Mildura Weekly : Friday April 24 2015 Vol 9 No 24
22 NEWS MILDURA WEEKLY FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2015 Finding beauty in the midst of war ANZAC DAY 2015 ANZAC DAY 2015 • From Page 10 Les’ first plantings were lost to a fierce dust storm, so he planted up again. Nature took its toll again within six months, and he lost an- other 500 vines. After the third planting, the Chandler vineyard was finally established. He put every penny he had into improvements, and adopted the best growing prac- tices that were available. The reward came in the form of a good crop of high-grade dried fruit. Two more good years followed, then came the worst frost in 40 years. Disaster. Present-day growers will be smiling as they recall their own harsh intro- duction to block life. Les Chandler stuck it out, made more improvements, bought a car (and a radio), and got on with life. In 1922 he formed the Nature Photographic Society of Australia, exchanging works with the equiva- lent club in England, and in 1929 launched a campaign to have the Hattah-Kulkyne region turned into a national park. It was designated as a State forest, and finally, in 1941, Les saw his dream come true, be- coming the (expanded) sanctuary for wildlife it is today. After Les and Ivy married in 1931, they filled their gardens with a wide variety of native trees, hun- dreds of roses, and a half-acre of other plants and shrubs. Mary remembers her father as a quiet, conservative man with a great sense of humour, and compassion for everyone and everything. Every night he would regale Mary with fas- cinating stories about bush animals and their exploits. Les Chandler continued his love of photography right up to his death. His work hangs in private homes and galleries around the world, including England, the USA, Canada, India and Japan. He also continued his writing, often work- ing well into the night on his trusty old typewriter. In 1949 Les help form the Sunraysia Field Naturalists Club, and was a foundation mem- ber of Mildura Historical Society. Les Chandler passed away in January, 1980, just two weeks after his 92nd birthday. Ivy died in 1989, aged 90. By GRANT MAYNARD WHILE Anzac Day is important the nation over, it is perhaps a little more poignant in soldier settlement towns...towns like Dareton. Dareton, and the surrounding Coomealla Irrigation Area, owe their very existence to the hard work and sweat of returning Diggers from two world wars. The first influx of soldier settlers was a group of 22 World War 1 vet- erans who took up their allocated blocks between 1926 and 1928, ac- cording to the town’s acknowledged man of history Mal Williams. The former school teacher and author has spent decades research- ing and compiling the history of Dareton and Coomealla, and has an unrivalled treasure trove of material detailing the rise of the district to irrigated horticultural prominence, and the people on whose back it was done. Mal explained that a further 11 settlers moved into Coomealla from Curlwaa in 1936 when blocks in the latter irrigation district were deemed too small to be viable, but by far the greatest influx followed World War 2, when 100 new blocks were opened up in the early 1950s, and the area really began to thrive. Number 1 allocation, compris- ing 33 farms was ready for occupa- tion in 1951. Number 2 and Num- ber 3 allocations, comprising 41 and 26 farms respectively, followed in 1952 and 1954. The new allocations more than doubled the size of the Coomealla Irrigation Area. In the book ‘A history of Dareton and the Coomealla Irrigation Area’ co-written by Mal with fellow school teacher and former Dareton resident Lillian Slade, Mal noted that the vine the citrus plantings on all three post-World War 2 allocations “be- came fully productive in due course and that the majority of the settlers under the scheme were able to meet their commitments.” “There were some however, in the late 1960s, who met with certain difficulties which were compounded by unfavourable seasonal condi- tions when harvesting operations were in progress, and grapes were being placed on racks for drying. “With a view to ensuring the successful occupation of their farms, the Minister for Conservation ap- pointed a Committee to review their circumstances and to submit recom- mendations for consideration by the State Government. Action taken in- volved adjustment of indebtedness and certain other concessions. “From time to time over the years, settlers experienced seasonal setbacks which were responsible for crop losses in varying degrees throughout the settlement. “In 1956, for example, large ar- eas of fruit plantings were adversely affected by floods. Again, in the summer of 1973, due to flooding again, on parts of allocation No. 2 citrus trees and vines were under wa- ter when harvesting of Sultanas was in progress on a number of farms. “Fruit being dried on the tower sections of racks, in some of the low lying areas, was seriously damaged by the floods of that year. “Abnormally cold frosts caused much damage to citrus trees dur- ing the winter of 1958, when sev- eral growers found branches of their trees unable to support the weight of ice which had formed after overhead sprays were turned on, in an effort to wash the frost from leaves and stems. “Ground temperatures at dawn on two farms during that freeze were six below zero Celsius. Water from sprays froze almost as soon as it reached the foliage. “Experiences such as these serve as a reminder of the hazards with which some settlers have been con- fronted at certain periods since they entered into occupation of their holdings. “Despite the unfavourable weather conditions which caused heavy crop losses occasionally and imposed some hardship on growers whose farms were situated in certain areas, the soldier settlement as a whole can be regarded as a success- ful venture. “Since the first steps were taken to implement the original plans for the War Service Land Settlement Scheme at Dareton, soldier settlers collectively have played an impor- tant role in community activities and have made valuable contribu- tions to the development and prog- ress of the town and district.” Regrettably, time has taken its toll on the original post-World War 2 settlers of Dareton, and unlike de- cades past when Anzac Day was a big event in the town and the settler- Diggers marched with pride, there are no official Anzac Day activities planned in the town for 2015. But while there is nothing of- ficial planned, residents are likely to pause on Saturday to remember the town’s roots, and how the Dig- gers who returned from doing battle with the Axis powers took up the challenge of a new battle to establish a thriving agricultural community. The contribution of those hard- working returned servicemen will be front and centre during of the upcoming Dareton Coomealla 90th celebrations. Scheduled for the long weekend in June, the event is at- tracting wide interest from a large number of ‘ex-Daretonites’ now living around the country, and still others that have a family, or some other tie with the area. A world wide web presence has been constructed to promote the 90th celebrations, and the extensive timetable of events being planned to mark the occasion. Log onto www. coomemallclub.com.au, and follow the ’90’ link from the front page. The 90th is also being promoted on Facebook, with a page dedicated to the event attracting a lot of traf- fic and some terrific photos from the past. Log onto Facebook, and search for ‘Dareton Coomealla 90th cel- ebrations.’ Dareton and Coomealla owe a large debt to returned servicemen • STRETCHER!: A stretcher party carries a wounded comrade to a field hospital. Dareton- C oomealla Celebrating our past, looking to the future • HIGH-FLYER: Dareton’s John Waters and his Spitfire replica will be a part of Anzac Day services at both Wentworth and Mildura. John and his plane will fly over both mid- morning services.
Friday April 17 2015 Vol 9 No 23
Friday May 1 2015 Vol 9 No 25