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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15 thoughts on “Fred and the Incident of the Flooded River

  1. jofeath

    Fred and his companions were indeed lucky, as crossing a flooded river is always a hazardous activity. Good that they survived to tell the tale.

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  2. Alan BURNETT

    One always forgets that, unlike over here where roads have slowly emerged ever since Roman times, in your country so many roads where consciously planned, surveyed and built from scratch.

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    1. boundforoz Post author

      Not surprising when you think that they share the same watershed. In your blog I though the emphasis was on the breaking of the river bank in late 1934 whereas mine was a 1935 episode. But when one town suffered the other one certainly did too.

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  3. handmade

    I am really inspired along with your writing talents and also with the layout for your blog.

    Is that this a paid subject or did you modify it your self?
    Anyway keep up the nice high quality writing, it’s uncommon to peer a great weblog like this one today..

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  4. Tattered and Lost

    Stunning countryside. As to laying out a road through all of this? Heading out into that without an extra days clothes would be wrong. In fact a couple extra suits might be necessary before finding your way home through the forest.

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  5. Pingback: Why we need a Garden | Bound for Australia

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