Team Photo – 1939
It’s funny how stuff happens.
How things happen that, ultimately, set other things in motion.
Even though you had no idea at the time, where it was all potentially heading.
Don’t worry, it’s not going to be too deep.
I’ll go right back.
To last century, even.
Although, while I don’t actually know exactly when, it would have been in the last couple of years of the 1900’s.
Which makes it sound a long time ago.
It’s not that long, but was probably 1997, or possibly 1998.
My aunty had a couple of football team photos hanging on her wall. But not just any team photos.
Team photos that included my Grandfather: my aunty’s, and my mum’s, father.
He played for the Preston Football Club, and the photos were taken in the late 1930’s, sometime.
I no doubt would have been told at the time, but the exact year wasn’t terribly important.
Yes, they were old, which made them interesting, but it was the fact that my Grandpa was actually in them, that made them really important.
And being that I had just built, or was in the process of building, a bar at home, having copies of those photos adorn the wall behind it, was a necessity.
And, as luck would have it, K-mart, the department store, had started advertising their new service of copying photos.
Was there no end to this rapidly advancing technology…..???
Photos were borrowed, and after a visit to K-mart the following week, I now had my own copies of those 1930 something photos.
Again, probably should have been more aware of when, but it was all about who was in them, as opposed to when it exactly was.
Two timber frames were duly made; no mean feat for someone just beginning a love affair with making stuff out of timber; and they took pride of place in the bar.
While the bar changed a bit over the years, and as such the location of Grandpa and his team mates from a very long time ago, they were always in a pretty prominent position.
Then, 2020 happened.
And no, it had nothing to do with a certain virus.
Well, not at that point.
2020 was exactly 50 years since I entered the world, and well, certain milestones can sometimes make you start thinking about stuff that perhaps you wouldn’t ordinarily think about.
Although, with me not actually turning 50 until the middle of the year, and with my penchant for getting out in the 40s at cricket – if I ever actually get that far – I wasn’t totally convinced I was going to make it, anyway.
Oh well, that virus thing then came along to take my mind off that possibility.
Anyway, a little surprisingly, I did reach that big 5–0 thing. Lisa, seemingly all proud of the fact I made it; it’s the first 50 she’s seen me make; went and posted something on Facebook about it.
A few people seemed to care, which was nice, and I then had to reply to everyone thanking them for their good wishes.
Which, while that was all good, I had to do it on Lisa’s Facebook, as I was still a part of what seemed to be a very small group that had yet to join Mark Z’s quaint little social media group.
The thought of joining had crossed my mind once or twice over the years, but the temptation had been resisted in the belief that neither of us really needed each other.
That thinking, however, was now starting to change slightly, not helped in part by the cricket club doing a bit more stuff via Facebook.
Oh well, if I did join, I could always use that as the excuse for doing so…..
Anyway, over the next week or two it was mentioned a couple of times, until one night, more than likely after a beer or three, the bullet was bitten.
Being the technophobe that I am, I let Lisa set it up, and within a few minutes I not only had a Facebook voice, but also my first ‘friend’.
Relief and disgust, washed over me….
The next couple of weeks was all a bit underwhelming, as it didn’t take me too long to get to the ‘end’ of my internet world, each day. It was nothing at all like Lisa’s Facebook page, which I would occasionally look at to pass the time.
That was kind of good, but also bad, as my world seemed very small.
I then learnt that I had to ‘like’ stuff, so as to ‘follow’ stuff, which would allow more ‘stuff’, to pop up in front of me.
That was good, but I didn’t really know what to actually ‘like’.
I did, however, know what I didn’t ‘like’, after looking at Lisa’s Facebook over the years.
But there was one site that I had seen a bit of, and that was ‘VFA Footy The Halcyon Days’.
It had interested me as the VFA had given me many great memories, from following Preston, way back in the 1980s and 90s.
The Halcyon Days was duly ‘liked’, and a fair bit of reminiscing took place over the next few weeks.
Now well and truly in a Corona virus lockdown, it gave me plenty of time to tidy up stuff around the house, that really, should have been done years ago. And in doing so, I found a few memorabilia items from Preston, back in the 1980’s. A bit braver with this Facebook thing, I uploaded them to the site.
And then, one day, something made me notice Grandpa, and his mates, again.
Photos of the photos were taken; no mean feat when they’re under glass; a text to Barb, (my aunty) to finally find out the actual years they were taken; apparently something like 1938, 1939; and Grandpa soon made, what I believe to be, his first Facebook appearance.
Amazing, isn’t it, that it all began with the copying of the photos all those years ago. Then, with that virus coming along, as well as that milestone birthday, and then the resultant joining of Facebook.
Yep, funny where you end up…..
Where it all started, and what ended up being the 1938 photo.
But as it turned out, we hadn’t really ended up anywhere. The journey was still very much continuing.
A post on the Halcyon Days site by a guy named Michael Riley, in response to my photos, revealed a bit more information about them.
I’d always noticed the different backgrounds in the photos, but hadn’t really thought too much about it. But he pointed out that the one with the round windows in the grandstand was taken at Toorak Park, Prahran’s home ground.
That surprised me for two reasons. One that a team photo would be taken at an away game, and two, that he actually knew that it was Prahran’s ground. As it turns out, it wouldn’t take me too long to find out why he knows that.
The other thing he mentioned about that particular photo, is that it was taken either during, or after, the game.
And how does he know that?
There is visible mud on some of the players.
Why did I never notice that???
A few messages back and forth with Michael, as well as the forwarding to me of a few links to other websites, that might help with gleaning a bit more information.
Both sites have huge amounts of information on them, and the amount of work that must have been done to get them to this stage, really is impressive.
You really can lose yourself for hours on them.
And something else that came from Boyles, which Michael kindly forwarded a link to, was this –
I, and as it turned out, my extended family, had absolutely no idea of its existence. And with it being done in 1941, which was Grandpa’s final year at Preston in which he only played a handful of games, there’s every chance that even he may not have known about it.
Regardless, this find was far more than just a pleasant surprise. It blew me away when I first saw it, and it still does. It truly is incredibly special to me.
And again, thank you to Michael, and Boyles.
Anyway, the end result of introducing Grandpa to Facebook is that I now know that the photos are indeed from 1938 and 1939.
I also now know the names of three other players in the 1939 photo. Which is nice, but up until that point, knowing who else was actually in the photos wasn’t a terribly high priority for me.
But now, after talking to Michael, and after a bit of trolling around both the websites, that had changed.
Yep, the desire to find out who was staring back at the camera with my Grandpa, 80 something years ago, was now far stronger than it had been.
More trolling, and with the amount of information that was there, the realisation was quickly made that if I was in fact going to set about doing this, then an ad hoc approach was never going to work.
Word document opened, along with an excel spreadsheet. As well as some scrap paper and a pen.
Yeah, the ‘old school’ tendencies are still strong…..
So I began with the most ‘recent’ photo – 1939 – partly because it was the first one mentioned to me.
Now knowing, or believing to know, when it was actually taken, along with it having less people in it, made it look like it might be a bit easier of the two to match faces with names.
And those three that I now knew?
Well, here they are –
The 1939 photo, courtesy of Boyles Football Photos.
Back Row: Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Arthur Sleith, Unknown
Middle Row: Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Alby Morrison (c), Unknown, Unknown
Front Row: Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Frank Dowling, Unknown, Unknown
With very little effort, and what this whole thing is about, I was able to add a fourth name –
Back Row: Unknown, Unknown, Alf Roach, Unknown, Arthur Sleith, Unknown
Yep, Alf Roach, my Grandfather. One of the people responsible for my existence, a true gentleman, and a bloke who was just a lot of fun to hang around with. And, I suspect, the person who gave me my love affair with building and creating stuff out of timber.
So, now we have four, which is always better than three, but gee, there were still a lot of ‘unknowns’ there.
Now with a strong desire to find a fifth, and starting with The VFA Project, I went through the players that played that game.
And while that was the hope, it didn’t always pan out that way.
The biggest problem is time; being over 80 years. A very different world, it obviously was back then, and as a result, the lack of ‘good’ photos, as well as just photos in general, quickly became an issue.
A reluctance by Clubs at the time to not record who was actually in the photos, also proved to be extremely frustrating.
Not to mention annoying.
And when it comes to maintaining and documenting a Club’s history, let’s just say that some Clubs are far better at it than others.
Yep, frustrating, as well as rather disappointing, at times. However, now with a very basic understanding of what’s involved in trying to rectify past oversights, I kind of understand the enormity of the task.
But, every now and then, I had what I considered a small win, and it was enough to keep me interested.
Probably helped somewhat, by my obsessive compulsive disorder…..
So, the searching and Googling continued, while taking notes of anything that I thought might, or possibly could, help with an identification.
Date of birth, date of death, height, main position played throughout the year, or years, previous Clubs, Clubs they moved on to. Just anything I thought might help.
Sometimes I got no more than one of those things, other times I got them all. Along with good usable photos.
But that was more the exception, than the rule.
Even in the case of Grandpa, apart from knowing exactly when he was playing at Preston, as well as how many goals he kicked, I have found very little else about him on the internet.
It’s lucky I have some inside information, I guess.
While I didn’t always find what I was looking for, I did learn a few things along the way.
Back when I was following the VFA, it was played (mainly) on a Sunday, and teams played 16 a side (no wings). But back in the 1930’s they played on a Saturday, with 18 a side, as well as an emergency 19th man.
A ‘flick pass’, I assume like a throw, was also brought in around that time. When time permits, I may do a little more research on the specifics of that.
So, after more hours than I’d care to count, what have I learnt?
Well, the photo was indeed taken at Toorak Park, Prahran.
And if it was 1939, which I have no reason to doubt, then it was taken in Round 13 on the 8 July, 1939.
The team that day was named as –
Backs : Watkins, Sleith, Seedsman
Half Backs : Handscombe, Clarke, Beagley
Centres : Dowling, Lowenthal, Dunham
Half Forwards : Roach, Colbane, Miller
Forwards : White, Morrison, Dunstone
Followers : Norman, Job
Rover : Ross
Emergency : Robertson
So, with seemingly half the work already done, how many ‘matches’, did I get?
Well, not as many as I hoped, but it didn’t really come as any great surprise, as I knew pretty early on that I was never going to be able to completely achieve what I set out to do.
And to kind of prove a point on how difficult it is to identify people from an eighty year old photo, I had to make an assumption that the 18 blokes pictured in the photo did not include the 19th man emergency.
And that was something that I thought was a fair and reasonable assumption to make.
Well, I did, until I discovered that not only had Ken Watkins been replaced during the game by Jack Robertson, but it was Ken Watkins’ final game of 1939, and at some point in that year, he also broke his collarbone.
So, I could make the assumption that Ken Watkins did in fact break his collarbone in that game, as well as assume that the photo was taken at the end of the game, and not at half time. If those assumptions are correct, then I would think he is unlikely to be in the photo, and Jack Robertson quite possibly is.
But, you know what they say about making assumptions….
So anyway, the end result after finding, for now, as much information as I could, along with using the 1938, and 1937, team photos, (which will have to have their own separate blog posts, now that this one has become so long) is that I’m confident that I’ve been able to name, and place, six.
With a guess at a possible seventh, based pretty much solely on his stated height.
Back Row: Unknown, Joe Beagley, Alf Roach, Ingy Norman*, Arthur Sleith, Unknown
Middle Row: Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Alby Morrison (c), Unknown, Unknown
Front Row: Unknown, Unknown, Wally Miller, Frank Dowling, Unknown, Unknown
*Just a guess.
As you can see, there are still lots of ‘unknowns’, which, while I knew early on I was never going to get them all, or even most, is still rather frustrating.
And it’s a frustration that didn’t need to be, had I just asked Grandpa who his team mates were, back when I had the chance. I didn’t, and there were several times during this whole endeavour, perhaps not surprisingly, that I spent a fair bit of time kicking myself about that.
It would have made life so much easier, but then again, back when I first laid eyes on the photo, knowing the rest of them just wasn’t as important as seeing Grandpa in it.
And another thing, perhaps to help me feel better, when I stopped and thought about it some more, if I actually knew the names of the others, would I have been so inclined to research them some more, and actually learn a bit about who they were, and some of what they did?
I highly doubt it, and now knowing a bit more about them, it’s one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about this whole journey.
Anyway, with more ‘unknowns’ than I’d ideally like, I’d love to hear from anyone that may be able to shed a bit more light on where the others are positioned in the photo.
And while I’d like someone to tell me that so far I’m on the right track, I’m also more than happy if you can correct any errors that I’ve made.
If you have a desire to ‘share’ it, then please feel free to do so. The more people that can see the photos, the more chance of hopefully adding a few more pieces to the puzzle, before it becomes too late.
While the 1938 photo also helped me with my research, I’ll put that one, along with all the possible players, in a second post. This one is already long enough, and I’m worried that if I add anymore, it will all become just too confusing.
List of Round 13, 1939 players, and a just a little about them –
Frank Dowling – Born ~1911? Predominately played wing. Preston 1931-35, 1938-41. Captain / Coach 1941. http://www.thevfaproject.org/pages/Players/Dowling,_Frank.php
Front row, third from right.
Alby Morrison – 29-1-1909 – 24-9-1997 183cms. Preston 1939-40. Captain/Coach both years. Footscray 1928-38, 1941-42, 1946. 224 games, 369 goals. http://www.thevfaproject.org/pages/Players/Morrison,_Alby.php
Middle row, third from right.
Arthur Sleith – 22-12-1917 – 17-12-2008. 183cms. Preston 1937-41, 1946. Carlton 1942-43 (5 games)
Back row, second from right.
Alf Roach – 22-4-1918 – 25-8-2012. Played Full Forward / Follower / Centre Half Back. Preston 1938-41.
Back row, third from left.
R. A. (Joe) Beagley – Played flanks and pockets. Preston 1936-40, Camberwell 1934-35, Coburg 1940-41, from C/Wood 1936. Played in Coburg’s GF team in 1941.
Photo taken prior to 1941 GF –http://www.boylesfootballphotos.net.au/Reference_+1941+VFA+Grand+Final
Back row, second from left.
Wally Miller – 21-10-1917 – 26-5-1992. 165cms. Preston 1939-40. From Footscray. Fitzroy 1943-45.
Front row, third from left.
Rex (R.F) Job – 9-8-1910 – 24-5-1999. 180cms. Follower. Preston 1937-39. From Carlton 2nds – 1 game Carlton 1931. ‘Moment in time’ article also has Carlton/Brisbane 1930 photo with Job in it.
Bill Seedsman – 19-9-1914 – 10-10-2001. 183cms. Preston 1939-41, 45. Hawthorn 1936 – 1 game. Collingwood 1942 – 1 game. No photos found.
George Colbane – Preston 1938-40. Centre Half Back and Centre Half Forward. Nothing more found.
Ingy (Ingwald) Norman – 20-4-1911 – 7-7-1990. Preston 1939-40. 185cms. Fitzroy 1938 – 1 game. Original club East Brunswick.
Ingy, being 185cms, possibly back row, third from right?
Older brother Jack Norman – Preston 1940-41, 1945-46. Also one game Fitzroy 1938.
Played most games in 1945, and could possibly be in team photo of that year.
Going on height – back row, third from right.
Jack Clarke/Clark? – Preston 1935-41. Centre Half Back / Full Forward / Follower. Sth Melb 1934. South Gambier 1932. Wolseley FC?
Phil Dunstone – 4-10-1914 – 19-9-2000. 170cms. Preston 1936-41. Northcote 1934. Nth Melb 1943&44. Served in War. Only photo found – https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/188803314
Bill Lowenthal – Born 1909. 173cms. Preston 1938-41. Essendon 1930-35,37. Brownlow medal runner up 1933. Fitzroy 1937 – 13 games.
All photos are around 5 years earlier than 1939 – can’t pick him out.
Les Ross – Preston 1938-41, 1946. Rover. Lilydale FC announced a Les Ross (b. 13/8/1916) died aged 94. (so 2010) ex President and Coach. Pascoe Vale 1937, Fitzroy 1942. Coached Parkside Amateurs in the VAFA (coached Ray Gabelich 1954)
Parkside 1954 Premiership photo – https://websites.sportstg.com/gallery.cgi?g=7272&c=0-3232-160726-0-0&e=160726&et=3&ci=5&ti=0&a=next (not sure which is Les Ross…..)
F. Dunham – Preston 1939-41. Wing / Forward Pocket. From Emerald. Left Carlton Reserves 1938.
Des Hanscombe – 1939 (10 games) – 1940 (2 games) Back Pocket. Nothing else found.
T. White – Only played 1939. 17 games – Rover / Forward Pocket / Wing.
Ken Watkins – 17-8-1919 – 18-4-1984. 179cms. Preston 1939-41. *Broke collarbone 1939 – final game played in 1939 was round 13. Poss not in photo? Yarraville 1941 and 1947, but only 3 games. Nth Melb 1944, 5 games. Mention of transfer to Footscray 1941. Served in the War. No photos found.
Possibly not in photo?
Jack Robertson – Preston 1937-1939. Mainly played flanks and pockets. 19th man in Round 13, however Ken Watkins broke his collarbone in 1939, and if it happened in this game, then Robertson could quite possibly be in the photo. Originally from Abbotsford. Nothing more found.