#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.
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.
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.
Photo: Eltham Hall (Artist’s impression); Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser, 28 November, 1941, p. 3.
#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.
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.
#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.
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.
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 – Roll up! Roll up! Come on down to Bremner’s Flat and Ashton’s Circus, the world’s greatest!
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.
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 – 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.
#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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia