Dr Joyce’s Remembers in 1938 As It Was

Dr Arthur Fleming Joyce was born in South Australia in 1867 about five years after his father arrived in Australia as a ship’s doctor. He attended Prince Alfred College in Adelaide but completed the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at Melbourne University. He practiced as a doctor with his father in Fitzroy before setting out on his own in 1892. [1]

Dr Joyce recalled his father driving him down to the Moorabbin district in January 1892 and asking the postmaster at Bentleigh about the chances of a young doctor finding a place. He replied, ‘I am the registrar of births and deaths here, and we have a few of each from time to time. If that young fellow starts here the death rate will go up.” “Sixteen years later I signed his death certificate,” commented Joyce. [2]

Before building ‘Redholme’, at the corner of Point Nepean Road and Station Street, Moorabbin in 1901, Dr Joyce lived in Vickery Street, Bentleigh.

Redholme, the former residence of Dr Joyce in 1966. Courtesy of the Moorabbin and District Historical Society.

He was VATC surgeon at Caulfield, Mentone and Sandown Park, and was also on the committee at Epsom. He was a member of the Athenaeum Club, and the Royal Melbourne Golf Club and was a founding member and past president of the Mentone Bowling Club. For forty six years, until his retirement, he was health officer for the City of Moorabbin, a position to which he was succeeded by his son, Colin. [3]

Dr Joyce died at Mentone on April, 3, 1946. He had been a resident in a nursing home in Collins Street, Mentone for two years prior to his death. [4]

Just prior to his retirement as the City of Moorabbin’s health officer he recorded his reminisces of the district for the Moorabbin News. The News published these over four weeks in 1938 presenting them in Dr Joyce’s own words as a ramble through time rather than as a chronological sequence of events. They are reproduced here. [5]

Bentleigh Years Ago

In those days nearly everyone in the district was related. You could not throw a stone at one without hitting a dozen of them. They’ve nearly all gone now – except one well-known family, they have stuck. Back of Bentleigh they were all Irish, indeed, they called it ‘Irishtown’.
In those days there were two or three houses near the Bentleigh railway station. The township was over a mile away.

Large Practice

It was all country then. There were no residences. I stayed there for nine years.
When one of the doctors left Cheltenham, and there was only one left, I began to get calls from there and ultimately I built the house at Moorabbin, as it was more central. When I built, Moorabbin looked like the last place on earth. There were a couple of weatherboard houses, a blacksmith’s shop, and the old shire hall, built in 1867, the year I was born.
None of the councillors in office when I came to Moorabbin are alive now.
There were only two doctors on the line then, between Malvern and Frankston. The one at Cheltenham and myself. Moorabbin Shire then included Mordialloc and Sandringham. There was only one chemist then in the whole shire. He lived at Mentone.

Old Time roads

I often went as far afield as Carrum on calls. The roads were made of red gravel and full of pot holes and wheel ruts. In those days the council had no money, and couldn’t afford to do anything.
Coming home after a trip in the winter, the horse and buggy would be covered with red mud.
Both took a lot of cleaning.

Old Time Councillors

Councillors in those days were nearly all market gardeners. There was always a lawyer and a land agent, and the rest were market gardeners. They were a fine body of men and just like a very happy family.
Sir Thoms Bent – old Tommy then – was a rough diamond, but quiet spoken and a great hearted old gentleman. He was stout and short and led the council. Afterwards he became Premier of Victoria – and he was the best they ever had.

Thomas Bent, President of the Shire of Moorabbin and Premier of Victoria, c1900. Australasian Newspaper.

Orchards Go

A long time ago the district was famed for its orchards.
They went gradually, helped along by the land boom, which caused many orchard properties to be cut up for residential blocks. Apart from the orchards, the rest of the district was comprised of market gardens.
Then dairying started in a mild way, after the land boom burst. There was an old brick works in Jasper rd then, but it closed down soon after I came.
There were no sand pits then.

Cheltenham, Then and Now

Cheltenham was not much different then to what it is now.
In comparison with other centres, like Bentleigh and Ormond, Cheltenham stood still
It reminds me of the first time I saw Cheltenham before I came down the line to practice.
We had a ‘hare and hounds’ from over near Brighton, and I was one of the ‘hounds’ We ran across country, through Cheltenham, around the back of the Mentone racecourse across near Epsom, and finished at the Bridge Hotel, Mordialloc.
We were so dead beat that we ran straight into the water, and lay there. At night we had a great dinner, an annual affair, at the Bridge Hotel.
But I thought that Cheltenham was the last place on earth.

Charman Road, Cheltenham, c1920. Courtesy Eric Longmuir.

Mentone Land Boom

Mentone was built up by the land boom way back in the 90s.
Big houses were built by the boomsters, and when the boom burst you couldn’t give them away. I’ve seen literally dozens of houses being carted along Point Nepean road.
Mordialloc, by the way, hasn’t gown as much as I thought it would.
But the Mentone boom - it was as good as over when I came. All the banks closed down soon afterwards.
Bentleigh, too, sprung up like a mushroom over the last ten or twelve years. Around Ormond and McKinnon way they always had been more or less residential areas, so far as there were any such in those days.

Lanagan’s Ball

That was the greatest event of the year – Lanagan’s ball. They held it in the old Mechanic’s Hall, at Cheltenham – I think it is the same building as now – and the patrons came from miles around.
And could they dance? And enjoy themselves? They had the time of their lives getting round that hall. Mostly Irish, some of them kept it up for a week.
There were two hotels in Cheltenham then, and the boys wouldn’t go home. They’d come to enjoy themselves, and they did just that. They almost wore a path from one hotel to the other.
But they were a great type, though. Big hearted and generous to a fault.

Cheltenham Mechanics’ Institute. Courtesy Betty Kuc.

Sporting Days

The Royal Melbourne Golf Club at Sandringham wasn’t there then – it was all ti tree.
There were no recognised parks – with the country dotted with grass paddocks we played on the nearest. There was one opposite the hotel in Manchester road, where I played cricket for East Brighton – as it was called then.
I also played for Cheltenham – in a paddock behind Fairlam’s in Charman road.
Around Heatherton it was all virgin bush – mostly ti tree. It offered a great sight in spring time, when the ti tree all came out in flower.
The site of the present Benevolent Home was just a sand hill then. We wondered where on earth they would put the buildings on that great heap of sand.

First Phone – Car

There were no telephones in the district then; mine was the first.
The number was Brighton 50. It was a long way back. I don’t know how many subscribers there are now. People never bothered much about those kind of things then. They were too industrious and hard working.
In 1904 I bought the first car in the district. It was a one cylinder Swift, and I thought it was a Rolls. All the kids and the women would run out to see it when I drove up the hill.
It used to make a bit of a row – and could do 30 m.p.h.
A man stopped me once and asked if I had a horn on it. I told him I had, and he insisted that I didn’t need it - he had heard me from Mordialloc.

Dr Joyce (right) with Dr Dunkleigh and Nurse Callow outside Nurse Callow’s private hospital in Tucker Road, Bentleigh.

Real Country

Of course, these parts were the real country then.
Gardeners used to go to market in two wheeled drays – an all night trip. They used a spring cart for driving , and on Sundays. Ultimately, of course, wagons and then lorries took the place of the dray.
Stevenson’s hotel at Moorabbin, was just a tumble-down weatherboard shanty then, and kangaroos and emus used to roam in the paddock at the back.
Parties would come down from Melbourne for picnics. They went riding, and looked at the animals, and had a great time. Although it was less than a dozen miles from Melbourne, it was real country.
Bentleigh was called East Brighton then, and Moorabbin was South Brighton.
But I was very happy then. I think I preferred it then to now. It was more like home. Now – well, the pace is on, and they can’t be pulled up.
In those days, too, the gardeners had no water laid on. They came to the stand - pipes in their drays, with a large iron tank aboard, and fitted up from there.

I had the one groom for forty years,” said Doctor Joyce. “Old Frank – they called him the doctor. Ever so often he’d go away and I’d be without one. Then he’d come back and say, ‘Are you suited Doc and I’d say, ‘When can you start Frank?’ and he’d begin again. I had a letter from his last year – he’s up in Queensland, in the back blocks, cooking for a men’s camp there. He sent a photo and he doesn’t look a day older than he did when he was with me.

Something I consider rather unique. There are a few families who have had land in the district here for years, who have been treated by the three generations of Joycees, my father, myself and now my son. I think that must be almost a record.

Sometimes, after a long drive home, Frank and I would be coming past the bakery in the early morning when the bread was being cooked. We’d get out and buy a loaf, and eat it hot from the oven, with plenty of butter. Generally someone would want to know, about breakfast time, where all the butter had gone.

Asparagus, too – this district was a great place for asparagus then. I used to call in some mornings and get it fresh picked, and take it home for breakfast. As a matter of fact that is the only way to eat it, fresh with the dew on it. I had a friend in Sandringham who used to ring up and ask if he could come over to breakfast.

The present Convent in Mentone was a coffee palace in those days, and we used to hold a lot of smoke nights there. Anything was an excuse for a smoke night in those days. Once there was a railway official going away to Gippsland, and we gave him a smoke night. There was one man in the town – he was very mean, though he had plenty of money. We baited him all night, saying that he should give our railway friend a cow, as he was going into the bush. At last he couldn’t stand it any longer, and he said he would. Sure enough he turned up next morning with a cow on a halter. We put the cow on board the train and off he went to Gippsland cow and all.

The former Mentone Coffee Palace and later Kilbreda College, C1905. Courtesy Kevin Wilson.

There used to be a roller skating rink behind where the Mentone City Hall now stands, and we played football on the ground behind that. But the old coffee palace – anything was excuse enough for a smoke night there.

I’ll never forget the time we farewelled the Bushman’s Contingent to the South African war. We held a celebration in the old Exchange Hotel. You couldn’t get in, the place was packed to the door. A party of us were in the laundry at the back, there was no room anywhere else. It was even impossible to get near the till, so we all kept a count of what we owed and paid the bill next day. Glasses had run out, so we used cups - and water from the laundry tap to break down the whisky. There were a lot of free drinks that night. It was daylight when I got home – a very wild and woolly night that. But it was a great day in Cheltenham that day.

A group of us founded the Mentone Bowling Club in the 1903. It was called the Moorabbin Bowling Club then. I’ll never forget the game I had with John Sheedy – he was champion of Champions of Victoria then. It was getting very dull, so we took the two kerosene lamps from my old Swift, and placed one each side of the jack. It was nearly dark, and John had one ball to go, and I was leading. But he pipped me on the post. I got a great reputation after that game, just being beaten by the Victorian Champion. I never told anyone that I was getting a start of twenty-one.

Opening Day of the Moorabbin Bowling Club at Mentone, c1904. Courtesy Jean Martin.

Then there was the time of an election. The story got about that I intended standing for council. Of course I had no ideas of doing any such thing, but when one old man came and asked me about it. I didn’t say no. He said, ‘I just pulled up to tell you that I’ll vote against you. The Council got no place for you – stick to your own job. I didn’t stand.

Yes they were happy days then.


  1. Moorabbin News, April 12, 1946.
  2. Moorabbin News, June 18, 1938.
  3. Moorabbin News, July 9, 1938.
  4. Moorabbin News, April 5, 1946.
  5. Moorabbin News, June 18, 1938; June 25, 1938; July 2, 1938; July 9, 1938.
27 June 2018
Article reference:

Aboriginal Flag

City of Kingston acknowledges the Kulin Nation as the custodians of the land on which the municipality is a part and pays respect to their Elders, past and present. Council is a member of the Inter Council Aboriginal Consultative Committee (ICACC).