The following newspaper extract will give readers some idea of what transpired in Yallourn during the Christmas period of 1932. The article was unearthed in the ‘Morwell Advertiser’; and primarily deals with the operating hours of the store during the Christmas weekend of that year. Furthermore, it is an interesting article as brief mention is made of the local church services, the Yallourn Band, CEMS (Church Of England Men’s Society), Yallourn Fire Brigade and a group of local anglers known as the ‘Waybacks.’

The importance of the Yallourn General Store, in the lives of the people of the town, is shown in the extract. In the early years of Yallourn, the General Store, which was established by the SECV, could be best described as a ‘company store’: “A company store- is a retail store selling a limited range of food, clothing and daily necessities to employees of a company.”

According to Meredith Fletcher in her book entitled: ‘Digging People Up for Coal’ (page: 75), the prices and range of available goods at the store caused a degree of disquiet among the residents.

Please feel welcome to forward any stories or photographs about Christmas in Yallourn to Julie George for posting on the website. Thank you.
The footnotes endeavour to give some background to the groups mentioned in the article; and it is hoped that readers may able to provide further information to that below.


News and Notes

As mentioned in last issue the General Store will be closed in most departments on Monday and Tuesday. Refreshments, etc. departments will be open every day except Christmas Day, so will the Newspaper dept: from 10 to 1 o'clock on the Monday and Tuesday.

There will not be any delivery of the late Saturday Herald on Sunday morning. The smallgoods will open on Tuesday morning. Orders for meat given in on Saturday can be collected on the Tuesday morning before 10 o'clock.

The Band notifies that as many of its members will be away for the holidays there will not be any performances in the Rotunda on Sunday, Xmas Day or Sunday, New Year's Day. The next Sunday Recital will be on 8th January. If possible the band will play as usual at the Store on each of the Friday evenings.

The Waybacks fishing party from the Seldom Seen has returned. We understand the member with the longest arms tells the best story of the trip of the whoppers that were lost.

The first festive announcement for 1933 is that the C.E.M.S is having a Whist Drive and Dance in St. John's Hall on the 2nd January.

The Presbyterian and Methodist Churches have joined forces for next Sunday's (Xmas Day) Services, a happy idea. The Rev. F. I. Jenkin will take the service at the Presbyterian Church in the morning and the Rev. J. Smith the service at the Methodist Church in the evening. The choirs in each instance being massed.

Matters are getting in trim for the great Fire Brigades Demonstrations here in January. About £60 worth of prizes have been allotted, apart from the Cups, and two members of the Brigade and General Store went to the city Monday and made selections from various ware houses.

It is pleasing to note that the Brigade and some other public bodies have given the Store preference for purchase in bulk. The Store can always do this class of business if given the opportunity.

1. Page: 10 of the above newspaper was solely devoted to news items about Yallourn. Other items on that page, in that edition, included information regarding: the Yallourn Branch of the RSL, Santa Claus’ visit to Yallourn State School, the Bowling Club, the Yallourn Rifle Club, latest information about the Scouts and Guides and several advertisements related to local businesses.

2. Younger readers may not appreciate that the above news, about the town, is set amid the worsening economic conditions caused by Great Depression. In 1932, some 30% of the Australian population was out of work. The 1933 Census indicated that many unemployed men were without work for two years or more. The full impact of the economic downturn created widespread poverty, homelessness and misery on a scale never seen before in Australia.

3. Like all country towns, Yallourn felt the consequences of the Great Depression; and one of the devastating effects of the national economic calamity, on the ‘Yallourn Project’, was that the construction of new homes in Yallourn was seriously curtailed. According to Prue McGoldrick’s research…
“Only 28 houses were built in the town in 1930, one in 1931-32 and none in 1932-33” ‘ Yallourn Was” Page: 119

4. Those people who had work at Yallourn were ‘better off’ than most. However, the fear of unemployment, as the crisis deepened, was never far from the minds of all. Life for most Yallourn families during the Great Depression was austere and challenging.

5. The General Store was established sometime in 1924. It provided a limited range of goods such as: clothing, footwear, stationery, newspapers, foodstuffs etc; and concerns were often expressed about the price of basic items.

6. It is recorded that Yallourn residents often found it difficult to purchase certain provisions at the store and, as a consequence, would travel to Moe (eg Purvis stores) or Morwell (Sharpes’).

7. A well-known Yallourn identity, Mr JP Campbell, was said to have been the first manager of the General Store; and, when he stepped down in 1934, Mr Curl assumed the role. Mr Campbell was an intriguing character and his contribution to the town of Yallourn was far-reaching.

8. Mr C. H. Curl, who was appointed to the position of Trading Manager of the Store in December 1934, was mentioned in numerous newspaper extracts of that era; and it appears that he entered into community activities with considerable spirit and zeal.

9. The Yallourn General Store traded under the auspices of the SECV and it operated in that manner until 1953. ‘The Age’ newspaper reported, in 1953, that the SECV had sold the store to Rockman’s for £60,000 (pounds). With the sale of the General Store on July 1st 1953, the SEC had no further trading/commercial interests within the town (i.e. all businesses were privately owned).

10. The Yallourn Band, was formed sometime in 1922 under the auspices of the SECV. Sir John Monash’s strong influence in establishing the band is apparent as he was one of the Inaugural Patrons…
“ SEC records show that it ( the band) first earned money on 5th May 1922…..The commission helped with a grant of £100 for instruments in 1922-23. ‘Yallourn Was’ Page: 81

11. The first Yallourn Bandmaster was Peter Cameron. At the time of the above newspaper extract, Mr Charles Turner occupied the prestigious position. Mr Turner’s enthusiasm and love of music provided great impetus to the band. There are numerous stories about the people and achievements of the Yallourn Band. Earlier this year, a comprehensive story about Bill Fleming, one of the long-serving members of the band, was posted on this website.

12. CEMS was the acronym for the Church of England Mens’ Society. It is recorded that the Vicar of St John’s in 1932 was Reverend Bennett. It seems that CEMS was an organization basically concerned with the welfare, fellowship and education of the many men who lived in the camps and the township.

13. Rev. Bennett appears to have been a clergyman of considerable drive and influence as it was reported that, in 1930, he was one of the keynote speakers at the Anglican Men’s Rally at the Cathedral Building in Swanston Street, Melbourne.

14. Rev. Bennett is also mentioned in the history of Yallourn in relation to scouts, the swimming club, the ‘No Licence’ campaign (i.e. no outlets for the sale of alcoholic beverages in Yallourn).

15. In November 1933, Rev. Bennett was appointed to the position of Rector of St George’s Parish at Battery Point, Hobart; and more than 150 people gathered in the St John’s Hall to say farewell. With Rev. Bennett’s departure, Rev. Franklin Cooper (formerly of Wonthaggi) was inducted into the Parish of St John’s on February 1st 1934 by the Bishop of Gippsland.

16. Some of the recorded activities of the Yallourn CEMS included: social-supper evenings, public lectures, whist drives, dances, charity nights (to aid local children) and church services at St John's.

17. In May 1934, more than 300 men attended a religious gathering at Yallourn which was organized by the local CEMS. The highly successful assembly, which included a speech by Bishop Taylor Smith, received a comprehensive coverage in the ‘Morwell Advertiser’…
“This is by far the most successful men's effort ever staged at Yallourn, men having come from as far as Rosedale, Maffra, Sale, Mirboo North, Warragul and Drouin, and proves that the Church is not behind other activities in showing that Yallourn can do things.” May 17th 1934 Page: 3.

18. The paragraph in the above newspaper extract, which refers to the ‘Wayback fishing party from Seldom Seen’ may be little cryptic for younger readers.

19. The passage seems to infer that the anglers, from Yallourn, likened themselves to the Wayback family (as was mentioned in the stories of Steel Rudd). Steel Rudd (Arthur Hoey Davis) won fame for his collection entitled: ‘On Our Selection’ which included amusing yarns about such rustic characters as Dad and Dave.

20. A silent film entitled ‘The Waybacks’ was produced in 1918 by ‘Koala Films’ and later re-released in 1925. The film is said to have been based on play by Phillip Lytton; and perhaps the Yallourn anglers, in adopting the nickname of the ‘Waybacks’ had been influenced by the movie or the live theatre production of the same name.

21. Mt. Seldom Seen is to be found in the Alpine National Park in Eastern Victoria (near the town of Gelantipy). Mt. Seldom Seen is some 1,330 metres above sea level. The major tributaries in that area are the Buchan and Snowy Rivers; and it is said that there are sites along the Snowy River that offer anglers a good chance to hook brown or rainbow trout. No doubt, the intrepid fishermen from Yallourn, knew the best spots along the river to ‘drop a line.’

22. With an open cut mine and the dense forest/vegetation surrounding Yallourn, the fire brigade was an essential service. In the early 1930’s the township of Brown Coal Mine was imperilled by fire; and as stated in Prue McGoldrick’s book…
“The worst fires in the cut were caused by bushfires …which really tested the bravery, loyalty and skill of all concerned in subduing them.” Page: 120

23. The Yallourn Fire Brigade is a saga within itself. Formed by volunteers 1924 and, in time, established itself as one of the best equipped, most organized and efficient brigades in Victoria.

24. The first ever captain of the Yallourn Brigade was Mr Fenner and later captains included: Ron Wiggins, Harry Tait, Tom White and Joe Smith. It is recorded that in the early days of the YFB, the station was located in a building often known as Centre Hall.

25. In the formative years, the Brigade was affiliated with the Country Brigades Board; and won admiration from onlookers when competing in the Annual State-wide Championships. YFB won the competition in 1933 and again 1936.

26. There are numerous articles and photographs related to the history of the Yallourn Fire Brigade. To read more: Type in ‘Fire’ in the search field ( top right hand corner of your computer screen) ) and press ‘Enter. ‘

27. Despite the ‘Crash on Wall Street’ and the worsening worldwide monetary crisis, it appears as though 1932 was a ‘busy year’ in the town of Yallourn as the following events occurred …
• The first house fire in town was reported on January 16th.
• A meeting was held to form a croquet club in the town.
• Yallourn Football Club won the Gippsland FL premiership.
• There was a serious outbreak of diphtheria at the Brown Coal Mine (i.e. Yallourn North) settlement.
• The Yallourn Auxiliary of the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind was formed in August 1932.
• In November that year, the Memorial Monument to Sir John Monash was unveiled in the Town Square. (Sir John died in October 1931).
• On the 17th December 1932 , the new Girl Guide Hut was officially opened.
• A new club house for the Yallourn Swimming Club was opened on December 24th.

28. Finally, although the economic depression brought great hardship to all workers across the nation, the residents of the Yallourn township and the hundreds of men in the SECV Camps at Yallourn did their very best to make the yuletide season a merry and festive occasion.


The above story is part of an on-going project regarding the history of Yallourn. The story was researched and written by Roger Spaull and presented and posted by Julie George for the Virtual Yallourn website in December 2017.

The above article from the ‘Morwell Advertiser’ newspaper has been faithfully reproduced. The only amendments to the original copy are the font style, font size and spacing, so as to enhance the article for purposes of posting on the Virtual Yallourn website.