Tag Archives: Eltham Lower Park

ThrowbackThursday: Billy Cart Derby, Easter Saturday 1957

Promotional window label, Eltham Gymkhana, Easter Saturday, 20 April 1957 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Saturday, April 20, 1957. We are going to the Eltham Easter Gymkhana which is being held at Eltham Park. This is the ninth Eltham Show to be held in aid of the Eltham War Memorial Trust. The Trust has already built an Infant Welfare Centre which was opened five years ago in 1952 and more recently this year, a preschool centre which includes a children’s library in an annexe.

Today’s programme includes equestrian turnouts, dressage contests, and jumping events for which the newly formed Melbourne Show Jumping Club have assisted in laying out an Olympic-type course.

The Women’s Auxiliary of the trust are also running a market stall, with local produce and handcrafts.

Besides the horse show, there will be a pedigreed goat show and this year, a most thrilling soap box derby for us to see for which Mr Russell Lewis along with Mr J.M. Peter Bassett-Smith, secretary of the trust and a member of the show committee will assist in the running of.

Entry form for the Skyline Drive-In “Soap-Box” Derby, to be held along Main Road between Panorama Avenue and Bolton Street, Easter Saturday, 20 April 1957 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
[Note: entry form quotes incorrect date as 19 April, which was a Friday]
The Soap Box Derby is being sponsored this year by Hoyt’s Skyline Theatres and is to be run over a 3/4 mile long course along the main Eltham Road commencing at the eastern corner of Panorama Road and racing down the hill to the finish line at the intersection with Bolton Street. There are two divisions in this Derby; Junior, 8-13 years and Senior, 14-95 years, so let’s go join in the fun.

Billy carts in the Senior division are permitted vehicles of any size or type provided they are fitted with four wheels, adequate braking, steering and have no motor. In the Junior division the vehicles must also be no more than five feet in length and the wheels no more than 12 inches in diameter. No pneumatic tyres and needle or roller bearings are allowed.

It is now 11:00 am and the elimination heats followed by the semi-finals are about to commence. The final of each division should be conducted around 1:20 pm. Apart from the local entries, 18 Melbourne Grammar School Students are in attendance to assist in the running of the Derby.

The Starter now places the competitors on the starting line. He takes a few steps forward in front of the line of billy carts, turns to face them, raises the flag in his arm, scans the line and each competitor one final time then drops the flag. And they’re racing!

In about four minutes they will cross the finish line at Bolton Street.

The 1957 Eltham Gymkhana made a profit of £309 19s 6d, which was paid in to the Eltham War Memorial Trust fund.

Did you attend or participate in the Billy Cart Derby? Do you have any pictures or stories you would like to share with us? We would love to hear your comments and memories.

Entry form for the Skyline Drive-In “Soap-Box” Derby, to be held along Main Road between Panorama Avenue and Bolton Street, Easter Saturday, 20 April 1957 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
[Note: entry form quotes incorrect date as 19 April, which was a Friday]

References:

  • 1957, “Young Rider to Judge at Show”, The Age, Wednesday, April 17, 1957, p8
  • 1957, Your Entry Form for the Skyline Drive-In “Soap-Box” Derby
  • 1957, Minutes of Meeting of Eltham Show Committee held at La Ronde, 12 April 1957
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Heritage Excursion: Eltham Lower Park Walk and Talk – 1st July 2017

Saturday, 1st July, 2017 at 2.00pm

Eltham Lower Park has played an important part in the history of our area since the early days of European settlement when it was used by local residents as an informal racecourse. Prior to that its location at the junction of the Diamond Creek and the Yarra River made it an
important meeting place for the Wurundjeri people.

Australia Day 1968; Members Macedonian Society hold get together at Lower Eltham Park. (From the collection of EDHS: Donated by George W. Bell)

The park combines formal elements and sporting facilities with remnant bushland that is of environmental significance. It is home to sporting and horse riding clubs, popular play spaces and the Diamond Valley Miniature Railway, which attracts large numbers of visitors.

Black and white photograph of Diamond Valley Miniature Railway with a train at the station in the early 1960s (From the collection of EDHS)

The park will be the venue for our July excursion which will comprise a walk of about 3.5 km around the park and adjacent areas. Along the way we will discuss the history and natural history of the area. The path along the creek and the river provides a pleasant and scenic walk.

The walk will start at 2pm at the Main Road car park at the front of the park. (Melway ref 21 H 10).

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.