FROM THE NEWSPAPERS - 1932 A Mighty Win for Yallourn - Garden Competitions

A MIGHTY WIN FOR YALLOURN

In 1932, Yallourn was a special prize winner in the ‘Sun’ newspaper’s ‘Ideal Town’ competition. The results of the quest gained wide coverage in various country newspapers; and there was a great deal of prestige associated with the towns that featured in the awards.

For many country towns of Victoria, the competition was seen as important; and despite the hardship caused by the economic downturn of those times, the various campaigns conducted by rural communities, were successful in creating collective action and civic pride.

The ‘vision splendid’ of Sir John Monash of Yallourn to be developed as a model garden-town with well-maintained dwellings for workers , tree-lined streets, spacious parks, recreation reserves, children’s playgrounds and attractive home gardens had been realised by that time.

The results of the collective hard work (of the SECV, the town’s various clubs and organisations and the residents) in transforming a bush settlement into a town of such unique character would have had an immediate and powerful impact on the judges of the competition.

12TH FEBRUARY 1932 MORWELL ADVERTISER PAGE: 3

IDEAL TOWN QUEST

PRESENTATION OF PRIZE

The date of the visit of the Sun Newspaper Officials and Colonel Merritt, Chairman of the Judging Committee, for the presentation of the special prize of £200 awarded to Yallourn in the recently held Ideal Town Quest, has been fixed for Thursday evening, 30th February.

The party, which will include Messrs MacPherson, Manager of the Sun Newspaper Company, and D. Bayley, Organiser of the ‘Quest,’ will be the guests of the Commission, at dinner at the Yallourn Hotel, and at 8 p.m. will make the official presentation at the Band Rotunda.

Mr J. M. Bridge, General Superintendent will receive the prize on behalf of Yallourn.

FOOTNOTES
1. Considering that the first electrical generator went on line at the Yallourn Power Station on June 15th in 1924, the development of the township, to the point of winning state-wide recognition as an ideal town, less than eight years later, was astounding.
2. The ‘Ideal Town’ competition involved people collecting and forwarding ‘Sun’ coupons to the newspaper’s head office. The residents of Yallourn were active in collecting coupons and they embraced the campaign with enthusiasm.
3. Each coupon was worth one vote; and the SECV entered into the spirit of the campaign and donated 1000 newspapers (i.e. coupons). It is fair to say that the SECV took more than a passing interest in the competition and as Meredith Fletcher wrote…
“Acting General Superintendent Dixon sent a letter to each household reminding residents not to overlook things such as weeds behind fences…” ‘Digging People Up for Coal.’ Page : 90
4. The win in the quest was a ‘feather in the cap’ for the SECV because the ‘Yallourn Scheme’ was not without some vehement critics in those early days…
“ It was freely asserted that the undertaking was a white elephant, that it had been extravagant and vastly exceeded the original estimates of cost, and that huge losses would be made. All that criticism did harm. It tended to take away public support from the undertaking.” ‘The Age’ December 21st 1925.
5. It is well documented that the people of Yallourn were conscientious in their efforts to ‘spruce up’ the town and considerable time was set aside in making the town ‘ship-shape and Bristol fashion’ for inspection by the judges.
6. The committee, the SECV and the townsfolk were well prepared for the judges’ tour of inspection of Yallourn; and from the positive comments, made by the panel, there is little doubt that the judges were highly impressed with the township.
7. Nineteen towns entered the ‘Sun’ quest and each was inspected by the panel of judges from the ‘Sun’ newspaper. The prize winners in the competition were:- 1st: Beechworth. 2nd: Frankston and 3rd: Swan Hill.
8. Because Yallourn was deemed a ‘planned or government town’ it was placed into a special category by the judges. The ‘Sun’ adjudication panel, led by Colonel Merritt, was glowing in its comments about Yallourn. One panel member, a well-known artist named Harold Herbert, remarked…
“ …set in an extremely dark and dingy part of Gippsland…Yallourn sparkles with colour…Never were trees and gardens so well provided for or so well planned to achieve colour effects.” ‘The Live Wire’ November 19th 1931.
9. According to other country newspaper reports, towns that impressed the judges across the various divisions of the quest, included: - Ararat, Bright, Yackandandah, Geelong, Sorrento, Kyneton, Warrnambool and Alexandra. It is known that the judges also travelled to Bairnsdale as part of their tour of inspection.
10. The prize of £200 (pounds) was put to very good use by the people of Yallourn…
“…Yallourn won a special prize in the ‘Sun’ Ideal Town competition and used it to fence sports ovals on what had been the old Melbourne swamp, drained and filled two years earlier.” ‘Brown Power’ by Cecil Edwards Page:121.
11. It appears that the people of Yallourn had ‘quite a say’ in deciding how the prize money should be used…
“…every case, these awards are paid to the local governing body, which in Yallourn, is the State Electricity Commission. The allocation of the money at Yallourn, however will, with the consent and approval of the Commission, be decided by the townspeople themselves.” ‘Morwell Advertiser’ January 15th 1932.
One of the projects considered to be undertaken with prize money was an up-grading of the swimming pool.
12. It was difficult to discover the names of all the members of the Yallourn Ideal Town Committee; but it is known that SECV engineer Ken Murray, who had arrived in Yallourn in 1929, played a major role in the organisation of the campaign to enter (and win) the quest. It appears that Ken was active in community affairs and was member of the Yallourn Self Government Delegates Committee which was formed in June 1944.
13. A point of interest in relation to the competition, as revealed by Meredith Fletcher in her book, was that the judges experienced car trouble on the journey to Yallourn. Although things were thrown awry, the panellists ticked all the required boxes for Yallourn to become a finalist in the quest.
14. Mr J.M. Bridge (mentioned above in the article) was appointed as Engineer-in-Charge of coal winning in the Yallourn project in 1920. He later became the first General Superintendent at Yallourn. In reading the history of Yallourn, Mr Bridge was also a member of various organisations including the Yallourn Bowling Club, Anglican Church and Yallourn Rifle Club. When Mr Bridge stepped down as General Superintendent, Mr R. D. Dixon was promoted to that position in 1934.
15. According to the ‘Alexander and Yea Standard’ newspaper ( December 16th 1927), the winners of the competition in 1927 were:-
• A DIVISION: Bairnsdale, Castlemaine, Warrnambool, Ararat, Sale and Hamilton.
• B DIVISION: Frankston, Beechworth, Nhill, Euroa, Dimboola and Port Fairy.
• C DIVISION: Woodend, Yea, Jeparit, Yackandandah, Berwick and Alexandra.
16. The first homes in Yallourn were constructed in Maiden Street in 1922; and by 1924, it is documented, that more than 120 houses had been built. Obviously, Yallourn was in no shape to enter the inaugural ‘Ideal Town Quest’ in 1927; but in the next five years, a model garden-town took shape and prospered. The township of Yallourn, as envisaged by Sir John Monash, was a master-stroke in planning, design and construction.
17. According to the information on this website…
“ The report on the establishment of the town of Yallourn was drawn up by 15th December, 1921. The architect was A.R. La Gerche, the State Electricity Commission’s own architect. His plan was influenced by those of Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, England. ( June 2012)…
18. As history shows, the town of Yallourn became…
“ …one of the brightest but briefest flowerings of the garden-city movement as interpreted and applied in the Australian countryside .” Extract is taken from: ‘Historic Environment’ Vol:1 No:4 1981’.
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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, writing and presentation of this article were completed by Julie George and Roger Spaull for the Virtual Yallourn website in September 2016.

The above extract from the ‘Morwell Advertiser’ 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.