Looking Back - Local Names

By Leo Billington

Let’s look back, but we mustn’t trip up

The famous French painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec once said, “ I paint things as they are; I don’t comment. I record.” The same goes for history. Take Morwell for instance.

During its time growing up as a community, there are various moments which bewildered us. One was the controversial naming of Churchill.

Hazelwood Town Sign

The "Proclamation of Township of Churchill" was made by the Shire of Morwell on March 15, 1965. The Public Notice (published on March 17, 1965) stated "Notice is hereby given that the Government of Victoria, by and with the advice and guidance of the Council of the Shire of Morwell, has ordered that the Residential, Reserved Living, Central Business, Light Industrial and Public Open Spaces Zones of the Hazelwood Joint Planning Scheme 1963, shall hereafter be known as The Township of Churchill."

A bronze coloured structure 102 feet high represents a cigar, symbolising the town's link with Churchill. The issue of the town's name re-emerged in 1987. After much lobbying, a survey was taken and a close result favoured retaining the name Churchill.

However, Sir Winston Churchill never visited this locality.

Morwell Swimming Pool

Another was naming a narrow open area called Alexandra Park, so named after Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII, although she never visited Australia. This strip of land between the railway line and Commercial Road, opposite the former Commercial Road primary school, became the site of Morwell's first bowling club (1913), swimming pool (1925). All this has now gone, obliterated.

The Olympic swimming pool in Sir Norman Brookes Park was built in 1956. Sir Norman Everard Brookes was an Australian tennis player. During his career he won three Grand Slam singles titles, Wimbledon in 1907 and 1914 and the Australasian Championships in 1911. Brookes was part of the Australasian Davis Cup team that won the title on six occasions.

In 1921, Brookes was appointed Chairman of Directors of the Australian Paper Mills Company. Perhaps here lies the story that land was donated for a new swimming pool.

He began as a junior clerk and by 1904 he was a director of the firm. His father was the Managing Director then.

At the company’s Annual General Meeting in September, 1944, Sir Norman, as Chairman, said,

“It was essential that they should be well prepared for the tasks of economic rehabilitation and expansion which would arise after the war. For the past two years, our post-war re-construction committee has been making a careful and comprehensive study of these problems in relation to our own company. As a result, well-considered plans have been matured so that we may act as soon as circumstances will allow”.

The Argus, Tuesday September 26, 1944.

John Holland Plantation Sign

Then there is the John Holland Plantation. Sir John Holland AC was an Australian engineer and construction magnate, who founded the John Holland Construction Group in 1949. He was managing director until 1972, Chairman until 1986, and President from 1986 until his death in May, 2009.

During 1963-64, John Holland Constructions held contracts for pipe works when the Hazelwood Power Station was being constructed. Then in March 2005, Theiss John Holland commenced building EastLink which saw the short-term establishment by John Holland Constructions of the concrete products and pre-stressing facility for the project at Morwell.

Today, the John Holland Plantation is a sad sign, perhaps wondering why it is where it is.

Away from distant names and looking at the then Morwell Shire Council, we note that in their March 1945 meeting, Shire councillors debated whether a “comforts station for women was an absolute necessity.”

There was such a facility in Korumburra and Trafalgar, so Morwell was entitled to one – so argued some councillors. One Councillor was not convinced, and he successfully moved his motion that “the Shire President and the Engineer report on the whole aspect of the question to the Council’s next meeting.”

There even was a Comforts Fund Ladies Auxiliary formed about this time; public donations were keenly sought. Tickets were sold for fruit cakes and hams being raffled. A Morwell Shire Council Comforts Station sub-committee was formed with one councillor arguing “the matter was becoming urgent.” They did not want to “rush this matter” (of providing such a station). At Council’s April 1945 meeting, the Shire President, Councillor D J White, suggested “perhaps a caravan could be used temporarily for this purpose” (presumably to feel comfortable).

Morwell ANZAC Memorial

The following article appeared in the Morwell Advertiser, Monday May 19, 1958.

R. S. L. wants memorial on new location

"Site is now Undignified," Morwell Sub-Branch of the R. S. L. considers that, with the encroachment of a building on the area, the present site of the War Memorial in Commercial Road “lacks dignity” for the holding of ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day services. The branch at its meeting on Thursday night May 15, decided to ask the Morwell Shire Council to re-locate the memorial on another site.

The building referred to by speakers at the meeting, was the new Comfort Station. The Sub-Branch will ask the Council to transfer the Memorial to the Tarwin St. - Elgin Street intersection. Sub-Branch Secretary, Mr. Alf Pearce said that two years ago, a conference between R.S.L. and Council representatives agreed that the memorial should be at the Tarwin-Elgin Streets intersection. However, because of a couple of objections Council received, the matter lapsed. With the erection of the Comfort Station, the subject should be revived”.

That is, the new comfort station located immediately adjacent to the former subway detracted from the dignity of the then War Memorial in Commercial Road. It needs reminding that the community push for a womens’ comfort station basically started in about January-February 1945. While there were public toilets at the Town Hall and in the centre of Hazelwood Road, public concern was constantly heard about the cleanliness of these two facilities.

To finish on one intriguing historical anecdote, writing in The Argus April 26, 1945, correspondent, George H Johnston said, “Although only a small area of this vast Latrobe Valley brown coal deposit has, as yet, been usefully prospected, we already know that it can supply Victoria's fuel requirements for more than 1,000 years.”