Tuesday, 19 May 2015

That haven under the hills: memoirs of Yallock Village 1928-1940 by Freda Thomas

The Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society has a small booklet written by Freda Thomas about her time spent living in Yallock.  Yallock was a settlement based around Finck's Road, O'Brien's Road, School Road and Hall Road  - the use of the name Yallock began to decline after the Bayles Railway Station opened in 1922 and the area is now known as Bayles. The Thomas family - father Wallace, mother Louise and daughter Freda, had been living on a farm in Caldermeade when, due to the Depression, the landlord had to sell the farm so the family had to move and they began searching for a property. What follows are some of Freda’s memories. This has been transcribed it in the same manner that it was written. 

‘There’s a fifty acre farm for lease at Yallock Village’, said Uncle Tony Pellissier, who then lived near the Yallock Creek on the Koo-wee-Rup Swamp.

The said property was situated on O’Briens Road, near the Yallock Hall, advised Mr Albert Woodman, Land Agent in Koo-Wee-Rup township.

We motored out to inspect the farm and assess the possibilities in August 1928.

Yes, there it was, almost square in survey with surface fall to the back - creek direction to roadside frontage - a 5 roomed weatherboard house with a high 'snow thrown’ corrugated iron roof and surrounded by an orchard of ‘mixed’ fruit trees. Further to explore big hay and milking sheds.

Acreage expanse also boasted 4 ironbark gum trees and 2 small conifers for shade and a boxthorn hedge for a windbreak. Mid farm an antique windmill delivered waterstream from a bore. Pasture was poor - weeds mostly as the land had been ploughed in an attempt to grow root crops (potatoes)

Strangely, at a distance of half a kilometre the soil changes to a famous ‘swamp peat strip’, where many greatly productive potato crops were later grown. This was heavy clay soil and proved to be unsuitable for cultivation but with appropriate drainage and planned attention to topsoil would be ideal for growth of rye grass and clovers. As my parents intended to pursue dairy farming this would be suitable ground cover.

After much parental discussion and deliberation -  ‘this farm is exactly what we need’ said my father - the one who made decisions - and he proved to be so right.

We moved into ‘Avalon Park’ on 6th October 1928. It was a beautiful spring day and as we gazed at the distant blue hills forming a half loop around the area, we were positive that we found our ‘Haven under the hills’.

I, Freda May, soon settled in at the local school, about 30 pupils.

One schoolroom for all grades and one teacher, at that time Mr Harry Stride. He and his wife lived in the adjacent schoolhouse. The land block was about 2 acres in area and included playing area with tennis courts (2) shelter shed and a  pony paddock (as many scholars travelled to school on horseback)  Later teachers were Mr William Wilson and Thomas Dunne - temporary teacher was F.H Duffy.

Yallock State School, 1933
Photograph: Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society collection

Local social areas also included a Large Public Hall with Soldiers Memorial Hall (1914-1918)  attached (big hall later removed to Bayles), the Anglican Church (St Saviours) a Methodist Church and the Yallock Village Post Office was housed in a room at the home of Mr Richard Games.  ‘Post Office’ was identified by a large red Posting Box at the gate - but in my memory always housed a hive of very active bees!!

School, Hall, Churches and Post Office were all situated some distances apart - School on School Road, Hall on Hall Road, Anglican Church on Games Lane and Methodist Church on Hall Road, half a mile from the Hall.

As a child I never could see the reason for this spread of buildings except to believe early settlers had expected a great city to develop in the years ahead. Later it was revealed that the donations of land by various settlers had dictated the building sites.

My parents soon went about their plans and endeavour to improve our farm buildings and pasture and establish a profitable way of life, erstwhile wresting with attendant economic problems of the times which were many and extreme

We soon began to meet and know our neighbours and local community. As it was a farming area we had all in common with shared problems. Very few people had cars, a few Fords and Chevrolets (4 cylinder jobs - indestructible engines) soft tops (£190 to purchase; petrol  29c per gallon.)

Horse drawn jinkers, bicycles or even walking was the general rule for visiting or business trips.

Meeting grounds socially were at Church or local hall. The latter being venue of bi-monthly Euchre Party (cards) and Dance (old -time!) or Christmas tree annual celebration. These occasions were organised by the ladies of the Church Guild or School Mothers Club and caused great excitement. Everyone attended; all ages came to enjoy the time spent together.

People visited from Catani, Bayles, Yannathan and Koo-Wee-Rup but it was evident that a definite Yallock Community existed. Those included came from an easily defined areas of about 50 farms.

 Yallock State School. It closed in the 1970s or 1980s and I believe the building has been demolished.
Photograph: Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society collection

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