The day it snowed in Burwood

There doesn’t appear to be much sign of suburban snow this season, but fifty years ago, almost to the day, Burwood was covered with it. A once-in-a-lifetime event and many residents of Burwood still recall the day and the special circumstances it brought.

Mrs Rosalind Arvidson (nee Whelan) remembers her trip to Ashburton Primary School that morning, and still talks about it. She had to walk to school every day, but on the day the snow fell, Rosalind was in for a treat. Her mother backed the little black Morris out of the garage, and gave her a lift to school. Rosalind remembers looking back as they drove down Fakenham Road and seeing the tyre tracks in the otherwise undisturbed snow. They were the very first to drive down that street that day, and Rosalind was saved from the chilly walk to school.
She was not the only one. Mrs Susan Webster fondly recalls her own story from the day:

“It was a weekday and it was very cold when we got up. We got out of bed and Dad said, ‘Look out the back window.’ There was snow out there! As we got ready for school it was absolutely freezing. My older brother and I walked down Orford Road and turned into Dunscombe Avenue, where Mr. & Mrs. Hayes lived on the corner. Mr. Hayes had a truck, which we used to call the ‘lolly truck’, because he used it to deliver lollies to milk bars and schools. They were very popular with the children in the neighbourhood.

As we were walking down Dunscombe Avenue in the snow, Mr. Hayes was backing his lollyy truck out of his garage. He saw us coming and said to us, ‘You’d better get in the back of the truck,’ because it was so cold.

The truck was a normal covered truck with two doors at the back. Mr. Hayes opened up the back doors and we got in the back of the lolly truck. It was such a great treat.

Inside the truck there were shelves around the three sides, and of course the doors at the back. On all the shelves were boxes of lollies. Lifesavers, snakes, mint leaves, jelly babies, freckles, buddies, and all the lollies you can think of! I don’t think we ate any, we just stood there I think, but maybe if we had been mischievous we would have started eating them.

There were no seats inside, we just stood up. We held onto the shelves as we went along to school — it wasn’t far. That was the highlight of my childhood. We’d never had snow falling before, and now we were going to school in the buy truck! A child’s dream.”

On arrival at school, the day didn’t return to normal. Instead of beginning classes, the children were allowed to play in the snow after assembly. Mrs. Annette Moloney (née Colee) can remember building snowmen in the playground. She also remembers the little bottles of school milk freezing before recess.

The snow was not limited to Burwood. At that time in 1951 snow fell on most of southern Australia. A white blanket of snow stretched from Adelaide to Melbourne and on to Traralgon. Tasmania was completely white with snow. Tasmania was covered with snow again on 9th August when Queenstown awoke to a white wonderland.

So anyone celebrating their 5Oth birthday around this time may well have been born on a snow-blessed day. Mr. Jack Riley remembers ringing his wife Jean in the old Burwood Hospital in Warrigal Road where she was recovering from the birth of their first child, to tell her to look out the window at the snow.

Not everyone was overjoyed with the snow that day. Mrs. Doreen McLeod lived in Box Hill at the time and she remembers the day well because it was her younger daughter’s birthday. Her daughter, Glenys had been looking forward to her birthday for weeks. At her school, Blackburn South Primary, when it was anyone’s birthday the whole class would sing “Happy Birthday” to them. Glenys just couldn’t wait.

The morning of her birthday was when Burwood was covered in snow. Glenys went off to school very excited and eager to get there. However, when she got to school, they all went outside and played in the snow, and forgot to sing “Happy Birthday” at all! It was a disaster for Glenys, and she was bitterly disappointed. She didn’t enjoy the snow as much as everyone else that day, even though it was her birthday.

Many thanks to Mrs Susan Webster for her assistance in researching this article.

Michelle Griffith
Return to Bulletin #082