thursday, December 15th. It is 1pm and the Commercial Bank has just opened. The branch is only open Mondays and Thursdays from 1-3pm. The morning started off a little cool with some scattered showers but it has fined up and the temperature is now around 61 degrees (16 C). A new grey Singer sports car with soft-top pulls up on the opposite side of the road and a young man, neatly dressed in a dark blue suit, wearing a grey hat and carrying a brief case exits the vehicle. He looks around then crosses the road and walks up the steps and through the door into the bank. There are three people inside; Mr. Jack Burgoyne whose grocery store is situated just 50 yards up the road, Mr. Lindsay A. Spears, the Eltham Agency Receiving Officer and by chance, Mr Harry Wallace, manager of the Greensborough branch.

Jack Burgoyne takes note of the young stranger; thinking to himself he appears nervous.

Mr. Lindsay Spears ,Receiving Officer, Commercial Bank of Australia, Eltham, The Age, 17 December 1949, p3

The man approaches the counter and introduces himself as John Henderson of Greensborough and explains that he wishes to open a new account. He places his hat and £3 on the counter. Mr Spears attends to the paperwork. He asks the young man to sign two forms, which he does but then he withdraws from the counter and starts walking towards the door. Suddenly he spins around pulling an automatic pistol from his right-hand pocket. He exclaims forcefully;

“The game’s on! I’ll take the lot!”

Spears appears to comply by pretending to open a drawer. The man shouts loudly,

“Keep your hand away from that drawer.”

Spears instead reaches for a pistol in his pocket and challenges the man,

“Here it is. Come and get it!”

At the same time, Harry Wallace pulls a pistol from his pocket as well.

The bandit fires a shot but misses, the bullet striking the counter. Both Spears and Wallace open fire and Jack Burgoyne ducks for cover.

As the bandit turns and runs for the door leaving his £3 behind, he fires another shot, which strikes the ceiling. Spears fires back, and thinks he may have hit him in the foot. The bandit flees the bank and heads for the grey Singer car, registration NO-106, parked opposite. Wallace and Spears pursue him to the door and open fire again, striking the car three times around the driver’s door. Spears lets off eight shots and Wallace, seven before his gun jams.

Senior-Constable N. Forbes examining -bullet holes (indicated) in the body of a stolen car in which the bandit escaped, The Age, 16 December 1949, p1

The getaway car initially heads slowly down Main Road towards Bridge Street. About 100 yards down the road, Dave Adams, a PMG employee, who has heard the shots, throws a steel manhole step at the driver. It hits the roof of the car nine inches above the driver’s head and tears the hood. Another witness claims to have seen the door blow open and the driver raise his hand.

The car gathers speed and swings left into Bridge Street racing along at about 60 miles an hour careering recklessly past council employee, Mr. Percy Williams, who is driving a dray along Smarts Road [believed to be Bridge Street].

BANK HOLD-UP: SHOTS ECHOED IN QUIET STREET, The Argus, Friday, December 16, 1949, p3

At the end of the road the Singer fails to get round the sharp turn and crashes into an embankment skidding to a stop outside the home of Mr John Clifford. One side of the car is wrecked. Mr Clifford, an aircraft engineer hears the fast travelling car bump heavily into the road bank at about 1.25 p.m. Hearing the whine of an engine he goes outside to find the grey Singer parked at the side of the road.

Jack George also lives at the corner and hears the car crash.

“The bandit opened the car door, ran 50 yards, and suddenly turned back,” exclaims Jack. “He took something from the car. It might have been a gun.”

In his haste, the bandit drops his grey felt hat, size 6 7/8, on the road and dashes up Sherbourne Road for about 200 yards then disappears into the scrub carrying a brief case and a bundle in which a sailor’s cap can be seen.

About 3 p.m., Mr H.D. Pettie of Mountain View Road, Montmorency is looking through his field glasses and notices a young man walking through thick scrub on private property some distance from his house. The man is wearing a sailor’s cap and disappears along the railway track toward Montmorency.

ELTHAM HOLD-UP. — (Left) — Shire employe Percy Williams narrowly escaped a collision as the bandit fled in a stolen car. (Right) A police constable searching in the scrub where the fugitive disappeared after abandoning the car, The Age, 16 December, 1949, p3

As the day progresses, ten police cars, one motor cycle, and about 40 police led by Det. Sgt. McMennemin of Malvern CIB are searching for him. They believe he is hiding in thick scrub along the bank of the creek about half-a-mile outside Eltham township. Wireless patrol cars, four mobile traffic cars and the CIB area cars from Malvern and Kew are taking part.

Police check the thief’s car and discover it was stolen from Helen Baxter, of Doncaster Road, North Balwyn from outside Victoria Barracks.

Harry Wallace informs the police that he believes he recognised the bandit as the man who took his pistol from his bedroom the previous Friday morning.

As night falls, armed police are posted at strategic points in the Eltham-Greensborough district. Police in cars are watching the roads. Others are searching the bush and checking passengers on trains. Little do they realise the young man has already slipped out of the net.

SEQUEL
YOUTH OF 19 CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED ARMED ROBBERY OF BANK AT ELTHAM

Weekly Times, Wednesday 15 February 1950, page 6

Detectives who raided a house in Bell St., Coburg, Melbourne, charged a 19-year-old youth, of South Yarra, with attempted armed robbery at the Commercial Bank’s Eltham (Vic.) receiving depot on Dec. 15. Police say they recovered a loaded automatic pistol, diamond and signet rings worth more than £200, a complete set of house-breaking instruments, a sailor’s uniform, and chloroform gauze in the raid.

The youth was charged that while armed with an offensive weapon, he attempted to rob Lindsay George Spears of a sum of money.

He was further charged on six counts of breaking, entering and stealing.

Police allege that the person who tried to hold up Mr Spears in the Commercial Bank receiving depot at Eltham on December 15. escaped in a stolen car, after Mr Spears and Mr Henry Wallace, manager of the bank’s Greensborough branch, had fired at him.

After the car crashed, he escaped into thick scrub and is alleged to have changed into a sailor’s uniform.

On December 9 an automatic pistol was stolen from Mr Wallace’s bedroom at the Greensborough bank. The chloroform pad recovered is alleged to have been stolen from the Dental Supply Company, Plenty Road, Preston.

The rings are alleged to have been taken in a £513 burglary from the shop of James Paton. Sydney Road, Coburg.

Det. Sgt. H. McMennemin conducted the investigations with Senior Dets. R. Newton and M Downie, Detectives l. Dent, R. Rayner, P. Pedersen and M. Handley and First Constable A. Thomas. The youth will appear at Eltham Court on February 22.

Manager’s Gun Used in Holdup at Bank

The Age, Thursday 23 February 1950, page 4

It was stated in Eltham court yesterday that a youth who robbed a bank manager of his pistol, later used it in an attempt to hold-up the bank.

Kay Arthur Morgan, 19, draftsman, of Castle-street, South Yarra, was committed for trial on charges of breaking and entering, and stealing a pistol and attempted robbery while armed with an offensive weapon. He pleaded guilty.

The manager of Eltham branch of the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd., Henry Clifton Cabot Wallace, said he disturbed someone in the bedroom, in which he and his wife were sleeping, at 3 a.m. on December. 9, 1949. Later he found that his automatic- pistol was missing.

On December 15 a youth, who said his name was John Henderson, entered the bank and opened a new account. As the youth was leaving the bank he turned round with a pistol in his hand and said: — “I want the lot.” Spear indicated a drawer under the counter; and said.— “Here it is. Come and get it.” The youth said:— “Keep your hand away from that drawer.”

Witness said Spear then drew his pistol from his hip pocket. The youth fired at them, and Spear returned the fire. “I pulled my pistol and fired, too” said witness. The youth fired again, ran out to a car and drove off. Witness and Spear fired several shots at the car.

The youth was the accused Morgan, sitting in court, witness said.

Evidence was given that one bullet was found in the celling and the other in the bank.

Morgan was allowed £100 bail on each charge.

 

But wait, there’s more; another twist

Morgan ended up serving three years for the failed armed robbery and became a notorious criminal. He had twin sons, Peter and Doug and even though only ten years old, Morgan would get his sons to act as lookouts whilst he committed burglaries. The lads became building contractors but when the industry suffered a downturn in 1977 and they were short on cash, they returned to the family business. Over the following 23 months they undertook 24 raids on country and outer-suburban TABs and banks. Whilst robbing one country bank for the third time, just like their father, it all went wrong ending up with a police officer shot. They were nick-named the “After-dark” bandits and are considered to be Australia’s last bushrangers. They were convicted and served 17 years in prison.

References

1949 ‘Took Pistol From Bank’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 9 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244149395

1949 ‘GUNFIGHT IN BANK NEAR MELBOURNE’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 15 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244139967

1949 ‘Hunt for bandit switches to city’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22798717

1949 ‘POLICE HUNT FOR ELTHAM BANDIT’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189482129

1949 ‘-Police Search for Bank Intruder’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189482349

1949 ‘BANK OFFICIALS FOIL BANDIT’, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 – 1954), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 13 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article248155927

1949 ‘Search of Scrub Proves Fruitless’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 17 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189481390

1950 ‘Eltham Bank Arrest Leads to Other Charges’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 14 February, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187348311

1950 ‘YOUTH OF 19 CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED ARMED ROBBERY OF BANK AT ELTHAM’, Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), 15 February, p. 6. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225452914

1950 ‘Manager’s Gun Used in Holdup at Bank’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 23 February, p. 4. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187348043

1950 ‘”Guilty” plea to pistol theft COURT TOLD OF LAD’S HOLD-UP BID’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 23 February, p. 7. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22812474

‘Australia’s last bushrangers were twins’ by John Sylvester, The Age, April 27, 2019, https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/australia-s-last-bushrangers-were-twins-20190424-p51gqb.html

‘Australia’s last bushrangers: How twin brothers robbed banks across Victoria while bamboozling police by escaping in taxis, bikes and even a canoe – and the one mistake that lead to their capture’ by Sahar Mourad, 9 May 2019 (also includes video of an interview with Peter and Doug Morgan aired on A Current Affairhttps://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/australias-last-bushrangers-how-twin-brothers-robbed-banks-across-victoria-while-bamboozling-police-by-escaping-in-taxis-bikes-and-even-a-canoe-and-the-one-mistake-that-lead-to-their-capture/ar-AAB8N3H?li=AAgfIYZ&%252525253BOCID=ansmsnnews11

 

 

MysteryMonday: Yvonne’s Dressmaking and Alteration Service, 1987

#MysteryMonday – Today’s image is a Main Road somewhere in the former Shire of Eltham. It was taken in 1987 and displayed along with a number of other panels at the 1987 Eltham Community Festival as part of the Eltham Shire Council display of infrastructure and services. Only problem is, we can not work out where this particular photo was taken. The only real identifying feature is the shop sign for Yvonne’s Dressmaking and Alteration Service. And no, it is not 23 Paris Street, Alliston, Ontario, Canada.

Main road street scene showing Yvonne’s Dressmaking and Alteration Service, c. October 1987 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Can you identify this location? We’d love to hear from you; your thoughts and suggestions as to where it might be and help us catalogue this images.

Over to you . . .

. . . and remember, if this proves to easy for you, there is always last week’s MysteryMonday, which remains unsolved.

MysteryMonday: Rural Road Infrastructure, Shire of Eltham, c.1987

#MysteryMonday – Today’s images are from a roll of 35mm colour negative film. There are 12 images in total; part of the Shire of Eltham infrastructure works on rural roads. It is believed they were taken around 1987.

Frame 1
Roll of 35mm colour negative film, 4 strips, Kodak CP100 5094
( From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Frame 2
Frame 3
Frame 6
Frame 7
Frame 8
Frame 9
Frame 11

Can you identify these? Not all the frames have been posted as they are of detail like potholes, etc that add no value to the identification of the road or area.

We’d love to hear from you; your thoughts and suggestions as to where they are and help us catalogue these images.

Over to you . . .

ThrowbackThursday: Pitt Street, Eltham from Hotel to Milk Bar, c.1966

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to the corner of Pitt Street and Main Road, circa September 1966 where we will commence our walk eastwards to Bible Street.

Eltham Hotel, corner of Pitt Street and Main Road, c. September 1966 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

On the southeast corner of Pitt and Main we see the iconic Eltham Hotel with its sunny Beer Garden out back and Drive In Bottle Shop accessed from Pitt Street. A sign on the left advises us of roadwork ahead.  Reconstruction of Bible Street and a number of the cross streets was undertaken by the Shire of Eltham as part of infrastructure upgrades from 1966 through 1968. Typically the underground services would be completed then new footpaths and nature strips along with many of the characteristic rock retaining walls. Lastly, the new road surfaces would be sealed.

Eltham Hotel, corner of Pitt Street and Main Road, Eltham, October 2017 (Google Street View)
Looking east along Pitt Street, Eltham, c. September 1966, Stebbing Cottage on right ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

As we head towards Bible Street we have to walk along the road. Pitt Street is still unsealed and there are no footpaths on the nature strip, just the odd track. On the left we see some of the large underground pipes placed on the nature strips in preparation for the roadworks that are under way. On the right we see a glimpse of Stebbing Cottage at 88 Pitt Street, built by George Stebbing over 100 years ago around 1860. In the distance we can see Pitt Street climbing the hill east of Bible Street.

Looking east along Pitt Street near Stebbing Cottage (on right), September 2016 (Google Street View)
Looking east along Pitt Street towards the intersection with Bible Street, Eltham, c. September 1966 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

As we dip down the hill towards Bible Street we can now see the local Milk Bar on the southeast corner of Pitt and Bible streets. A Bulla delivery truck is pulled up out front delivering a fresh load of milk, cream and ice cream. A red Telephone Box stands on the nature strip. Apart from the Milk Bar, no other buildings or houses are visible on the southern side of Pitt Street and only a few on the northern side as we look up the hill. Some children are riding on bikes.

Looking east along Pitt Street towards intersection with Bible Street, Eltham, September 2016 (Google Street View)
Local neighbourhood Milk Bar, corner of Bible and Pitt streets, Eltham, c. September 1966 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

As we arrive at Bible Street, also unsealed, we notice the red kerosene warning lanterns placed on stakes on the road verges around the intersection in preparation for the road works. The Bulla truck just pulled away. A little girl walks past us carrying a bag and heading up Pitt Street. The local Milk Bar also offers a Delicatessen and Self Service Grocery and Drive Through customer car park. Perhaps she just picked up some groceries from the Milk Bar for her mum who has promised to bake her a cake for afternoon tea.

What memories do you have of the Eltham Milk Bar and other local neighbourhood Milk Bars? It remains a survivor in our time poor, modern society; a link to a more leisurely pace in our past. There used to be two others within a short distance; one in Hartland Way and one in Eucalyptus Road, both now re-purposed more than a decade ago.

Eltham Milk Bar at intersection of Pitt and bible streets, September 2016 (Google Street View)

ThrowbackThursday: Commercial Place, Eltham, May 1968

#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

What stories can you share with us all?

View from Arthur Street through to Pryor Street and beyond to Luck Street along the lane way running behind the Main Road shops (now Commercial Place), Eltham, c.6 May 1968 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
View from Arthur Street looking along Commercial Place towards Pryor Street, October 2017 (Google Street View)
View from Arthur Street looking along Commercial Place towards Pryor Street, January 2010 (Google Street View)
View from Arthur Street looking along Commercial Place towards Pryor Street, December 2007 (Google Street View)
View from Pryor Street through to Arthur Street along the lane way running behind the Main Road shops (now Commercial Place), Eltham, c.6 May 1968 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
View from Pryor Street to Arthur Street looking along Commercial Place, October 2017 (Google Street View)
View from Pryor Street to Arthur Street looking along Commercial Place, January 2010 (Google Street View)
View from Pryor Street through to Luck Street along the lane way running behind the Main Road shops (now Commercial Place), Eltham, c.6 May 1968 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
View from Pryor Street to Luck Street looking along Commercial Place, October 2017 (Google Street View)
View from Pryor Street to Luck Street looking along Commercial Place, January 2010 (Google Street View)
View from Luck Street through to Pryor Street and beyond to Arthur Street along the lane way running behind the Main Road shops (now Commercial Place), Eltham, c.6 May 1968. In this view you can just see the signs for Millets and Eltham Real Estate on Main Road ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
View from Pryor Street to Luck Street looking along Commercial Place, October 2017 (Google Street View)
View from Pryor Street to Luck Street looking along Commercial Place, January 2010 (Google Street View)
Detail from the 1966 Melways, Map 21, showing that the lane way was not marked. It appeared as a public ‘reserve’ in the 1975 edition with the provision of a carpark between Luck and Pryor Streets in the 1979 edition. Commercial Place was included in the 1990 edition. (From the University of Melbourne, Digitised Collections)

ThrowbackThursday: A Day in Court, Eltham Courthouse, 1967

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to August 30, 1967. It’s a Wednesday morning and you have been summoned to appear at the Eltham Courthouse, 730 Main Road, Eltham at 10 a.m. You have never appeared in court before and this leaves you feeling a little anxious. The weather forecast is mostly fine with a maximum of 61 (16°C). It was 48 (9°C) when you got up and had rained overnight but the sun was out now. The rain ultimately meant it would only get up to 58 (14.5°C). You check the summons one more time to verify the time and head off. You do not want to be late.

Eltham Court, 730 Main Road (looking southeast), 30 August 1967 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

You approach the courthouse heading south down Main Road from Pitt Street. People are already there, mingling around outside chatting. Seems everybody else had the same idea about arriving early and all the parking spots out front are already taken; on both sides.

Looking west from Brougham Street near Eltham Courthouse across Main Road, 30 August 1967 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Never mind, you turn left into Brougham Street and park there; minding not to step into any puddles left on the unsealed road that could splash mud onto your freshly polished shoes.

Understandably you feel a little nervous so you just dash across the road to the servo to grab some chewing gum and smokes.

Eltham Courthouse, looking northeast across Main Road, 30 August 1967 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

As you take a few puffs on your cigarette you notice that people are now starting to head inside. Still, you figure you have a few more moments to help calm your nerves as you wander up Main Road taking in the scene.

Eltham Court, Main Road (looking southeast), 30 August 1967 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

The coppers have now turned up in their Paddy Wagon and the suspect is bundled inside. Better get a move-on; they’ll be calling you shortly. You take one more quick drag of your smoke, stub the butt out, pop some Juicy Fruit in and dash inside.

“I solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

 

Built in 1860, the Eltham Courthouse is the oldest public building remaining in Eltham. In its early days the building was used as the meeting place and office of the Eltham District Road Board and as an overflow classroom for the local school. The Eltham Courthouse ceased operational duties in 1984 and is now used by various community groups including Eltham District Historical Society. It was listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (Number H0784) in 1982. The building is of architectural significance because it retains intact early features. These include use of handmade bricks, simple decoration, roof trusses, timber ceiling boards, original windows, doors and associated hardware and a collection of court furniture. Additions to the court house have been done in a manner which did not interfere with the fabric of the original building.

ThrowbackThursday: Main Road Shops, Eltham, Winter 1968

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back 50 years to the Main Road shops in Eltham. It is a Monday morning, July 15th, 1968 and the weather is fine but cloudy. People are off to work and school. The temperature is 41 degrees (5° C) with a high of 53 (12° C). Cars and people are navigating the roadworks which are now well under way to widen Main Road from Pitt Street to Elsa Court.

Looking north along Main Road, Eltham from just south of Dudley Street, 15 July 1968 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

What memories does this invoke for you? One can certainly get a fuller impression now of how this area changed with the widening of the road.