Saturday, 15 February 2020

Coburg 'Blitz' cyclists prepare for action, 1942

Herald, 5 January 1942

They might look like creatures from outer space, but these Coburg women, styling themselves 'Blitz' cyclists, donned their respirators, tin helmets and ARP (Air Raid Precaution) armbands and were ready to act as messengers if there were air raids in the area.

This might seem a little far-fetched to us from a distance of nearly 80 years, but there was a very real fear at the time (perhaps whipped up by local authorities who thought that Coburg citizens - and others - were not taking the war seriously enough) that Australia would be invaded. Air raid trenches were dug in local parks and school playgrounds. Plans were put in place to evacuate children to the country. A mock air raid took place at Coburg oval and air raid wardens were trained to deal with any potential attacks on the municipality. Melburnians soon became accustomed to brownouts and everyone was on the lookout for the enemy in their midst.

The fear levels of the citizens of Coburg may well have risen as a result of all this activity, but it is more than likely that women had more to fear from the problems presented by brownout conditions, especially once the 'Brownout Strangler' began strangling women. He murdered three women before being identified as American serviceman Edward Leonski. Leonski was hanged at Pentridge Prison in November 1942.

Several years later, an air observation post was put in place on the roof of Walker's Department Store in Sydney Road. Local volunteers used binoculars to spot aircraft activity and report it to Essendon aerodrome, especially important at a time when there was very little in the way of air traffic control. Historian Richard Broome recorded in Coburg, between two creeks that 'in the twenty months till the post was closed in October 1945, 17,451 aircraft had been spotted by 146 volunteers, many of them women and senior students.' 

Saturday, 8 February 2020

It's raining again - Merlynston floods, 1949

Herald, 20 July 1949

Age, 21 July 1949

The street identified in two of these photographs is Sussex Street, which runs all the way from Bell Street through Pascoe Vale and across Boundary Road in North Coburg, where it is very close to the Merlynston Creek, which one caption tells us had overflown. The grocer and the baker still managed to make their deliveries, however. The milkie didn't, but as we see here, Mrs G.A. Allsop saved the day and delivered milk to 'marooned householder' Mr E. Blackmore.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

February 1946 - Floods sweep the northern suburbs

The newspapers of the day sent photographers out to record the floods. Many suburbs were affected, but the photos you see here come from Brunswick, Merlynston and North Coburg.

Argus, 27 February 1946

Herald, 26 February 1946. Note that milk was then delivered to Merlynston by car and that the man on the right was collecting his milk despite the rain.

Herald, 26 February 1946

My favourite photo, though, is this one of a chook that had laid an egg on a 44 gallon drum somewhere in North Coburg.

Argus, 27 February 1946

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Merlynston residents enjoying summer holidays at Lorne, 1940

Age, 31 December 1940

It was the end of the first year of World War Two. The battlefields remained geographically remote from Australia - North Africa and Europe. The seige of Tobruk was still three and a half months away. The war in the Pacific was yet to threaten Australia's shores and it was to be just over another year before the Fall of Singapore.

You see here two young Merlynston women enjoying their summer holiday at Lorne. They are nineteen year old cousins Leila Herron and Mary Hughes who live a few streets away from each other - one in Orvieto Street and the other in Galeka Street. They live in a suburb brought to life by local land developer Donald Stuart Bain and named after his daughter Merlyn. You can read more about Bain and the development of Merlynston here and here

And here's a much better version of the photo of Leila and Mary. Thanks to the family members who allowed me to use it.

The girls had been very close all their lives, as can be seen in this early photo of them on the steps to a bathing box. Thanks again to the family members who allowed me to use the photo.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Nicholson Street, Brunswick East dairy and other art deco buildings

As I read this entry from Nick Gadd's Melbourne Circle project, I felt a jolt of recognition. Scribbled in small letters in the back of my 2019 diary (yes, I still use a paper diary) I've noted '136 or 138 Nicholson Street. Dairy or Milk Bar'. I was waiting for the 96 tram early one winter morning and passed the time looking along the buildings opposite the tram stop and there it was. The note stayed in the back of the diary. I meant to follow it up but life got in the way, as it tends to do ...

Nick's blog entry 'A deco dairy and stories on walls', 24 October 2014 gives me the answer - it's a milk bar, as you can see in this image from the blog.

The blog entry goes on to feature some other art deco buildings around Melbourne, including several in Brunswick

Here are a couple of photos of the Baby Health Centre in Lygon Street, East Brunswick that I took in July 2012.

Nick also mentions the Robur Tea advertising in Lygon Street. It's gone now, covered over in yet another development in an already over-developed area.

I wrote about this recently. You can see that entry here. You'll notice that this photo I took in February 2018 shows how faded the sign had become. It's not visible at all now. 

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Nick Gadd's Melbourne Circle blog entry on Brunswick

Melbourne writer Nick Gadd wrote this about his Melbourne Circle project: 'Melbourne Circle is an account of a series of walks around the suburbs of Melbourne which I took in 2014-2016. Taken together, the walks form a circle around the city. Beginning in Williamstown in the south west, I walked in a clockwise direction, with very occasional brief detours into the city centre. The walk ended with a trip across the bay back to Williamstown, completing the circle.'

I came across the Melbourne Circle project in a serendipitous way, but stayed for ages just looking through the entries. I've been wandering around Brunswick for a decade now, taking photos, making notes and thinking I must do something about this. And here's an example of what can be done. Fantastic!

You can visit Nick Gadd's 18 Oct 2015 entry on Brunswick here

This is just one of the many wonderful photos in this entry. I've passed this place so many times and wondered who Miss R.E. Yon was. Now I know more!

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Happy New Year!

Thanks to Kylie McKay for sharing this card with me. 

The McKays were an early Coburg family who had a farm at Newlands. I'm not sure who Elsie was, but she's clearly had a tiff with C. Phillips and L. Libbis, Fanny's 'old school playmates'. I'm not sure who C. Phillips is but I suspect that L. Libbis is Leslie Libbis who served in World War One. You can read about Leslie Libbis here. You can see another of Fanny McKay's cards here.

The McKay farm, 'Hillcroft', at Newlands. Thanks to Cassie Twomey for this photograph.