Pears and post – party time at Toora
HUNDREDS of people turned out to Toora on Sunday for double celebrations – the annual Pear Party at the Toora Heritage Pear Orchard and the 100th birthday of the Toora Post Office.
By the estimation of Meryl Agars, the president of the Friends of the Heritage Pear Orchard, nearly 700 people flocked to the party at the orchard in Mill Street. There they enjoyed good food – including the Lions’ Biggest Barbecue in aid of the Childhood Cancer Research Foundation, along with good music and a range of wares – many with a pear theme – from the clusters of stalls, or picked their own bags of pears in the orchard.
Marion Haupt of Foster and Alison Newman of Fish Creek were lucky raffle winners.
The pear and apple cider from Leongatha’s Lucinda Estate Winery was a big hit. It included 60 per cent pears (picked at Toora last year) and 40 per cent apples from Leongatha. For the children there was delicious Prom Coast Icecream and activities ranging from face painting to quoits. Anyone walking through to the celebrations in the main street could enjoy a colourful display of historic fire engines and tractors en route along Gray Street.
The South Gippsland Shire Brass Band jollied passersby up for several hours out the front of the post office, while inside there were numerous displays to catch the eye – from historic photographs of Toora to old-time equipment, including a stamp machine, scales, stamp pads and date stamps (including one from 1915) and banking ledgers dating back to 1912. Licensees Maree and Greg Stewart had even commissioned Australia Post to issue a pictorial postmark marking the 100th birthday of their post office.
Federal Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent was a special guest at the celebrations, along with Australia Post state retail manager Barbara Young. She judged the winners of the children’s artwork competition, in which Toora Primary School students had designed their own special stamps.
A steady stream of visitors made their way into the post office, much to the delight of the licensees. “I’d like to thank the community for their support. I’m thrilled that we’re still here!” declared Maree.
The centenary celebrations spread to the RSL building down the street, where the children’s stamp designs were displayed, along with Lindsay Fromhold’s impressive collection of historical stamps, featuring many postmarks of Gippsland post offices no longer in existence. Another exhibition, ‘Gone Pear Shaped,’ at the Toora Village Studio Gallery, was also popular.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE TOORA POST OFFICE
A SMALL unofficial post office opened at Toora on August 18, 1882. It was located at the junction of Toora-Foster Road and the road marked ‘to Tin Mines.’
The first Postmaster was Mr T. S. Sheppard, who received an allowance of six pounds ($12) per annum. This allowance was based on a percentage of business. By 1886 business had obviously increased, as Mr Sheppard’s allowance was 20 pounds ($40) per annum. The number of letters handled in 1886 was 4,608, and mail was delivered three times weekly, at 1.30pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and 10pm on Thursdays.
Between October and December 1889, a telegraph office opened, and in 1891 a money order office also opened in conjunction with the post office.
In 1905 Mr A. Douglas of Mount Best was awarded a three-year mail contract for delivery of mail between Mount Best and Toora twice weekly. The distance of seven miles was travelled by horseback and Mr Douglas received 16 pounds ($32) per annum.
Telephone facilities were made available to the people of Toora in about 1911. The 1912 telephone directory lists only two subscribers for this year. By 1920 that number had climbed to six.
The growth of Toora was such that it warranted an official office, and on November 2, 1912, land was acquired in Stanley Street. Building commenced in 1914 and was completed the next year. The post office and residence were constructed of double brick for the sum of 2000 pounds.
Mr W. T. Jones, a Senior Postal Assistant, acted as Toora’s first official postmaster. Mr W. A. Harding was appointed Postal Assistant, and L. J. Quirk Telegraph Messenger. Mr Jones received a promotion in 1919 and was replaced by Mr J. R. Field, who was followed by Mr F. H. Trott in 1926 and Mr R. F. Hewitt in 1927.
After serving in Toora for 22 years, Mr Hewitt retired on July 15, 1949. Mr J. T. Elliott took up duties as Postmaster on December 7, 1950 and was followed by Mr D. A. Dalliston on July 1, 1957, Mr W. Hayes on January 11, 1962, Mr A. L. Watson on February 22, 1968, and Mr D. L. Cotterill on May 21, 1969. Mr W.A. Langdon commenced on November 28, 1974 and was followed by Mr Mike Lowery in 1983. Jack Wills was one of the relieving postmasters who served the post office until 1987 when Mr and Mrs Murdoch (“Doc” and “Pam”) became the first Licensees in 1987.
Mr and Mrs G. Stewart (Greg and Maree) purchased the licence on January 4, 1999 and are still the current licensees operating at the time of Toora Post Office’s Centenary on March 15, 2015.