Tag Archives: Main Road

Eltham Roll of Honour: Capt. Studley Manston Gahan, 17 May 1941, Tobruk, Libya

GAHAN, Studley Manston, Capt., VX48379
(KIA 17 May 1941, Tobruk, Libya)
Vic. Paybook photograph, taken on enlistment, of VX48379 Captain Studley Manston Gahan (NAA)

Studley Manston Gahan was born in Ivanhoe, 8 December 1913, the son of Walter Ernest and Alice Miriam Gahan. By 1924, the family had moved to “Derril,” Eltham, on the western side of Main Road near the present-day site of Shillinglaw Cottage where they remained till about 1960 when Walter died. The house was demolished in 1968 during the widening of Main Road.

Gahan home, ‘Derril,’ (left) c. 1905 and (right) March 1968 immediately prior to demolition

Educated at Eltham High School and Melbourne Grammar, in April 1937 Studley was engaged to Kathleen Elsie (Kitty), daughter of Lieut. Colonel and Mrs C.A. Mitchell of Cowra Avenue, Mildura. Studley was employed by the Bank of New South Wales, stationed previously at Preston, Mildura and Melbourne offices. He was living at Caulfield when he enlisted 16 December 1936 and allocated to the 57/60 Battalion. He received a commission as Lieutenant on 15 September 1937. On 21 April 1938 he and Kitty married at Melbourne Grammar School Chapel. He was promoted to Captain, 28 March 1940.

On 1 August 1940 Studley was posted to the 2/23 Battalion, A.I.F., embarking 16 November 1940 per Strathmore for the Middle East. The Battalion arrived in Egypt mid-December where it was reassigned from the 7th Division to the 9th Division in early 1941. Shortly after they were sent to Cyrenaica in Libya. A German-Italian offensive led by the ‘Desert Fox’, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel of the German Wehrmacht drove the forces to the port of Tobruk where the 2/23 formed part of the garrison during the Siege of Tobruk, which lasted 241 days from April 10. These men were nicknamed by Rommel as the ‘Desert Rats of Tobruk’, something that was to become a source of pride amongst the Australians in their defiance of the German military might. A policy of ‘making the besiegers the besieged’ involved undertaking numerous and aggressive raids into German lines by small groups of men. On May 17, Studley led 12 men on such a raid on a German defensive outpost (Scates 2013). War Diary records note Gahan was last seen at 07.30 hours. Six of his men were wounded but he continued to push on to the next position. He was never seen again. On May 28, 1941, Studley was reported ‘Missing’ as of May 17th. On 9 June, his status was revised to ‘Missing Believed Prisoner’ and on May 3rd, to ‘Killed in Action’. His body was never recovered.

Studley’s younger brother Neil followed him into banking and the Army. Lt. Gahan departed Australia with 2/29 Australian Infantry Battalion for the Malayan campaign. Having initially been reported missing, he rejoined his unit just two days before Singapore fell.  He became a prisoner of war of the Japanese, alongside many other members of the 2/29 and was interned at Changi and sent to work on the Burma-Thai Railway as part of “F Force”. Neil survived the war and retuned to Australia, his final rank, Captain, like brother Studley.

Scates (2013) writes of Kitty Gahan’s efforts to be heard as a war widow. She was one of a select few to be invited to travel after persistent requests on behalf of the War Widows Guild to be part of the official Australian party to attend the dedication of the War Graves Commission cemetery at El Alamein, Egypt, in 1954. He also observes that while standing beside a grave to secure that finality of loss had no equal, from the 1940s, memorial funds were generally put towards useful and enduring purposes and less towards sponsoring pilgrimages, a more common demand after the Great War.

The State Library of Victoria holds the Papers of Kathleen Gahan, 1929-1982, which includes a scrapbook of correspondence, photographs, postcards, press cuttings and other ephemera relating to Kitty Gahan’s visit. Scates describes Kitty’s pilgrimage and this scrapbook of poignant material, not just as a souvenir, but as Kitty’s own personal memorial to her husband. The final image in the scrapbook being Studley’s name, etched in cool white stone in the desert, on a panel to the missing.

The following notices were published in The Age newspaper in memory of Studley: –

The Age, Saturday, 9 May 1942, p2

  • GAHAN. – Captain Studley Manston Gahan, killed in action May 17, 1941, dearly loved husband of Kitty.
  • GAHAN. – Captain Studley Manston Gahan, VX48379, killed in action May 17, 1941, beloved eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Gahan, of Derril, Eltham, and brother of Neil (2nd A.I.F.), Lorrainer, Peter, and Kevin, aged 27 years.

The Argus, Wednesday, 17 May 1944, p2

  • GAHAN. – In proud and loving remembrance of Captain Studley Manston Gahan, 2/23rd Batt., who made the supreme sacrifice at Tobruk on May 17, 1941.

The Argus, Wednesday, 17 May 1946, p2

  • GAHAN. – In fond and loving memory of Captain Studley Manston Gahan, 2/23rd Batt., who gave his life at Tobruk on May 17, 1941. – At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember.

The Argus, Wednesday, 17 May 1950, p11

  • GAHAN. – In loving memory of Captain Studley Manston Gahan, and comrades of B Coy., 2/23rd Battalion., who made the supreme sacrifice, May 17, 1941, Tobruk.

Studley is commemorated on Column 91, Alamein Memorial, Egypt.

GAHAN, Capt. STUDLEY MANSTON, VX.48379. A.I.F.
2/23 Bn, Australian Infantry.
17th May 1941. Age 27.
Son of Walter Ernest and Alice Miriam Gahan; husband of Kathleen Elsie Gahan, of St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia.

◊         ◊        ◊

LEST WE FORGET

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

ROLL OF HONOUR
1914-1918
  • Sgt. George Williams
  • Sgt. Reginald E. Sims
  • L/Cpl. George Moore
  • L/Cpl. Henry G. Philips
  • L/Cpl. John C. Bell
  • Pte. Geoffrey Grant
  • Pte. George Sommerville
  • Pte. George Brown
  • Pte. John Brown
  • Pte. William Bond
  • Pte. Thomas Cameron
  • Pte. Alfred Cassells
  • Pte. Robert Meadows
  • Pte. Walter Mosley
  • Pte. James Pryor
  • Pte. William Prior
  • Pte. Edward Barrett
  • Pte. William Crellin
  • Pte. Henry Norman
  • Pte. Edward Bird
  • Pte. Arthur Brown
  • Pte. Roslyn Stevens
  • Pte. Herbert Creed
  • Pte. Charles Bromfield
  • Pte. Kenneth Sharp
  • Pte. Henry McAlary
1939-1945
  • Capt. S.M. Gahan
  • Plt. Off. D. Rutter
  • Flt. Off. D.H. Rutter
  • Flt. Sgt. S.M. Mclean
  • Flt. Sgt. L. Ingram
  • Sgt. C.D. Dunlop
  • Cpl. T. Feldbauer
  • Cpl. A.C. Clerke
  • Spr. G.E. Castledine
  • Pte. J. Butherway
  • Pte. K.F. Field

Soldiers of the Shire of Eltham remembered on the Eltham Roll of Honour for their supreme sacrifice; located in the Eltham War Memorial Hall

References
#VictoriaRemembers   #VPDay75
The Eltham Roll of Honour: Second World War

Read the stories of all the men from the Shire of Eltham who sacrificed their lives in the Second World War and to whom the Eltham War Memorial is dedicated.

ThrowbackThursday: Eltham Big Star Food Centre, Main Road, 1966

Eltham Big Star Food Centre on Main Road, c.1966 (Photo: poss. Ray Staff; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

#ThrowbackThursday – In February 1965, Staffs Railway Store, the oldest business premises in the Eltham shopping district was demolished. Formerly a self-service grocery, restaurant and electrical repair shop, the building for many years housed Eltham’s only ‘family’ grocer and feed store. Earlier it had appeared to have been the town’s bakery. The building had been purchased in late March 1939 by Mr Eric N. Staff. At the time of E.N. Staff’s purchase there were huge bakers’ ovens located at the rear and the building also had a well and four toilets for employees.

When the ‘pictures’ came to Eltham with the opening of the Eltham Public Hall across the road in 1941, Mr E.N. Staff extended the business and opened a milk bar and sweet shop. Further extensions re-established the tea rooms of days gone by. Mr E.N. Staff conducted business for about 15 years before handing over the reins to his son, Ray Staff.

When his son Ray took over, the milk bar and tea rooms were closed for several years but the milk bar and was later re-opened and  subsequently became a greengrocers and later again, a restaurant. The tea rooms section was converted to an electrical repair shop about 1955.

Electoral Roll records for 1967 record Raymond Charles Staff at 929 Main Road, Eltham, grocer, and in 1968 at Lot 4, Hillcrest Avenue, Eltham, taxi truck operator. So it would appear that Ray continued to run the business for approximately two years after the original store was demolished and a new supermarket was built.

Today, 929 Main Road is the Nongkhai Thai Restaurant and is precisely where the original Staffs store stood. Even though the facade has been modified at eye level with new larger windows, the upper facade is identical to that of the new Eltham Big Star Food Centre of 1965/66.

929 Main Road Eltham (Google Streetview August 2019)

But how did the original building, the oldest premises in the 1965 era shopping centre come about? Well let us tell you about a man named Jed . . . well, Luther actually, so let us travel back further in time to 1902; August 12th to be precise, to the Eltham Courthouse.

Appearing before T. Smallman, Esq,. Police Magistrate, and Messrs. W. Duncan and W.J. Taylor, Justices of the Peace is Luther Haley, baker. Wilfred Henry Johnston, by his agent Stanley Ernest Elder has applied for a warrant of ejectment under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1890 against Luther Haley from the bakery premises at the corner of Main Road and York Street.

General Store and Bakery, cnr Main Road and York Street, c.1902. Pictured are most likely Mrs Burgoyne (given her age compared with Mrs Haley) and three of her children shortly after taking possession. Note the “Summer Drinks” sign on the side of the building, possibly a legacy of Luther Haley’s time operating the business. (Photo: unknown; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

From the evidence presented we hear that Mrs Burgoyne of Eltham had purchased the property some months earlier from Mr Johnston, which consists of a store and bakery establishment at Eltham occupied by Mr. Luther Haley, and whose lease expired some little time back, and up to the present time, Mr. Haley was not prepared to leave. He informs the court that he is unable to secure at Eltham a suitable house in which to carry on his business, but he is now building a place near the railway station which he expects to be done in about three weeks time, and he is then prepared to give up possession of the premises he now occupies.

Mr Smallman informs the defendant, Luther Haley, that he will have to quit the premises in three weeks from the present date, and that a warrant of ejectment would be issued. However he also informs Mr Haley that he would order the warrant to lie in the office for three weeks from that date.

The premises under construction refered to by Luther Haley in court were situated on the western side of Main Road, near the railway station slightly opposite present day Arthur Street. It was opened around September 1902 as a General Store, Bakery and Tea Rooms.

Eltham, Main Road near station, c.1904.  Looking north towards Research along Main Road near the intersection with Dudley Street. Haley’s General Store on left promoting refreshments and summer drinks. With the opening of the railway to Eltham in 1902, Melbourne residents would regularly enjoy a Sunday excursion journey on the train to Eltham for a day’s outing to the countryside. (Photo: poss. Tom Prior; Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photo Collection No. 610 in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

This was the original building in the present day shopping precinct. At the time the only thing nearby was the railway station. Luther Haley’s business appeared to prosper and he would have catered to not only the locals abut also day visitors by train on Sundays coming up from Melbourne, offering fresh baked produce, tea rooms and summer drinks.  The fields across Main Road running between present day Arthur Street and Luck Street were known as Haley’s Paddock and at times were used for community festivities and picnics. A newspaper report on the annual State schools picnic held at Haley’s Paddock on March 11, 1904 described it as “quite close to the railway station, and is quite capable of holding comfortably 10,000 people. With its ample shade shade and hilly surroundings, it is an ideal place for any gathering.” Unfortunately for Luther, just two months earlier his son, Leslie, aged 12 years had gone with a companion to bathe in the Diamond Creek and had accidentally drowned. But that’s another story.

Possibly the annual State schools picnic held by the Board of Advice at Haley’s Paddock near Eltham railway station on 11 March, 1904. (Photo: Believed taken by Tom Prior, Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection, No. 612 in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

Luther Haley successfully ran his general store, bakery and tea rooms until 1917 when he and his family departed the district and moved to Westgarth Street in Northcote where he changed careers and became a publisher.

Lloyd’s Store, Main Road, Eltham, c.1917-c.Feb 1920 (Photo: edited, from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society; original, State Library of Victoria)

It was then taken over by Hannah Lloyd and became known as Lloyd’s Railway General Store from 1917 to 1920. From then it had a succession of owners, one as short as two months until March 31, 1939 when the Grocery Business formerly carried on by Mr. T.K. White of Eltham for the previous eight years was purchased by Mr Eric N. Staff of Research and became known as E.N. Staff’s Railway Store.

The ownership timeline for the store is as follows:

  • Luther Haley Sep 1902-1917
  • Hannah Lloyd 1917-c.Feb 1920
  • Messrs J.R. & N.E. Lee 1920-Sep 1922
  • A. & E. Copeland Sep 1922-Sep 1925
  • Mr Price Sep 1925-Nov 1925
  • Mr Warren  Nov 1925?-Nov 1926
  • A.W.J. Edwards Nov 1926-1931
  • T.K. White 1931-Mar 1939
  • Eric Staff Apr 1939-c.1954
  • Ray Staff c.1954-Feb 1965 then demolished
  • Ray Staff Eltham Big Star Food Centre c.1965-1967

If anyone has old photos of Staffs store or the shopping district, particularly in the 1930s through 1960s then we would love to hear from you. Perhaps you might consider donating them to the Eltham District Historical Society or if you prefer, we could borrow them and scan them at archival quality and  then return them along with a digital copy.

References

ELTHAM COURT OF PETTY SESSIONS. (1902, August 15). Evelyn Observer, and South and East Bourke Record (Vic. : 1882 – 1902), p. 5 (MORNING.). Retrieved April 16, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64029690

STATE SCHOOLS’ PICNIC. (1904, March 19). Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165173087

ACCIDENTALLY DROWNED. (1904, January 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 7. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10593935

ELTHAM (1939, March 31). Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), p. 2. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56963085

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

 

 

ThrowbackThursday: Station Master’s House, Eltham Railway Station, 21 August 1983

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to 21 August 1983 and the access road to the Eltham Railway Station (present day St Laurence Lane). We are standing near the Post Office (now Eltham Newsagency) and the Country Art Store (now Platform 3095) looking north east in the direction of Pryor Street. In the distance behind the trees and across the road we can see the State Bank of Victoria (now Westpac) and the Commonwealth Bank on the opposite corner of Pryor Street. Right in front of us is the former Eltham Station Master’s house which is situated in what is the present day short term car park and bus bay. The most tangible evidence of what remains is the spotted gum standing in front of the house to our right.

Station Master’s House, Eltham Railway Station, 21 August 1983. The Commonwealth Bank on the corner of Pryor Street and Main Road can be seen past the Spotted Gum that remains today in what is now the short term car park and bus bay (Photo: George Coop; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
View from St Laurence Lane of the short term car park and bus bay at Eltham Railway Station. The only link to the former Eltham Station Master’s house is the Spotted Gum (Google Street View April 2018)
Station Master’s House, Eltham Railway Station, 21 August 1983. The State Bank of Victoria can be seen in the distance across Main Road (Photo: George Coop; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

 

William Bravery Andrew (1842-1907)

William Bravery Andrew, born in England, came to Melbourne in 1842 and settled in Brighton, where he became acquainted with Henry Dendy. He moved to Eltham in the 1850s and opened a produce store on “Policeman’s Hill”, at the corner of Maria Street (now Main Road) and Franklin Street. He took a lively interest in the public affairs of the town and district, and with his wife Ellen continued to run the store for some fifty years. He died in 1907 and is buried with his wife in Eltham Cemetery.

W.B. Andrew’s Corn Store, cnr Maria (Main Road) and Franklin streets. The site is now occupied by Cafe Zen Den.

His son Ernest James Andrew took over the business, which became a general store and news agency. Later, it shifted to the main Eltham shopping centre as a combined news agency and haberdashery/clothing shop. Ernie too was married to an Ellen and they lived in Arthur Street at so-called “Cook’s Cottage” (due to its resemblance to Captain Cook’s Cottage in the Fitzroy Gardens). He was an Eltham Shire Councillor between 1920 and 1950 and was Shire President for a time. Andrew House at Eltham High School and Andrew Oval in Diamond Street, Eltham are named after him. Ernie died in 1950 and is buried with Ellen in the Eltham Cemetery.

The original weatherboard building at the corner of Franklin Street is long gone and was replaced by a brick structure, which is now a cafe called Zen Den.

Grave of William Bravery Andrew (1842-1907) and his wife, Ellen (d.1906), Eltham Cemetery, c.2002

ThrowbackThursday: Gala Opening Ball,New Public Hall, Eltham, November 21st, 1941

Photo: Eltham Hall (Artist’s impression); Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser, 28 November, 1941,  p. 3.

Introductory Card, Gala Opening Ball, New Public Hall, Eltham, Friday 21st November, 1941 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back 77 years to November 21, 1941. Our boys have been fighting in Europe and the Middle East for almost two years now and our district has suffered losses. The headlines in today’s Argus describe a terrific attack by the RAF on posts in Libya in which our airmen assisted.   In just 16 days the Japanese will launch a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, devastating the US Navy Fleet, and catapulting us into the Pacific War, right on our very doorstep.

It is just before 8:30 p.m., the sun having set just over an hour ago. A recent Gallop poll shows people are in favour of daylight saving time two to one but we will have to wait another year till it is introduced.  We have gathered in Arthur Street at the corner with Maria Street, near the base of the steps leading up to the swanky new Eltham Public Hall and Shire Office. The lights at the top of the steps bask us in their glow. It is overcast and 58 degrees (14°C), down from the maximum of 64 (18°C) at 3 p.m.. A few showers fell in the morning but it is dry now and predicted to be a fine day tomorrow, which is good as we have a big night ahead for us. For we are about to walk up the steps and enter into the new hall for the first time to attend the Gala Opening Ball which commences in just a few minutes, finishing in the wee hours of the morning. This is going to be a grand event; the official ceremony commences at 10:30 p.m.. Everyone is dressed to the nines and the air is full of excited chatter.

Shire of Eltham Office and Hall, cnr Main Road and Arthur Street, Eltham, c.1960 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

The external walls of the building are constructed with Templestowe bricks which were selected for use because of their comparatively low initial cost and because such a brick facing reduces maintenance cost to a minimum.

In a few weeks the new Shire Offices will also be ready for occupation, and for the first time since Eltham was created a Shire in 1871, its municipal business will be conducted in surroundings befitting its dignity.

The combined structure of the Hall and Offices provide Eltham with a focal point for development, and is a fine building setting an example for future improvements to the township.

The design affords convenient  and appropriate entrances to both the public hall and the Council Chambers befitting their importance whilst achieving a satisfactory linking up of the two buildings.

The Municipal Offices consist of Council Chamber, general office, rate collector’s office, secretary’s office, engineer’s office and store room. They have been designed to provide for an additional storey when warranted by future development.

The entrance hall and Council Chamber are panelled with specially selected ribbon grained Queensland walnut with all other walls sand finished internally. A feature of the Council Chamber is a fine open fire place built of Ballarat tapestry bricks. The windows are of steel frames with a section glazed with broad reeded glass for privacy.

The whole building has been roofed with “Fibrolite” which will act as an insulator and will afford effective protection against the effects of condensation on the ceilings. Internally and externally, a pleasing and lasting effect has been achieved by the restrained use of color in pastel shades.

The site upon which the buildings stand will lend itself to a satisfactory garden treatment and development, and its elevation and central position in the Town of Eltham renders it a landmark around which the shire should maintain its recent growth and development.

The hall section of the building comprises a main hall, stage, two dressing rooms, kitchen, two cloakrooms and foyer. To provide for small meetings, the men’s cloak room and foyer are divided by means of folding doors.

The kitchen is fitted out with ample cupboarding, copper, stove and power points and is insulated with fibrolite wall board.

A specially constructed brick and concrete bio cabin has been constructed above the foyer. Flush walnut veneer polished doors have been used throughout.

Right on 8:30 the doors swing open and we are embraced by the surge of people.

Passing through the doors we immediately notice how clean and bright it appears with its white walls, and Tasmanian Oak hardwood floors; not a nail in sight thanks to the secret-nail technique stipulated in the design. The interior treatment of the main hall consists of a “Masonite” dado 4ft. 6in. high above which are fibrous plaster walls and a coved fibrous plaster ceiling.

Indirect artificial lighting has been installed by the introduction of scientifically designed fibrous plaster dome reflectors which are first illuminated by metal suspension electric light fittings. These lights are supplemented by wall bracket lights. The atmosphere created adds an element of glamour in addition to the many beautiful gowns worn by the ladies and smartly dressed men.

The acoustics have been catered for through the proportions of the building in conjunction with the elimination of inside wall piers and the use of “Perfotile” sound absorbing tile wall treatment. About 300 people are already in attendance yet conversation is easy to hear.

The stage is massed with flowers and shrubs carefully arranged by Mr. W. Allen; contrasting with the striking red, white and blue of the Union Jack draped at the back. A large bowl of delphiniums sits in front of the footlights.

Four years earlier, in September 1937, a group of ladies met to form a Ladies’ Committee to assist the General Committee in raising funds for the hall. Those present were Mrs Allen, Mrs Bowman, Mrs Hickey, Mrs Rains, Mrs Boake and Mrs Lyon. As there were only six present, they elected to remain in the interim as a Social Committee to arrange catering, etc., for the two dances that had been arranged for September 29th and October 30th of that year. Both those dances proved a great success. Mrs McAdie joined the committee in October. The Ladies’ Committee was officially formed at a combined meeting of the General and Ladies’ committees held on April 6th, 1938. Mrs Boake agreed to be President, Mrs Lyon as Secretary and Mrs Rains as Assistant Secretary. Other members included Mrs Browne, Mrs Forde, Mrs Jarrold, Mrs Bradbury and Mrs Taylor.

By 1941 their numbers had grown to include Matron Wilson, and Mesdames Andrew, Brinkotter, Cloney, Walker, Parsons, Crick,  Ballenger, Travena, Hurst, Shields and Le Brocq . A number of these ladies who will eventually move on and become part of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Eltham War Memorial Trust, have been working tirelessly organising events and raising much needed funds to arrive at this special occasion today.

As we take in the splendid surroundings we overhear many complimentary remarks about the wonderful job achieved by the members of the Hall Committee and the Ladies’ Committee which had supported the General Committee over many years. Plenty of refreshments are available; there are tables laden with cakes and other treats as well as another table of cups and saucers in a Blue Willow design for those wishing to partake of a cup of tea.

At 10:30pm there is a ringing of spoons on glasses. The official opening ceremony by the Hon. W.H. Everard, M.L.A. is about to commence.

Councillor A. Brinkkotter, secretary of the Hall Committee, introduces Mr. W. Hickey, the president, and in doing so remarks that Eltham has succeeded, after many long years of fighting, in erecting a new hall and civic centre which had been badly needed.
Mr. Hickey says that although for a long time it had looked as though the erection of the building would be postponed indefinitely, at last the new hall was completed.

“It took a long time to convince the Council of the necessity for a new hall and civic centre in Eltham,” he says. “The councillors, in looking after the interests of all sections of the rate payers, could not see that such a move was necessary. But finally the Hall Committee proved that such a move was not only advisable, but would prove a financial asset to the Shire.”

“This committee had to put down £1,500 in cash before the work on the hall began, and to enable the committee to do this, residents loaned them money free of interest for 12 months. In addition the committee has guaranteed to pay the Council £100 a year for the next ten years.”

“The borrowed money has to be repaid to the lenders, and I hope that the public will realise this and support the functions which have been and will be arranged by the Hall Committee to enable them to return the money as soon, as possible.”

Councillor E. Andrew, vice-president of the Hall Committee, extends a welcome to visiting councillors from Heidelberg, and adds that he is proud to be present on such an auspicious occasion. The Hall Committee has worked for years to provide the town with such an asset, and deserved the success which had crowned their efforts.

Mr. G. L. Chandler, M.L.C., extends his own congratulations to those who had been instrumental in having such a fine hall built. Of its kind, he adds, it is the best hall in which he has ever been.

“It speaks volumes for those people who have worked for many years for the hall. I know of no other place where the residents have handed over £1,500 for the erection of a hall and guaranteed the balance of the cost. You will always find the few who say ‘Time is not opportune.’ In these days you have to make your opportunities.”

“Before any town can advance, a civic spirit must exist in the residents, and I hope the people will support the Hall Committee which has the interests of this district at heart.”

The gathered are disappointed to learn from the Shire Secretary, Mr. C.L. Tingate, that the Shire President (Councilor Price) has been kept away due to illness. Mr. Tingate recalls the fire which destroyed the old Shire Offices at Kangaroo Ground in 1934 and the opposition which then existed to the Shire Offices being transferred to Eltham.

“Had it not been that this opposition was overcome, it is doubtful if we would have been celebrating this occasion tonight. This hall is the result of years of work by a committee which has had the desire and has used every endeavour to make the town go ahead.”

Councillor Braid tells the the assembled gathering that efforts had been made for years to get Shire Offices and a Hall in Eltham, and it was only when the present committee had made a concerted effort and a wonderful offer to the Council, that their object had been achieved.

“The South Riding Councillors have been trying to avoid increasing the rate, and they have managed to erect the Shire Offices without any increase,” he says.

And now it is time for Mr. Everard to speak. Laughter erupts when he recalls that a few years ago when talking to Councillor Braid, who was then President of the Shire, he had said “I’m sick and tired of hearing the talk about your new hall. I’ll be dead and buried before there is a new hall here!”

Mr. Everard also says that he considered it was due to the efforts of six Eltham people that he was first returned to Parliament.

“A meeting was called in the old hall to discuss my campaign, and although the weather was bad and I was late, this little group waited for me and began preparations which ultimately resulted in my election to represent the district.”

Mr. Everard then declares the hall open and expresses hope that “this red letter day for Eltham” will live long in the memories of those present.

Councillor Brinkkotter returns to the stage and comments on the wonderful work done by the members of the Hall Committee in the last two weeks, fixing up the seats – all armchairs – placed around the walls of the hall. He also expresses thanks to the Ladies’ Committee for its untiring efforts in support of the Hall Committee, and on behalf of the committee he thanks the Council, the architect (A. K. Lines and MacFarlane of 440 Little Collins Street and Greensborough), the contractor (A. E. Smart of Thomastown) and all the men who had worked on the building, along with the public who had so generously assisted with the expense.

And with the speeches completed, the band starts playing again and the floor becomes alive with couples dancing while others retire to the lounge chairs.

Those present include: Mr. and Mrs. D. Lyon, Mr. and Mrs. W. Walker, Mr. and Mrs. Collis, Mr. and Mrs. H. Shields, Mr. and Mrs. W. Allen, Mr. and Mrs. J. Crick, Mr. and Mrs. E. Staff, Mr. and Mrs. J. Ryan, Mr. and Mrs. J. Ballenger, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, Mr. and Mrs. G. LeBrocq, Mr. and Mrs. J. Kent, Mr. and Mrs. D. McAdie, Mr. and Mrs. S. Browne, Mr. and Mrs. McNeill, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. G. J. Gillberg, Mr. and Mrs. Bryan, Mr. and Mrs. J. Bell. Mr. and Mrs. A. Parsons. Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Rains, Mr. and Mrs. L. Jarrold, Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson, Mr. and Mrs. J. N. Burgoyne, Mr. and Mrs. C. Hurst, Mr. and Mrs. J. Cresp, Mr. and Mrs. S. Kirkland, Mr. and Mrs. A. Schulz, Mr. and Mrs. Bryce jnr., Mr. and Matron Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Sinclair, Mr. and Mrs. W. Squire, Mr. and Mrs. L. Iredale, Mr. and Mrs. H. Williams, Mr. and Mrs. W. Adlington.

Mr. and Mrs. C. L. Tingate (representing the Shire President), Councillor and Mrs. E. Andrew, Councillor and Mrs. A. J. Braid, Councillor and Mrs. A. Brinkkotter, Councillor and Mrs. W. Clinton, Councillor and Mrs. J. L. Ryan, Councillor and Miss Lines.

The Hon. G. L. Chandler, M.L.C. and Mrs. Chandler, Mr. W. H. Everard, M.L.A.

Mesdames E. M. Boake, Allen, Pennefather, Northmore and Johnston.

Misses Beryl Northmore, Adele Peacock, Jean Glasgow, Olwyn Bryan, Mona Baker, Muriel Butler, Dorothy Butler, June Rains, I. Dudfield, Brennan, Scott, E. Bradford, Allen, S. J. Taylor, B. Simpson, A. Brookes, Somerville, Finlay, D. LaFranz, O. Parsons, E. Doney, I. Bond.

Messrs. R. Taylor, W. Boake, H. A. Davies, R. Marks, D. and J. Glasgow, Carrucan, Leo and Lou Brennan, A. Lowerson, G. Burges; K. Browne, L. Bryan, R. Wigley, L. Doney, W. North-more (R.A.A.F.), V. McColl, R. Finlay, Bryce, sen., Maclurkin, A. Smart, C. Brodie, and Dr. Bradbury.

References:

  • 1941 ‘CIVIC OPENING TONIGHT-LANDMARK IN ELTHAM HISTORY’, Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser (Vic. : 1940 – 1942), 21 November, p. 3. , viewed 15 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57495599
  • 1941 ‘OFFICIAL OPENING OF NEW CIVIC CENTRE’, Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser (Vic. : 1940 – 1942), 28 November, p. 3. , viewed 15 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57495679
  • 1941 ‘BIG MAJORITY FOR DAYLIGHT SAVING’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 13 November, p. 8. , viewed 18 Nov 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245362845
  • 1937 Formation of Eltham Public Hall Ladies Committee, 21 September 1937
  • 1940-1944 Minutes 14 March 1940 to 4 May 1944,Eltham Public Hall Ladies Committee

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

ThrowbackThursday: Ashton’s Circus the world’s greatest! c.1958

#ThrowbackThursday – Roll up! Roll up! Come on down to Bremner’s Flat and Ashton’s Circus, the world’s greatest!

Ashton’s Circus set up in Bremner’s Flat (Wingrove Park), Main Road, Eltham, c.1958. Viewed from Grace Mitchell’s shop in Mount Pleasant Road. ( Photo: Grace Mitchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Today we time travel back to Bremner’s Flat, circa 1958 where Ashton’s Circus and Zoo have set up their Big Top. A wonderful cast of peerless performers await to entertain us with daring Trapeze Artists, Aerialists and High Wire Acts that will hold you spellbound! We will have the opportunity to see Ashton’s herd of elephants from the jungles of Malaya; a thrilling rodeo of trained horses and riders; Ashton’s Clowns, clearly the world’s funniest and Ashton’s famous circus – the most popular on the road today! Look out for Captain Shultz (late of Barnum and Bailey, the greatest show in America) and The Cage of Death – he works 10 lions and lionesses all in one cage; 3 Nacchines, Continental Clowns; the famous Flying Ashtons; Top-of-the-Tent marvels – Miss Lorraine, Leo St. Leon, brilliant equestrian – Phillis & Douglas Ashton, Miss Marie Sanderson, Mervyn Ashton and more. It’s a show not to be missed.

Ashton’s Circus set up in Bremner’s Flat (Wingrove Park), Main Road, Eltham, c.1958. Viewed from Grace Mitchell’s shop in Mount Pleasant Road. ( Photo: Grace Mitchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

 

Notes:

  • Bremner’s Flat was the original name given to the reserve located opposite the intersection of Mount Pleasant Road and Main Road, Eltham. It was renamed to Wingrove Park circa 1970.
  • According to the National Library of Australia; Ashton’s Circus was founded in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1847 by Thomas Mollor, and acquired in February 1850 by James Henry Ashton, a man schooled in the tradition of English circus and who had experienced the hard times of the nineteenth century. The circus operated as the Royal Amphitheatre or Royal Circus. When founder James Henry Ashton died in 1889, his son Fred, then aged 22, inherited the circus. The circus continued to be handed down throughout the family, and today it is run by the 6th generation of Ashtons, Michelle and Joseph and their sons, Jordan and Merrik. As Joseph had founded ‘Circus Joseph Ashton’ in 1998 prior to his grandfather’s retirement in 2000, it was decided to apply this name to the family’s main circus reflecting the current state of ownership and operations. The prior name of “Ashton’s Circus” was retired.
  • Circus acts referenced from various newspaper advertisements of the time accessed through the National Library of Australia’s website, Trove

 

ThrowbackThursday: Main Road Bridge, Lower Plenty, 1966

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to September 1966 to the boundary of the Shire of Eltham and the City of Heidelberg on the Plenty River and the construction site of the new Lower Plenty Bridge. Work is well under way preparing for the provision of utility services and the roadway; the concrete piers and prefabricated steel and concrete girders having been put in place the month before. The bridge was completed and open for use by November 1966. It was subsequently duplicated along with Main Road in 1970.

Construction of the new Main Road Bridge, Lower Plenty, c.August 1966. The new Lower Plenty Hotel in background. ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Construction of new Main Road Bridge, Lower Plenty, c.August 1966 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Construction of new Main Road Bridge, Lower Plenty, c.August 1966 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
New Main Road Bridge, Lower Plenty, November 1966 ( from the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection, No. 802, held in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory and Yarra Plenty Regional Library (Eltham Library) @YarraPlentyRegionalLibrary @threalelthamlibrary )

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)