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The True Heart of Steiglitz


For many people who know Steiglitz they’d say the Courthouse is the centre of this little town.  Though they’d be wrong.  Its true heart, as all who live in Steiglitz know, is its living treasure – Mr. Roy Trotter.

Born and bred here, Roy’s about to turn a sprightly 93 on the 22nd of March. And he’s as unique as the town he calls home.  

Born in 1921, to Harry and Margaret Trotter, Roy knew a Steiglitz that now only exists in photos and books for most of us.  He recalls when there were enough men living here to field both a cricket and footy team.  When Scott’s Hotel faced a busy, working gold crushing battery.  He remembers reading all about Squizzy Taylor’s latest exploits in The Argus.  Laughs about visits from Mr. Granville, the ‘nightman’ … who came to empty everyone’s toilet cans.  Remembers when the Courthouse played host to - not tourists, but locals eager to pay their shilling to watch a silent movie.  And his eyes still light up recalling the excitement of days when Teddy Cooper ran the Post Office; where the only phone in town could be found. For Teddy brought the first car to Steiglitz … a canvas-topped Chev … before that mail had been delivered (like meat) by horse and cart.

Roy’s schooling (from grade one through to grade eight) was, along with 13 other local children, at the Steiglitz Schoolhouse. The very same one the Back to Steiglitz Association have been fighting to save for the last five years.  He can still recall which private residence housed which teacher.  These were the days of walking miles to school, and using slates.  And it only takes a sudden cheeky grin to give you a glimpse of the boy Roy once was … one who, as he laughingly says, was no stranger to the teacher’s strap! 

Roy’s dad died when he was only 11 … so no wonder he took up gold panning at the young age of 12.  Even without the Great Depression (1929-32), times were tough in Steiglitz, and the chance of finding gold was a ray of hope.  With gold at seven pounds an ounce, Roy says “If ya got a pennyweight of gold a day you thought you were a millionaire!”

Luckily for the family, his mother was not only a great cook, but also a savvy business woman.  She bought numerous buildings throughout the town, and during the Great Depression rented rooms out to prospectors for a shilling a week.  She was also a compassionate woman, for, in days so tough rabbits and eels kept many families alive, swagmen could often receive either a billy of tea or a slice of bread before they went on their way. 

Roy’s recollections aren’t limited to Steiglitz.  He also experienced World War 2 first hand.  When war broke out he was stripping bark near Bannockburn with his brothers.  Like many, he was conscripted and joined the Geelong Battalion digging ditches at Barwon Heads.  

However, on February 19th, 1942 things changed … for that was the day Japan bombed Darwin.  They were quickly deployed up the old Ghan line to the top of Australia.  Here Roy witnessed first-hand the destruction wrought by Japan – Darwin Harbour was filled with bombed ships!

Those 16 months protecting Australia were tough … bully beef, biscuits and bore water being their staple diet.  He remembers Aboriginals with matted hair asking for ‘baccy’. And fellow soldiers going ‘troppo.’  Eventually, Roy became a cook.  A favourite tale of mine is one that reflects the humour that still gets Aussies through stressful times today.

Back then cheese came in long, rectangular blocks.  Every day Roy would cut it into slices.  And every day someone would nick them.  Fed up, he quickly figured out not only who it was, though what to do about it.  

Now cheese wasn’t the only thing that came in long, rectangular yellow blocks in those days; so did Lux soap.  Yep, you guessed it …he sliced a block of soap and put it out for the ‘tea leaf’ (thief).  Roy chuckles still … adding “Never stole the cheese again!”

There’s so very much more to tell about this wonderful character … enough to fill a book.  Though those tales will have to wait.  Instead, we wanted you to know about a man who makes Steiglitz special.  A man whose chuckle and twinkle bring history to life.  And one we’re privileged to call friend.     

Happy 93rd birthday Roy, from the entire township of Steiglitz.