1948 - A LONG HOT SUMMER IN YALLOURN
The sales of electric refrigerators took off some time in the 1950’s; and it is documented that 67% of Melbourne homes had electric refrigerators by 1955. Up until that period, people depended upon ice chests to keep their food fresh and edible.
The following extract reports on a lively debate that arose at the Yallourn Town Advisory Council meeting, in February 1948 regarding a shortage of ice for household ice chests.
It was a vital issue for the town; and the YTAC was under extreme pressure, from local residents, to find a solution to the problem. During the meeting, Cr. Edmondson presented a petition, signed by 160 residents, imploring the authorities to guarantee that an adequate supply of ice for the people of Yallourn that year. The comments of Councillors Edmondson, Fewster and Field make interesting reading.
Furthermore, the remarks made by of Mr Shaw, who seems to have been the owner/manager the Morwell Ice Works, provide some insight into the difficulties that the company had experienced in coping with the heavy demand for ice during that long hot summer some 71 years ago.
26TH FEBRUARY 1948 ‘MORWELL ADVERTISER’ PAGE : 7
ICE FOR YALLOURN HOUSEHOLDERS
THAT the provision of adequate ice supplies for the needs of house holders is a live issue at Yallourn, was evident from the correspondence, petition and nominal roll of unsatisfied customers before the Yallourn Advisory Council on 20th February.
The Yallourn Branch of the A.L.P. submitted a further suggestion that the S.E.C. make fuller use of existing ice making plant at the butchery by working shifts and retailing and delivering through the General Store.
Mr. W.T. Price submitted representatives for improvements and the S.E.C. indicated that the plant at the butchery was too small and overhead costs prevented any extension. It expressed its willingness to set aside a site for an ice-making and chilling plant, if somebody would be prepared to construct and operate it.
Cr. Edmondson also presented a petition carrying 160 signatures asking for council's co-operation in securing adequate supplies of ice. Cr. Fewster made a case for the utilisation to capacity of the existing plant at the butchery. He believed it could produce seven tons weekly if not used for chilling. Alternatively, the S.E.C. might make the plant available to the Morwell distributor.
Mr. W.N. Shaw, of the Morwell Ice Works, appeared before the council to explain the position as to the production and delivery of ice to Yallourn. Mr. Shaw said that when he purchased the ice manufacturing plant at Morwell in late 1946, he was quite aware that its capacity was inadequate for the market offering. He had accordingly lost no time in preparing plans, as a first step, for the duplication of the existing plant, which was capable, if driven to its full capacity, of producing 35 tons weekly.
He had placed orders for requisite, machinery and equipment with Melbourne firms, but, despite continuous pressure on the manufacturers, he was unable to obtain much of the essential equipment. Towards the middle of last year, he purchased materials, ex-disposals, to fabricate the brine tank and had exhausted every avenue for obtaining material for completing the job.
Although he had not been able to get increased production during the recent hot spell, he believed it would not be long before the duplicated plant would come into full production. Although he had a waiting list of 108 names, he considers that, when the final items of equipment came to hand, he could adequately cover Yallourn's full requirements.
During the recent hot spells, by working round the clock, he had brought 60 tons of ice from Melbourne to help out, but the availability of sufficient petrol was a limiting factor to continuing this auxiliary service.
Cr. Fewster suggested the possibility of inducing the S.E.C. to hire its plant to a distributor or to get somebody to use it to manufacture ice for sale to Mr. Shaw. Cr. Field drew attention to the fact that the primary object of the plant at the butchery was for chilling meat. Perhaps the Yallourn Co-operative Society might be interested in the Commission's proposal to make a site available for an ice-works and cool store.
It was agreed that the S.E.C. be asked if, in its opinion, a greater supply of ice could be obtained by utilising the plant at the butchery to its fullest capacity for the manufacture and delivery of ice.
1. For younger readers, iceboxes or chests were constructed of wood (often mahogany) and the inside of the chest was lined with a metal lamina (such as tin or zinc). An insulating material (perhaps charcoal) was packed between the outer and inner ‘skins’ to restrict heat loss from the chest.
2. In those days, the ‘ice man’ delivered large ice blocks to the homes of Yallourn residents. The ice was placed in the top compartment of the ice chest and the cool air would circulate through the lower area of the chest where the perishable foods were stored. As the ice melted, a pipe, fitted at the rear of the chest, would carry the water to a container (usually on the floor) beneath the chest. This container of water would be emptied at regular intervals.
3. Depending on circumstances, a block of ice would last one to three days in the warmer months; so the financial benefits for the supplier of ice in the peak of summer were significant.
4. It is known that the Yallourn abattoirs had large refrigeration chambers on site to ensure that the meat was kept cool overnight before being delivered to the butcher shop. The slaughter-yard was situated on the outskirts of Yallourn (along the road leading from Yallourn Hospital to Hernes Oak).
5. Note: In 2018, former YHS student Dianne Stevenson (Goulding), provided some enlightening information and photographs for this website regarding the Yallourn butcher shop and the slaughter yards. Dianne’s informative article can be found on this website.
6. It wasn’t just the iceman who did ‘his rounds’ at Yallourn each week. In a story for this website, Jean Fox (Hattam) referred to the butcher, baker, milkman and grocer making home deliveries to the homes of the township in earlier times..
“…the butcher, grocer (Nick Carter from Purvis Stores Moe) and baker (Mr Claxton from Yallourn North Bakery with his slow old horse) called from back door to back door through your yards to take orders. Even the night man went from loo to loo. The milk as delivered from hand cans into your milk billy each day…” Source: ‘Virtual Yallourn’ May 2015.
7. Younger readers may not appreciate that Yallourn was, in essence, a ‘company town’ and did not have an elected town council. The history of the formation of the Yallourn Town Advisory Council is well documented; and the YTAC came into being as the result of debate and concerted resident action. From the earliest days of the township, there were numerous attempts to change the system of governance of Yallourn…
“They (the residents) had no civic body to speak for them in negotiations with the Commission…residents were disenfranchised… So, they were both voiceless and voteless’’ Source: Prue McGoldrick ‘Yallourn Was’. Page :113.
8. As a consequence of lengthy community agitation and campaigning, by the residents, the Yallourn Town Advisory Council was established, under the auspices of the SECV, in September 1947.
9. The first members of the Yallourn Town Advisory Council were: E.G. Chisholm, John Field, R. Hamilton, R. Edmondson, A.E. Fewster and J. Collins. Mr T. Forristal was the independent chairman of the YTAC and Mr D. Langhorne was the nominated secretary…
“RATEPAYERS REPRESENTATIVES ELECTED …Following the poll on Saturday when fifteen candidates presented themselves for selections as ratepayers' representatives on the newly-created Yallourn Advisory. Council, the following were elected for the periods specified: EDMONDSON. R. S. J., school teacher. FEWSTER. A. W. E.. engineer. HAMILTON. Rex. lessee, Yallourn Picture Theatre. Mr Edmondson, who topped the poll was elected for three years, Mr Fewster for two and Mr Hamilton for one.” Source: ‘Morwell Advertiser’ December 18th 1947.
10. In the period 1947-79, other members of YTAC included (in alphabetical order): L. D’Alterio, P. Ashmead, J. Breen, N. Byrne, A. Cross, F. Daddo, G. Evans, W. Graham, F. Harries, P. Harry, W. Hebb, T. Jensen, R. Larsen, A. Lynch, B. Milne, P. Moncur, P. O’Sullivan, J. Robertson, A. Shepley, J. Slade, N. Smith, M. Sparrow, N. Thompson. J. Vines and W. Wallace.
11. According to one reliable source, Mrs Norma Smith was the only woman to serve on the YTAC. Norma was a member from 1974 until 1979.
12. The last Yallourn Town Advisory Council was held on November 29th 1979.By that time, ice chests were a ‘thing of the past’ and ‘ultra-modern’ electrical refrigerators and other labour saving ‘white goods’ had become the norm in most Australian homes.
The research and writing of this article were completed by Roger Spaull and presented and posted by Julie George for the Virtual Yallourn website in November 2019.
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, to enhance the story for the purposes of posting on the Virtual Yallourn website.