Interview with 43 Fraser Street, Clunes
In support of the Back-to calendar & the Clunes Neighbourhood House & true to the HOC approach - yes, it's a building. Let's see how we go:
"Now, where were we? Oh yes, 1870’s, Mr Tarrant was the publican…now was there a Mrs Tarrant? I if only I could remember…*sigh* oh dear…you know he originally dealt in fruit…a rather more civilised occupation I consider…Then Mr Cooper…you know, he was a member of parliament…he owned me, and Mr Champion converted me into a drapery emporium…oh, I tell you, it was beginning of my prime!Oh, my goodness the fabrics…muslin from America and cotton from Egypt, can you imagine, Egypt! ...and French and Swiss lace...silk from the Orient...flax from the old world...corsets and hats...woollen shawls so fine you could pass them through a wedding ring...handkerchiefs edged in lace…and hats, my dear, the hats…you know Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth could not have purchased better in London! And the buttons for waistcoats and masculine silks for the cravats, King George could fill his wardrobe from these very premises!All the ladies of the district came to me…farmers’ wives came and the wife of our very first mayor, Mrs Pattison Mark, she came to buy her gown for her first official engagement…all the councillors’ wives, they all patronised me too…the bustles, throatlets, frills and lace…oh and the bone corsets…!Later, all the Matrons of the hospital came for Swiss cotton handkerchiefs…all the wives and shop owners...good gad...where do I start!…well, let me remember…the farmers wives, always beautifully dressed for special occasions and going to church, oh yes, and the many vicars and their wives…the school teachers and the male teachers’ wives, they had little money to spend on silks and velvets but many a wonderful knitter of lovely rose reds and deep peach and cream cardigans and sweaters…(such an American word...sweaters…one thinks of movie stars…Hollywood…gives me goose bumps…am I being immodest?).All the business owners and their families came here too…I can tell you…even the market gardeners….one of the Chinese ladies would visit the first Friday of every month to assess any new silks…I remember the day a beautiful deep green embroidered silk arrived for her…even the Vicar’s wife…her name?…um…oh, I will need to rest soon…even she was a little envious when she caught sight of it unwrapped on the main counter…it was a divine emerald colour…hundreds of tiny jewels woven into thread…Oh my dear, those days, the ladies ran to the emporium…they would bring their daughters for their gowns, trousseau, velvet hair ribbons…and then their daughters would enter, rosy cheeked, princesses one and all…they loved blouses with sweet little embroidered collars…I can report all my owners, well first, Mr George Tuff, then Mr James Liston and then there was another Mr Champion, were the finest of businessmen!I remember them all…did I tell you Mr and Mrs Horner expanded our range of coats…and more hats...the flowery frocks…I said frocks, dear, why are you smirking?Oh, Miss Gert Mangels opened a café…yes, a European coffee establishment I think, here in Clunes! Others did also yet I remember she wore exquisite paisley shawls and had the finest gloves for Sundays…You know, after the joyous 1920s, the 30s and the 40s were subdued, we didn’t have much in the way of celebrations…very little money…and that war…yes… *sigh* those divine dresses in the 1950s, the little fitted waists and voluminous skirts in voile…cottons for summer then fine wool for winter…and then shirtwaist dresses…many of the younger mothers preferred those…the fitted evening dresses…and the elegant sleeveless, off the shoulder silk satin ballgowns…if only I could show you those times again…I heard so many different languages during those years…quite cosmopolitan our little town was then, yes!…Polish, Italian, Dutch, Slavic, lilting and mesmerising…I would stop creaking and listen…words like running water all through the shop *sigh*…where was I…oh yes, 1960s we stocked those workingman’s pants, um…yes, jeans…the dresses…well they were shorter – less material of course, which didn’t please everyone – and those terrible 1970s…I do think burnt orange and lime green should flapper wedding dress
be worn together…such a lack of taste, dear!You ask about changes in our little town…I have seen two knitting mills come and go, the Butter Factory, that closed during the forties, Eberhard’s Cordial Factory, the mattress factory, Harold’s Shoe Company…the women, they all came here for their frocks, stockings, undergarments…But...one cannot forget the sad times…the great fire of 1944, that day the shop was closed early, my windows were covered in old blankets and every bucket they could lay claim to, full of water…Then there were those terrible wars…The first world war, 300 Clunes men went off to fight for King and country and 45 never returned to us…the war to end all wars they said…there was an older lady, what was her name? she drove from Ballarat especially to come to Tuff’s…she always wore white cotton blouses with wide collars…one day...it was a still autumn day like today, the shop was empty…the girls from the Knitting Mill came in the morning to look for flapper dresses… now who was the counter assistant that day?...hmm......the young assistant spread a thin pale pink linen on the wide wooden counter – that counter was polished to such a sheen – and the dear lady started to weep…I still remember...she looked at the assistant and said, ‘it’s my only son’s birthday today…Edward…he was killed at Ypres”…they stood very still...nothing moved in the shop...I held my breath, every piece of me froze...the dear lady was weeping and the assistant, her tears wet the linen… all those young men gone, you see… may they all rest in peace…you know most people think buildings don't understand, don't gather the feelings, the memories of those who inhabit us...I can tell you, my very fibres hold thousands of fading memories...I hold the tears and laughter of so many...no wonder I sleep heedless of the world now...I am sorry my dear, for a minute I was…did I tell you about the day that Pompei Elliot came to town to unveil our Anzac memorial…the crowds…and the
such a prosaic name for such a celebration…this town…I have watched every moment…the 1920 event, it was magnificent, I was decked out in bunting and ribbons…the very best building if do say…no, I shouldn’t be immodest…and then 1989, a year of launches and history books, and a
to rival even 1920….and the cars in the street that year, extraordinary……I…I was well over a hundred years by then…I must rest my dear…" 43 Fraser Street, 150 years old
The Second Era: Clunes 1939-1989 - A History
, Ros & Bob O'Brien, Gateway Publishing Company, Pty, Ltd., 1989"Former Fire Brigade Hotel, 43 Fraser Street, Clunes, section 14, allotment 11, Township of Clunes",
Talbot & Clunes Conservation Study,
Richard Aitken, 1988 (published by Shire of Talbot & Clunes Council/Ministry of Planning).
Our Town,(once upon a time). Parts 1 & 2,
Maureen French, Discovery, Newsletter of the Clunes Museum, July & Nov. 2014.All courtesy of Clunes Museum.
- Mayoress of Clunes Mrs W.J. Champion and Lady Alexander Peacock,
Weekly Times 2 April 1927. Courtesy of Lost Clunes