Sue Jarvis was born and raised in Dandenong. Her father was former Dandenong mayor Maurie Jarvis. In 1972 Sue published a thesis about Dandenong in the 19th century. In this special edition of the Journal Sue reminisces about the changes she has seen in the town’s main thoroughfare, Lonsdale Street.
Otherwise known as the Main Street, Lonsdale Street was the centre of activity and the place to be in 1950s Dandenong, not just because my father Maurie had council meetings at the Town Hall.
I remember the palm tree lined avenue, the parades and floats indicative of the close community spirit post War, and Anzac Day services when the Cenotaph was in the middle of the street.
The Monash Freeway did not exist, so all traffic heading east from Melbourne flowed through the wide main street. Decades before, horses and carts for market (at the top end of town) could turn in the wide main street.
In my youth, the busiest shops were all on the western side of the street, especially between Walker Streets and Scott Street.
Most important was G.J. Coles (now Chemist Warehouse) where the footpath was the place to meet young friends on a Saturday morning. At the rear, one-third of the space was devoted to the Cafeteria. It was a treat to have a pie and vegetables with gravy, followed by jelly trifle.
My father, son of Ethel and Bert Jarvis, lived for a time behind the Gippsland Tearooms, a double-storeyed and verandah clad building not far from the present city offices.
Ethel was a great cook while Bert was away as a builder. Maurie had enough room in the rear yard to keep chooks and grow vegetables, selling his produce from a small wooden cart.
In the ’60s the National Bank opposite the Town Hall was the first building above two storeys.
My sister Bronwyn and I worked next door at Rockman’s clothing store as teenagers.
Next door was Ewart’s Newsagency, the wonderful Vanity Arcade with its tiles and mirrored walls.
It contained Osborne’s Delicatessen, Patchell’s Hair Salon, Toon’s Fabric, a dentists and travel agency.
Further up Lonsdale Street Titcher’s Pharmacy was iconic, especially to budding photographers like me.
Steve de George’s (Greek) café and the Golden Pagoda Chinese Café, upstairs in Clow Street gave us a taste of the multiculturalism that was to come. Yum!
The Town Hall (including library, historical society rooms and council chamber) hosted all major functions for the shire and then city.
This included balls, concerts and the Dandenong Festival of Music and Art for Youth. I was involved in all of these.
Dandenong High School which I attended held speech night there.
In the 50s the market site sold produce, haberdashery, cattle and even hosed the local Agricultural and Pastoral Show.
The creation of the Capitol Centre we know today changed Lonsdale Street forever, with its blocking off of roads. The social hub of Lonsdale Street disappeared, coinciding with big retail businesses buying into the new complex.
Perhaps the biggest change to Lonsdale Street was the building of a bypass of Dandenong – the Monash Freeway. The city was no longer divided east-west by a busy road.
In 1972 I wrote a thesis The Character of Nineteenth Century Dandenong. By 2000, when I revised it, most of its subject matter had gone. A digital copy is at the Dandenong Library.
I have since documented the re-development of Lonsdale Street for VicUrban, now PlacesVic.