Ozone, Hygeia and Weeroona Sts
These three streets in Port Melbourne are named after the Bay excursion paddle steamers that traveled from Station Pier down the Bay to Mornington, Sorrento, Queenscliff and Portarlington from the turn of the 20th century to the Second World War.
There are only 8 houses in Ozone St, 8 in Hygeia St and 11 in Weeroona St. The short streets are part of the award winning design for the layout of the Fishermans Bend estate, the first to be built by the newly formed Housing Commission in Victoria. The design reflected the latest thinking in town planning for the creation of healthy communities. Construction began in 1938. Frank Heath’s award winning design is lightly annotated below to show the location of the three streets.
The street names first appear in the Sands & McDougall directory of 1944/45. The names listed in that directory are very likely to have been the first people to move in to the new estate, making it a particularly interesting record.
The bay steamers
Ozone was the first, arriving in Port Phillip Bay in 1886 for her first commercial voyage in December of that year. She had a green hull, a white superstructure topped by two orange funnels and three decks which contained a dining room, bars, a ladies’ salon and many luxuries, all of which were lit with the new electric light – a novelty at that time. In her time Ozone was described as ‘the greyhound of Port Phillip’ because of her speed.
Hygeia began service in 1890 and operated for 40 years on the Bay. She had a promenade deck, licensed saloons, luxuriously appointed dining rooms and a barbers shop.
Weerooona, the largest of the three paddle-steamers, was added in 1910. She was designed to carry 1,900 passengers. In addition to the sumptuous lounges, dining salons, and bar, there was a bookstall and stylish hairdressing salon.
There wasn’t enough business for the three paddle-steamers and Ozone was decommissoned in 1918 and later scuttled to become a breakwater at Indented Head.
The paddle-steamers berthed at the wing piers off Station Pier. They were non-stop busy in the summer. Special trains from Flinders St Station ran right down alongside the ships. As well as general outings and excursions down the Bay, industries and trades chartered the steamers for company picnics – a highlight of the year. A cursory browse on Trove shows the extraordinary number of different trades, industries and associations making the annual picnic excursion down the Bay.
Gardeners, farmers, butchers, grocers, tramways, estate agents, woodworkers, hardware, printers, municipal employees, police, bakers, public service, liquor trades, fruiterers, old colonists, dairy traders, wood workers, Harbor Trust, Anti Liquor league, Federated Clothing Trades, saddlery trades, fruit growers, Australian glass manufacturers, sugar works.
Here is just one example from the many accounts of happy days spent at the annual picnic: eight hundred people joined the Port Melbourne Unemployed Picnic to Portarlington in March 1933. Bay Steamers Pty Ltd made the Weeroona available free of charge. Contributions to the enjoyment of the day were made by many well known Port Melbourne people and firms including Mr J. L. Murphy MLA, Mr E. J. Holloway, MHR, J. Kitchen and Sons, Swallow and Ariell, Borer and Co, Messrs Woodruff, Barry, Butcher, Stewart, Stuart, J. Bertie. Games were organised and there was a ball.
Emily Lock remembered the Weeroona and Hygeia coming up the south channel in the early evening with their paddles thrashing racing back to Port’.1
Weeroona was acquired by the United States Navy early in 1942 and refitted for use as a convalescence and accommodation ship off Manila for American servicemen. She was finally broken up in 1951.
After the war, the motor car made the peninsulas more accessible. The era of the Bay steamers had passed.
A precious item in the Society’s collection is Captain Harry Gray’s scrapbook. Captain Gray joined the Hygeia as an Ordinary Seaman in 1907. He became Master of the Hygeia at the age of 36 and served for 7 years before transferring to the Weeroona. He was the last Master of the Weeroona when she sailed on her final voyage on the bay on 2nd March 1942.
“They Can Carry Me Out” Memories of Port Melbourne as recorded by the Vintage Port: Worth Preserving Project
Fitchett, T. K. 1973 Down the Bay: the Story of the Excursion Steamers of Port Phillip. Adelaide, Rigby
Harvard/Australian citation1933 ‘PORT MELB. UNEMPLOYED’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 25 March, p. 7. , viewed 06 Aug 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article164466365