The Life of the Main Street

 The Life of Main Street

31st October 2013

Some more fantastic artist’s statements. Here is one from Gill, Carolynne and me.


My  memories of a butcher’s shop conjures up memories of sawdust, white paper, string, striped aprons, carcasses hanging on hooks on a rail and a solid wooden chopping block.

Bones emerged for me as an artist in a dialogue about the remains of this butcher’s shop. In conversation with friends an amazing story emerged about Sarah Jane, the Angus cow, who became a pet and lived for many years on the Quick family farm at Nurrabiel. Normally she would have been destined for the abattoir and the butcher’s shop.

Her skeleton (and a few spare parts) has been used to reconstruct this magnificent cow, who can now kick off her heels and thumb her nose at the butcher knowing she is safe from the dreaded meat cleaver.

The effect of the elements on both the bones and the butcher’s paintwork emerged as significant aspects of the artwork.

With a very special thanks to Rudy and Lynne and John Quick.

 ‘NUMBER PLEASE’- Alison Eggleton

Imagine picking up a telephone handset and hearing someone say ’number please’. Everyone knew everyone,  so if you didn’t know the number you could ask by name. The telephone exchange existed in the Natimuk Post office up until 1978. It was the lifeline of the town, operating 24hrs a day by the’ hello girls’ as they were known or the night shift boys. I was fortunate enough and delighted to find one of the telephonists, Helen, still living in the area. She told of party lines, nights during a thunderstorm which would set off all the lines simultaneously and regular quick changes into evening wear for the local town Ball at the end of her shift. 

You’ll also hear the memories of other local seniors, an amazing social memory bank. One rich in recollections of working life and the characters of Main Street in the 1950’s through to the 1970’s.

Special thanks to the speakers Helen Thomas, Max Rogers, Ann Lowe and Peter Schmidt, as well as, Elaine Aristides, Noel Clark, Ellen Taylor, Valda Hately and Glenis Fort who assisted in locating local participants. Thank you to Kane and Rob for their generous technical support.

CON’S FISH SHOP- Carolynne Hamdorf

Con Aristides was a migrant man who came to Australia in a time when there was mass global migration out of Europe post two world wars. He found a place for himself in the Wimmera.  He started a family, grew a business, represented diversity and was accepted by the Natimuk community.  We have a choice as a nation to treat the individuals that come through in each successive wave of migration with support, openness and acceptance or hostility, intolerance and paranoia. The investment made through kindness and empathy is rewarded when strangers become valuable citizens who strengthen the fabric of our migrant nation. A nation built on the willingness and ambition of people wanting to have a go and making a go of it… Con’s story reminds us of that…

The Life of Mains Street installations will be available to see, hear and experience from Friday afternoon and through the Frinj weekend.

This Saturday at 11.30am leaving from Soldiers Memorial Hall

 Or take a seat with Abigail, Bianca and Gavin and watch the world go by at the Ole Salon.
Book in for Kate Finnerty’s Frinj Frinj

Or and there’s more
Stop at The Butchers shop for a game of Knuckles.

30th October 2013

It’s exciting times as we prepare for installation tomorrow. Fantastic artist’s statements are coming out of this project which l would like to share pre-finj. Here is one from Frank and Kate.

COURT HOUSE REMNANTS- Trevor (Frank) Tagliabue 

The idea of using found remnants of man-made objects in art has always fascinated me. Championed by Marcel Duchamp and his fellow Dadaists in Europe during The First World War, this simple, but theoretically challenging movement redefined art forever. For this project, I have collected discarded building rubble from significant or interesting building sites around the district and reworked them into simple geometric shapes.

The chosen site for these pieces final display is the magnificent Natimuk Court House. These tiles are discreetly adhered to the existing ornate brick work and the non-permanent joining process can be viewed as a kind of architectural symbiosis. The Court House itself is being reactivated in a contemporary context and my exhibit is an attempt to highlight the hard work and toil of past generations and their commitment to the District.

From the naturally occurring fire-place glazes, concrete lining of galvanised tanks to hand prints on local red bricks, these beautiful fragments literally embody the pioneering spirit of earlier inhabitants. Far from being seen as detritus, these building fragments are valued and reused in a contemporary context – a minimalist homage to the past.


The Ole Salon

In this space back in the day, community members would pick up their ice, cream and milk – a sort of milk bar if you like. On May 8th 1978, 89 Main Street, Natimuk was registered as a live in hair dressing salon. Wendy Hobbs began her Nati Salon journey in the 80s. Many perms and highlights were created during this time, the bigger the hair, the better! Wendy provided Natimuk with her Hairdressing expertise for ten years. This little hole in the wall would have been a community gathering point where customers not only got their hair ‘done’ they also caught up on comings and goings, break-ups, births, deaths and marriages of the region. During this time Ellen Taylor completed her hairdressing apprenticeship and purchased the salon in 1996. For the next 11 years Ellen provided colours, waxes, cuts, perms, nails, eyelash tinting, styling and make up for brides and special occasions, current trends were brought to this sleepy hamlet care of Ellen’s deft work with the snips. Many of her clients would arrive with something from the garden or a baked treat to share, climbers from Melbourne would book an appointment to coincide with a weekend pilgrimage to Mt Arapiles.

I brought the ‘Ole Salon’ in 2007 as a residence, my desk was set up where the waxing bed used to be, the old hair dryer became a talking point for visitors and nothing was out of reach in the ‘Ole Salon’. I sold the ‘Ole Salon’ in 2011, it is now a rental property.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow reflects the changing face of our Main Street over the years and celebrates the camaraderie of waiting. Take a seat with Abigail, Bianca and Gavin and watch the world go by. Book in for a Frinj Frinj with a complete stranger; after all you are here today and gone tomorrow.

30th October 2013

28 October 2013

In the centre of town backing on to the creek is a majestic brick building, the Natimuk Courthouse. Built in the Victorian style, it opened in 1891, at a time when the town had a bustling foundry and flour mill. Court proceedings were held there until the 1960’s. But this is not the only life the courthouse has had. During WW1 it doubled as a hospital during an influenza outbreak in the town and is now the site of the Historical Museum. Like a cabinet of curiosities, the courthouse has had all kinds of oddities deposited within its walls, including a human skull…..

Now that l have your attention and with the Frinj days away, here is one of the more curly tales in Natimuk’s history. It’s still a mystery, something that may never be solved.

 ‘ In 2010 a box containing human remains was handed into the Horsham Police Station; inside was a human skull, together with a note that claimed the skull was used for ceremonial purposes in the 1920’s and 30’s by the Natimuk branch of a secret society called the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows’ .

The full story by Charlotte King titled The secret society, the skull and Natimuk Courthouse,  is found at

May questions go unanswered even now. The skull is believed to be of African origin, but who was this person? And a secret society in Nati! How did these remains end up in the Natimuk Courthouse? Did the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows hold meetings there? It’s a window into another time when there were secret societies and grave robbery. A dark tale. The stuff of local legends, and it sent chills up my spine when l heard of this bizarre story. It makes me wonder, are there any other secret societies out there.

Come and join us on the Life of Main Street walk on Saturday morning to view Frank ‘s installation on the side of the courthouse and other works in this project.

Alison Eggleton

October 21st 2013

Gill is digging for skeletal remains, Carolynne is bringing to light the journey of Con, Frank is emu bobbing for architectural remnants, Alison is mixing with local voices and Kate is styling Main Street. These are the activities currently taking place as we prepare for the Nati Frinj project…. The Life of Main Street.  

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We meet last weekend to walk the five sites of installation. From left Kate, Carolynne, Alison  and Gill, standing in front of the butchers shop in Main Street. Frank was unable to join us that day.

‘The Butchers’, as it was known to many, changed owners multiple time over the decades. Some older locals have referred to this shop as Harry Mill’s, Harpers, Netherway’s or Blackman’s, not necessarily in that order.  The exact time-frame of when this shop operated has not been made apparent but l’m guessing from the 19 40’s through to the 1970’s. It once stood in a row of three shops, the saddler, the butchers and the stock agent. Only two of these building remain.

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These stickers have stuck firm on The Butcher’s window, still grand and bursting with authority.

Behind the curtain covered window you see today was a lively place, a place where locals chatted about their day. Almost everyone l have spoken with recalls saw dust on the floor, the chopping block in the middle of the shop and above, sides of lamb and beef hanging on hooks. Common to many Butchers shop around the nation at the time, meat was not displayed pre-cut due to lack of refrigeration. The butcher would just cut off the piece that you wanted with a meat cleaver, hand saw or large knife and wrap it in white paper.  There were bin for scraps which were no doubt made into sausages. Nothing was wasted. A variety of offal was popular, tripe, liver, brains, and shanks where given away.

Does anyone remember how to play Knuckles, knucklebones or Jacks? According to someone called Beth this is how you play Knuckles.

How to play Knuckles

You will need

4 shanks bones  each (preferably clean and maybe painted).

Two or more players.

 You throw the knuckles in the air and try and catch them on your knuckles. If you catch none, you get 2 more tries. If you still fail, it’s the next person’s turn.

 If you do catch any, you throw the remaining knuckles again and try and catch them in the palm of your hand. If you catch more than one, just set them to the side so you are holding one.

 Then you throw the one knuckle you are holding up (the one you didn’t set aside) and try and pick up the knuckles you didn’t manage to catch on the back of your hand (on your knuckles) while the one you threw is still in the air. The first time you only try and pick up the knuckles in ones, one at a time. This is the first level (Onesies) Once you do this, you move on to Twosies, where you repeat the actions up above but pick up the fallen knuckles in twos. Then Threesies and Foursies. If you drop any knuckle at any time after you have caught a knuckle in your palm it is the next person’s turn.

 After Onesies, Twosies, Threesies and Foursies, you move on to clicks (You have to make the knuckles click together when you catch them) and do Onesies, Twosies, Threesies and Foursies in clicks. Then do the same with No-Clicks.

Can anyone add more to this?

During the Nati Frinj, look out for Gill’s installation at ‘The Butchers’ and meet us on the footpath for a game of Knuckles.


October 7th 2013

When l moved to the small regional town of Natimuk last year, l noticed the main street. A straight long narrow strand, peppered with a  variety of public buildings, the post office, town hall, courthouse , school houses, banks and former commercial enterprises barely visible on the facades of old shops.  Most of these buildings are closed off to the public and have evolved their purpose and stature. As with many small towns the street is evidence of the expanding and contracting cycle of town life over decades. l began to wonder just what life have these buildings had. What stories could their walls tell, and what has been their purpose, past and present. In a town of 500 people, more or less, history had not stood still here. A curtained covered window invites curiosity. There are no two ways about it. It was a collection of responses waiting to be made and experienced during the Nati Frinj.

Being new to the town, I want to respond in a way that would expand my knowledge of Nati and its people. Of course this meant inviting local artists into the project. Trevor Tagliabue and Gill Venn came on board straight away with me,Alison Eggleton. Recently Carolynne Hamdorf and just last week our illustrious festival director Kate Finnerty, joined the project. 

It’s been some weeks since l began my initial research into particular buildings on Main Street that most interest me, the historic courthouse, the old post office, the old butchers shop, the former hairdressers and the shop formally known as Con’s fish n chip shop.  The five inquisitive artists have now each chosen a building from this array and  are now responding to the site, the history, purpose, the stories/memories surrounding it, whatever turns them on, to create an artwork installation for the Frinj. The different installation will form an art trail along the street and l hope tap into something unique about the cultural fabric of Nati.

Not long after l began talking to the more senior folk of Nati, l was directed to two fantastic books on the history of the town. If any of you, new to town or out- of- towners are interested look up    ‘Natimuk 100 years’, and ‘Natimuk Now 125 years’ by Allan Lockwood.

There is a rich cultural memory amongst the local people of Nati. This is really the glue of Main Street…….     . More to follow soon.


23, September, 2013

1 thought on “The Life of the Main Street

  1. Jo Grant

    SO sad to be missing that game of knuckles! I still have my knuckles from years ago (real ones and plastic ones).

    Such a lovely project and story.

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