Thursday, November 22, 2012

Music, dancing...

Two more great resources in the local studies collection :

Bruce Carty's history of Australian radio is a recent addition and has information on all Australian radio stations , station logos, including  wireless radio history , and more importantly , explains the letters in station identifiers - which were always a mystery to me..

Bill Forrest has compiled a history of dance bands in country New South Wales - photographs of early dance bands with names like the Col Thompson Swingtet ( Harden Murrumburrah 1953 - 1960) , the Ganmain Revellers (1938) , The Blue Diamonds ( Forbes 1958 -1966 ), and smoothly named Rhythmaires ( Molong 1960s ) and the stories surrounding the bands and the venues make for interesting reading. If you played in a dance band or went to dances where local bands played send me an email ( ) or come into the library to tell us your memories.

Monday, October 29, 2012

News on microfilm

Another great resource in the library for local studies researchers is the collection of newspapers on microfilm .The collection includes :
  • The Wagga Wagga Express ,October 1858 to December 31 1929
  • The Wagga Wagga Advertiser October 17 1868 to June 30 1911
  • The Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser July 1 1911 to the current day.
There are also some district papers. These include :
  • The Ardlethan -Beckom Times
  • Coolamon Farmers Review
  • Tumut and Adelong Times
  • Australian Town and Country Journal 1880 -1889
other records of interest on microfilm that may be of use to researchers are
  • the Wagga Rate books 1917 -1931
  • Tichbourne case papers
  • The Police Gazette 1900-1930

There are also a lot of records on microfiche too numerous to mention here but well worth a look for the merely curious or the serious researcher.
The microfilm reader is fully computerised and you can save the documents you choose to your USB / thumb drive to take home. The newspapers hold a great deal of valuable information that suits a variety of research purposes and looking at old advertisements and news stories from different eras can be a lot of fun in itself.

One of my favourite pieces from this edition of a 1938 Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser is the example below - the Railway Time table on top of an advertisement for a rheumatism cure- from the mundane to the melodramatic - the "devilish torture" of rheumatic pain.

 The district news has snippets of information about local people and events which can be useful for family history researchers, as long as you have the patience and time to look through the papers. It's free to use the microfilm reader - but you must be a member of the library and book the reader at the front desk.

 Come in and enjoy hours of entertainment travelling back through time!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Murrumbidgee Ancestor

The Murrumbidgee Ancestor is the journal of the Wagga Wagga and District Family History Society. The journal contains research articles about such diverse subjects as Wagga's Jewish families in the mid-Twentieth century (by Ruth Barnett), Alfred Edward Jelly- a newspaper trail ( a story about a man injured while working on the paddle steamers at Wagga) by Barry Williams ; local war or criminal identities, requests for information and much more.
The local studies collection also has the monthly newsletter of the society.
The journal and the newsletters may be of use to you in your local or family research - come into the library to view these useful items which are available for use within the library.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Poetic Justice

The local studies collection at the Wagga Wagga City Library has a substantial literature section. At the Wagga heat of the recently held Poetry slam local poets read their works and I started thinking about Wagga's literary precedents - Dame Mary Gilmore being the most famous author (her visit to Wagga during Book Week 1948 a gala event ) . Within the wider region , Miles Franklin comes to mind, though not strictly famous for poetry.
Included in the collection are diverse editions of Four W, anthologies of prose and poetry produced by Charles Sturt University , Booranga Writers Centre and Arts NSW ; "Pages from Sages", slim volumes from various local poets- but one treasure I found particularly stands out for me : "Mainly lousy mid nineties covers of early eighties hits" by the enigmatically named Zeb'e.a die.
Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach , Mainly lousy is not lousy at all. There is no biographical information about the author, who writes about everyday experiences and feelings in a witty, sometimes heartbreaking, and intelligent way.
Are slim volumes of poetry a thing of the past? I wonder what Wagga poets are writing about now ? Do you know the identity of Zeb'e.a die? or even better, Zeb'e.a die let me know if you are still writing.
email me at

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dame Mary Gilmore and Book Week 1947

Illustration for "Dogs" by YLLA. 
Literary legend Dame Mary Gilmore visited Wagga Wagga for book week in 1947. She was the Celebrity guest at many of the events she attended during the week long celebration, including such diverse entertainments as a civic reception, opening a flower show, guest spots on the local radio, listening to recitations from the Shakespeare Club, and visiting schools (including her old school at Brucedale).
Dame Mary visited the Wagga Free Library on Tuesday 21 October 1947, at 10.30am. Partaking in a morning tea, she commented that the library had a "harmoniously dignified appearance" , that "the books are well arranged, and there is a good selection of reading."
Book week was a big community event in the 1940s and 1950s. Competitions included book review essays, poetry, dolls in character costumes, illustrations for nursery rhymes, and bookmarks. Dame Mary distributed the prizes at a gala event held at the Plaza theatre, also attended by the Mayoress, Mrs Barrand, and the City Librarian Miss Jean Hay.
Illustration for "Golden Path Adventure" by Mary Gervase.
All these events and their significance show how valued books and reading were within the community. Dame Mary's presence added importance and literary glamour to the week long festival in a very Australian way- though interestingly most of the essays written by Wagga school children were reviews of English and American books. It was a fun and exciting way of involving the whole community in a celebration of what is really a solitary pursuit, and would have been a welcome diversion so soon after the end of the second world war.
Book Week is still celebrated and this week the Wagga City Library has posters from previous book weeks on display downstairs near the large print. These posters from the fifties and sixties are works of art - come in and relive your childhood love of reading and books !

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Leonard Bootes - Drover

A few weeks ago I met Boyce Bootes, the son of Leonard Bootes , the drover in the photograph of 11 June . Boyce came into the library to share his memories and experiences and brought with him some of the photographs he had from his childhood.
Boyce learnt to ride early - frequently thrown but never with any broken bones. He clearly remembers going droving with his family - during school terms he would wait for the holidays then join his family by either train (if the mob had passed Tumut) or the mail car (to Tumut) .
Boyce's most memorable droving journey as a child was when they moved a very large mob of sheep - there were 30 horses , Boyce's six brothers, his mother as cook, and six extra paid drovers.
The wagon in the photograph was literally their house. They carried cooking implements, and there was a dog box under the cart - which was partitioned off to carry up to six dogs, depending on the amount of stock.
Food on a droving trip was a major concern. Mrs Bootes would cook stews and chops, and cakes called "brownies" which were a lot like fruit cake. They also bought vegetables along the way, and took some with them, pumpkin and carrots and potatoes. Whenever they took a mob they also arranged with the owner how many they could kill along the way for meat.
The dogs had shoes for summer and winter if they got sore feet - but according to Boyce summer was worse for damage to the dogs feet.
Len Bootes lived in San Isidore in later years, and kept his droving kit, mostly droving sheep, because he felt the cattle were too hard on the horses. Later on he bought a caravan and ute, and kept droving until retirement when both Leonard and his wife were in their sixties.
It was a real privilege to listen to Boyce talking about his experiences. Having that background information made the story behind the people and animals in photograph very real and moving.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wagga Wagga Cattle Driving Bill :"A menace to life and limb"

In 1901 George Rudd of Wagga Wagga brought forward a petition to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales , for a law to be created that would control the movement of stock through the township.
The minutes of evidence from the proceedings of the committee make entertaining reading. The other great benefit of the minutes of evidence is the picture it gives of Wagga Wagga at the time, and I was personally suprised to read about buildings I never knew existed.
...I have seen many persons running into gateways out of danger..George Rudd.
There were two different  sale yards at the time : the Municipal Yards, and the Pastoral Hotel sale yards. Apparently it was common practice at the time for hotels to have sale yards right next door. Which also indicates not much thought was given to health and hygiene, as the Bungalow private hospital , according to the minutes of evidence, " immediately adjoins the Pastoral sale yards." There was no adequate drainage at the yards, and the movement of cattle through the streets caused other problems apart from personal injury- ripping up the road surface, and depositing large amounts of manure which then caused the potential health hazard of disease.
Charles Cook of Wagga, in response to the question "what are your objections to cattle being driven through the streets of Wagga in the daytime ? " replied, " I always considered it was a menace to life and limb, and that it was insanitary."  

The Municipal yards, situated "less than half a mile from the Post Office, were not as well patronised as the Pastoral yards. There was discussion of why the Pastoral yards were more popular :
"You say that people go to the Pastoral Yards, for the sake of being near a public house ?" ( James Gormly, to James Beveridge, Grazier)
Beveridge to Gormly : I say that the the people that are drinking go to the Pastoral Yards to look on.
Gormly to Beveridge: "I suppose the people who drive stock are generally a temperate class of people ?"
Beveridge to Gormly: I daresay they will take a dram now and then."

The stock route for cattle to get to the yards passed through Travers and Gurwood Street, and created havoc when passing the Gurwood Street School and other schools along the route. The students no doubt found the progress of the cattle noisy, distracting, exciting, smelly and dangerous. Can you imagine 200 head of cattle being driven along the wide and leafy spaces of Gurwood Street now ?!
The last word should go to the unflappable George Rudd. When asked by Chairman Gormly ,  " you have never had to dodge the cattle ? " , Rudd answered confidently, "No, but I am an expert amongst stock."

If you would like to read the minutes of evidence, you will be transported to another era, chaotic, exciting and full of local characters speaking in their own voice across the years. Come on into the library and ask at the information desk and they will be able to retrieve the document for you- it is part of the local studies collection , available to read in the library only. Just the thing to escape a dreary winter's afternoon!

Monday, June 11, 2012

A droving we shall go...

Written in pencil on the back of this lovely B&W photograph :

 Len and Dolly Boots
San Isidore c 1964

It's thought that Len (or Les ) was a drover.
Can you provide any information about this photograph ? Or droving in and around the Wagga area? Perhaps you recognise the exact spot in San Isidore that Len is passing, or remember Len, or even San Isidore in the sixties.  If you can , email me at or pop into the library for a chat- we would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dixieland , New Years Eve 1943

 This invitation card (shown left),
to a New Year's Eve Ball held at the Dixieland dance venue on the Murrumbidgee River in 1943, was held to help raise funds for the Wagga Base Hospital.
Many social and fundraising events were held during wartime, including dances, social evenings, Christmas parties for children, civic receptions, dinner nights, swimming and sports carnivals. Compared to the present day, people were more socially active in many different ways during world war two.
The Dixieland was a floating dance floor on the river , near the end of what is now Sturt Street, according to Wagga Wagga : a history, by Sherry Morris.
Supper was served during the evening and the dance floor was decorated with colored lights and willow boughs, reminiscent of a fairy bower.
Wagga Wagga City Library has a small collection of invitation (and similar) cards, the earliest so far found an entry ticket to a special "enclosure" near the Soldiers Memorial Obelisk in Baylis Street, 1929.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Not about the flood : Wagga Leagues Club

Do you remember the Wagga Leagues Club ? Did you sip on a fluffy duck in the Piano Bar, watch "From hell to victory" starring George Peppard , or dance till 2am at the Saturday night disco?

This information card ( circa 1982) is a recent addition to the Wagga City Library local studies collection from a donor in Canberra.

The library has very little information, photographs or memorabilia of the Leagues club apart from this information card.

Sherry Morris, in her book "Wagga Wagga : A History," notes that the club started in the 1950s with additions and improvements occuring into the 1960s. I'd love to hear from anyone with memories or information, or even phtographs to share - email or just pop into the library for a chat.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Women of ill repute: Prostitution in Wagga Wagga 1870 - 1890

Recently an extremely valuable addition to the local studies collection at the Wagga Wagga City Library was donated by Danielle Gamble , who studied at the University of Melbourne.
Danielle has written : "Just another job? A study of prostitution in late Nineteenth Century Wagga Wagga, 1870 - 1890", as her dissertation for the award of the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) 2011.

Amongst her resources were Wagga Wagga's Goal Entrance Description books. The information within these records showed the pressures and poverty these women suffered, that led to the use of prostitution as a way of survival.
Ms Gamble also used material from the Daily Advertiser of the time, and the Court of Petty Sessions.

This quote from the study is most telling, illustrating the difference between how society saw these women and how the women saw themselves: " If they were taken to court and labelled a common prostitute, they would respond with 'incomprehension and at times indignation'. Whilst they might accept that they had sexual intercourse with a man for money they would refuse the inference that this made them a common prostitute." (p.38).

There were different "categories" of prostitutes : the Rowdy, the Quiet, the Common. Most prostitutes were also charged with vagrancy, drunk and disorderly, larceny, or simply behaving in a "riotous manner" (p 41). Oh, and sometimes obscene language as well.

Ms Gamble identifies a third group : the Chinese camp prostitutes, who plied their trade on the banks of the Murrumbidgee. And reveals the location of two brothels in Wagga Wagga - one in Peter Street, and another in Crampton Street.

This research document is a truly valuable and respectful insight into the real world of late 19th century Wagga Wagga , a groundbreaking work, and a refreshing reminder that Wagga Wagga's history is not so dull and respectable as it looks on the surface.

The study is currently being processed and will be available for view shortly in the local studies collection. Email me : with your comments, thoughts, or information.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wagga Wagga circa 1939

The first Wagga Wagga City Council information booklets the Wagga Wagga City Library local studies collection holds are from 1938 onwards. This may not be the earliest year they were produced , but they are the first I have located in the collection.

These charming and elegant little booklets hold a wealth of historical facts and other information about the town.

In 1938, there were 1070 telephones connected ; statistics on the amount of butter produced in previous years - in 1937 , show that 1,904,507 lbs were churned out. In 1937, Wagga's population was 12,530. 29,309,800 cubic feet of gas was sold; and in 1937, there were two cases of typhoid , 35 cases of diptheria, and 11 cases of scarlet fever.

Council employed four people at the sewerage works, 8 at the gasworks, and 6 people at the cattle saleyards.

And as early as 1938 Wagga Wagga had "daily air service links with the capital cities", the journey taking one hour and forty five minutes.

An oddity mentioned in the general description of Wagga's parks and gardens is that Collin's Park had a "Zoological section". There were also black and white photographs of places of interest for a gentler era - including the business districts of Fitzmaurice and Gurwood Streets, the bathing beach, and the various parks and gardens .

Part of the charm of the booklets is that they are written in the language of the time, and with the statistics given, give a detailed picture of Wagga as it was in the 1930s, and with a little imagination it is possible to see yourself in Wagga circa late 1930s.

if you have any booklets or other information you would like to share with us - such as the creatures housed in the Collins park zoo, email me or ring 69269757 and leave your number and I will get back to you.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gumi - river bank spectators - were you there?

The Wagga Wagga City Library currently has a display of photographs from the 1983 Gumi race. Come along and see if you can identify yourself in the crowds along the river bank.
Julie Mutton shares her brief but vivid memories : ...standing on a high bank (probably opposite Wagga beach) and watching the carry on by the entrants. Water bombs and flour bombs being the norm. Also some of the fanciful decorations of the craft which included balloons, flags and patchwork on the more elaborate rafts.
She also remembers having a picnic lunch out of the boot of the car.
Can you see yourself in the crowd? Or someone you know ? email me at wagga.local.studies@gmail

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gumi memories

The 2012 Gumi race is almost upon us and the Wagga Wagga City Library has put together a great little display of photographs and memorabilia from the library's collection, and artifacts kindly on loan from the Museum of the Riverina.
We have also heard from some people who have kindly shared their memories of Gumi .
Here's Chris Mutton recalling some classic Gumi goings on :
"My memories of the Gumi race are fairly scratchy as I was involved back about 1970 -1974.The Scout troop in Coolamon entered a team back then.I believe that the race started on the eastern side of Eunomy Bridge and we made our way to either the reserve just past Hamden Bridge or to the Wagga Beach. I am unsure of which.I do remember that life jackets were not used, as a lot of todays' safety requirements were definitely in use. Having said that, flour and water bombs were a necessity. We used to be bombed by watchers as we passed under the bridge as well. If the weather was hot, a dip in the river soon fixed that.From memory, the Gumis got better and faster as the years progressed as most of us started with just inner tubes and wood, there were those who were more progressive and soon paddle wheels(powered by paddle and the like were added."
Thanks Chris - and if anyone else has memories they would like to share email me at :

Monday, January 16, 2012

Gumi programme 1984

This amusing cover of the 1984 Gumi programme shows that feminism hadn't reached this part of the world just yet. It's cringeworthy now but at the time the image was probably considered unremarkable. The Wagga Wagga City Library has a handful of programmes , all of them containing basically the same information , including a list of festival events, advertising from local sponsors and a map of the race route.
This programme also has a bonus selection of captioned photographs from previous races.

Interestingly 1984 was the year an alcohol ban was introduced and "hard missiles" were also banned from the race itself. The "Life- be in it" message, introduced by the government in 1978, was incorporated into the general ethos of the festival by the organisers, presenting the race and associated events as good wholesome fun for the whole family.

any comments ? email

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Civic Theatre memorabliia

The Wagga Wagga City Library local studies collection
has an incomplete number of civic theatre programmes dating from when the theatre opened in 1963 up to 2007.
The programmes are interesting from a historical and design perspective. The two shown here are productions presented by Wagga High school sometime between 1968-1970. The cover designs reflect the overall visual design look of the period, using bright colors and bold lines.
Theatre programmes could be of great interest to family historians as they list the cast, crew and directors of the productions.
Were you in either of these productions and what were your memories ? or if you were in the audience, what do you remember about the night- a favourite line, actor scene or song ? write to me at with your fave moments from any production since the theatre opened.