Maffra and District Historical Society

M&DHS operates the Maffra Sugar Beet Museum, part of the Local History Collection at the Maffra Library, and a Dairy Museum at the Robotic Dairy at Winnindoo.

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Location: Victoria, Australia

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Maffra Sugarbeet Factory


We are beavering our way through the photographs, cataloguing them to our database. This is the 2210th to go into the system. It shows the Maffra Sugarbeet factory some time after the Sugar Store was added in the 1920s, the section on the left. Our museum building was originally off to the left, out of this photograph.

However what really caught out eye, was the group of four beet drays in front. All are identical, and only one appears to have a driver. There is a faint smudge where another could have been - the whole four are out of focus as they were obviously moving. Did the drivers walk? were they a bit like packhorses and one was trained to follow another, or hitched to the one in front? Although what chance is there that struggling beet farmers would own more than one dray?

There is a bigger copy of the photo HERE.

The Sugar Store, the section on the left, is all that remains today, clearly in view on the right as the road heads off to Sale.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Italian Prisoners of War

We have been asked if we know anything about the housing supplied to the Italian Prisoners of War who worked in the Maffra district during WWII.

In particular, the enquirer is wondering if there was a prefabricated hut that was supplied, as several that are similar have been located on local farms, and it suggested this was their origin.

Jim Fairchild supplied us with details of his memories in Bulletin #79 in 1993, but there is not a lot to help there. There was an office in Maffra that allocated the prisoners, and we know they used to be allowed to go to church in Maffra on Sundays, and would then hide under the bridge to catch up with each other, as they were not allowed to congregate with each other - but we do not know anything about their living quarters.

We also know they were in Briagolong, as they were remembered for walking around the district singing.

There is also an article on the Italian Prisoners of War in the Yarram district in Gippsland Heritage Journal # 13 (now out of print, but available in local libraries).

Here is a little of what Jim Fairchild wrote - does anyone know anything else, especially about their huts?

I was seven when Cedrick set up one of our employees, Wallace Knight, on a farm of his own and, with no other labour available, we were allocated an Italian P.O.W. in his place. Vincenzo Esposito arrived on Tuesday, October 13th, 1944. I can remember to the nearest foot where he was standing when I first met him, and that his only word of English was "Yes". Dad soon set out to remedy that and taught Vince to read and write English too by going down to the men's rooms each night with one of my books, Buzzywing, a story about a bee, in big print and small words. Vince had only one Italian book with him and Dad soon learned some Italian.

I don't know how apprehensive my mother was about the arrival of 'the enemy', for Vince had his meals in our kitchen as did the other farm workers, but I expect she probably mothered him just as she did every new farm lad. He enjoyed the homely atmosphere and was very good to Mum. Once a fortnight an Army van called and prisoners were able to buy provisions from the meagre pay they were allowed, things like 'Coo-ee' tobacco and coloured silks and raffia. Vince wove gifts for Mum from raffia wrapped in cellophane, and one of our prized possessions today is a tablecloth into one corner of which he had woven in silk a picture, taken from one of my cowboy books, of a cowgirl on a rearing horse. He was going to weave a picture in each corner for her, but he was taken away before he could do so.

The prisoners were allowed to go to Mass each Sunday and Vince was given the farm bike to ride the seven miles to Maffra. Regulations required him to wear his heavy maroon uniform, but Dad felt this was ridiculous in the summer heat and gave him some light fawn trousers. We promptly had a visit from the Captain in charge (I think it was Charlie Donahoe) to say he would be taken away from us if seen dressed that way again.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Getting Interactive

Yesterday was a busy day at the Maffra Sugarbeet Museum. We are currently opening only on the first Sunday of the month, at 10am to coincide with the town market. It works well, and we pick up a lot of visitors.

We have been exercising our minds how we can better involve the younger visitors, and yesterday brought in three young men from Maffra (read aged about eight to twelve, at a guess), who gave us some really good ideas.

Firstly, we already have a Beet Lifter in the middle of the main room, that has been set up so it can be lifted to show how heavy it was, and how hard the work was, guiding it behind a horse. They liked that.


Then we thought - they might like a look in our storeroom, which used to be The Vault. So in we went. First step was in through the rather inconspicuous door in the wall. Big, heavy and hard to swing.


Once in there, this was the view


So we thought - why not show them some the things stored in the cupboard? (Although most of them were full of documents, books and copies of photos for display, there was one interesting cupboard)


(Note, several of the pictures above are AFTER we re-presented things a bit better, once we got some ideas from them. But just wait until we really have a go at things!)

They especially liked the Cow Horn Ornament - something that would be hard to display in our main exhibition, but fitting in quite well into what is becoming a "Discovery Expedition into The Vault".


Then, there were the Seal presses in there, that we needed to sort out anyway. So out they came, onto a table in the second room, where we mount temporary exhibitions. And we carefully pressed away, working out which one was which.


These are, from left to right, the Briagolong Cheese Factory, two milk factories (one in Sale, the other possibly in Maffra), the Maffra Shire original seal, and a small one that just presses "Maffra". Some quick cutting up of a manilla folder gave them seals to take home with them. On reflection, we think it will be safe to leave the first three out for use under guidance, and put the shire one away, as the finish on it is still quite good, and it helps better explain why we do not handle some items. And how there are all sorts of dairy factories that have disappeared. And the little Maffra one is a bit hard to operate, and doesn't have a story attached to it. Lots more that we can do with these.

Then, they discovered a Mrs Potts iron, out holding down the visitor's book in the wind, with its handle beside it. And wanted to know how it worked. Quick as a flash, we found a second iron, and had them changing them around on the "stove" (desk), to "iron" (on the visitor's book, which now looks a bit rusty), until it "got cold" and had to go and be swapped on the "stove". They had a ball.


So these young guys gave us heaps of ideas of things we can do when people like them come into the museum. We swapped a few things around and had a think about what else we can get out of boxes to put on the discovery shelves with the other items. To go with the Refractometer and the other piece of equally complex milk-testing equipment from the 1940s that we have just realised is not catalogued.

One thing leads to another - and we cannot wait for our next open Sunday. Anyone out there want to come along and join us, and see how we do it, and join us so we can open a little more often?

Glenmaggie Weir, 1925


We have just finished relocating this rather impressive montage of photographs of Genmaggie Weir construction in 1925. It is now in our smaller, exhibitions rooms, as we have not had a chance to have a good look at it recently. There is a larger copy HERE.

At first glance, we thought this was the work of local photographer, H.B. Hammond, who took many photographs of the weir during its construction. But we find it is by Krantz and Drill, photographers. We do not know them, so assume they must be from outside the area.

Which makes this photograph even more interesting. Most of Hammond's photographs are known to us, as they turn up so often. This group includes many we have not seen before, such as the ones of the school, and the engineering staff, below.



The larger copies are HERE and HERE.

If anyone knows anything about Krantz and Drill, we would be interested to hear from them. Or if anyone can name any of the people in the photographs.