Wednesday, 11 January 2023

City of Casey Civic Memorabilia Collection

Early in 2020, the City of Casey Civic Memorabilia Collection was formed. The collection, which numbers 800 objects in total, tells the story of the development of City of Casey. All objects have social, historical and cultural significance to the current and past local government entities in the region, including the Shire of Berwick and Cranbourne.

The objects include purchased, created, awarded, or gifted items, including artworks, ceremonial, armorial, commemorative, development, sport and community objects. From the 1970s, the City of Casey displayed many of these objects in their council building at Narre Warren. When the council moved offices, to Bunjil Place in 2017, the decision was made to take the collection off display. Once the council offices in Narre Warren were closed, the collection was documented and put into storage.
Portrait of Lord Casey. System ID: 1361.

Berwick Sister City Commemorative Plate. System ID: 1223.

All objects remained in storage until 2019, when the City of Casey commenced a project to catalogue the items to make them accessible to the outside world. Currently, around 124 items are available to view through the online catalogue. The City of Casey has indicated that it intends to add more objects to this collection in the future, when adequate research can be completed into the remaining collection items.

Edwin Flack Statuette. System ID: 1326.

Old Cheese Factory, Berwick. System ID: 1434.

Wilson Botanic Park, Berwick. System ID: 1368.

There are quite a few objects depicting Lord Casey, the Berwick sister City programs with Berwick-Upon-Tweed and Springfield, Ohio, the Edwin Flack games available for viewing on the site. There is also a notable collection of artworks which display historical buildings throughout the City of Casey.

You can peruse the collection via the Civil Memorabilia Collection website.

Written by Kate Davis, CCLC.

Monday, 24 October 2022

Off to the Eumemmerring Races

Written by Michelle McLean. 

Whilst exploring other aspects of local history, I came across a reference to the Eumemmering races and my curiosity took over.  

The Eumemmering Races are mentioned in many local histories and there are newspaper articles in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal from the era, which report the race results and other snippets.  (available on Trove)

The Eumemmering races were held at a track adjacent to the Eumemmering Hotel, which was located on the same site that the Prince Mark Hotel now occupies – the corner of Princes Highway and Power Road.

The Eumemmerring Hotel was “just one mile east of Dandenong” and became famous not only for “its readiness to quench the thirst, but also because of the adjacent racecourse.”  The course was laid out on 70 acres and was known locally as “Hennessy’s course”.   Hennessy was Michael Hennessy, the publican of the Eumemmerring Hotel who along with Henry Wilson, was the race starter on the Eumemmerring Races program. Hennessy also took on the role of Treasurer for the races.   (Call back yesterday, pg. 43)

The hotel and race course were likely located in the middle of this image, where the Eumemmerring Creek intersects with the Gipps Land Road. SLV, 820 BJE 1837- EUMEMERRING 1854

From what I can discover, the racetrack was known to have been running in 1851, when Victoria suffered the Black Thursday bushfires on 6th February. “From Bullock tracks to bitumen” (pg. 72) noted that “men had gathered for a race meeting, when fire swept down on the course, driving the sportsmen back to defend their respective homes.  So fierce was the fire that the Hotel was practically the only building left standing the in neighbourhood.”  

Knowing that it was already a popular course at that time, we can assume it had already been running for a number of years at that stage, so its likely creation and use for public race meetings likely date back to the 1840s, if not earlier.

A zoomed out map, red dot marks the likely location of the racecourse and hotel. SLV, 820 BJE 1837- EUMEMERRING 1854. Access the higher quality digital map through the State Library Victoria's catalogue 

Other notable Eumemmering Races reports included:

Race meeting -  June 5, 1878.  The Maiden Plate and the District Race was won by the same mare “Victoria”, owned by GK Dunbar, beating his rival JK Dunbar’s bay “The Demon”.  ("Reminiscences of early Dandenong, pg. 97)

Race meetings were well advertised in the adjacent hotel as well as the two local newspapers: The Dandenong Advertiser and The South Bourke and Mornington Journal.   

Boxing Day races were a regular fixture, and race meetings were also periodically organised for other holidays, including St Patrick’s Day.  The race meet moved to VRC rules somewhere between 1885 and 1888 (with Michael Hennessy calling the shots on that).

A regular visitor to the races was Member of Parliament for Cranbourne, Dr. Louis Lawrence Smith MD, who not only placed bets but advertised his services on the side. This included regular half page ads on the front of the South Bourke and Mornington Journal.

Michael Hennessy died in August 1889 and his estate was not great, indicating that he did not make a fortune from the races or his hotel. The estate valued a total of 944.0.0 pounds.

The racetrack was also used for more than horse racing. For terrier coursing with rabbits was run, with handbills being printed to publicise the event to local residents and racecourse visitors.  (Call back yesterday., pg. 45)

Even with the passing of Michael Hennessy, the races continued, with records of them still being held in 1910.  

First sign of wholesale change came when the Lace Factory from William A. Smith was built on what is now Princes Highway, just north of Eumemmering Creek in 1951.  It was moved from the UK after the original factory was bombed in World War 2.  When new factories were being constructed in the area in 1957, a construction worker dug up  a sovereign and two half-sovereign coins minted in 1900, which a local identified as being some of those lost by a rider during a race, with only a few coins recovered at the time.

The races were finally stopped somewhere before the 1950s, as reported by one reader in the Dandenong Journal in 1957, due to “the ringing-in of horses and ponies under any name but their own registered ones.”  This reader’s reminiscences prompted them to author this poem. 

Anonymous (Call back yesterday pg. 90-91).

The Dandenong area had a number of courses operating in the 1800’s, including closer to the Dandenong township and at Bangholme. Now however, the closest tracks are Sandown (course opened in 1965) , Cranbourne (first meet in 1867, in the same location as the current racecourse) and Pakenham (Pakenham Racing Club formed in 1875).  (


From Bullock tracks to bitumen: a brief history of the Shire of Berwick.  Historical Society of Berwick Shire: Pakenham, 1962.

G.F.R  (George Fenton Roultson) Reminiscences of the Early Days of Dandenong.  Dandenong & District Historical Society: Pakenham, 1935.

Trove, 2022. [online] National Library of Australia.

Uhl, Jean “Call back yesterday: Eumemmering Parish. Lowden Publishing: Kilmore (Vic), 1972.

Victoria Racing Club, 2022. Home. [online] Country Racing Victoria.


Plan of portions marked in the parishes of Dandenong and Eumem-merring in the counties of Bourke and Mornington [cartographic material] / copied by Horace Sampson, Surveyor General’s Office 2nd November 1854. (1854). [Map]. [Surveyor General’s Office]. 

Uhl, Jean “Call back yesterday: Eumemmering Parish. Lowden Publishing: Kilmore (Vic), 1972.

Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Garfield Picture Theatre

Newly renovated Garfield Picture Theatre (2021), Garfield Picture Theatre.

Situated on the Main Street of Garfield, the Garfield Picture Theatre has served the local community for almost a hundred years, providing an entertainment hub, and essential amenities to a rapidly developing corridor in regional Victoria.  

    Garfield, formally Cannibal Creek, underwent a change of name in honour of the late President of the United States of America, James Garfield in 1887. The Railway station in the town has had many names; originally Hopetoun, then Cannibal Creek, before the town was finally surveyed and proclaimed as Garfield in 1891.  

Listed on the local heritage register in 1996, the site is estimated to be one of the earliest examples of a purpose-built theatre facility in Gippsland. The theatre is one of the few picture theatres remaining in the Cardinia region and dates to the cinema boom of the 1920s which saw the number of theatres across the state skyrocket. 

Negative of Garfield Picture Theatre (c.1930s), The Biggest Family Album in Australia Collection, item ID: MM 5484, Museums Victoria.

The Crowning of the Queen of Garfield and Iona (1937, March 29), courtesy of Fred Perez and Sue McMahon, private collection.

    The brick building with a partial cement exterior and galvanised iron roof consists of three floors. The lowest at the rear of the building consists of storage and dressing rooms situated underneath the stage which were once repurposed and used as two-bedroomed living quarters. The ground floor includes the spacious theatre with an elevated stage, remote controlled front-of-house curtains, framed by the proscenium (the part of the stage that is in front of the main stage curtain) curtains with a double staircase leading up to the stage on either side. 

Newly renovated Garfield Picture Theatre (2021), Garfield Picture Theatre.

    The theatre space with original floorboards backs onto a hallway, leading to what is now the kitchen, toilet facilities, and the tripartite (having three parts) main entrance. The two side rooms also provide access to the street front with a pressed metal ceilinged veranda. The left-hand exterior of the building is encompassed by another balcony area. 

    The left-hand room at the front of the building was once a sweets shop, where theatre goers could purchase treats, and the room on the right acted as a ticket box/engine room, providing access to an office space and the bio box above the entrance which were reachable by a trap door. A ‘bio box’ was reserved for operating audio and visual equipment and derives from one of the first film projectors; the ‘Biograph.’ The original ‘bio-box’ space is now used as private apartments. 

    In the main theatre area, an imperial staircase leads to the top floor. The gabled roof with exposed steel-trusses provides the open-concept mezzanine with an unobstructed view of the floor below. The mezzanine leads to an apartment space with views of Main Street from where the original ‘Garfield Picture Theatre’ cement lettering is emblazoned.  

    The property has changed hands many times in its almost 100-year history. Built in 1924 for a cost of over £4,000 by the proprietor, Mr. Martin O’Donohue, the building could once house up to 800 people. The theatre opened on December 22, 1924, to much fanfare with a free Grand Ball on 22nd December 1924. Regular dances were held on Friday evenings, and Saturday nights were reserved for picture showings. Pictures shown included Where the North Begins, Girl Shy, Beloved Bachelor and The Wizard of Oz. A Molly O’Brien was known to play the piano at the theatre during its earliest years. 

    Writing of growing up in Garfield during the 1930s and 1940s, Jim Connelly reminisces, “There were films every Saturday night, and everybody seemed to go. Sometimes Noel and I went without any money. Noel was adept at attaching himself to a large family party and walking in undetected… The first [film] I remember seeing, was ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”  

    The theatre was also integral in providing services beyond dances, pictures, and functions. The site was home to the first generator in Garfield, connecting the township to electricity with a 230-volt power supply until around the late 1920s. J. Taylor leased the building from O’Donohue and in 1931, the property was sold to Walter Anderson Lawson and Roy Everard Ross. By 1931, talking pictures could be seen at Garfield Theatre. 

    The property was to be sold once again in 1953 to a James Murphy. Murphy would retain ownership until the theatre closed around 1962 or 1963. The theatre partially reopened on weekends under Dennis Grigg from 1970-1971, before being used as a furniture shop by Simcocks and in the 1980s the building became the Garfield Trading Centre.

Before and during renovations of the Garfield Picture Theatre (c.2001). Pictured in second image is Fred Perez (right) and Joey the dog (centre) with unknown man (left), courtesy of Fred Perez and Sue McMahon, private collection.

    After purchasing the property in 1999, Fred Perez and Sue McMahon began renovations on the site in 2001, affectionately naming the theatre Lucy Bricks, due to the large number of loose bricks, which have since been restored. On the 3rd of July 2016, the theatre once again opened its doors to the public for events, dances, shows, seating up to 250 guests, as well as Bed and Breakfast accommodation on site. If you would like to learn more about current events, check out the Garfield Theatre website here.

Written by Brooke Pickering


Connelly, J. (2021). Growing Up in Garfield. 

Heritage Council Victoria (2022), Garfield Picture Theatre, 

Roe, K. (2018). Garfield Picture Theatre, Cinema Treasures, 

Garfield Picture Theatre (2021). Garfield Picture Theatre History. 

Arnold, H. (2014, March 2). Garfield Picture Theatre.  

Kennedy, G. (1994, January). Garfield Picture Theatre, no.1, Cinemarecord, Cinema and Theatre Historical Society of Australia Inc., 

Mickle, D.J. (1987). More Mickle Memories of Koo-Wee-Rup (vol. 2). The Pakenham Gazette. 

The Argus (1924, August 25), OTHER DISTRICTS, The Argus, p.11, 


Museums Victoria. (c.1930s). Negative of Garfield Picture Theatre, 

Perez, F. & McMahon, S. (2001 - 2022). Collection of private photographs.  

Garfield Picture Theatre. (2021).