I recently came across a post by Canadian blogger Andrea Eidinger in her Unwritten Histories that mentioned the battle of Vimy Ridge from the First World War. The author was reviewing a recently published book The Vimy Trap: or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War by Canadian historians Ian McKay and Jamie Swift as part of CHA Reads 2017.
Publicity from Amazon states that
The story of the bloody 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge is, according to many of today’s tellings, a heroic founding moment for Canada. This noble, birth-of-a-nation narrative is regularly applied to the Great War in general.
This heroic story has launched a mythical tale labelled as “Vimyism”.
Mary-Ellen Kelm defending The Vimy Trap, or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War.
The Vimy memorial was on TV when Andrea Eidinger’s call for participants in #CHAreads went out on Twitter. Though the First World War is not my field, I have long been interested in how the past gets used to make or break community. So I signed up to participate in #CHAreads and to investigate the merits of The Vimy Trap: or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War by Ian McKay and Jamie Swift – a nominee for the CHA’s Sir John A. Macdonald prize. The Vimy Trap is a book that all Canadian historians, whatever their interests, should read.
The reason is simple. Historians care about history. We care about people in the past and we want to represent their experience faithfully. We care about how history is written and used. What McKay and Swift are arguing is that Vimyism – “a network of ideas and symbols that centre on how Canada’s Great War experience somehow represents the country’s supreme triumph [and]… marked the country’s birth,” has flattened the complex, contradictory and terrifying reality of the First World War into a simplistic, militaristic ‘big bang theory’ of Canadian history.(p. 9)
What is lost in the process is astounding and much of the Vimy Trap explores the horror and ambiguity of modernized warfare and Canadians’ varied reactions to it. McKay and Swift eschew black-and-white portrayals. Canadian soldiers were neither heroes or villains: they used poison gas, killed prisoners and were torn apart by artillery fire while marching with fixed bayonet wearing kilts. They came to view the war and to write about it in ironic, scathing terms. At home, disunity turned to violence as conscription split the nation. The War was hardly a unifying, glorifying force.
McKay and Swift give voice to a spectrum of Canadian reactions to the War. Early enthusiasm waned quickly. From Arthur Meighan to William Lyon Mackenzie King to Walter Allward, the sculptor of the Vimy Memorial, and Charlotte Susan Wood, Canada’s first Silver Cross Mother, all called upon Canadians to remember the War not a righteous cause but as reminder of war’s futility. They grieved their dead and honoured them but not the war that caused their deaths. Canadians dreamed of peace and their leaders sought it too but failed to remake the social order into one that would recoil from war.
A culture of martial nationalism remains. Late twentieth century popular and scholarly histories recognize the contradictions and the complexities but have concluded that, in war, nations are strengthened, dreams realized, heroes made. Historians are responsible for Vimyism. It is a trap because it reflects none of the nuance and little of the stark horror of modern warfare that soldiers and civilians experienced and that contemporary writers expressed. And this is why Canadian historians must read The Vimy Trap. McKay and Swift remind us all that we have not always glorified war and ask us, as historians, to consider our part in honouring, or ignoring, that past.
Mary-Ellen Kelm is a professor of history at Simon Fraser University specializing in settler colonial and medical histories of North America.
Re-published from Andrea Eidinger’s original blog post with permission
The Anzac story has been a central part of the Australian cultural identity for over a century and the contradictions that emerged around it have shown no sign of going away. Historians have been unpacking the meaning of Anzac for decades and seem to no closer to any definitive meaning.
Yet for one old gentlemen at the inaugural lecture in Knowledge Series of the University of Wollongong Alumni Dr Jen Roberts was ‘a brave lady’ to ‘present the truth’ about the Anzac story in her evocative lecture ‘Men, myth and memory’. The Alumni audience was a mix of ages, and interests and included past military personnel.
Robert’s powerful presentation left none of the alumnus present in any doubt about the contested nature of Anzac and that there is far from just one truth. Anzac is a fusion of cultural processes over many decades and it has been grown into something bigger than itself.
The Anzac acronym, meaning Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, was first used by General Sir William Birdwood and its legal status was confirmed by the Australian Government in 1916. Anzac has survived its 1914 imperial connotations, the 1960s social movements and its supporters have successfully broadened its meaning to embrace all Australian conflicts, including peace missions. Some argue that this has created a dark legacy for current serving military personnel, while others choose to take cheap pot shots at those who question the orthodoxy. The Anzac story needs to be inclusive and not exclusive, and while the current service personnel are the custodians of the Anzac story it can sometimes be a heavy responsibility.
The Anzac story is ubiquitous across Australia and is embedded in the heart and soul of every community in the country, especially in the first half of the 20th century. Yet within this narrative there are contradictions and tensions and one of those is related to modernism. The war that spawned Anzac was a product on industrial modernism, yet at the same time causing the catastrophic destruction. Anzac shrines of commemoration and remembrance are a product of Interwar modernism, particularly the work of Rayner Hoff. Yet these same artists were supporters of Sydney bohemianism with its anti-war sentiments, complicated by tensions created by other forms of global modernism particularly in Europe. Other contradictions range across issues related to gender, militarism, nationalism, racism, homophobia, and a host of other areas.
Roberts makes the point that the Anzac mythology and iconography points to Australian exceptionalism and then neatly outlined how this is not the situation. She analysed the horrors of war and how this is played out within the Anzac story.
The tension within the meaning of Anzac, according to Roberts, is represented by the official state driven narrative stressing the honour, duty and sacrifice through commemoration, remembrance and solemnity, while on the hand there is the unofficial story of the digger mythology. The digger is not a professional soldier, he is egalitarian, loyal to mates and a larrikin – a good all-round Aussie bloke.
The official/digger binary highlights the contradictions with the Anzac tradition and its meaning for the military personnel, past and present. In 1941 an 18 year old country lad called Bruce Guppy from the New South Wales South Coast volunteered for service with the 7th Australian Light Horse. Guppy volunteered because his brothers had joined up and the military looked to have better prospects than working as a dairy hand. Gunner BW Guppy had little time for jingoism or nationalism as a laconic sort of fellow and stated ‘life is what you make it’. He was a yarn-spinning non-drinking, non-smoking, non-gambling larrikin, who saw action in the 1942 Gona-Buna Campaign in New Guinea and later trained as a paratrooper. His anti-war views in later years never stopped him from attending every Sydney Anzac Day March with his unit, 2/1 Mountain Battery, and the camaraderie they provided. A lifetime member of the RSL he never discussed his wartime service with his family, until I married his daughter.
Guppy had five brothers who saw active service in the Pacific conflict, with one brother’s service in BCOF in Japan cited in Gerster’s Travels in Atomic Sunshine. Guppy would not call himself a hero, yet willing participated in Huskisson’s Community Heroes History Project in 2007. Guppy was something of a bush poet and in 1995 wrote in a poem called ‘An Old Soldier Remembers’, which in part says:
‘Memories of those dark days
Come floating back through the haze.
My memory goes back to my mother’s face
Saddened, yes – but filled with grace.
The heartache for mothers – we will never know
For it was for them we had to go.’
So it surprised no-one when Bruce Guppy made the national media in 2013 when he handed Alice Guppy’s Mother’s Badge and Bar to the Australian War Memorial. Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson was moved on his death in 2014 and personally thanked the family for his ‘wonderful’ contribution to the nation.
For Guppy Anzac Day embraced both meanings expressed by Roberts: The official commemorative remembering; and the larrikin enjoying the company of his mates. The meaning of the Anzac story has changed during Bruce Guppy’s lifetime and the experiences of his digger mates who served in the Second World War.
While many lay claim ownership of the cultural meaning of Anzac, Roberts contends that the organic growth of the Dawn Service is an example of the natural growth of Anzac and its sensibilities for different parts of Australian society.
Roberts examined the two aspects of the Anzac mythology – the site and the myth. She maintained that many lay claim ownership of the cultural meaning of Anzac and pondered the meaning of the slaughter on the Western Front. She asked the audience to reflect on the words of Eric Bogles song And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda covered by an American Celtic band the Dropkick Murphys. This contrasted with the opening statement by an Alumni organiser, who was ex-military, that the outstanding achievements of the 1/AIF which are celebrated in military training in Australia are: the withdrawl at Gallipoli; and the last mounted cavalry charge at Beersheba. While recent research about Gallipoli POWs from Turkish sources has shown a different side of the story of the conflict.
The Gallipoli peninsula is a site of pilgrimages from Australia, while being the only locality in modern Turkey with an English name. Roberts compared the small group who went to the 1965 50th anniversary with the lavish all expenses tour of the 1990 75th anniversary sponsored by the Hawke Labor Federal Government. She maintains this was the start of the contemporary pilgrimage industry. Roberts drew on personal experience and related anecdotes from her five visits to Gallipoli peninsular with UOW students who took the UOW Gallipoli Study Tour, with her mentor, friend and sage UOW Associate-Professor John McQuilton (recently retired).
Gallipoli pilgrimages have grown as popular interest in the First World War increased as family historians started searching for own digger-relative, hopefully finding the cache derived from finding a connection with the Gallipoli campaign. The Howard Government promoted soft patriotism, and this was followed by later conservative governments which promoted official celebrations of the Centenary of Anzac. The official involvement of government has increased the jingoism of these anniversaries and the noise around the desire for the cultural ownership of the Gallipoli site, to the point where the Howard Government attempted to direct the Turkish Government how to do civil engineering roadworks at Gallipoli.
Brand Anzac, which Roberts dislikes, has been used to solidify national identity and spawned Anzacary and the commodification of the Anzac spirit, with souvenirs and other ephemera, as well as jingoism and Australian exceptionalism from the national to the local community level. Anzac mythology and memory tends to forget the grotesque side of war and its effects. First World War servicemen suffered shell shock (PTSD), and took to alcohol, gambling, domestic violence, divorce and suicide, and became the responsibility of those on the homefront.
The Anzac mythology disempowers and marginalises people, it is about nationalism, jingoism, racism, and stereotypes, while offering hope, glory and answers for others. The Guppy brothers and their comrades felt they understood the meaning of Anzac. Roberts maintains that the ideas around the Anzac story belong to everyone and, while offering contradictions for some and realities for others, it is these members of the Australian community who need to make a choice about the meaning of Anzac.
One of the hidden parts of the history of Camden is the influence of modernism. Few in the community know much about it at all. Yet it has an important influence on the town in a variety of ways from domestic and commercial architecture to host of other areas. Modernism is a vague term that describes a philosophical period from the mid-1800s to the mid-20th century
Camden was not isolated from global trends and cultural forces and the trends around modernism are part of this story. The forces of modernism shaped the world were influenced by industrial growth, the growth of cities and the First World War. The Great War and the Russian Revolution challenged ideas from the past and the failure of the status quo. The senseless slaughter of the First World War challenged the moral authority of progress from the Enlightenment.
Many supporters of modernism in Camden and across the world rejected the certainties of the Enlightenment and the dogmas of religious belief. Modernism influenced art, music, architecture, social organisation, daily life and the sciences.
Major events during this period included the development of the railway, the The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, the building of engineering structures like the Brooklyn Bridge (1883) and the Eiffel Tower (1889), the innovation of the electric telegraph from 1837, the adoption of standard time by British railway companies from 1845 and the invention of photography.
Modern ideas in art also began to appear more frequently in commercials and logos, an early example of which, from 1919, is the famous London Underground logo designed by Edward Johnston. The skyscraper is the archetypal modernist building. There was the emergence of the Bauhaus School and Art Nouveaux. A more sinister reality was emerging on the Continent, in the form of Nazi art and Soviet agit-prop. Only Art Deco, a rather sleek design style aimed at architecture and applied art, expressed any confidence in the future. There was the rise of fascism, the Great Depression and the march towards the Second World War.
The period of modernism includes the Victorian period, the Edwardian period and extends to include the interwar period of the 20th century. During the Edwardian period Camden was influenced by the dairy revolution, which saw innovations in the dairy industry. While the economic development and material prosperity of the interwar period was driven by the emerging Burragorang Valley coal industry.
Modernism and changes in fashion
Shock horror – women show their legs and wear pants
Changes in fashion through modernity, including in Camden, were representative of changes and continuities in society. The changes were brought by the Industrial Revolution and the technology that it spawned and probably the greatest of these was the railway and in the 20th century, the motor car.
The railways were the greatest revolution of the early modern period and created mass movement of people, regular timetables and triggered the appearance of mass tourism. Steam ships hastened this and Camden folk regularly travelled to the metropolitan centre of the Empire in London.
The growth of industrial society and capitalism brought increased wealth and increased leisure time, entertainment and personal freedom. Mass culture clashed with high culture and the First World War brought the horrors of mechanised warfare.
Many new pastimes were brought by new inventions that included the bicycle, the movies, the motor car, the wireless, the telegraph, the aeroplane and the milk bar. The popularity of the bicycle gave women increased freedom of movement which was represented by the fashions they wore while cycling. There was the need for increased freedom of movement, a new social force had arrived.
Young folk in Camden went to the movies at the Star Empire Theatre and later the Paramount Cinema. They were exposed to the latest fashions in clothing, motor cars and all things American. Icons of early 20th century American culture including the movie stars like Charlie Chaplin and Shirley Temple.
The inter-war period fashions saw women freed from the corset and there was the appearance of cosmetics and rayon, which replaced expensive silk. New industrial processes produced ready-to-wear. There were shorter hemlines and shock horror – women showed their legs and wore pants.
Consumerism was hastened by the Victorians and really gained momentum during the inter-war period. Social norms were challenged and new ideas created by new technologies drove many changes in the daily life of those living in the Camden district.
Camden general stores, like Whitemans and Cliftons, carried goods from all parts of the British Empire for the consumption of the local community. Modernism was a transnational force that embraced the Camden community.
Interwar Modernism in Camden
The interwar years were a period of transition and increasingly the motor car replaced the horse in town, and on the farm the horse was replaced by the tractor, all of which supported the growing number of garages in the town. The interwar landscape was characterised by personalised service, along with home and farm deliveries by both horse and cart and motor cars.
Despite the prosperity of the interwar period the town was still dominated by the colonial gentry and their estates. Apart from their convict labour in the early years, they established a system of class and social relations that ordered daily life in the town from its foundation until after the Second World War. While the townsmen dominated the early period of local government, by Federation the landed gentry had usurped their power and had imposed their political mantra of conservatism on the area. The dominance of the Macarthur’s Camden Park over the local economy during the interwar period was characterised by the construction of the Camden Vale milk processing factory (1926) adjacent to the railway. It was an example of Camden’s industrial modernism. The company developed TB free milk and marketed it through the Camden Vale Milk Bar, a retail outlet on the Hume Highway (1939); complete with a drive-through.
For a country town of its size the town had modern facilities and was up-to-date with the latest technology. The town had two weekly newspapers, Camden News and the Camden Advertiser, there was opening of the telephone exchange (1910), the installation of reticulated gas (1912), electricity (1929), replacement of gas street lighting with electric lights (1932) and a sewerage system (1939), and by 1939 the population has increased to 2394. The town’s prosperity allowed the Presbyterians built a new church (1938), while a number of ‘locals’ built solid brick cottages that reflected their confidence in the town’s future.
Selected examples of interwar architecture
Camden Vale milk processing factory, 11 Argyle Street, Camden. Built in 1926 by the Camden Vale Milk Co, a subsidiary of Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd.
Camden Vale Inn, Remembrance Drive (Old Hume Highway), Camden (now Camden Valley Inn). Architect: Cyril Ruwald. Builder: Herb English. A milk bar on the Hume Highway built in 1939 by the Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd to market its Camden Vale milk from TB tested dairy herds on Camden Park. It was ‘designed in the Tudor style, with walls in attractively coloured brickwork suggesting a touch of modernity’. [ Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd, Camden Vale Special Pasteurised Milk Production and Distribution, Camden, Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd, c.1938.]
Cooks Garage, 31-33 Argyle Street, Camden. Built in 1935. Owned by WH Cook. It was built in the Spanish Mission style, and was characterised by terracotta roof tiles, a front loggia, rendering of brickwork and shaped parapets. Since demolished.
Main Southern Garage, 20-28 Argyle Street, Camden. Built in the mid 1930s.
Dunk House, 56-62 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden, in 1937. The building was a car showroom, shop complex and professional suites owned by EC Dunk.
Clintons Motor Showroom, 16 Argyle Street, Camden. The car showroom was built in 1947 by Mark Jensen for Clinton Motors, the Holden dealership in Camden. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory it is a rare masonry Art Deco style building with large shopfront windows and wrap around awning.
102-104 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1939. Stuckey Bros, bakers and pastry cooks, occupied premises and fitted it out in 1940. According to the Camden News it was ‘fitted with every modern device’.
Bank of New South Wales (Westpac), 121-123 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1936. The two storey building had a residence upstairs and a banking chamber downstairs. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory the building is Georgian Revival style.
Rural Bank, 115-119Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1937. The two storey building had a residence upstairs with banking chamber downstairs. Art deco style. There is trachyte stonework on the facing of building.
Presbyterian Church, 42 John Street, Camden. Built in 1938. Architect: George Gray, R.Vale. A brick church, which according to the Camden Heritage Inventory the buildings is Gothic Revival (Gothic Interwar) style.
11.Camden Inn (Hotel), 105-107 Argyle Street, Camden. Built by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden in 1933. Tudor style.
Front, AH&I Hall , 191-195 Argyle Street, Camden. The brick front of the building was added to the weatherboard hall in 1936. The original hall was constructed in 1899 by George Furner for JW Macarthur Onslow as a drill hall for the Camden Mounted Rifles.
Paramount Theatre, 39 Elizabeth Street, Camden. Built in 1933. It was owned by DJ Kennedy who had interests in other suburban movie cinemas in the Sydney area. It was designed in the Spanish Mission style.
Elizabeth Street, Camden
Cottage, 25 Elizabeth Street, Camden. Built in the 1930s by Mel Peat.
Flats, 33 Elizabeth Street, Camden. Built in 1930.
Menangle Road, Camden
Cottages, 1-3 Menangle Road, Camden. Built between 1924-1925 by Harry Willis and Sons, Camden. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory a group of Californian Bungalows.
Methodist Parsonage, 24 Menangle Road, Camden. Built in 1935.
Cottage, 26 Menangle Road, Camden. Built by Mel Peat in 1931 for N Freestone.
Murray Street, Camden.
Cottages, 24-28 Murray Street, Camden. Built by Mel Peat in 1937. According to the Camden Heritage Inventory a group of Californian Bungalows.
Extension, Camden Hospital, Menangle Road, Camden. Built by Mel Peat in 1939.
Bellman Hangers, Camden Airfield, Macquarie Grove Road, Camden. Built in 1941. The Federal Government acquired the airfield from Edward Macarthur Onslow in 1940 for a central flying school under the Empire Air Training Scheme. The hangers were erected by RAAF as temporary accommodation for aircraft. They were designed by NS Bellman in 1936 (UK) as temporary buildings.
Camden Cafes and Milk Bars
The local milk bar is a largely unrecognized part of Camden modernism where the latest trends in American food culture made their way into the small country town by Australian-Greek immigrants. The design, equipment and fit-out of local cafes and milk bars was at the cutting edge of Interwar fashion. The cafes were a touch of the exotic with their Art Deco style interiors, where fantasy met food without the social barriers of daily life of the Interwar period. Camden milk bars rarely just sold milk shakes unlike their counterparts in the city. To make a living and ensure that their businesses paid their way the cafes and milk bars also sold fruit and vegetables, meals, sandwiches, lollies, sweets and chocolates.
These include Camden Cafe owned by the Sophios Bros, then the Cassimatis Bros in the 1930s. It became the Capital Cafe in 1935. There was the iconic Camden Valley Inn Milk Bar opened with a great fuss in 1939 on Camden Park estate by the Macarthur Onslow family.
Stuckey Bros Building Camden, Bakers
Camden has an art-deco style inspired building at 102-104 Argyle Street. It is the 1940 Stuckey Bros Pastrycooks and Bakers building, built by Harry Willis and Sons. The bakery was operated by HH & LC Stuckey and a bakery had been on the site from before 1912, when the Stuckeys purchased the business from J Fleming.
The building front is yellow-cream brick called polychrome, meaning a brick with more than one colour. The shop front above street level is finely detailed with curved bricks and bay-style window in the centre of the building. The roof is green tiles.
The building is an interesting and unusual example of a two-storey Interwar retail building. The use of decorative polychrome brickwork is unusual for Camden township. It is an attractive example of a commercial building, and while the street level shopfronts have been altered it has not compromised the intergrity of the remainder of the building.
Originally the shopfront was tiled with curved glass (bow windows) defining the shop entrance. There was a laneway on the western side (facing the shopfront the right-hand side) with access to the rear of the premises, which now has a retail business located on it. Many Camden Argyle Street laneways have been filled in and are now occupied by retail premises. How many can you pick?
The shopfront is the public interface for retail premises and streetscapes. Stuckey Bros original shopfront window glass had metal surrounds and a tiled entry (ingos/outgo or setback) that made it three-dimensional and interesting. A style of shopfront that was common from the Edwardian period. The shopfront awning is still largely as it was in 1940.
According to the Camden News Stuckey Bros was fitted out with every ‘modern device’. The shop opened at 6.30am, and the first shop assistant arrived at 8.00am. The shop closed at 7.00pm and operated 6 days a week. The doughmakers came in at 11.00pm and the bakers used wood-fired ovens, which were fired up over the weekends as it took too long to heat them up when cold.
Stuckey Bros did home deliveries with a horse and cart to Camden, Elderslie, Cobbitty and Brownlow Hill. The mailmen would take bread to The Oaks, Burragorang Valley, Yerranderie, Werombi, and Orangeville. The Stuckeys kept their horses in the Rectory paddock next to St John’s Church.
The Stuckeys were a staunch Methodist family and Beryl Stuckey played the organ at the Methodist Church, while Frank Stuckey was the superintendent of the Sunday School for over 20 years from the 1940s.
The site of the Stuckey Bros shop and bakery had been used as a bakery from 1852 when William McEwan built a premises and in the 1890s Mrs McEwan helped her sons Geordy and Alf run the business.
Read more @ Frank Stuckey, Our Daily Bread, The Story of Stuckey Bros, Bakers and Pastrycooks of Camden NSW, 1912-1960. Camden, F Stuckey, 1987.
Dunk House, A Modern Car Showroom in Camden.
There is a building at 56-62 Argyle Street, Camden, which is an understated Art Deco style example of the Interwar period. It is Dunk House. Its integrity is still largely intact and it clearly shows the impact of the new found wealth in the town from the Burragorang coalfields.
Dunk House has intact art deco style motifs adjacent to the entry above the display window front. There is black tiling on the shopfront, and a brass surround of the large display window on the former car showroom. The showroom has intact timber flooring and the interior and shopfronts have little changed from the 1930s when the building was erected by its owners. The brass names plates are still attached to the shopfront where the tenant business would put their name plate.
The Dunk House was built by renowned Camden builder Harry Willis & Sons in 1937. The premises was a car showroom, shopping complex and professional suites owned by EC Dunk. Downstairs there were 3 shops, the largest being a car showroom for General Motors cars. Upstairs there were 8 ‘compartments’ or rooms or what we would not call professional suites, each fitted out with modern amenities which included water, wash basin and electric light.
The tenants in 1937 included the downstairs shopfront leased by L Lakin, grocer and Mr Boulous, mercer. Later they included JL Hogg, dentist and in the 1950s dentist Newton Tobrett. At the rear of the property there a series of sheds which operated at auction rooms run by the Dunks.
In 1938 EC Dunk was the Camden agent for General Motors Chevrolet cars.
For more information on Interwar Camden click here
Gayline Drive-In Movie Theatre at Narellan
One of the notable attractions in the local area in the 1950s-1990s was the drive in movie theatre, which was located on Morshead Road, Narellan (now Narellan Vale). Along with rock ‘n roll, transistor radios, the bikini, the mini-skirt, it defined the lifestyle of the baby boomers. It was as popular with teenagers as it was with young families. It was a defining moment for a 20th century culture that was based around the icons of the period: cars and movies.
The drive in at Narellan was owned and operated from 1967-1992 by EJ Frazer and operated as the Gayline Drive in Movie Theatre.
Modernism in 1960s Elderslie NSW
The lands releases in the Camden suburb of Elderslie in 1960s have produced a number of houses that have expressed mid-20th century modernism. The house designs were taken from the book of project homes of the day and were quite progressive.
Australian architects including Robin Boyd were expressing Australian modernism. These architects were commissioned by housing developers like Lend Lease to design their housing estates. One such development was the Lend Lease Appletree Estate at Glen Waverley in Melbourne. Another Lend Lease land release and group of show homes were at their 1962 Kingsdene Estate in Carlingford,
The Elderslie homes were built by the miners who worked in the Burragorang Valley and they wanted new modern houses. They generated the wealth that funded the urban growth of the Camden suburbs of Elderslie and South Camden.
Elderslie was one of the original land grants to John Oxley in 1816. The area has been dominated by farming, particularly orchards and vineyards.
Elderslie examples of 1960s modernism include houses in Luker Street characterised by low-pitched rooves, open planned but restrained design, with lots of natural light streaming in full length glass panels adjacent to natural timbers and stone. There are also ranch style houses in River Road with open planning and wide frontages to the street, some architect designed.
These houses are all located in and amongst Federations style farming houses of the Edwardian period. The Federation style houses were on large blocks of land that were sub-divided during the 1960s.
The now demolished Henning’s house in Macarthur Road (image) is an example of open planned ranch style. Other modernist designs are the blocks of flats in Purcell Street, with use of decorative wrought iron railings.
Sunset Avenue in Elderslie was a new land release with a mix of 1960s modern low-pitched roof open planned houses interspersed with New South Wales Housing Commission fibro construction homes.
Other land releases of the 1960s were the New South Wales Housing Commission 1960s fibro houses some of which are located in Burrawong Road and Somerset Street.
Ranch-style housing in Elderslie
There are a number of ranch style houses in the Elderslie area along Macarthur Road and River Road in particular. Some are brick, while others are timber construction.
Ranch-style housing is a significant post-Second World War housing style. The housing style has been noted by architect Robert Irving as an Australian domestic architecture style. Parramatta City Council has recognised the housing style of heritage significance.
American History of Ranch-Style Homes
The original house style came from California and the South-west of the USA, where architects in these areas designed the first suburban ranch-style houses in the 1920s and 1930s. They were simple one-storey houses built by ranchers who lived on the prairies and in the Rocky Mountains. The American architects liked the simple form that reflected the casual lifestyle of these farming families. After the Second World War a number of home builders in California offered a streamlined, slimmed-down version. They were built on a concrete slab without a basement with pre-cut sections. The design allowed multi-function spaces, for example, living-dining room and eat-in-kitchen which reduced the number of walls inside the house. The design was one of the first to orient the kitchen/family area towards the backyard rather than facing the street. The design also placed the bedrooms at the front of the house. The marketing of the ranch-style house tapped popular American fascination with the Old West. (Washington Post, 30 December 2006)
Katherine Salant, ‘The Ranch, An Architectural Archetype Forged on the Frontier’, Washington Post, 30 December 2006
Residence, 64 Macarthur Road Elderslie
Sunset Avenue in Elderslie was a new land release with a mix of 1960s modern low-pitched roof open planned houses interspersed with New South Wales Housing Commission fibro construction homes.
Other land releases of the 1960s were the New South Wales Housing Commission 1960s fibro houses some of which are located in Burrawong Road and Somerset Street.
The integrity of the residence was intact until it was demolished in 2011, including the front fence that was built in 1960 by the Hennings of ‘Chromatex’ bricks. There were a number of mature trees on the site that added to the aesthetic quality of the site.
In 2011 a ranch-style house in Macarthur Road Elderslie was unfortunately demolished to make way for a pre-school. Camden’s ranch-style houses are part of the town’s post-Second World War development and growth.
The Macarthur Road house was one of a number in the Elderslie area and two of these have been demolished. One of the demolished ranch-style houses, Kalinda, was located off Lodges Road Elderslie and owned by the Whiteman family. The Whitemans owned a general store in Camden that operated for nearly a century. The house was a weatherboard cottage and demolished in late 1990s to make way for Sydney’s urban development in the Elderslie area. The house was located high on the ridge with a pleasant outlook facing west over the Narellan Creek floodplain. Visitors approached the house from Lodges Road by driving up to the top of the ridge along a narrow driveway.
The Red Cross drew many important people to visit Camden during the Inter-war period. One of those was Lady Belinda Street, a member of the Street family, a dynasty of important Sydney barristers and judges.
Lady Belinda Street was part of the influential network of friends and contacts that formed the circle that swirled around the lives of the Enid and Sibella Macarthur Onslow of Camden Park that moved between London and New South Wales.
Edric Street, Lady Belinda’s brother-in-law, was the manager of the Commercial Bank in Camden from 1914 and his wife Margaret was active in the Camden Red Cross.
In 1934 the Camden Red Cross, under the presidency of Sibella Macarthur Onslow, invited Lady Belinda Street and Mrs John Moore OBE (formerly Gladys Owen) to the AGM at the Camden Town Hall (School of Arts), after the event had been cancelled at Gilbulla due to heavy rain.
Lady Belinda Street was a charity worker and philanthropist. She was the wife Phillip Street who was the Chief Justice of New South Wales (1925) and knighted (KCMG) in 1928. One her sons Kenneth, a Sydney barrister, who later became New South Wales chief justice (1949) and knighted KCMG, 1956), married Jessie Lillingston in 1916.
Jessie Street was famous as a radical activist and humanitarian. She was later known as ‘Red Jessie’ for her sympathies with Russia during the Cold War. She was a contemporary of Sibella Macarthur Onslow and in 1920 secretary of the National Council of Women of New South Wales. Jessie campaigned for equal pay for women, was a supporter of the League of Nations and later the United Nations. She was a human rights advocate and campaigner for Indigenous rights in the 1930s and unsuccessfully stood for parliament for the Labor Party after the Second World War.
Lady Belinda Street, Jessie’s mother-in-law, was a member of many community organisations. She was a member of house committee of Royal Alexandria Hospital for Children, vice president of the District Nursing Association, the committee of the Church of England Grammar School and Homes and Hospitals for Children.
Lady Belinda was an active member of the Red Cross from the First World War along with Enid and Sibella Macarthur Onslow. Lady Belinda was a member of the Executive Committee of the New South Wales Division of the Red Cross and by the Second World War served as vice-president of the New South Wales Division. She was a supporter of the Red Cross Rose Hall Convalescent Home for soldiers at Darlinghurst Sydney during the First World War. Rose Hall was lent to the Red Cross by the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Coy, opened in 1915 and fitted out by the Red Cross at the cost of £984 with 32 beds. It was one of a number of convalescent homes opened by the Red Cross during the war across New South Wales.
Lady Belinda’s sister-in-law Mrs Edric (Margaret) Street was a foundation member of the Camden Red Cross and served as treasurer until the death of her husband, Edric Street, in Camden in 1923. Margaret served as a member of Executive Committee of the New South Wales Division of the Red Cross during the First World War. Margaret Browne married Edric Street at St Matthais’ Church Albury in 1892 and had four children. She was the second daughter of TA Browne, pastoralist and police magistrate and the author known as ‘Rolf Boldrewood’ who wrote Robbery Under Arms which was published as a serial in the Sydney Mail between 1882 and 1883. His wife Maria was the granddaughter of Alexander Riley of Raby.
Edric H Street was manager of Camden’s Commercial Bank from 1914 until his death (1923) and was very a community minded citizen. He was treasurer of the Camden AH&I Society, vice president of the executive committee of the Camden District Hospital and a warden of St John’s Church.
The Camden News reported that at the 1934 Camden Red Cross AGM Lady Belinda Street moved ‘the adoption of the report and balance sheet, and congratulated the Camden Red Cross on the excellent financial results of its past year’. She spoke of the long association of Mrs Edric [Margaret] Street, her sister-in-law, with the work of the Red Cross in Camden. Dr RM Crookston, Camden Mayor in 1933, proposed ‘a vote of thanks to Lady Street for sparing some of her well-filled time to come and preside at Camden’s annual Red Cross meeting’.
Dr Crookston paid a tribute to the ‘unfailing energy and devotion that Mrs Edric Street had shown in her work for the Red Cross from the very day that England entered the war. Referring to the peace-time work of the Red Cross Society, Dr. Crookston said that amid all the political wrangling and the struggle for a ‘place in the sun’ that went on all over the world, it was encouraging to know that this kindly influence was at work caring for those unable to care for themselves’.
‘Mr Davies seconded this vote which was carried unanimously. Mr PC Furner proposed a vote of thanks to Miss Onslow for entertaining the members and urged them to pledge themselves to greater efforts for the Red Cross. This was carried by acclamation, and after Miss Onslow had responded Lady Street declared the meeting closed’.
The Camden News reported that ‘afternoon tea was then served and much appreciated’.
Jessie Street National Women’s Library, Sydney Click here
‘Red Jessie’ the story of Jessie Street. Uncommon Lives, National Archives Click here
In late August 1914 the Sydney newspaper the Sunday Times (30 August) described Red Cross volunteers as the ‘Angels of Mercy’, and Red Cross volunteers would ‘Stretch forth your hands to Save!’ Red Cross nurses, according to the report, had the touch of Christ, were willing to stand ready to ‘succor and tend the men laid low in the country’s service’.
In July 1914 Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, the wife of the Governor General and founder of the national Red Cross, at a Double Bay Ambulance Class held in a St Mark’s school room at Darling Point in July 1914, referred to Red Cross volunteers as ‘ministering angels’. This was an allusion to a Biblical passage,(New International Version Bible) Hebrews 1:14
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
In this context it could be interpreted as meaning that Red Cross workers are sent forward to provide aid or assistance to others in need with a strong moral overtone.
The Red Cross ‘Help’ poster was drawn by artist Scottish-born David Henry Souter, who settled in New South Wales in 1887 where he worked as a journalist and illustrator for books and magazines, including the Bulletin, and was one of the first artists to start designing Australian posters. The aim of the poster was to inspire Australian women to support the war effort.  The poster features a nurse in a stylised Red Cross uniform standing with her arms outstretched, as if appealing for help, in front of a red cross. In the background is a ship, an ambulance and a field hospital displaying the Red Cross emblem.
The Red Cross as a metaphorical mother is present in Red Cross literature from as early as December 1914.
This issue has been examined by Canadian historian Sarah Glassford in her work on mothering and the Red Cross. She has looked the use by AE Foringer and the 1918 poster used by the American Red Cross entitled ‘The Greatest Mother in the World’. She analyses in her account how the poster uses ‘two potent images of Christian iconography: The Virgin and the Child’. She argues that the use of the mothering metaphor and ‘care work sick and wounded citizen-soldiers in terms of mothering…bestowed that work with symbolic and moral power’.
Red Cross volunteers and other Edwardian women saw social action as an alignment of patriotism, duty, class, gender, Christianity and motherhood. After 1914 the Red Cross leadership at all levels of the organisation wrapped these characteristics together and promoted the society to volunteers and the community as the soldier’s metaphorical ‘mother’ and guardian angel on the battlefield. The Red Cross was identified in posters and other publicity as ‘Red Cross, Mother of all Nations’, and as the ‘Greatest Mother in the World’.  Kate Egan, the organiser of the packing department of the New South Wales Red Cross, maintained that the Red Cross was ‘stretching forth her hand to all in need…[s]he’s warming thousands, feeding thousands, healing thousands from her store, the greatest mother in the world’. In 1919 the Brisbane Courier ran an article in Red Cross week under the heading ‘The Mother of Soldiers’ and stated that the Red Cross was ‘the great mother who stretches forth her hands to all in need, warming thousands, feeding thousands, healing thousands from her store’. A ‘Soldier’s Mother’ wrote in 1918 that the ‘Red Cross is the greatest mother in the world, stretching forth her hands to all in need’. A Sydney Morning Herald correspondent referred to the Red Cross as ‘the great soldier’s mother’. On Red Cross Button Day in 1918 the three designs for sale for 1/- were ‘The Greatest Mother in the World’ , ‘The Soldiers’ Friend’ and an image of ‘a Red Cross nurse with an outstretched hand’. Mary McAnene, who was a nurse at No 3 Australian General Hospital at Lemnos and matron of Camden District Hospital before joining up, maintained that
It would be a sorry day for the boys when they get their knock if it were not for the Red Cross; the military authorities are like a father to the lads, but the Red Cross is like their mother.
The Red Cross as mother and guardian angel was an extension of the notion around the ideology of motherhood which was an integral part of women’s service role in the British Empire, according to historian Anna Davin. The ideology of motherhood stated that women had the duty and destiny to be the ‘mothers of the race’. Child-rearing was a national duty, and good motherhood was an essential component in the (eugenist’s) ideology of racial health and purity. The family was the basic institution of society and women’s domestic role remained supreme. By the inter-war period pre-occupation with the family and motherhood had turned these traits into a national priority for the British race. Imperial motherhood was promoted as a scientific necessity and a patriotic duty. There were concerns over the decay of the home and family life expressed by a number of British women’s groups, especially those associated with evangelical Christianity, including the Mothers’ Union (MU), the National Council of Women, and later the Women’s Institutes, the Country Women’s Association (CWA) and Red Cross. These voluntary organisations provided a training ground for middle class women and allowed them to gain a ‘public persona’ while upholding the ‘values of both middle-class femininity and bourgeois respectability’.
So to sum up, while the imagery of motherhood was romantic and sentimental the Red Cross organisation during the First World War was able to effectively to use this iconography to encourage strong community support for their activities. By the end of the war the Red Cross owned the homefront war effort across the state. For many women and the community in general helping the war effort meant helping the Red Cross and for them the Red Cross worker was the soldier’s guardian angel.
 Sarah Glassford, “The Greatest Mother in the World”, Carework and the Discourse of Mothering in the Canadian Red Cross Society during the First World War’. Journal of the Association for Research of Mothering, Volume 10, Number 1, p.220
 National Library of Australia, War Posters, Lithographs, 1918.
 The Camden News, 19 September 1918; The Brisbane Courier, 26 July 1918; The Blue Mountain Echo, 19 July 1918; The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 February 1919; The Mail (Adelaide), 7 September 1918.
 The Camden News, 27 June 1918.
. Anna Davin, ‘Imperialism and Motherhood’. History Workshop, 1978, Volume 5, Issue 1, p. 13.
. Clare Wright, ‘Of Public Houses and Private Lives, Female Hotelkeepers as Domestic Entrepreneurs’. Australian Historical Studies, Volume 32, Issue 116, April 2001, p. 69.