1950s Our Campbelltown

Our Campbelltown 1950s


Neil and Meryl McLean- Local Pioneers

Neil McLean settled in Campbelltown with his wife Meryl after serving in the Air Force in WWII. Initially they rented St Elmo, the property on the hill in Broughton Street overlooking the town as a poultry farm. Unfortunately the farm failed and Neil looked around for a new venture. Affordable housing for returned servicemen was in short supply, and Neil jumped at an opportunity. In 1949 Cumberland County Council rezoned the farm land residential, and the McLean family purchased St Elmo. Neil then called on surveyor Wal Lewis to design a new subdivision. Sealed roads and kerb and guttering were included in the price of the blocks. This became a prestige estate including Clarice Crescent, Lillian Street and Ruzac Street, and it was jokingly described by locals as "Snob Hill". Second and subsequent St Elmo estates operated under a special plan for ex-servicemen, which made purchase and payment easier. Throughout the 1950s, 6 St Elmo Estates were put on the market and some 900 families would pioneer the early expansion of Campbelltown.

Campbelltown almost doubled its size during the 1950s due to the St Elmo's estates of Neil McLean. He targeted World War II servicemen who were now married, with young families, and looking for an affordable fibro or weatherboard home to call their own. This photograph was snapped from near Farnsworth Avenue, looking down toward Bradbury Avenue, with Badgally Hill dominating the horizon.

A view of the new St Elmos estates
(Image sourced from Geoff Eves Collection)

1950's fashion

Tight waists, full-billowing skirts and bright colours. Campbelltown girls Pauline Eves and Jan Harding modelling the latest fashions at Carolyn's Frock Shop in Queen Street in September 1956.

two young ladies in 1950s style dresses
(Sourced from Geoff Eves collection)

The Campbelltown-Camden Band

The Campbelltown-Camden Band, originally an all-male ensemble, posing in their uniforms, originally ex-RAAF uniforms decorated with red stripes and gold braid.

Campbelltown Camden Band
(Sourced from Jessie Newham collection)

Locals enjoying Campbelltown social events

Hugo Bonomini and Pam Routley (both at right) with friends at a Legacy Ball in Campbelltown Town Hall(PDF, 219KB) in 1954.

Young couples enjoying themselves
(Image sourced from Bonomini family collection)


First Fisher's Ghost Festival

In 1956 Campbelltown Council had decided to hold a fund raising parade. That year it was named the Campbelltown Commemorative Festival. The same year a Sydney radio station claimed that the ghost of Fred Fisher appeared at midnight each year on the anniversary of his death in June. Around 1500 Sydneysiders showed up to wait for the ghost's appearance. This ‘ghost watch' continued throughout the late 50s. The parade also continued over the next few years, and in 1959, young councillor Greg Percival suggested the Festival of Fisher's Ghost. The name was adopted in 1960 and the Festival is held every year. Funds raised from early festivals went towards the building of an ambulance station in Campbelltown.

Below is a souvenir program of the First Festival.

Front cover of the first Fisher's Ghost Festival program

One of the large gatherings of ghost hunters at a bonfire by Fisher's Ghost Creek in the 1950s. These attracted so many people that the notion of a "Fisher's Ghost Festival" finally materialised.

People standing at the Fishers Ghost Creek
(Image sourced from Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser collection)

Ceetons marching girls band

Ceetons marching girls band in Queen Street in 1956. The Ceetons name came from the common abbreviation of Campbelltown - "C'town". The girls pictured are (from left) Colleen Tripp, Barbara Nash, Elizabeth Thorburn, Jacqueline Tripp, Joy Newham, Robyn Burton, Pam Hallam, Wendy Thorburn, Joy Rofe and Gwen Lowe.

Marching girls
(Image sourced from Joy Lewis Collection)

The first Department store opens

Downes store opened in Queen Street in 1951, and was one of four stores operated by the company. The managing director was Rex Downes. His faith and foresight in the future of Campbelltown first brought the company to the city. Rex Downes bought up all available land in the vicinity of the store. He set out also a policy of keeping Downes store "one step in front" of the growth pattern and at times the economic situation allowing Downes to present the best possible service "at city prices" to the residents of what was then the country town of Campbelltown. Downes sold everything from clothes to lawnmowers. The store was located where Spotlight is today. In 1984 two stages of a $2.5 million redevelopment of Downes were completed and the store became Downes City Plaza. The competition from Campbelltown Mall and Macarthur Square eventually led to Downes demise.

A newspaper clipping of the front view of Downes Department store
(Image sourced from Campbelltown Ingleburn News)

Downes Department store street view
(Image sourced from Jackie Green Collection)

Debutante Balls

Debutante balls became popular in the 1950s, with local girls dressing in white to "enter society". They were usually held to raise money for good causes, such as this Legacy Ball in 1954. Judy New, seated at right, was 18 at the time: "It was a beautiful night of dancing in the Town Hall(PDF, 219KB), these types of events were very popular and almost everyone did it."

Debutante Group portrait
(Image sourced from Judy Kemister collection)

New employment opportunities

The families pouring into Campbelltown needed employment, so there was much excitement in the 1950s when Crompton Parkinson opened a factory on the western side of the railway station. In this photograph, some of the staff members - on a float at Mawson Park - show off the electric motors they manufactured.

A float with staff from Crompton Parkinson
(Image sourced from Geoff Eves collection collection)

A game of Baseball

A game of baseball in Campbelltown during the late 1950s.

two young woman playing baseball in the 1950s
(Image sourced from Geoff Eves collection)


Orana Park

The Alf. Duguid Memorial Park was situated in Queen Street Campbelltown and had been gifted to the Campbelltown Kangaroo Rugby League Club by the Duguid family (probably in the 1940s) but in 1953 the Club went into negotiations with Council to take over the grounds to develop them for the general sporting activities of the people of Campbelltown. This was eventually finalised in 1954. In 1955 the Leumeah Progress Association lobbied for its own park, which resulted in the allocation of about 12 acres which the Progress Association requested be named "Orana Park". It was developed as a rudimentary sporting field, and the move to Orana Park by the Campbelltown Kangaroos would not happen until 1971, when the Alf. Duguid Memorial Ground was being considered for redevelopment. Orana Park ultimately became Campbelltown Stadium. The grandstand there is named the Alf Duguid Memorial Stand. The establishment of Minto football team playing at Duguid oval, below.

Foot ball being played on an oval
(Images sourced from Gary Monkley Collection, Campbelltown City Library)

Campbelltown Sports Stadium - Aerial view

Oranan park - An aerial view
(Image sourced from Campbelltown City Library)

New Schools

The 1950s saw unprecedented growth in the number of schools in the Campbelltown district. Expansion of Campbelltown Public, plans for Campbelltown North and East Primary Schools, establishment of Leumeah Infants school and Macquarie Fields Public School, and a new Minto Public School were among those servicing the rapidly growing area.

Kindergarten & 1st Class, Minto Public School, 1957.

Kindergarten and year 1 from Minto Public School 1957
(Image sourced from Follan Collection, Campbelltown City Library)

The establishment of Campbelltown High School was at last announced in 1953, but for the first two years pupils travelled to Liverpool pending the completion of school buildings. Prior to this, pupils finishing their primary education had to travel long distances to secondary schools such as Parramatta High, Granville Technical, and Homebush High. In 1956 Campbelltown High School opened in buildings in Rudd Road (now Beverley Road), Campbelltown. This nucleus of the proposed school consisted of four and one half blocks. The first block had been completed at the beginning of 1955. The Science, home Economics, Manual Training blocks and the half block containing the Drawing room and Classroom were almost completed for the opening of the school in 1956.

Campbelltown High School
(Image sourced from Credit Campbelltown City Library, Local Studies Collection)

Still a country town

Campbelltown was still a country town surrounded by cow-dotted hills. This snap was taken from Kenny Hill, looking east, in 1958.

A view of the landscape in Campbelltown 1950s
(Image sourced from Nash Family Collection)

Relaxing after a "fox hunt" - using a scented bait - in the hills around Campbelltown in the late 1950s .

People relaxing after a fox hunt
(Image sourced from Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser collection)

Queen Street

Queen St in late 1950s. Shopkeeper Phil Solomon left Campbelltown and sold his premises to three brothers who redeveloped it as Downes Department Store. Local youngster John Hepher described it as "the weirdest collection of rustic (and rusty) buildings. All linked up with a series of stairs and corridors, and as they expanded, they enveloped the buildings around them.

Campbelltown Theatre

Some of the early theatrical performances of the 1950s that led to the creation of Campbelltown Theatre Group in 1956.

Campbelltown Theatre group productions
(Image sourced from Henson Family Collection)

Emily Cottage

Emily Cottage(PDF, 202KB), Fishers Ghost Creek, and surrounds, as shot by Arnold McGill in the early 1950s.

Street View
(Image sourced from McGill Family collection)