Monthly Archives: August 2013

Defending Australia with Braces


Sepia Saturday has suggested that we talk about braces.

Militia Training Sorrento 1928

In the 1920s and 1930s the defence of Australia was entrusted to indivudals like this lovable bunch  seen here under the supervision of the elegant Lieutenant Charles Fricke. From the props I’m thinking it might be a washing up detail.  And of course you couldn’t wash up properly if your trousers kept falling down around your ankles, hence the braces as visible on the chap on the left, high-waisted trousers with the braces attached to buttons sewn on the trousers. This photo is of men who were part of the Australian 7th Battalion. which at the time was centred on Castlemaine in Central Victoria . The photo  was taken at Sorrento on Port Phillip Bay in 1928.

The  Australian Citizen Military Force, known as the Militia,  was established after World War  I and  gradually evolved into a part-time voluntary service. It could only be used within the boundaries of Australia and it’s strength and quality varied with the changing economic conditions in the country.   The training included an annual six day camp but this  was not always possible for some workmen.  Lt. Fricke’s wife referred to the Militia as ‘playing soldiers’.

The braces were also used for holding up a man’s underpants.  Underpants had small loops sewn onto the waistband. First the shirt was tucked into the underpants, then the loops went over the bottom of the braces before they were buttoned onto the trousers.

This structural work was then usually hidden by  a coat, waistcoat or knitted vest.

But braces weren’t the only hold-uppers that a man needed  Sox also had a habit of falling down so if you were aiming to look a bit more presentable and didn’t want your sox bunched up around your ankles you held them up with sock suspenders.

 sock-suspendersIt is said that the sight of a man in his boxer shorts and socks with suspenders ended more than one romantic evening prematurely

I remember when I was about 9 years old holidaying with a childless aunt and uncle at Hastings on the coast of   Westernport   Bay.  They lived in a four room cottage on an orchard.  The weekly trip into town was always an occasion to put on some decent clothes.  Once when I was ready I walked up the hall to my aunt’s bedroom in that very silent way that children have and announced at the door “I’m ready Auntie”. The picture is vivid in my mind of my uncle in shirt, voluminous knee-length boxer shorts, sox and sock suspenders, prancing to a hidden corner of the room as though he was on hot coals saying words that probably meant Get that Child out of Here ! I wish I had a photo of the image in my mind.  Perhaps one day in the future we’ll be able to transfer an image  from brain to computer.  Wouldn’t that be loverly ……. well sometimes.

Apart from trousers and sox there is one more item of men’s clothing that needs a bit of help  – shirt sleeves.  If the sleeves were too long they would hang  down over the hands, or if working in an office with pen and ink they were in danger of being spotted with ink.  Hence the sleeve garter, an elastic band in fabric or metal to wear on the upper arm so that the sleeve length could be adjusted.

Sleeve garters

Sleeve garters

And so the unseen braces, sock suspenders and sleeve garters help produce the well-dressed Capt Fricke at home in Castlemaine in the 1930s.

E3 Cmaine  at Adelphi c1936Napolean may have said that an army marches on its stomach but I say an army washes up in its braces (and perhaps its sleeve garters too).

And for more stories about braces go to the links on Sepia Saturday.

What the children didn’t know

Garden party

 Our theme for  today is groups of three. These three girls were  prizewinners at Mrs Burnell’s  garden Castlemaine, Central Victoria, on Nov 16th, 1940 . It was part of the way into World War II, when raising money for war effort charities such as the Comfort Fund, Red Cross or Bundles for Britain was the usual reason for holding a money-raising event. It was such a patriotic time, not so long after the last coronation and a new king, with the country at war.  Best dresses and hats were brought out  for this special occasion, and the pram reflects the feeling at the time  with its crown, its Australian flags and red, white and blue bunting.. Crepe paper was the standard material for these creations, willingly constructed by parents. .  And the special doll Elizabeth was  named ,of course, after Princess Elizabeth.

A typical pretty, peaceful, family album picture of the time.  But it is what the picture doesn’t show which makes it interesting to me.  When the two girls on the right got out of bed that morning they had probably been primed to wish their mother a happy birthday.  It was her forty-first birthday.  But they would have been blissfully unaware of the reaction of their parents when they opened their morning newspaper of choice, the Argus, from Melbourne, and its news of the war from England. .Two nights before the worst bombing raid on the city of Coventry was carried out.  Over 4000 homes were destroyed and over 500 people killed. Coventry was the home of the  children’s 90  year old maternal great grandmother.  I don’t know long it was to be before the Australian family  found out that she was alive and well and was to live for another two years. Then on the night of the garden party the Royal Air Force  retaliated by bombing Hamburg.

But the children weren’t aware of this.

The Ruins of Coventry Cathedral

The Ruins of Coventry Cathedral

Also on the other side of the world and on that same day the Warsaw ghetto was closed to the outside world by the Nazis. In the previous month the Jewish people of Warsaw, about one third of the total population , had been rounded up by the Nazis and  confined to a small are of the city, These 400,000 people were held behind three metre high walls topped with barbed wire.  And on this fatal day the gap was closed.  Thirty percent  of the population crowded into two and a half percent  of the area.

But the children in Castlemaine weren’t aware of this

chilldren in warsaw ghetto

or of a group of three chikdren in the ghetto in Warsaw,

The garden party was held at the home of Mr and Mrs Burnell, a beautiful home with a large front lawn suitable for all the stalls and competitions that go with a fund-raising garden party.    It was directly across the road from  Thompson’s Englineering  & Pipe Works, established in 1875, where Mr Burnell was the General Manager.  He had won the MC during WorldWar I.  Thompson’s was the most important business in Castlemaine, commonly known as Thompson’s Foundry  and was spread out alongside the main railway line from Melbourne to Bendigo, an ideal position for transporting the heavy goods which  it made, a wide range of steam-engines, boilers, mining machinery, railway equipment and centrifugal pumps. But during World War II they made  artillery and tank guns, marine engines, circulating pumps and other heavy forging and foundry work.

Making guns for war, what  the children didn’t know.

How's this for a crankshaft ?

How’s this for a crankshaft ?

The  eldest girl in the photos remembers the workmen on their pushbikes, four and five abreast, sweeping up and down the Main Street on their way to and from work. With such a large work force the foundry had a piercing whistle  which screamed out at 7.00am, 7.20am and 7.30am. There was no excuse for being late for work and the whole town and beyond had its own non-negotiable alarm clock.

Small towns are such a web of people and places.  The mother of the two girls on the right had originally come to Castlemaine with her parents as from 1923 to 1928 her father worked in the office at Thompson’s and was Bandmaster of Thompson’s Foundry Band. This is the same man who brought a book on Shakespeare with him when he came to Australia.  The man really did have itchy feet and jumped as bandmaster from one small country town to another several times. The Foundry has had its own brass band since  1887 and 24 members of the band served in World War I, six of whom were killed.  I have no figures for the Second World War.

When is the world going to learn .


Thompson's in 1960

Thompson’s in 1960

And for more interesting stories about groups of three, click on the links in Sepia Saturday.


A Bush Picnic

The time is the mid 1920s and the place is Barker’s Creek on the outskirts of Castlemaine in Central Victoria.  That’s in Australia.  And the occasion is the time honoured ceremony of Afternoon Tea, also known as Arvo Tea. teatime

This particular bush afternoon tea is connected with playing tennis.  It has been suggested that the tennis court was at a house called The Hermitage. Looking at the big teapot on the table it has probably been brought down from a nearby house ,with the cups and saucers and food in the suitcase, and probably organized by “Mother” who is blending into the background beside the tree in  her matronly black.

Thought has gone into the picnic  table, made from logs of different sizes overlaid with wire netting.  Wire netting – it’s chicken wire  and hence my SepSat chicken link  .And who could possibly have afternoon tea without a special afternoon tea cloth ?

So who are these  ladies.  They come from the Robertson, Webber and Petherbridge families with Vera Tansey,sitting centre front, artfully displaying her engagement ring. She has come to know the group as she works with one of the Webber girls at the Ball and Welch store

tennis ladies

From left, Marj Robertson, ….Petherbridge. Jessie Webber, Vera Tansey, Marion Webber, Dorrie Robertson., Mary Webber

These are the young ladies in their stockings ,and  some wearing pearls ,who played that day.  Presumably one of them took the tea time photo.  But, look at the “net”.   It’s hard to see but It is there, made from some more of the ever useful chicken wire. It is then topped with twists of some kind of material.  Even the support at the end of the net  looks like a bush makeshift arrangement. I bet they had fun.

Some of the players are wearing what were called closed toe sandals, a canvas sandal styled with a strap across the foot, while the others appear to be wearing the traditional laced-up shoes.  One of the girls having tea is still wearing  her strap sandshoes.  The clothes are the same in the two photos so presumably they were taken on the same day.

And the link between the players ?  Apart from two groups of sisters there is also the “work” link.   Vera Tansey and  Jessie Webber worked at Ball and Welch which  was a draper’s shop which had been established in the Castlemaine area in the 1850s. They later opened an Emporium in Flinders St. Melbourne.

 Two B and W photos

These two photos  are of staff at the Castlemaine Ball and Welch in the 1920s.  There is another  lady in these two photos , a friend of our family, who was connected to  the group of tennis ladies. But  she hadn’t been playing on that special day in Barker’s Creek. Billie  (Wilhemina) Webber  is sitting front right in the left hand photo,  and front centre in the casual dress photo.  She is a cousin of the Webber girls playing tennis.  And guess what .  Last month she celebrated her 107th birthday, well and happy and living in Narranderra, NSW.

 Billie 106 2012

Here is a newspaper photo of Billie, turning 106 in 2012.

And you can join more picnic parties  in the links on Sepia Saturday.


Contraptions on the Farm

Sepia Saturday has asked for a contraption. A contraption is a mechanical device.  That’s a beautiful description of a contraption – mechanical – not a single mention of it being governed by some computerized component.

So here is my contraption, my offer of a rather large mechancial device, which was probably known by the name of a Self-Raking Reaper back in in the 1800s.

OldMachinerySo, what can I tell you.  The photo belongs to a family member and came from someone who was born in 1873 and lived all her life in the Carisbrook area of Central Victoria.  It could have come from her husband’s family, Butler, or her own family, Fricke..

I can date crinolines similar to the one in the photo at least from 1859-1866 in the Carisbrook area.

It’s a horse drawn contraption with the man sitting   behind two horses on what appears to be a sprung seat, holding the reins in his hands.

Man on seatThe workingsThe reaper is behind the driver.  So far the best that I can explain it is that a  cutting edge sticks out low down to the right of the driver positioned so that the material to be cut is pushed against it by the rotating paddles as they  drop down . The cut material  falls onto the platform and the rake pushes regular accumulations to the ground to the left of the driver,  enough at a time to be tied into a sheaf, then several sheaves are stacked together to form a stook.

.Here are some images which bear some resemblance to the above.

Thanks to Flickr we have this John Manny’s Self- Raker and Mower, not exactly the same but viewed from the opposite side we can get a better understanding of how it probably worked. It was available c 1855.

Manny Curved PlatformAnd from  YouTube we can watch a re-enactment of a slightly later Walter Wood reaper

Thanks to Backtracking, her hubby, and their friend Eric for help in deciphering the photo.

And do go to Sepia Saturday for links to more contraptions.


The Cape Otway Lighthouse

Take one lighthouse, a harbour and some boats, stir in Eric the Red and the City of Rayville, and what do you get ?  Answer –   The Cape Otway Lighthouse.

The Cape Otway Lightstation is the oldest, surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia. The light, which has been in continuous operation since 1848, is perched on towering sea cliffs where Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean collide. For thousands of immigrants, including my ancestors, after many months at sea, Cape Otway was their first sight of land after leaving Europe.                          Quoted fromThe Cape Otway Lightstation

Note  Some readers have questioned the use of oldest above so I have added some further notes at the end of the page.

map - from the beach jpgThe closest settlement to the lighthouse was  Krambruk, later known as Apollo Bay, and some of my ancestors settled in the area. The lighthouse became a place to take visitors.   (1)

Then and now 2

From  the family album -the lighthouse in Jan 1948.             And a recent photo (2)

That tall radio mast has now disappeared.

Walway looking NE

Up the tower in Jan 1948        And the same view to the north-east in recent times.(3)

There were many shipwrecks along the Australian coast and the reefs around Cape Otway had their fair share.. As Apollo Bay was a fishing village the fishing boats became used to turning out to help ships in trouble. Some of the shipwrecks were quite notable.
In September 1880 Eric the Red was heading to Melbourne with American exhibits for an International Trade Exhibition in Melbourne when it went down two miles from Cape Otway with the loss of four lives. There was plenty of wreckage from the Eric to be found along the coast which was salvaged and used in the construction of houses and sheds around Apollo Bay, including Milford House (since burnt down in bushfires), which had furniture and fittings from the ship, and the dining room floor made out of its timbers. A ketch named  the Apollo was also built from its timbers and subsequently used in Tasmanian waters.. Waste not, want not !  A relation, Claud Telford, is reputed at the age of fifteen to have walked to Cape Otway from Apollo Bay on 3 or 4 days to help in the recovery. (just oral history). (4)

Another major shipwreck occurred in 1940. Look at the photo of these survivors photographed beside the distinctive foreshore trees at Apollo Bay.  I found in The State Library of Victoria in a collection from the now defunct Argus under Wartime Rescue Photos. Early in the war a German minelayer had laid 40 mines off Cape Otway, as well as at other select places along the Victorian coast (5)

SurvivorsThese men  have the distinction of having been rescued from SS City of Rayville, the first American ship to be sunk in the Second World War, more than a year before Pearl Harbour . Only one life was lost. The lighthouse keeper at Cape Otway saw the flames from the explosion when the ship hit a mine and billiard players in Apollo Bay heard the explosion. Three boats set out from Apollo Bay and found the ship’s crew had been able to take to their lifeboats. These lifeboats with 37 sailors were then towed back to Apollo Bay, arriving at dawn on November 9th, 1940. (6)
The survivors were well looked after. This photo, loaned to me by a Telford relation whose mother is in the photo, shows a mixture of the sailors, hotel staff and others, taken outside the hotel.

Sailors at Apollo Bay
The ship had been laden with Australian lead from Port Pirie and took only 35 minutes to sink.

(1) View of the Lighthouse from the Cape Otway Lightstation site

(2) Thanks  Flickr

(3) As seen on Flickr

(4) Heritage Victoria has a good description of the incident using the Captain’s own words describing the incident.

(5) Photo of survivors from the Argus collection at the State Library of Victoria

(6)  A detailed report on the City of  Rayville incident

There is also an Age report in 2009 about the diver who eventually  discovered the wreckage and a video from Deakin University exploring the wreckage,

I wonder what became of these sailors and their families ?

Further Notes

They started building the Cape Otway Lighthouse in 1846 and the first light shone in 1848.
It was the second lighthouse completed but is the oldest surviving lighthouse.
It was decommissioned in January 1994 after being the longest continuous operating light on the Australian mainland.
It has been replaced by a low powered solar light in front of the original tower

Meanwhile the Macquarie Lighthouse began as  a tripod mounted iron basket which originally burned wood, and later coal.
A sandstone lighthouse was built and began operation in 1818 but the sandstone eventually crumbled and a new lighthouse was built 4 metres away from the first one, lighting up in 1883 when the following photo was taken.

-Macquarie_Lighthouse_old_and_new  1883
Hey, hey, two lighthouses side by side, switch one off, switch the other on, so depriving NSW of that word continuous..

Woud I be right in saying Macquarie can claim the continuous area title and Cape Otway can have the continuous building/light title !
In 1976 the Macquarie Lighthouse was fully automated