Monthly Archives: March 2014

Fred and the Incident of the Flooded River

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.

1913 on horseback in Gippsland.  Fred is on the right.

1913 on horseback in Gippsland.    Fred is on the right.

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.

Inspecting the remote Dargo Road in a chauffeur driven car, also in 1913.

Inspecting the remote Dargo Road in a chauffeur driven car, also in 1913.

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.

Athe 1917 Coutry Roads Board Map of Victoria identifying the shires, the main roads and the railways.

The 1917 Country Roads Board Map of Victoria identifying the shires, the main roads and the railways.

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.

Warburton Chalet

Warburton Chalet

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.

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A Dog sitting on a Tuckerbox

On a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney in the Christmas holidays of 1957 we passed by this monument 5 miles from the town of Gundagai which is on the Murrumbidgee River in New South Wales.

The Dog on the Tuckerbox five miles from Gundgai

The Dog on the Tuckerbox five miles from Gundgai

Originally set up in 1932 as a money raiser for the Gundagai hospital and as a memorial to the European pioneers who settled the district, it shows a typical working dog sitting on his master’s tuckerbox, a box for storing food supplies. This faithful dog would guard the  tuckerbox until his master returned, no matter how long it took. The idea was based on a song about Bullocky Bill which had been around since the 1850s and ended with.

     And the dog sat on the tuckerbox nine miles from Gundagai.

Then in 1922 Jack O’Hagan came out with the song The Road to Gundagai which doesn’t actually mention a distance..  Since the original song about Bullocky Bill there have been many incarnations of the story in song, and with different distances,so there was plenty of motivation for Gundagai to build its own dog on a tuckerbox.

But as well as its original intention to be a tribute to Gundagai the monument  has acquired an aura all of its own  It can be regarded as  a national icon and  just like that loyal dog it represents all people  who stand and wait for for the return of those who are away from home, whether it be peacetime or wartime.

1932 tuckerbox dogThere were no railings around the monument in the early days as this photo from the Gundagai Shire Council shows us.

But now there is a nearby Food Court with KFC, Subway, McCafe, BP service station and Tuckerbox restaurant.  How  tacky  !!!!!

So to deviate a little, what did a tourist do in Sydney in 1957,  a Sydney which was yet to get its landmark Opera House ?  To begin with there is the Sydney Harbour Bridge.   Here is our tan Chevrolet – Chevie – Chev at the base of the Bridge, the same bridge where Paul Hogan used to work as a painter before other interests took over.

The tan coloured chevie at the base of the Syndey Harbour Bridge

The tan coloured chevie at the base of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

  • At that time it was illegal to climb the Bridge but there was a cattery of beautiful white cats to be patted at the top of the bridge pylon. as in the slide show below.
  • From the top of the pylon you could watch the liner Oronsay passing underneath.
  • And there was time to sit on part of the prow of the original HMAS Sydney, built into a wall under the Bridge.  It was launched in 1911 and de-commissioned in 1928.  It saw service in World War I.
  • There were friends to enjoy time with on Bondi Beach
  • And a surf carnival to visit at North Steyne
  • Finally a peep in the gates of Kirribilli House, the residence of the Prime Minister when visiting Sydney

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So, would you like to do some listening ?  Here is Peter Dawson  (1882 – 1961), Australia’s own bass baritone  singing  Along the Road to Gundagai in 1931.

Or if you prefer a more  country music rendition  then  listen to Slim Dusty  singing the chorus from   The Road to Gundagai.


You might even be brave and listen to both.

Words and Lyrics by Jack O’Hagan, 1922 – Along the Road to Gundagai

There’s a scene that lingers in my memory –
Of an old bush home and friends I long to see –
That’s why I am yearning
Just to be returning
Along the road to Gundagai –

There’s a track winding back
To an old-fashioned shack
Along the road to Gundagai –
Where the blue gums are growing
And the Murrumbidgee’s flowing
Beneath that sunny sky –
Where my daddy and mother
Are waiting for me
And the pals of my childhood
Once more I will see.
Then no more will I roam,
When I’m heading right for home
Along the road to Gundagai.

When I get back there I’ll be a kid again –
Oh! I’ll never have a thought of grief or pain –
Once more I’ll be playing
Where the gums are swaying
Along the road to Gundagai –

This post has been a contribution to Sepia Saturday for it’s theme of Monuments..  There are many other monuments to visit from other contributors by following the links on Sepia Saturday.


My Mother’s Back Yard

Our theme this week for Sepia Saturday is back yards and hence this small and indistinct photo of my mother (1899-1990) in the back yard of her home at 96 Ryrie St, Geelong  A little girl of three or four posed with a man’s bike in a backyard which matches our theme photo with its outside wash-house and rope clothes lines.

From this back yard we can radiate outwards to some of  the distinctive sights seen by this girl from 1899 to 1908

Vera back yard ryrie stThere wasn’t much room to play in the back yard so their mother would sometimes sit  Vera Tansey and her younger sister on the front step   The other side of the street was much more impressive. to look at.

ryrie st geelong 1900As seen in 1900 opposite them in Ryrie St,  to the right was the Post Office with its prominent clock tower. To the left of the Post Office was the Telegraph Station – see the Time Ball resting on the roof.  Just before 1pm each day the ball was raised  to  alert citizens and ships on the bay that 1 pm was imminent.  On an electric signal from Melbourne  the ball was dropped to indicate 1 pm.  I don’t know when it last operated but i wasn’t operating in  1900.

The vehicle is possibly a Walker’s Omnibus which serviced the suburbs of Geelong.

Then came the solidly built  Mechanics’ Institute where the family used to attend concerts.  Originally it was this  single storey structure  but by 1900 was two storeys high. You can just get a glimpse of the :Presbyterian Steeple Church beside it.

MECHANICS INSTITUTE GEELONG RYRIE STIn 1913 the steeple was transferred to another church,

steeple church geelong ryrie st Both the Mechanics’ Institute and the Steeple  Church were later incorporated into our Geelong Performing Arts Centre where a couple of weeks ago I saw a brilliant local performance of My Fair Lady.  The body of the Steeple Church is still there  housing a Dance Studio with  a stage, sprung floor and mirrors,.Theoretically the facade of the Mechanics’ Insiitute was preserved but apart from the name for me it bears little resemblance to the beautifully ornate original. But upstairs the facade now hides a  dance studio

As the girls grew so their freedom increased..  They attended the nearly Flinders State School

Flinders state school 1906And in their spare time were able to visit the zoo at Kardinia Park, now home of the Mightly Cats. (That’s a football team !)

As Vera said      “When I was big enough to be trusted to look after Hilda, Mum would let me go to Kardinia Park to feed the numerous animals. She kept two brown paper bags on the copper wall and bread scraps went into them for us to take on a Saturday for the monkeys etc. We would call at Podbury’s coming home for a loaf of bread and Mrs Podbury would give us a bun each. One Saturday we called in and she gave me one look and said “Go home and tell your mother you have measles”. The warm sun had brought spots out all over me.”
The Zoo, Kardinia Park, Geelong, 1910This is the Kardinia Park Zoo in 1910, a modest zoo with monkeys, ducks, swans, guinea fowls, an emu, kangaroos, wallabies and deer.  Bur everyone was upset when the emu died in 1907 and even the newspapers in New Zealand reported the fact.   The Zoo gradually suffered from lack of proper upkeep and was closed.

Emu 1907 Kardinia Park zooWelcome to Old Geelong.

In 1908 the family left Geelong and shifted to Murtoa,


Climbing the Mystery Rocks

Did you ever see the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock  where a group of schoolgirls mysteriously disappear ? They were  on a St Valentine’s Day picnic in 1900 and disappeared while climbing the rocky outcrop of Hanging Rock  near Woodend in Central Victoria. It was based on a book written by Joan Lindsay in 1967

We visited the Rock in 1950 and climbed the 105 metres from the surrounding plain to the top of this rock formation but the magical powers of the Rock  played no tricks on us.

Hanging Rock 1 Once the haunt of bushrangers Hanging Rock is now a Public Recreation Reserve. Annual horse races are held at the foot of the geological formation and it is a favorite picnc spot.  But these days there is always the air of mystery in its nooks and crannies  as to how did those fictional girls disappear, never to be seen again.

The Turner family and friends  knew nothing of this when  they 1950.

Hanging Rock 2Less than an hour’s drive to the north of Melbourne it is close to Woodend  and  near Mount Macedon, a former volcano. Here is Hanging Rock rising from a sea of fog, its rocks mostly hidden by its trees.

hanging rock 3 aJust wondering, but if the Hanging Rock Reservation is so benign, why do they only open it to the public in the daytime ?

2014.02W.36This week’s theme is a collection of rocks which is part of a mountain in Norway being visited by three famous composers.   In my rocky photos I can find three pianists, a saxophonist and a drummer, all of a less famous variety.   You may find more rocks, musicians and perhaps even a telescope in the links on this week’s Sepia Saturday.