1940 - CHARLES BURTON BOEHM
Charles Burton Boehm came to Yallourn in 1922 following his period of service in the Royal Australian Navy during World War: I; and he worked with the SECV until his retirement in 1950. During those years, as a resident of Yallourn, he served on a long list of sporting and social committees with indefatigable enthusiasm.
The following article was published in ‘The Argus’ in November 1940 and deals with Mr Boehm’s appointment as the Engineer in Charge of Briquette Production at Yallourn. The article is also interesting because it provides some insight into Charles’ background prior to his arrival in Yallourn.
Note: The footnotes accompanying this article attempt to provide some measure of Charles’ disposition to serve as an office bearer in various Yallourn organizations.
NOVEMBER 1st 1940 ‘THE ARGUS’ PAGE: 6
PRODUCTION OF BRIQUETTES
Mr. C. B. Boehm's Post
Mr. C. B. Boehm has been appointed engineer in charge of briquette production of the State Electricity Commission. Mr. Boehm joined the commission in 1922, and was appointed manager of the briquette factory at Yallourn in 1924.
Briquettes were placed on the Victorian market in December 1924, and he has superintended the manufacture of this fuel from the production of the first briquette at the experimental factory (when the output was only 300 tons a day) to the present commercial production, with an output of 1,200 tons a day, seven days a week.
Mr. Boehm is a native of Williamstown, but he received most of his engineering education abroad, and holds the Diploma of Mechanical Engineering. A returned soldier, he is one of the original members of the Yallourn branch of the R.S.L. of
which he has been chairman for the last three years. He has been chairman of the S.E.C. Safety Council since its inception.
FOOTNOTES REGARDING CHARLES BOEHM
1. A search of the family name ‘Boehm’ uncovered that Herman Bohm /Boehm was born in 1853 at Newmark in Prussia (now present-day Northern Germany-Poland). He sailed from Hamburg on 11th May 1879, aboard the vessel ‘The Sophie’, which docked in Adelaide on the 22 August 1879. Herman was listed as being a cabinetmaker. There is no direct evidence that Herman was related to Charles and it is difficult to trace Charles Boehm’s date of birth and lineage.
2. A search of the Nominal Roll of World War: I failed to throw any further light on Charles Boehm’s service record. Of the six family names of ‘Boehm’ registered on the roll, the name Charles Burton does not appear. However, a lone source of information states that Charles Boehm served with the Royal Australian Navy in New Guinea and with the AIF in France.
3. There is no existing proof, but perhaps it was in France that Charles Boehm first crossed paths with General John Monash who was in command of the 3rd Division AIF in 1916. General Monash later took charge of Australian Corps in 1918.
4. Newspaper articles, which refer to Mr Boehm, can be traced as far back as 1927. One item in May that year, reported that Mr Boehm had travelled to Germany on a fact-finding mission regarding the techniques of briquette production. Further research on Charles’ trip to Europe (above) uncovered the fact that Sir John Monash had specifically directed Charles to…
“…make himself conversant with the technicalities associated with factory equipment.” ‘Daily Standard ‘(Brisbane) January 18th 1927.
5. In her book ‘Yallourn Was‘, Prue McGoldrick states that…
“For many years he (Charles) made a daily round to talk with each man in the briquette factory ….Acutely aware of the inherent danger of factory explosions from the fine coal dust-from briquette making-and in lieu of danger money, he set up a compensation fund of one penny per week each week.” Page: 178.
6. Charles Boehm was president of the Yallourn SEC Athletic Club in 1933; and it is known that he played a leading role in organizing a night of weight-lifting, boxing and wrestling at the St John’s Hall in July that year…
“S.E.C. Athletic Club…On Friday evening last in St. John's Hall, a most appreciative audience witnessed a display of weight lifting, wrestling and boxing which was without doubt the best entertainment of its kind ever held at Yallourn. The Melbourne Branch of the S.E.C. Athletic Club were represented by some 25 of the finest sportsmen one would ever wish to meet ...” ‘Morwell Advertiser’ July 20th 1933.
7. Charles was, at one time, the President of the Yallourn Orchestral Society.
8. In 1930, Charles was the SECV appointee on the recreation reserves/ovals that were used by the various sporting bodies of Yallourn.
9. Charles was founding member of the Yallourn Band Committee which came into being in November 1925. The Patrons of the Yallourn Band were Sir John Monash and C.H. Kernot. Charles had a lengthy involvement in the town band and the ‘Morwell Advertiser’ reported that was elected President of the Yallourn and District Band in 1934.
10. In 1934, Charles Boehm played a leading role in outlining the production of briquettes to a group of visiting engineers from the Australian institute of Engineers. The meeting/forum was held at the Yallourn Fire Brigade Hall.
11. Charles also represented Yallourn RSL at the Gippsland Bridge (cards) Championship which was held at Yallourn in 1935. It appears as though teams from various towns throughout Gippsland participated in the event and the winning team received a silver cup, which was donated by *Fred Hesse Pty Ltd.
*Note: Fred Hesse took over Sharpe’s Emporium in Traralgon in 1932. Fred Hesse was a well city-based known tailor.
12. Charles Boehm was mentioned in ‘The Age’ when he was elected to Civic Association of Yallourn in 1935. The Civic Association was the first-ever body in Yallourn to represent the residents in discussions and negotiations with the SECV regarding civic matters…
“The Initial election of councillors to the newly formed Civic Association resulted:- Dr. J. Moore-Andrew, Messr: Beanland, C. B. Boehm, A. J. Ross, W. P. Brown, L. K. Warfe, W. K. Murray, W. H. Brewer, C. J. Poglar, A. M. Rudge, Rev. E Franklin-Cooper, and Mrs. II.- Taylor. The council has chosen Mr. C. H. Beanland president, and Messrs. Murray and Ross secretary and treasurer, respectively. Matters which are to receive the early attention of the council include reduction of local electric light charges, house rents, town hall, sewerage for township, street lighting and the establishment of a bureau for the registering of entertainments.” ‘The Age 11th December 1935. page 16.
13. 1935 was an extremely busy year for Charles as he was elected to the position of President of the Yallourn Football Club. In a somewhat disappointing end to that season, Maffra defeated Yallourn in a thrilling Grand Final at Sale. One of the great stalwarts of the YFC, Peter O’Neill, was the club captain that season.
14. As mentioned above, Charles was elected President of the Yallourn RSL sometime in the late 1930’s; and, among his other duties, he played a pivotal role in caring for returned servicemen and their families. It is believed that Charles Boehm served as President of the Yallourn RSL until 1944.
15. In 1937, Charles was elected president of Yallourn First Aid club….
“A first aid club has been formed at the briquette factory. Three months' courses will be held, and at the end of each quarter there will be examinations. Officers elected were: President: Mr C. Boehm. Vice-Presidents: Mr H. G. Nairn. Honorary Secretary: Mr H. Graham. Hon. Instructor: Mr F. Nunweek.” Morwell Advertiser August 5th 1937
16. Charles was again elected President of the Yallourn Swimming & Life Saving Club in 1939…
“Mr C. B. Boehm was elected president for the fourth successive year” ‘Weekly Times’ November 18th 1939.
17. He also attained a peculiar title of ‘King of the Army’; and the following newspaper extract may help to explain his so-called ‘crowning’ at the Yallourn Ball in 1941...
“…At the coronation ball in the Military Hall, Yallourn, attended by more than 500 guests, the king of the army, Mr. C. Boehm, was announced winner of the three king carnival. Lieut. McDonald as king of the air force, was second; Mr. E. Given, king of the navy, third. About £500 raised at the carnival will be donated to patriotic funds.” ‘The Age’ September 6th 1941.
18. In his capacity of Chairman of the School Council, Charles was a keynote speaker at the official opening of the new buildings at the Yallourn Technical School in 1942. The new additions to the school included a science laboratory, clay modelling room, sheet metal and electrical wiring workshops.
19. It is reported in several sources that Charles was an active member of the Yallourn and Morwell Gun Club.
20. Charles made the news when he gave evidence before Judge Streeton at the enquiry into the fires in the Open Cut in 1944…
“ High praise for the manner in which the staff of the briquetting factory at the Yallourn open cut worked to prevent the fires extending to that part of the under- taking on February 14, was expressed by Charles Burton Boehm, engineer in charge of briquette production, when the inquiry into the Yallourn fires was continued today before Judge Stretton, Royal Commissioner. Mr Boehm said that his experience on that day had confirmed his conviction that the fire-fighting measures in the area under his control were sound. and he did not think they could be improved upon.” ‘The Argus’ March 4th 1944.
21. In April 1946, Charles gave an address at the Morwell Rotary Club in which he outlined the extent of coal deposits in the Maryvale area. In his speech, he cited the following interesting contrast between coal, won at the Yallourn mine, compared to that at Morwell…
“It takes four tons of raw Yallourn coal to make one ton of briquettes, while three tons of Morwell coal will make the same quantity. The Melbourne market consumes at present 4,000 tons of briquettes daily, but this consumption; rate' will probably increase in 15 years to. 8-10,000 tons a day. The Morwell plan will cost £12,000,000. and the life of the plant is estimated at 40 years.” ‘Morwell Advertiser’ April 11th 1946
22. On October 7th 1948, the ‘Morwell Advertiser’ carried a most comprehensive article which ran to more than 2000 words about Charles Boehm. The banner headline stated… ‘Yallourn Diggers Farewell C.B Boehm…Affectionate Tributes from Old Comrades’.
Included in that newspaper report was Charles’ response to a presentation that was made to him on that auspicious occasion…
“Mr. Boehm, whose rising was greeted with sustained applause, expressed his sincere appreciation of the night and the opportunity to partake of the atmosphere of the club. He could not recall ever having felt so embarrassed. On many other occasions, he had made the presentations and the speeches, but on that night the positions were reversed. ….He had been one of the fortunate ones and, because of that there was no need to be harsh towards others not so fortunately placed. Every' self-respecting man and digger would have done the same. He had always taken the view that he worked with men and not over them. No great praise was due to him for helping diggers.”
23. According to records of the State Records of NSW it documented that Charles Burton Boehm died on 7th 1965. Further, the archives at the State Library of Victoria, indicate that Charles had lived at Merimbula in later years and passed away the Bega Hospital.
A FINAL TRIBUTE TO CHARLES BY PRUE MCGOLDRICK
Prue McGoldrick’s tribute, regarding the contribution that Charles Burton Boehm made to the workers at the briquette factory and the people of Yallourn, is a succinct summary of a man who gave much to the town…
“His (Charles Boehm) influence and the common danger shared with his men, helped build a great family spirit among briquette factory personnel. When he retired in 1950, he had also taken a leading part in the social and sporting activities of the town.” ‘Yallourn Was’ Page: 178.
APOLOGIES & CAN YOU HELP?
1. The digital copy of the above newspaper extract was extremely difficult to read and apologies for any spelling errors of family names in the above footnotes.
2. Every attempt has been made to verify the above footnotes about Charles Boehm, particularly about his military service and family background. Any further information and clarification about his life would be welcomed.
3. Despite an extensive search of several of texts (including references at the State Library of Victoria), a photograph of Charles Boehm could not be found for this article. It is hard to believe that a photo of such a notable figure in Yallourn’s history cannot be found. Hopefully, a reader of this story may be able to assist in forwarding a photo of Charles to Julie for posting on the website.
4. Special thanks to Kylie Best at the State Library of Victoria for her thorough and painstaking efforts in trying to secure a photo of Charles for Virtual Yallourn-it was greatly appreciated. (Roger and Julie).
This story is part of a history project entitled ‘From the Newspapers’ and a full list of titles in this series can be obtained by contacting Julie George.
The research and writing were undertaken by Roger Spaull; and the posting and presentation of photographs and of this article were completed by Julie George for the Virtual Yallourn website in July 2019.
The above extract from the ‘The Argus’ has been faithfully reproduced. The only amendments to the original copy are the font style, font size and spacing, so as to enhance the story for the purposes of posting on the Virtual Yallourn website.