Here is a picture of three men on horseback. The one on the right is Frederick William Fricke (1870-1949). and towards the end of this post he will have a little trouble with a flooded river. I will just call him Fred. Why is he on horseback ? Let me tell you something about him.
Fred was brought up on a farm in Central Victoria. Whereas two older brothers stayed on the land he went into the Victorian Public Service and started off on the bottom rung, Then in 1913 he and two others were appointed by the Government to be the initial members of the Country Roads Board. This had been set up to identify the arterial roads in Victoria, to plan their construction and maintenance, a strong central authority to ensure consistent standards across the state.
So off they set, by horseback and by car, to inspect Victoria. The three of them gradually endorsed construction contracts and by 1917 had produced a map of Victoria identifying what they considered to be the necessary arterial and main roads.
As time went on there were few changes in the membership of the board. Originally Calder, McCormack and Fricke in 1913, by 1935 McCormack had become the Chairman with members Fricke and Calloway. Fricke was to become Chairman in 1938.
So at the beginning of May in 1935 it was raining. At Warburton the Yarra River was rising rapidly, isolating the small township, flooding houses and driving the residents to higher ground. The river rose 10 feet in 12 hours and washed away two bridges above the town. . Downstream through Melbourne the river had been rising at 4 inches per hour.and in East Kew the river was nearly a mile wide.
So what were the three CRB members doing in Warbuton. Two days after the flooding started they were in Warburton to inspect the damage done to roads and bridges. Fred, Chairman McCormack and two locals were crossing the river on a temporary punt at Hazelwood Road, between Warburton and East Warburton. The rope which was used to pull the punt back and forwards became slack and suddenly the floodwaters poured over the upstream side of the punt, drenching the occupants. The punt was bouyed with empty oil drums and fortunately the rope didn’t break so that they were able to recover and pull the punt to the far side, with nothing worse than a fright and a soaking. A walk back towards Warburton brought our bedraggled men to a footbridge over the river and they were able to make their way to the comfort of the Warburton Chalet where they spent the night before returning home the next day.
Q: Were they initially expecting to spend the night and so had a suitcase with a change of clothes or did they have to spend the night wrapped up in towels while their clothes dried. And would a man in 1935 pack a spare suit in his suitcase if he was only going away for the night. Quite puzzling !
And before you wander off to view some other flood stories on Sepia Saturday, a few pictures of and early Warbuton, overlooked by the Donna Buang Range. There is a pause button, lower central, on each photo, if you want to inspect any photo more closely.