About this blog

This blog is about the history of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and neighbouring areas, such as Pakenham, Cranbourne and Garfield, and any other historical subjects I feel like writing about. It's my own original research and writing and if you live in the area you may have read some of the stories before in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society newsletter or the Koo-Wee-Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, or the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator.
Heather Arnold.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Garfield Rifle club and other local Rifle clubs

The first Rifle Club was established in Victoria as early as 1860 and two years later the Club was holding inter-colonial matches against New South Wales. In 1876, an Australian Rifle Team officially represented Australia overseas, at competitions in Britain and the United States. This was the first team to represent Australia in any sport overseas.

Local Gun Clubs were established from 1891 when a mounted rifle corp was established in Cranbourne. The rifle range at Cranbourne opened in 1894. The Tooradin Rifle Club was established around 1900 and had a rifle range at what is now Rutter Reserve. This club eventually closed, date unknown. In January 1907, the Garfield Rifle Club was formed  - more on this below. A Lang Lang Gun Club was also established in 1907, in the April. The Lang Lang Guardian reported on their first Club activity which was held on May 15, 1907. A pipe, valued at less than £1, was a prize. That was a fairly substantial prize, as around this time the average weekly earnings of clothing factory workers was 1 pound, 2 shillings and for workers in a boot making factory it was 1 pound, 8 shillings. The Tooradin/Koo-Wee-Rup Rifle Club operated from June 1930 until October 1934. A report in the Koo-Wee-Rup Sun of June 12, 1930 reported that the Club had over 130 members.

The Lang Lang Guardian reported that the Garfield Rifle Club was established on Thursday, January 17 1907. The Club was formed with 36 members, with Frederick Edis, a farmer, appointed Secretary. George Ellis, who chaired the meeting, owned the Iona Hotel, where the meeting was held. James Shreive, a farmer of Garfield, moved the motion that the Club be established. That’s all I know about the Club, however Denise Nest, in her book Call of the Bunyip: a history of Bunyip, Iona and Tonimbuk, says that a Bunyip and Garfield Rifle Club was established on March 3, 1900, with E.C Hill as the Chairman (most likely Edward Hill, a farmer of Bunyip South); Captain A’Beckett as the Secretary (William Heywood A’Beckett, farmer of Bunyip) and a Committee consisting of ‘Messrs Archer, Kraft, Campigli, McMenamin and Roffey with 35 other intending members’. These men are George Archer, a storekeeper of Garfield; William George Kraft, owner of the Gippsland Hotel (Top Pub) at Bunyip; James Campigli, was the Station Master at Bunyip from February 1901 to May 1904 but the family had been in Bunyip earlier than that as his son, Donald, was born there in 1896; David McMenamin and John Roffey were both farmers from Bunyip.

Mrs Nest says that the Bunyip and Garfield Rifle Club established a rifle range ‘between Garfield and Bunyip on a closed and unused road with a hill at one end of it’. The book goes onto say that the first social function was held October 1901 and £2 was raised to purchase a Martini-Enfield rifle, which became a trophy for the club. The club was still operating in 1919 but disbanded a few years later. The late Bill Parish, who spent many years researching and writing about the history of Garfield (his papers are now held by the Berwick Pakenham Historical Society) wrote that there was a Rifle Range at Garfield ‘which started on Garfield Road opposite the old State School site extending 1,000 yards to the east across the now Jefferson road’.

Working on the premise that all this information is correct, was there a breakaway group from the Bunyip and Garfield Rifle Club which formed a rival gun club at Garfield in January 1907? Certainly the descriptions of the Rifle ranges seem to indicate that there were two different Ranges. The only other mention I can find (in The Argus) of the Garfield Rifle Club was that in November 1915 it needed to spend £20 in order to put the Range in proper order, however in the same year The Argus reported at least three times on events at the Bunyip Rifle Club, including a report in August about the Bunyip Club having the most successful year in its career. At the time the Club had a credit balance of £22. Apparently before Federation, Rifle clubs were civilian organisations but between 1901 and 1921 they came under Army control. There is a list of grants given to Rifle Clubs in The Argus of December 27, 1907. Each club was granted five shillings for each ‘rifleman qualified as efficient in the musketry course’. Bunyip had 35 members who qualified and so received a grant of 8 pounds 15 shillings. Garfield did not receive any grants.

Other local Rifle Clubs included Nar Nar Goon which was established in 1901.  The article about the grants to rifle clubs also listed clubs at Drouin, Buln Buln and Warragul. It does seem amazing that both Bunyip and Garfield could support a Rifle Club; however in September 1916 Rifle Clubs throughout Australia had 104,184 members of whom at the time 14,499 had enlisted for active service. This meant that around five percent of the total male population of Australia belonged to a Rifle Club, so it was obviously a popular, and during World War One, a patriotic past time. In 1939, Victoria had 313 Rifle Clubs with over 12,200 members, but by then it appears that both the Garfield and Bunyip clubs had disbanded.

The Rouse family buys a car

The first car ever purchased by the Rouse family of Murray Road, Cora Lynn was an Austin A40 ute from Brenchley’s garage in Garfield. This was in 1948. It was dark blue with black guards. Previous to this, the family travelled in a jinker pulled by the ‘white horse’, apparently the only name the animal ever had, or else rode their bikes.  Part of the deal of buying the car was that Mrs Brenchley had to teach nineteen year old Dorothy and seventeen year old Jim how to drive. Frank, who was fifteen, taught himself to drive. Jim could get his licence at seventeen, but by the time Frank was that age, the law had changed so he had to wait until he was eighteen before he could get his licence in December 1951. However, the lack of a licence did not seem to be an obstacle to driving as he used to drive his parents, Joe and Eva, to the Dandenong market where they sold eggs, chooks and calves (all carried on the ute). He also used to drive his eldest sister, Nancy, out to Pakenham Upper on a Monday morning, when she was teaching at the school and pick her up on the Friday afternoon and bring her home.


According to Dad (Frank) the Rouse family were about the last in the area to get a car.  At the time neighbours, Joe and Stella Storey, had a 1930s 4 cylinder Dodge (we think)  with a cloth top; Bill and Rubina Vanstone had an American car, most likely a pre war De Soto, with a gas producer on the back. Dan McMillan had big Ford; Mrs King, who lived on Sinclair Road (as the northern part of Bennett Road used to be known) had a Standard. Dad’s uncle, Frank Weatherhead, who lived on Pitt Road, had an Armstrong Siddley and a 1920s Chev truck. Other cars that Dad remembers from his early years included Norman Kinsella’s 1938 Chev and Mrs Rita Simcock’s late 1940s Chev that she used to deliver the papers and the mail.  She later purchased a VW Beetle to do the mail run.

This ad is  from the Koo-Wee-Rup Sun of January 15, 1950.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cora Lynn Telephone Exchange

From the Koo-Wee-Rup Sun of June 16, 1954 comes this report about the extended opening hours of the Cora Lynn telephone exchange. No doubt some young people would be surprised to know that you can exist without 24 hours access to phones.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

A festival in Koo-Wee Rup 1950s

These are photographs from the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society and show a festival, sometime in the 1950s I presume.


This is the intersection of Station Street and Rossiter Road. The Railway Station is on the left, you can see the elevated water tanks.


Looking west down Station Street, from its intersection with Rossiter Road.  The two storey building at the end of the street is the 1915 Royal Hotel.


Rossiter Road - Phil Colvin is on the penny farthing bicycle. This must be taken from the Wattle Theatre.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

100 years ago this week - Milk trains and the Dairy industry

From the Bunyip Free Press of March 5, 1914 comes this report about the extension of the milk train from Pakenham to Bunyip. At a time when nearly all produce went by rail this was obviously a boon to the dairy farmers east of Pakenham and dairy farming played an important role in the economy of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp.

In 1888 the Victorian Parliament allocated money to establish creameries, cheese and butter factories in the Colony and by the 1890s there were over 140 such factories in Victoria, including a number in the Koo-Wee-Rup area. Up until around 1930 this area could sustain several factories for a number of reasons. Firstly, dairy cattle numbers were at their peak in the 1920s. It is estimated that the Parishes of Koo-Wee-Rup, Koo-Wee-Rup East and Yallock had 12,000 dairy cattle in early 1920s. Secondly, most farmers were still using horse and cart for transport, so local factories were necessary. Lastly, the factories had slightly different purposes in that whole milk could be was received at Iona and Cora Lynn, whilst farms with a separator could deposit cream at Drouin, Lang Lang or Bayles.

Here’s a look at some of the factories in the local area. In 1892, John Henry Smethurst constructed a factory on his property Glen Avis in Yannathan. Smethurst was a pioneer in the use of machines. His dairy had a four horse-power boiler and a three horse-power Tangye engine which worked a 90 gallon separator and 200lb butter churn. He milked 75 cows at Yannathan and also had another cheese factory on his other property Lang Lang Park, at Athlone, where he milked 260 cows.

Yallock Southern Creamery, which was situated on the corner of the Yallock Creek and the No.5 Yallock drain, opened in 1897 as a Co-Operative, closed in 1898, re-opened 1899 and eventually sold to the owners of the Lang Lang Butter Factory. A butter factory had operated in Lang Lang for a few years before it closed in February 1893. It re-opened around 1895 with Charles Wood (or his company Wood & Co) being listed as the owners until 1926, when it was sold to Southern State Produce. In 1928 it was  purchased by Ivan Stedman, a butter merchant. It closed in 1940. The Factory was a major employer in Lang Lang. Farm pick-ups were initially done by horse and cart, but the 1930s the Factory had a fleet of trucks which collected from farms as far away as Phillip Island.

Yannathan Butter Factory was established in 1900 or 1905 (depending on sources) and was purchased by Ivan Stedman at the same he purchased the Lang Lang Factory. From 1929 the Cranbourne Shire Rate books lists the Yannathan factory as the “old Butter Factory” so I assume it was closed at this time. Yannathan, Catani and Bayles dairy farmers could also send their milk to Melbourne on the train, after the Strezlecki Railway line opened in 1922, and in 1923 the milk train carried over 1000 gallons of milk per day from those stations.

Incidently, Ivan Stedman (1895-1979) was a champion swimmer and led the Australian team at the opening ceremony of the Antwerp Olympics in 1920. He won a silver medal in the 4x200 freestyle relay team at those Olympics and also competed in the 1924 Paris Olympics. This is an achievement, made even more remarkable, by the fact that Ivan spent over three years in the A.I.F. during the First World War and was wounded at Passchendaele.

At Iona, a Creamery run by the Fresh Food and Frozen Storage Company, was opened in 1897 and by 1900 it had 500 suppliers. The Creamery operated until around 1907. In 1906 Drouin Co-Operative Butter Factory established a factory in Iona on the corner of Little Road and the Main Drain. It closed in October 1928 and was demolished in 1930. Another butter factory, operated by Holdenson and Neilson, operated in Iona from 1912 or 1917 (depending on sources) and was taken over by the Drouin Co-Operative Butter Factory in April 1921. At one stage the Fresh Food and Frozen Storage Company operated 70 butteries and creameries in Victoria. Holdenson and Nielson operated at least 20 and in the early 1890s they produced over 2 million pounds of butter, most of it being exported.


Bayles Butter Factory 1923
Photograph: Bayles Fauna Reserve collection

The Drouin Co-Operative Butter Factory established a factory at Cora Lynn in 1910. This was extended in 1930s, partially to compensate for Iona closing down. In 1932 the factory had around 500 regular suppliers, however it was closed in the late 1940s. Drouin Co-Operative Butter Factory took over the Bayles Butter Factory in 1944, which had been established in 1922. It was re-built and enlarged in 1966 and operated until January 1980. This gave Drouin access to the Melbourne market as Bayles had a City distribution licence.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Garfield Picture Theatre

The Garfield Picture Theatre was one of the many cinemas constructed during the Australia wide boom in cinema building in the 1920s. It was opened with a Grand Ball on Monday, December 22 1924. An advertisement in the Pakenham Gazette advertised the ball (see left), which was free to all and also advertised Pictures every Saturday night and dancing every Friday night. One of the first films shown was Where the North Begins, a Rin Tin Tin movie. 


The theatre was built by Martin O’Donohue. It had a power house at the rear and a 230 volt generator and was thus the first source of electricity in Garfield. This was an interesting situation and in January 1925 the Shire of Berwick received a letter from Martin O’Donohue asking for particulars of size of poles required for street lighting.  O’Donohue supplied Garfield with power until October 1929 when SEC power arrived in conjunction with the power supplied to the Tynong Quarry.  According to the Shire of Berwick Rate Books in 1924/25, Martin O’Donohue, whose occupation was listed as Hotel keeper, jointly paid the rates on the Garfield Hotel with Margaret and Daniel O’Donohue. Thomas O’Donohue was listed as owning the Hotel. Martin also owned sale yards and the Picture Theatre. He and Margaret also owned two other Garfield lots.  Eileen O’Donohue paid rates on a Garage, owned by Thomas. Thomas owned a saddlers shop, a confectionary shop and 155 acres. I am unsure how all these O’Donohues are related and a later source connects Martin O’Donohue to the Club Hotel at Warragul, so by all accounts they were an entrepreneurial family.

Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical society photograph

The theatre was said to seat 800 people and J.Taylor initially leased the theatre from Martin O’Donohue. The Shire of Berwick Rate Books indicate that in 1931 it was sold to Walter Anderson Lawson and Roy Everard Ross of Warragul. They sold it to James Murphy in 1953. Murphy owned the theatre until it closed in the early 1960s. 

An article by Gerry Kennedy in Cinema Record, Volume 1, January 1994 (the newsletter of CATHS, the Cinema and Theatre Historical Society www.caths.org .au) has some technical details about the theatre - the bio box was built above the entrance vestibule. To the left of the bio box was the rectifier room and, to the right, the winding room, both with ports to the auditorium.  Apparently when the theatre was constructed there was no ceiling which interfered with sound quality and caneite panels were fitted to the walls in 1950s to improve the sound.  A 30 foot wide cinemascope screen was installed and the theatre was equipped with R.C.A Star Projectors. Kennedy also writes that the Garfield Theatre re-opened at weekends from 1970 to 1971 and was operated by Dennis Grigg.

Two other Picture Theatres were also built in the 1920s in the area. The Wattle Theatre at Koo-Wee-Rup opened with a grand ball in July 1927 and King’s Picture Theatre at Pakenham opened on September 7, 1927. However even earlier, local residents had been able to view movies at the Pakenham Mechanics’ Institute. Harrington’s Electra Pictures had been shown at the Garfield Hall and Colvin’s Pictures began weekly screenings in September 1922 at the Memorial Hall in Koo-Wee-Rup. Of the three purpose built theatres the Garfield Theatre was by far the most substantial building being constructed of brick. Koo-Wee-Rup has external walls of corrugated iron and Pakenham (which was located roughly opposite the Uniting Church in Main Street and demolished in the 1990s) was made of asbestos cement sheet. Apart from these venues, films were shown at Tynong - there is still a bio box or projection room, which is currently inaccessible, at the Hall.  They were also shown at the Bunyip Hall and when the original 1906 Hall was burnt down in March 1940, a ‘picture plant’ was also destroyed. 

Garfield Picture Theatre was a great source of entertainment for not only Garfield locals but those further afield.  According to Dave Mickle in his book More Mickle Memories of Koo-Wee-Rup the Garfield, Pakenham and Koo-Wee-Rup  theatres were in keen competition to provide Saturday night entertainment and an edition of the Koo-Wee-Rup Sun from January 1939 has an advertisement for the three theatres. Mickle also wrote that the ‘talkies’ had arrived at the Garfield Picture Theatre by May 1931, a few months earlier than Koo-Wee-Rup. 

My father, Frank Rouse, remembers that at its peak, the Garfield Picture Theatre had shows on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday nights. Simcock’s Bedford bus used to travel out to Murray Road, Cora Lynn and surrounding areas on a Saturday night and pick up theatre goers and return them after the show. There was always a rush to get served at Simcock’s milk bar during the intermission.