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  • Writer's pictureKinglake Historical Society

A Working Life

For a good example of the energetic and enterprising early settlers of the Kinglake district, we need look no further than Horace and Selina Carman who came to Kinglake West in 1910. Horace's parents, John and Laura, who had been on a farm at Newry in Gippsland, had moved to Kinglake with the younger children not long before, and Horace and Selina followed just after their marriage.

Horace and Selina Carman
John and Horace took up land at Pheasant Creek, at the corner of what is now National Park Road, and also at Kinglake West at the intersection of the Kinglake and Yea roads. They first grew potatoes which they took to market in a horse and cart. When they found that the price for washed potatoes was noticeably higher than for those straight out of the ground, they soon set up their own washing apparatus and increased their profits.
With sawn timber in demand at the time, Carman's sawmill was established near Mason's Falls where an extra stationary steam engine was required to power a winch to pull the loaded trolleys up the steep hill from the mill on the wooden railway. Horace used their own sawn timber to make wooden cases for packing their potatoes for sale.
Horace's parents left Kinglake in 1920 but Horace continued with the mill which was successful until the Depression of 1929 when the demand for sawn timber declined sharply. However, by this time, Horace had started a daily passenger car service to and from Melbourne. Very few local residents had their own cars, usually only a farm truck, and after the main road was sealed in 1928, city folk were keen to come to the mountain guest houses for weekends and holidays. Horace started with a Model T truck with canvas sides before graduating to a large car and later to an 18-seater 'charabanc' bus. To provide a base and the necessary services for the vehicles, Horace built a garage, complete with a hand-operated petrol pump, at Kinglake West.

The passenger service was soon very successful and in 1929, Horace also took on a contract to convey supplies to the two 'susso' camps, at Wallaby Creek and Mount Robertson, where up to 300 unemployed men were housed in tents and worked on clearing and road maintenance. In 1934, Horace added a goods carting business for local residents with a truck, driven by George Garratt, carrying farm produce to market and parcels and supplies back to Kinglake.
In his spare time, Horace obtained the contract for laying gravel on a section of the new 'tourist' road from Kinglake West to Hume Vale but this proved less successful financially due to unusually wet weather which prevented him from finishing the work on time.
Carman's buses were hired by the local schools for picnics to the beach, and many local families depended on the service for getting to the city for business and appointments. The Carman family - Horace, Selina and their four children - were staunch members of the Kinglake West Presbyterian Church congregation and Horace played his part in community activities, supporting the local school and Mechanics Institute committees.
When Horace retired, the bus and garage business was sold to Eric Rowland who continued to operate it for many years. Horace Carman died in 1957 and was greatly missed in the community he had served so well for so long.

Deidre Hawkins
Kinglake Historical Society

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