My Recollections of Eltham Past by Margaret Joy Harding (nee Joy Chapman.)
My family of Elizabeth and Alec Chapman moved to Eltham in 1946 into a cottage on the opposite side of the Diamond Creek from where the little train now operates in the Lower Park. At that time Eltham truly was a country town and the Pub was the main meeting place for most inhabitants on a Saturday afternoon in the beer garden.
I attended Eltham Primary School where I started as a 4-year-old (my birthday being slightly after the mid-year intake) that happened then. My mother spent a lot of days taking me back to school when I had dismissed myself and walked the one kilomtre home alone.
Bremner's Common (now Wingrove Park) was a big attraction with its dam and tad poling which I found much more entertaining than school. (Mrs Bremner ran a Service Station on the site of the current one). Another attraction at this site was the circus that came a couple of times a year. Watching them put up the circus tent was very interesting and even more of an attraction was the feeding of the Lions in cages and the monkeys and elephants among the other animals that are not found in a circus these days.
At school then we were provided with hot chocolate at morning recess where the mothers would prepare it in the shelter shed. The only form of classroom heating was an open fire. Worse was the warm milk given in the summer months. By the time I was near finishing at Primary school we used to be able to walk along the Main Road at lunchtime to Mrs. Mitchell's shop to a delicious hot pie. As I recall there was no supervision for this departure from the school grounds. It is interesting that some of the other children I started school with I still have contact with, in fact one is a very good friend although now living in Perth. That is the other thing about Eltham; many who grew up here continue to live in the area.
Following primary school, the natural progression was to Eltham High School. There was only the main building at that time and I can remember our first assembly at the front entrance. During the time I was at High School several new class rooms were added and the school hall. I remember the musical plays such as HMS Pinafore and other classical musicals being performed. I also remember countless hours doing marching practice.
The main street shops when I was young consisted of the Blue Gum milk bar at the far end, a Grocery store and a shoe maker where Coles currently stands. Opposite there was Lyon's Garage. They also provided a bus service and when we got off the train this little bus would tour the back streets taking each individual to their home, sometimes this could take quite considerable time. There was also a Black Smith next to the Chiropractic Practice opposite Alistair Knox Park, another Milk Bar/General Store on the comer of Bridge Street/Main Road where a shop currently still operates. There was also a Butcher's shop down from the pub opposite Franklin Street. The only doctor was next to the courthouse on the other side of Brougham Street. On Saturday afternoon I was occasionally allowed to go the movies in the Town Hall which also stood on the site of the Coles centre. Often the Fire Alarm would sound and everyone would run outside to watch the fire truck leave with the volunteers clutching on the back.
The other attraction during summer of course was the swimming pool which was a small concrete pool filled with water pumped from the Diamond Creek, sometimes it was like a mud puddle so for me the nearer to home Yarra/Diamond Creek junction was a much better option.
We swam in the water hole which was quite deep and with fallen trees and sometimes carcasses of cows and kangaroos floating past. As recreation, the churches were another attraction for the Sunday school picnics to Mordialloc in the back of the moving van with benches tied into the back for us to "sit" on. Too bad when we went around a corner!
In the early days we had an Ice Man deliver the ice once a week for "refrigeration". The green grocer came around in a horse and cart as did the milkman and the bread was delivered but I constantly got into trouble for eating the middle out on the way from the box it was delivered to in Mt Pleasant road across the paddock. The milkman finally would not come down our street after his horse bolted one morning and took off across the paddock. We also had the "Pan Man" come weekly and whose visit I would avoid. Our nearest shop was where the flower stall is located opposite the Lower Park. It consisted of a Tea Room and Milk Bar. There was a Public Telephone there which was the only contact to anyone else.
We were a one car family so my mother’s movements were very limited as the Eltham Station was a couple of kilometres away and a trip to the city was an event. Being an only child growing up was a little lonely however rambling along the creek with my Mum, picking mushrooms and picking cherry plums for jam and the dogs catching rabbits which we ate if we could get them away from the dogs. We also liked to go into the Lower Park during school holidays when the Greek people came to camp and they would sing and dance around the camp fire and it all seemed so different to us as this was early days of immigration. Childhood was relatively simple and carefree and I wish the kids of today had the freedom of my youth and the healthy outdoor lifestyle of the "olden days".
SHOW GIRL COMPETITION
In 1965 Eltham was more like a country town than the suburb it has become today. People knew each other, if not personally then certainly of the family name. The big event for the year was a Gymkhana or show at Lower Eltham Park. I can remember marching as a teenager from the town centre to the park in the marching girls with the decorated floats.
In 1965, just on a whim on the day, I decided to enter the Miss Eltham Show Girl which was a part of the festivities at the park. I seem to remember that the show mainly consisted of horse events, cattle judging and dog show. As I had not given any serious thought to entering the competition, I wore a suit that I had for work which was brown wool, with a coffee coloured shirt under, black shoes, bag, and gloves but no hat. I duly paraded for the judges and much to my surprise I was announced the winner.
I eventually went on to compete at the Miss Victoria Show Girl competition which was held at the Royal Melbourne Show. There I met many country girls who were representing their rural Victoria home. I made it into a final round of judging but I think justice prevailed when someone from a country background was crowned. It was fun to go into the show as I had not really been before and to see the displays of handcraft, cooking and wood chopping events was great as well as the judging of farm animals interesting.
It is hard to remember the Eltham I grew up in. The Lyons Garage company bus that actually drove you home (or close to it) when we got off the train at night. The Eltham Hotel on a Saturday afternoon a usual social meeting place where people just sat and chatted. The pictures held in the Town Hall and when the fire alarm sounded all the men just jumped up and ran to help. Suburbia has now swallowed most of that life but thankfully we at least do have the trestle bridge and parkland.
Digital file only - Black and white photo print on loan for scanning by EDHS
- alec chapman, annie bremner, blacksmith, bremner's flat, brougham steet, bus services, circus, diamond creek, dianne bell, doctor bradbury, easter gymkhana, elizabeth chapman, eltham high school, eltham hotel, eltham lower park, eltham public hall, eltham state school, eltham trestle bridge, general store, grace mitchell, ice man, joy chapman, lyons garage, margaret harding, milk bar, miss eltham 1965, miss victoria show girl, mount pleasant road, pan man, rodda parade, shops, show girl competition, swimming pool, water hole, yarra river