A Melbourne city street 1910 and a cabbie catches up on the news while waiting for his next fare
So far it has been a bumpy ride through just some of the fascinating history of a small slice of our past – and yes I have made some mistakes and trodden on a few toes. One mistake was the next image – and when I first saw this I got quite excited. The caption from the Adelaide, South Australia, library quoted Cabman's Shelter in a Melbourne Street.
A call for more information on a great Facebook page - Old Time Photos Of Yesteryear and the truth came out from a learned gentleman – 'there is a Melbourne Street in North Adelaide.' Sadly neither the South Australian library or museum could shed any more light on the great image.
Several more images came to light and again my pulse rate increased in anticipation of, 'The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.'
Investigations reveal image 1 is a group of German cab drivers enjoying a card game. Second image is 2 English cabbies and the man who provided their food
A NEW BEGINNING??
Many years ago there was a competition hosted by the Victorian Taxi Association and promoted in 'Taxi Talk,' the long-running industry publication. The prize was a $100 voucher to enjoy at an eatery in a major entertainment complex (no names mentioned). I happened to be the first through and the prize was mine. Sandra – my wife – and I enjoyed a night out, but did find it difficult to 'spend' the $100. We choose a magnificent looking seafood platter for 2 – really far too much hot and cold seafood, chips and various condiments but we did manage to almost finish the meal. For the next 3 days I was unable to work owing to food poisoning, Sandra fared a little better. The competition was to identify from the obscure clue the very cabmans shelter I am now trying to have preserved. With all that 'off work and therefore no pay,' in reality I should hate the structure and not, as I have done, embrace and protect it.
I would really like the opportunity to address the Committee of the Melbourne Cricket Club and plead the case for the shelter – I doubt that will happen as I am 'just' a once a week volunteer to the National Sports Museum (NSM) and, not even a member of that organisation. I do know my place!!
When I do my shift at the amazing NSM, I am surrounded by sporting memorabilia and some date back to the 1700's. There are over 100,000 items on display and in storage and ALL are correctly protected. Seems a contradiction that the oldest structure on Yarra Park – the 1898 cabmans shelter – is not likewise afforded the same protection as the museum items.
I ask instead that, you the committee, consider the following and then vote as you see fit on the very future of the little shelter so badly neglected and rotting away along Brunton Avenue.
I have been told in writing that the shelter is to stay where it is. I've been told that security will be increased – that was in February and that has not happened – the recent graffiti attack is proof enough. I was told in a letter that 'we will be looking to do some signage/interpretation near the shelter' another promise not fulfilled. 31st May in an e mail, 'We agree that the shelter is an important heritage item and are currently looking at measures to make it safer in its current location.' The only way to make it safer in its current location would be total and very expensive 24/7 security – I know that just won't happen. To continue to allow the heritage listed shelter to be used 'for operational purposes' is nothing short of a disgrace and the MCC collectively should hang their heads in shame. Just who would honestly believe the shelter is used to store parking signs and witches hats??
If you, the MCC committee, can unequivocally guarantee that NO HARM by any means, natural or man made will EVER come to the shelter, then I'd be happy to drop my campaign. You would not be able to give any such assurances as they would be totally outside the control of the MCC!
I have been told placing the shelter inside at Gate 3 would not 'fit in.' With all due respect if that is the thought patterns of some, then the amazing knowledge 'boys and girls' tour guides wearing their blazers reminiscent of a by-gone era do not 'fit in.' - both the blazers and cabmans shelter are of the same era. If one does not 'fit in' then neither do the blazers and who in the right mind would even suggest the Tour Guides divest themselves of their 'blazers of knowledge'. There would, correctly, be a riot.
There is another side to the 'won't fit in'. The MCG is a sporting arena of justifiably world-wide fame - and I will not even try and enumerate the achievements stretching back to 1852. Perhaps the 'won't fit in' relates to the structure being a relic of the taxi trade and not sports related. On the surface, a fair argument, however I should point out that taxis are needed throughout everyone's lives - from the rushing to a hospital with a woman in labour, to the weeping relatives returning from funerals AND visits to The MCG too. After 26 years as a taxi owner and driver with a few notches on the belt, I can very easily prove a taxi related link to all forms of human endeavour. Have you got several weeks to listen to the stories?
Several telephone conversations and I have been told of the passion in my voice – yes there is a passion, I just don't want OUR small building under the threat it is now.
You, the MCC committee, really have 2 choices – keeping the shelter in its current location is not an option based on demonstrable history outlined above. You have failed miserably in your 'duty of care'.
Give it away to an organisation who can restore and preserve the structure. I do have some ideas for possible re-location, but would prefer to keep these ideas to myself – for the time being. I would much rather see the MCC retain and re-brand the structure.
Currently there are many people at work who are planning for the creation of the National Sports Museum version 2.0. The museum is scheduled to close for 6 months from August 2019. It would be an ideal opportunity to re-vamp the entrance to the ground level entrance to the museum, ticket box, tour meeting and departure point AND incorporate the shelter fully restored – including slate roof as per original within that area of Gate 3. You would have one year to have the shelter fully restored and by approaching Heritage Victoria and their restoration fund this restoration could be at minimal cost to the MCC – you would need however a new shelter for 'operational purposes' along Brunton Avenue.
The shelter firstly in the short term and after restoration:
You are in danger of losing many of the NSM volunteers while the museum is closed. Yes there will be some natural attrition, but many other volunteers may do something else with their whatever-day and over a short time you loose some of your volunteers to alternatives – many organisations are crying out for vollies and NSM volunteers could be a much sought after. Give limited places to volunteers to man that small shelter, which for the 6 months the NSM is closed is used as a free-to-entry very small NSM with a few well-chosen highlights from the excellent museum. You'll still need NSM vollies for the cloaks, keep a few more each day maybe on a rotation basis.
For the longer term you could do one of more of the following (after NSM re-opens) in the re-branded 'Shelter of Knowledge':
Tours meeting and departure/arrival point – give your amazing guides a heritage-listed work place.
Information source for visitors – maps, brochures etc that are currently sited outside the volunteer office.
Small taxi related museum – there is an amazing array of material available.
Even a photo studio where visitors can pose in front of a 'green-cloth' and digitally be superimposed on the MCG with the scoreboard showing a choice of end of match results - football and cricket.
The shelter can 'fit in' within Gate 3. That is the job of architects and designers to come up with ways to make things 'fit in.' Below is a photoshopped idea of the shelter fully restored, with a gray-scale backdrop of The Windsor hotel and placed within Gate 3.
It was in one cold August night in 2006 that a well known member of the current MCC Committee stood with cab drivers in a protest over the unfortunate death of one their number. He and I stood up for the legion of Melbourne cab drivers – I hope that was not a political grab for publicity! I ask him, and you the committee, to stand up and be counted to prevent the 'death' of the cabman's shelter AND preserve the very heritage you are entrusted with. Make it happen and do so now PLEASE.
For those who have read this blog and you support what I am asking the MCC to do, can I please request that you contact the MCC and ask that they SAVE THE SHELTER THANK YOU!!!!