WELCOME TO VIRTUAL YALLOURN - winner of Commendation Award Oct 2015 and Oct 2016 (two years in a row) from Royal Historical Society of Victoria - journey back with us to the old township of Yallourn in Latrobe Valley, Victoria – a unique town built between the 1920s and 1950s by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) to house their workers and then dug up by the same SECV for the coal beneath in the 1980s. This is the only way we can revisit our town with our children and grandchildren.
See the many photos and house plans, navigate around our 3D Town, read information, memories and stories. Most of all, play a part in it with us by adding your own photos and memories and help us name the various people in existing photos - for everyone to share. (To contribute, contact julie@yallourn.org to set up an account.)
Ex-residents, please also take the time to add your family to the map (HERE).
For more information, visit YALLOURN ASSOCIATION at http://www.yallourn.org and please 'Like' our Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/yallournassociation. .
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MOST RECENT ENTRIES:

  • 32664

    Marjorie Dickson (Ebsworth) YHS 1934 sent some photos of the stylish old Yallourn Buses in our last newsletter - now Marjorie has let us in to 'life as a bus driver' in those days in Yallourn. Marjorie's husband, Peter, drove the Yallourn buses in late 1930s to early 1940s. The owner was Andy Maxfield and he had several buses at that time. A usual day was rise at 6am, pick up the bus, take the men to work, then the children from Moe or Morwell to school, then home to Stzelecki Road for breakfast; then back to the town square to take people (mostly housewives) to Morwell or Traralgon for shopping. That went on until lunch time when he came home for lunch, back for more shopping trips until 3pm, pick the children up from school and take them home, then the workmen, then home for tea. Could be a ball/dance to take people to anywhere as far as Warragul or the other way - Traralgon or Sale. Peter could get home any time up till 3am - up again at 6am - not much sleep those nights. Peter had a 2- stroke motor bike in those days and a number of people didn't need to set an alarm in Stzelecki Road - they got up when they heard him leave for work. Saturday nights, many buses including a semitrailer, picked up the young ones (and not so young) to go to the dance at Yinnar Hall. They would be hanging out the doors. They were great nights. February 1944 was a very frightening time. The bush fires surrounded the town. The bus depot was on the other side of the briquette factory bridge so the drivers had to get the buses over the town side in case the bridge caught on fire. A lot of school children and workers couldn't get home until late as the fires cut them off from the surrounding towns. Marjorie loved Yallourn and has many happy memories of the town and people. They moved to Morwell in 1949 and Marjorie still sees girls she went to school with

    16/01/2019 - 10:53
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  • 32662

    YALLOURN: THE BROWN HOLE By Barbara Elliott (Park) YHS 1950 It started off a small country industrial town with people from countries all over the world, making a new home and life in its promises for them. My parents (Harold & Kítty Park) had come from England and Scotland to settle in Australia during the time of the great depression. Times had been tough for them, the sort of toughness that today we would think of as Just a story". Food was a luxury, and work almost a dream. My parents met and married in Adelaide, where the only big industry was the car industry. Dad could see that it wasn't to be constant employment, and they needed regular work if they were to have their own family. An advert in the paper told them of work in a distant town, in the state of Victoria, an area called The Brown Coal Mine. Houses were to be built to house the new workers, and a town would be shaped out of the bush. It was the dream that they needed desperately. Dad went ahead and secured employment in the Coal Mine. My mother followed him some months later, and they boarded with a couple Mr & Mrs Hare, until a house became available for them to rent, in Broadway West. This little house was bare, and with little or nothing in furniture, they went to the Yallourn General Store and ordered what they needed through Mr. Woods, being able to pay it off as my father earned his wages. My sister and I were both born while our parents lived in Broadway West. The lifestyle in Yallourn was a very happy one, with Band Concerts held in the Rotunda in the Broadway Gardens, picture shows in various Church buildings, Tennis played at the various Church courts; Displays by the Firemen in the town, and a Shopping Centre forming, and even a Bus Service to Morwell for the women to buy clothing and Manchester. Sunday school was the event of the week for the children, and once a year a picnic was organised by the churches with buses taking the families out to Moe to a farmer's paddock by the river. The Swimming Pool was another family gathering place, with our little kiosk that sold delicious ice blocks that were homemade. Dad played badminton at the Yallourn Fire Brigade Hall, where I spent a lot of time while my parents enjoyed this social game. Mum had a large pram, and I would entertain everyone with my antics and then go off to - sleep. My sister joined us later, at the badminton, although I think Mum found it a lot to cope with a toddler and a babe. Then came World War 2!!! Life changed at this point. Many men from the area were enlisting. My Dad was reluctant to leave his little family. Life had just seemed to be taking shape, but Hitler was advancing, and Australia was threatened. Dad eventually enlisted, and was away for 4 % years, serving in New Guinea. It was a tough time for all the women. The men who were left endeavoured to help the women on their own, cutting wood, cleaning up gardens, etc. Then came the terrible Bush Fires. I was about 6 when this happened. I can remember it so clearly. We kids all thought it was such fun, as we were allowed to stand in the swimming pool with our clothes on. One lady came down to the pool with a pram filled with as many worldly possessions as possible in the pram. In her haste she forgot the hill down to the pool, and the pram took off and landed in the drink. Of course we were all allowed one of those super ice blocks from the kiosk, no such things as icecream cones in those days. The women had their billies filled with hot water from the kiosk and sat drinking tea, and watching the children having a great time, while the sky was red and smoked from the fire. The fire raced along the tree tops down the back of the pool, and we children thought it was good fun until we saw our mother's faces. A dump of shells for the Ack ack guns were held here and could have blown up, fortunately we were spared. It was a really bad day, as some people lost their lives, and many lost homes, particularly in Hernes Oak. I remember Victory Day in Yallourn. We had a street parade, and all the children were dressed up. I went as Curly and Sonja Ostlund went as Bluey, two cartoon characters from The Sun. My sister had her dolls pram decorated with crepe paper, our only form of decoration in those days. Dad returned home so/ne months later, one cold wet night (as Yallourn was famous for). Mum heard the bus stop at the corner, as it made its nightly run from Moe Railway Station. There was a heavy thump on the front door. Mum apprehensively opened the door to see this very dark man with an air force issue of a waterproof poncho type garment, standing dripping on the doorstep. "Well are you going to let me in?" Dad asked. Mum almost fainted as she realised it was her long gone husband. As he shed his waterproof, she noted all he had on was a pair of shorts, boots and socks. He had dressed like this in New Guinea for so long. They hadn't been issued with any other clothes, they had left New Guinea with a minute's notice. He had flown home to Sydney in a Lancaster Bomber, being in the Tropics one minute, and back to the cold and wet of South Eastern Australia the next. His one concern was to see hrs little girls. My sister and I slept with Mum in her double bed, so Dad walked straight through and switched on the light. My sister just screamed and screamed at this wet brown man smiling at her. Being older, I remembered my Dad and sprang into his arms. Dad said he knew how to coax my sister
    around, and reached into his haversack and pulled out two dolls (now dolls just were not available), but Dad had searched Sydney on the way home, for "dolls for his girls' and it won my sister over. This is just the start of all my wonderful memories of Yallourn, and the dreams all those young couples had when they arrived there......and now the dreams are gone, the town has gone, and I, like all of my counterparts, come from a Brown Hole in the ground.

    15/01/2019 - 21:24
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  • 32713

    Alex McAllister YHS 1935 sent some details of his background. “I was born in Scotland & together with my parents and brother Tom immigrated to Australia arriving in Melbourne in November 1926 at the age of three. We settled in Melbourne for a time and in 1931 my father obtained employment at Yallourn during the construction period and the family, which included my two brothers Bob & Jim who were born in Australia, moved to Yallourn. I had already commenced school in Melbourne and my first schooling at Yallourn was at the primary school in Fairfield Avenue ,then in grade six up to the high school building where our teacher was a Mr Whitely and the head master at the time a Mr Abrahams.

    I commenced what was then termed the Higher Elementary School in 1935, the grading of the classes was then in four forms F, E, D, & C commencing at F & finishing up in C where you sat the Intermediate certificate. During the four years I was there, we had some excellent teachers. I particularly remember Miss Hooper who had us for English, French & History, Mr Staines science which at that time was a combination of physics & chemistry & Mr Tasker mathematics which covered algebra, trigonometry & geometry and at the technical college Mr Jones thermodynamics & physics & Mr Tyrell all the mathematics, I have no doubt it was due to their efforts that I was able after I left Yallourn to go on to higher education.

    Yallourn was a fantastic town to grow up in, it had everything and in the surrounding area, we fished for trout and few species native fish in the Morwell River and Traralgon Creek, canoed as far as we could go in a weekend up the Latrobe River, skied on Mt Erica, caught rabbits out around Thorpdale way travelling on pushbikes and later, when we could afford them, motor bikes.

    Like many other Yallourn boys I did an apprenticeship with the SEC, mine as an apprentice fitter & turner, after the war when the manpower restrictions were abolished Mr Boehm, who was then the senior Engineer at the Briquette factory, obtained a position for me through a friend of his, an Engineer with a ship repair company on the Yarra as a junior engineer with a British shipping company and I sailed from Melbourne in January 1946. I remained with the company for seven & a half years sailing out of Liverpool and Glasgow for twice circumnavigating the world & calling at ports in India, China coast, Malaya, Australia America and on the mainland of Europe, apart for eighteen months when I was appointed as second engineer on board a passenger vessel sailing between Fremantle and Singapore, It was during this period I married in September 1950 and then in April 1951 returned to England with Prue to attend a Marine college in Liverpool. After the examinations, I had some leave to take and we purchased a small car and travelled throughout England & Scotland from Johns O’Groats at the top to Lands End at the bottom - then it was sell the car and back to sea while Prue lived with relatives and worked in London. We continued to live like this, the only difference being during my leaves we toured the continent making use of the French I had learned with Miss Hooper & skiing in Austria. However all things come to an end and we decided it was time to go home to Australia in April 1953 and I returned to sailing again Fremantle to Singapore until August when I obtained a position as an Engineer at the power station. In 1960, I successfully applied for a position as Engineer & Ship Surveyor with the Western Australian Marine Authority from which I retired in 1986 as Chief Marine Surveyor. After six months of retirement, I set up a one-man business in Marine Engineering & Naval Architecture; however after ten years, I found I was giving away half the money I earned to the Taxation Department so I gave it away and again retired. We have three children - Ian 1954, Rob 1955 & Juliet 1959 and seven grandchildren. As I said earlier, I had a very happy childhood and young manhood in Yallourn and look back on my time when I lived there as a very pleasant period of my life - I would change nothing

    14/01/2019 - 18:26
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  • 32712

    Tim Harvey, YHS 1971 You might remember Tim’s memories in the last newsletter (Part 1 - Water)....here is Part 2 - Fire: The first group of recollections in this series started with one of the classical elements - water, and it seemed fitting to move to another – fire. Yallourn was overlooked on three sides by symbols of fire and was bounded by a fourth. The first of the three was the chimneys of the power stations, or rather the series of them. The annual reports of the SEC spoke proudly of the smoke pouring from the chimneys. In the fifties, it was a sign of progress. In the sixties, it was a sign of industry. In the seventies, it was a sign that no-one was on strike at that particular moment. I remember going on class trips to the power stations on several occasions. Being scared of heights, I hated the grill floors and the highlight of each trip was peering into the tiny windows into the boilers and seeing the sheets of flame. Let’s be fair here – there wasn’t much else to see. Everything else was in casings and behind walls, protecting the high-energy contents from the outside world. It was high-tech, it was engineering at its finest. But it really wasn’t much to look at. The second was the chimney of the briquette factory, that vertical red stripe on the SW corner of the town. All the years I spent in Yallourn, I don’t think I ever got to look around the briquette factory. I know I used to stare (from a good distance) at the ladder that ran up the side of the chimney and boggle at the idea of someone actually climbing it. The third sentinel was - and still is - the tower on Coach Road hill. I remember my Dad telling me about how frightening the fires of 1944 were, when he was only a lad. The Cut caught fire, as did their back yard in Westbrook Rd. I couldn’t quite connect with the idea. I knew Yallourn and its surrounds. There were traces of trees and bush but not much to worry about, surely? But of course, the countryside I knew was largely shaped by the fear that those dreadful times instilled. The bush was savagely cut back until only a few pockets were left. Aerial pictures of Yallourn from decades before show the town surrounded by miles of bush on all sides. And the little wooden houses most of us lived in would have taken only a few breaths from a decent firestorm. So the tower on Coach Road hill stood watch. It was a risky assignment as, over the years, it has fallen prey to fire itself several times. As the highest point on the highest hill, it is periodically visited by fire from the sky. They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. That’s because the same place isn’t there any more. And neither is the tower. Same location, same general shape. But periodically the design changes - or is orcibly modified. In a flash, as it were. The fourth was the Open Cut, that creeping maw that eventually ate its way around and through the town itself. And the slightly sickening thing is that the coal under the town was used in preference to that of the Eastern Field only because it was nearer and, thus, slightly cheaper. It saved the SEC and the Victorian taxpayer the princely sum of $40m, if I recall correctly. Forty million dollars - the equivalent now of about two week’s tolls from City Link, not adjusted for inflation. And, having done the arithmetic and felt totally annoyed all over again, I will now compose myself and try not to utter any rude words. But, frankly, I am not going to try too hard. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Bum. The Fire station. Even from this distance in time, I remember the Fire Station as a rather elegant building. Light grey, the square tower with chic horizontal vents near the top. It had character, even if it was fairly minimalist. Not art -deco-ish and sculpted like the original Yallourn Tech. Not stolid with subtle curves and flourishes, like the Theatre. Not sleek and modern like the Methodist Church. It just seemed to be balanced, functional and pleasant to look at. Unlike most of the public buildings in Yallourn which looked more like English two-up-and-twodown’s that had been scrunched together by bulldozers. I suspect the architectural department of the SEC only got to cut loose on the two weeks the boss was on holiday. They did the Tech, the Theatre and the Methodist Church, and then caught merry hell when he got back. (“Make ‘em boring, lads! Like when you were a kid – a box with a triangle on top for a roof!”) So, we ended up with the shops, the banks, the Health Centre, the Primary School, the High School, the Guest Houses, the Hotel, the Hospital, the Police Station and St Therese’s school. All boxes, all with a triangle for a roof. And all designed as though there was a special for buying in bulk that week. But the Fire Station was different. I only went there twice, as I remember, both times as a class excursion. They gave us a lecture on fire, then lit up some petrol in a big metal pan and put it out several times. And we all got a hell of a shock from the noise of the CO2 extinguishers – everyone does. But I remember they also showed us these new tiny extinguishers, yellow in colour. They didn’t look much bigger than cans of hairspray, but they worked amazingly well. Better than CO2 and less fuss. They were revolutionary. They were the Halon extinguishers, now banned for chewing holes in the ozone layer. [sigh] Fireworks. In 1605, Guy Fawkes and some friends attempted to blow up King and Country. Well, the King and the country’s MP’s, anyway. And with a logic matched only by the perverse celebrations of the rest of the year’s major holidays
    (rabbits and chocolate eggs for Easter, Santa and presents for Christmas), we commemorated that unsuccessful detonation by blowing things up ourselves. Considering that in my lifetime, we started celebrating such non-obvious events as Valentine’s Day and Secretary’s Day – principally for the benefit of large retailers - it is perhaps surprising that this celebration was allowed to die. But it was a blessing too, like the passing of milk bottles. Because just as milk bottles repeatedly put kids into hospital with awful damage to their hands, so November the fifth always did the same thing. Buying fireworks was essentially unregulated and you could walk in at almost any age and buy stuff that had fearsome power. Penny bungers were big enough to do serious damage, and Atomic Bungers and their ilk would easily destroy neighbourhood letterboxes. I know because we lost a couple that way. So, at our place, Dad usually took charge of fireworks on Guy Fawkes Day and let off the crackers and the rockets and the Catherine Wheels while we were shepherded back to a safe distance. This generally worked well, except for one particular year. Our dog, upset by the proceedings on sensory levels which we could never appreciate, was barking wildly and bravely at any sputtering or fizzing as things went off. As kids, we thought this tremendously amusing up to the point where Dad set off a skyrocket. The dog, incensed by the mad hissing from the milk bottle, leapt at it, knocking it over just as the rocket ignited. The rocket described a graceful horizontal arc over the dividing fences and blew up with what seemed unnatural violence in our neighbour’s yard. Next to their brandnew car. We beat a hasty retreat inside and hid. That was pretty much the end of the Guy Fawkes experience as I remember, although for some years, Dad kept a shoebox full of very small crackers. Yallourn was a very pet-friendly town, which was good because we had lots of our own. Except that most of the neighbourhood cats ended up fighting with our cats in our yard at night and generally making a hell of a racket. Dad would gently ease open the bedroom window and, sitting on the floor, would light a cracker and quietly flick it into the midst of the furry melee outside. A short, sharp blast and the melee would instantly vanish in all directions never to re-form. (They should try that in the AFL - now that would bring the crowds back to the footy.) The lounge room heater. The SEC was, in many ways, a wonderful landlord. At one point, they got rid of our old lounge heater and replaced it with the then-equivalent of a big flatscreen TV. It was sleek and modern and recessed into the old fireplace. And it had an electric fan. But like most things firerelated in Yallourn, it was fuelled by coal, or more specifically, briquettes. The wussy heaters of today (Coonara and suchlike) have big warnings on them telling you specifically that they are not to be used with briquettes, because the heat will buckle the metal baseplate. By contrast, our heater in Yallourn was born to EAT briquettes and spit out heat. And boy, could it spit out heat. We would bask in the power of our new toy by closing the lounge-room door, cranking up the fire and the fan and getting the room like a dry sauna. It was stifling, but pleasantly invigorating. (Although in retrospect, it probably did the valves in our old black and white TV no good at all - they were forever blowing and needing replacement.) My grandma walked into the lounge room unprepared a couple of times and nearly passed out. After that, we kept the heat in the lounge room at more sensible levels. Autumn leaves. The trees in Yallourn were beautiful, of course. We lived on the corner of Fairfield Ave and Uplands Rd. We had a giant pin oak on the Fairfield Ave nature strip running eastwest and a couple of claret ash trees on the Uplands Road nature strip. And in autumn these trees turned their leaves beautiful shades of yellows and reds and burgundy. Or sometimes just rusty brown, depending on how wet the previous season had been. But inevitably, this show would be completed with an almost audible thump as the leaves fell as one to the ground. Autumn was the official time to rake them all into the bluestone gutters and set fire to them. Composting was not a concept that had reached the colonies at that stage and the only way to keep the world safe from the annual invasion of the Dead Leaf Creatures was to burn them. And for most people, this was more or less doing on the weekend what they did most of the time at work anyway, just using a different fuel. There was an art to it, so it didn’t go up all at once in a bright smokeless flame, nor so that it made so much smoke that passing automobiles would run blindly into trees or one another. There was a happy medium of air and leaf that generated that marvellous haze of autumn we now know is so bad for us, the environment and civilisation as we know it today. But it had a wonderful smell, and was another childhood marker of he passing seasons. And I miss it still.

    14/01/2019 - 18:25
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  • 32711

    Terry Heskey YHS 1955 Ex-Yallourn resident, Elsie Heskey, passed away on 20th May 2006 at Atherton, Queensland. I have enjoyed reading the YOGA Newsletters and the article from John Lewis in the June 2007 edition was of particular interest regarding the mid-1950s education system at the YHS. It is the first time I've seen any form of explanation to questions I had pondered since those school days - but it wasn't all bad. On the positive side, I learnt to be a "Tar of Pinafore" and a "Gentleman of Japan" by courtesy of Mr Pyers; the ability to think quickly and duck for cover by courtesy of Mr Mitchell hurling the blackboard duster at a space where my head had been and into the poor kid sitting behind me - a very important lesson when later in life one has muck thrown at you....and finally on that magnificent last day of Term 1 1959 when Mr Ellis invited me into his office for a "Don't come Monday Fortnight" talk. I remember his parting words - "You'll carve your own niche in life". As hard as those days at school appeared at the time, we were taught to take a few "knocks" and were all the better for it when we had to face the real world outside Yallourn.

    14/01/2019 - 18:24
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  • 32710

    Steve Gray YHS 1971 On yer bike! As a kid in Yallourn, I distinctly remember standing at the front gate of our house as a very young lad and at a set time each day, a few older guys would ride by on their bikes on their way to work, handle bars turned upwards for comfort and a slow pedalling motion got them there, but not in a hurry. One or two of them used to wave to me and say G’day; I know not who they were but their old bikes carried them forward with a gracefulness and ease I don’t often see these days. My brothers had bikes and even my sister had a big old girls bike, the sort that boys did not dare get caught dead riding! I think all were Christmas presents at some stage; Brother Colin was right into his, off with his mates vroom! He was gone into the wild blue yonder. Peter, on the other hand, found his good to get to his select few mates places, he was not big on exploring. In Yallourn, most kids had a bike of some sort, either a hand-me-down or a brand spanking new one with 3-speed “Sturmey Archer” gears - wow those were the days! Of course you only went to Arthur Oliver’s sports store to buy it, in the bike section of course… (He had so much stuff in that shop!) Out the front there were always a heap of bikes (literally) awaiting some form of repair (or was it to make it look like he was busy?). You would rock up with a worn cotter pin; he would put a tag on the bike and stack it up out the front… If you had a paper round your bike was first in line (most of the time). There were not many places you could not go in Yallourn on a bike and at Christmas, there were plenty of them being trialled up and down the streets, across the ovals up hill and down dale... When I got old enough, I was allowed to ride mine to school and most mornings I would do my best to catch up to Tim Harvey who lived up the road. He had a run up by the time he got to our place and I was off a cold start - he would whiz by and most times beat me to school by a good margin. Years later, I had a 10speed bike, which gave me the edge in the race to get to school by 9am; by this stage he was taking it easy, not wanting to get a sweat up and repel the girls. We all did MANY miles on our bikes, and if there was a dull moment in our school holidays, it meant we had not ridden enough around town. Sure there were the scrapes and scratches, bent handle bars and buckled wheels but in the main, a great time was had by all. For those on paper rounds, the bike was dusted off very early in the morning and often saw action until it was nearly dark in the evenings. They would stack up in the shed, under the veranda or in a garage until they were needed next time, the trusty bike in Yallourn did its fair share of errands and kept us fit and healthy to boot!

    14/01/2019 - 18:24
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  • 32709

    Richard Bush YHS 1955 “Must be part of the uniform “ It’s well worn but in good shape. The badge is pinned proudly to the front. The stripes around the edge are as straight as the yellow band on Elaine Verey’s marching tunic. The lining is worn silky smooth - a sheen derived from years of coal dust and Brylcream (or was it Californian Poppy). The brand is “Tee Dee” – probably the initials of a small manufacturer from the days when clothing was made in Fitzroy or Collingwood. Inside it says “Size: six and seven eights” which was supposed to be a large size. To look at it now you’d think it wouldn’t fit a primary school boy. Put it on and it’s like a shrunken appendage sitting far to the north of the brow. It may have worked for a cub scout but not for a teenage boy worried about his bodgie hairdo. George Ellis decreed it must be worn whenever one was in uniform and outside the school boundary. Making us wear it just meant we tried to look ridiculous – which wasn’t hard. Even in its day, it looked out of place on an Australian schoolboy and didn’t serve to keep the Australian sun out of the eyes. The girls were better off with berets. They could even look stylish in a soldierly sort of way. Headgear with a brim would have been better.

    14/01/2019 - 18:23
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  • 32708

    Marje Weston (Gray) YHS 1956 photo taken at mini reunion held at Bendigo last year. Left to right are: Annie Clark, Marje Weston (Gray), Jean Robinson (Humphreys), Margot Guzzardi (Teasdale) and Margaret Loft (Browitt) - all 1956ers.” Jean has been over from WA for several months firstly caring for her Mum, and after her death, finalising the estate, so they have taken the opportunity to catch up twice since the YOGA reunion dinner last March in Morwell. We have one more "meeting" planned before she returns to WA - lunch at Kyneton on July 31st. We have had such great nights, and as everyone says, we just seem to take up where we left off all those years ago.

    14/01/2019 - 18:22
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  • 32707

    Steve Gray YHS 1971….
    Cubby huts and hidey-holes…
    I guess Yallourn was blessed with practically every house having a shed of some kind and we were lucky as we had both a garage and a shed. For our family, the humble shed that was meant for wood and garden implements (after starting its life as an outside toilet) soon became the place to hang out. For us it was the cubby house, a place where stories were told, billy carts and bikes were stored, but more importantly - as a hidey hole for friends to gather.

    My sister, Anne, started off having her dolls lined up on shelves, but before long she reluctantly shared the space with my brother, Colin, and eventually Peter when he needed space to put electronic bits and pieces. When Colin took over, Anne became annoyed that his friends would push the dolls out of the way to make room for more important things, and at one stage a whole bookcase unit was moved to expose a great viewing hole from which you could see the back door and most of the yard.

    It was not long before Anne’s dolls were out of there and a fully blown GHQ was set up (General Headquarters…). Colin was the “Commander in Chief” and his ‘minions’ seemed to be a bustling bunch of pushers and shovers when they ditched their bikes at the end of our back yard path. Being younger, my mates and I would be bumped out of the way and any ‘stuff’ of ours that had ended up in his space was soon thrown out the door…(Mum put an end to that).

    The letters GHQ were scratched and drawn into the weather beaten door and various locks fitted as well as a spy hole in the middle of the door. If we harassed the bustling congregation too much, there would be a silent pause and then a rush of bodies from the “inner sanctum” to the “real world” and bruised arms and dented egos would be the aftermath as we ran from their onslaught. Such was my life while Colin ruled the roost at GHQ.

    Occasionally, on a wet winter’s day, Colin would let me in to watch him trap an unsuspecting minor bird or better still a magpie with a length of string, a cardboard box and chunks of bread strewn about the yard. From the viewing hole, he could pull the string to lower the box on the bird and then rush out and let it free. One day he dragged out his metho camp stove and frying pan and he sent me on a mission most daring… The mission, (should I decide to accept it,) was to get bread and dripping from the kitchen without being detected, then bring it back to make some fried bread… (Oh the cholesterol!) I had a great afternoon and mum was at a loss as to why we didn’t eat much for dinner that night.

    The shed (or should I just call it GHQ) saw the coming and goings of many kids and events over the years. Colin’s first go at a cigar and cigarettes along with his minion mates took place here, (they soon found the garage was better as it had greater ventilation although it had a higher risk of getting caught, something to do with the smoke pouring out from under the eaves…)

    Around the town there were various similar spots, across the road Joanne Davis’s dad (Joe Davis) built her a two storey job with a balustrade at the top, wow what a sight, and a reasonable view too! In the bush, various lean-tos and hidey-holes popped up from time to time. However only three of these spots really stand out in my mind.

    There was a set of pine trees down near No 1 oval out the back on the way to the hospital, which was fairly well untouched, we set up a spot there… (It ended up too far away to be bothered with from my place) The SEC patrolies dropped in a few times and told us off (so much for it being a secret!) they said the fire risk was too high.

    The second spot was up a poplar tree out the front of the guesthouse in Fairfield Ave. We would drop our bikes and scurry up the branches and be out of sight in no time (not very big - three kids max!), we had to be careful not to fall out of the tree (occupational hazard) and then there was the cubby to beat all cubbies…

    Geoff Castell and I in our travels found a bungalow on the way to school in the back of the Crowe’s place, they had moved on, the place was vacant and the grass grew longer… It was locked but the hardware store provided the right key (took a few goes, but they were happy to
    oblige by swapping the key until we got the right one!) We put in a chunk of carpet to sit on, and Geoff puffed his head off on cigarettes (vile things…) One school afternoon our pact to keep it our secret spot came unstuck and we ended up getting our backsides kicked by our teacher when he found out about it. (Loose tongues sink ships!) I don’t recall if it was Geoff or me who let it slip in a casual conversation about who had the best cubby hut. The afternoon walk home became a run, (the aim to run past the house so no one knew which one it was,) but poor communication meant Geoff ran straight down the driveway (Hey did you think I would blame myself?) I followed and so did most of our class. A very embarrassing end to our super dooper cubby hut exploit!

    Yallourn afforded many opportunities for kids to hide out and explore and these quick stories I hope illustrate a little of what it was like for so many of us that led innocent and fun filled lives.

    Until next time….Steve Gray

    14/01/2019 - 18:21
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  • 32706

    Richard Bush YHS 1955 wrote:-
    Fathers and Head Masters My father, Jim Bush, had a connection with Yallourn High School in the 1950s beyond his three children attending (aside from me, there was Elisa 1950 and Susan 1953). He was a member of the Advisory Council.

    Like many civic-minded men of this pre-TV era, Jim was busy on many committees, although I’m not sure his role on the Advisory Council was very demanding - George Ellis probably had the Council well and truly tamed...but it did mean that Jim was seated with other luminaries on the stage during speech nights at the Yallourn Theatre. One of Jim’s endearing qualities was to drop off to sleep at every opportunity. He had perfected the power nap before the term became part of the vernacular. True to form, I remember seeing him dozing while on the stage behind Ellis’ back. It was not a splayed leg and gaping mouth sort of doze, but rather a discreet nod of the head and a lowering of the lids behind the spectacles.

    Ellis was a distant sort of a Head but then it would be surprising if he were otherwise. We had only brief encounters including of a disciplinary nature. Ellis didn’t administer corporal punishments himself - I guess he was happy to delegate. I remember “underpants” Ernie Herman being the deliverer of “six of the best” on a few occasions. I did have one kneetrembling encounter with Ellis during my matric year. I was summoned to the front office along with a few other cohorts for misbehaving one night after a school social at Kernot Hall. A watchful citizen had probably reported us. We were accused of defiling Sir John Monash’s memory by placing a rubbish bin over the bust of Monash that stood on a plinth in the middle of the town square. As innocent as this may seem, we had committed an offence against the great man and we had to be given a dressing down.

    I had no idea of Monash’s achievements during WWI including his victories as Corps Commander of the AIF towards the end of the war and, after the war, as the first Chairman of the SEC. It would have helped us had the ANZAC day school broadcast featured Monash rather than Simpson and his donkey. In any event, there we were, in the Head’s office looking as remorseful as hell when one of us, responding to Ellis’ question on whether we had anything to say for ourselves, declared, “We were just having fun, Sir”. This served only to trigger a further dressing down.

    The following year, when we had started at Melbourne Uni, Andrew Spaull and I walked across Royal Parade to pay our respects to Ellis at University High. I remember him being very cordial and pleased to see us. All was forgiven - in fact the Monash incident was not mentioned….but I am not so sure he would have forgiven the Advisory Council member who dozed behind his back during speech night

    14/01/2019 - 18:21
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