In 1878, Boolarra’s first settler, W.H. Penaluna arrived, taking up land along the Morwell River and constructing the Settlers’ Arms Hotel. And between 1884-5, the area began quickly selling when a railway line was built, connecting Mirboo North, Boolarra and Yinnar to Morwell, on the main Melbourne-Sale line.
In 1905, the Danish firm ‘Heyman’ set up a buttery factory in Boolarra, and being a dairy farmer became a main industry for the district. During this time, Boolarra’s population rivalled that of Morwell. And at one point, a black coal and bauxite mine set of an investment flow in the town.
At its peak, Boolarra supported three general stores, three hotels and four churches along with two butchers, two bakers and three confectionery shops, which satisfied the needs of the community. Horses were harnessed and shod by two blacksmiths, and the Butter Factory provided the bulk of employment for the town’s youth. At one stage, a black coal and bauxite mine triggered an investment flow into the town.
It was sadly after this time, that in 1937 a large fire raged through Tarwin Street, destroying many of the original stores. After WW II residents banded together to erect a Memorial Park, with the names of the towns fallen soldiers inscribed on its gates.
Boolarra today while no longer a centre, has settled down to become an attractive town with a friendly rural atmosphere.
Farming is still important, as is Timber, which is harvested from plantation forests in the hills. There has been an influx of new residents, retirees and young families from the city. The old railway line closed in 1974, has become an attractive Rail ‑Trail bush walk from Boolarra to Mirboo North.
Numerous sporting clubs use the recreational facilities of the Memorial Park, a modern school and kindergarten provide excellent educational facilities, and a historical society has converted the Old Boolarra School into a museum to preserve the local heritage.
Shops and cafes in Boolarra include the Boolarra Community Hotel, Boolarra Store (general store/cafe), post office, and the Boolarra Emporium.
In 2011, The Boolarra Australian Rules Football team, known as the Demons, won their first Mid-Gippsland premiership since 1997, defeating the Trafalgar Bloods.
The Boolarra Folk Festival was first held in 2003 in Railway and Centenary Parks in Tarwin Street, Boolarra. The free, whole-day music concert is complemented by a large arts, craft and produce market.
Boolarra’s Budding Newspaper
“‘The Auctioneer’ was the first newspaper in Boolarra, hitting the streets on September 6, 1932. Issued every Tuesday, it supplied market reports, news, sport and topics of the day until the depression and the outbreak of World War II saw the demise of the newspaper.
There were a few editions of the ‘Boolarra Citizens’ and Ratepayers’ newsletter issued; however, it was not until March 1982 that a public meeting was held to form Boolarra’s current community newspaper, ‘The Boolarra Link’.
The ‘Boolarra Link’ was started by the Boolarra Citizens and Ratepayers’ Association, the forerunner of Boolarra Community Development Group (BCDG). From the front page of the first Link:
“Why ‘Link’? What better name to symbolise one of our aims: to bring the community closer together through being better informed and thus more appreciative of what each of us is doing for our community”.
Early advertisements in the Link for many years were basic – just text with a rough box around it. More graphic style advertising started to appear in 1998.
‘Boolarra Directory’ – like our current back page listings – first appeared 1989. Full back page ‘The Boolarra Link Community Directory’ started during 2000.
A big year of change for Boolarra was 1989: saw new Kindergarten, Bowling Club, relaunched Boolarra Club Hotel, Railway Park (reported on often in the Link as ‘like a jungle’), and Regional Tidy Town Award.
The first obituary appeared in 1990, the late Edward Cartwright.
Some perennial issues (some with significant chapters recently…) include TV reception, bus timetables, Police Station, varied fortunes of ‘Old Pub’ and ‘New Pub’.
Boolarra Apex Club: an interesting forgotten chapter of history; 60 people attended Boolarra Apex Club dinner July 1990. This was a very active group late 1980’s, doing hundreds of hours of work around town including renovation of old RSL, but then folded 1992, due to steep drop off in membership.
Also in 1990, standard reports from Wool Group appear, Bowling Club, Boolarra Christian Fellowship, and Angling Club (which used to meet in old RSL).
The Old Pub: Sandra and Bob Kelly took on Club Hotel from very early 1980s to around 1987, did major renovation then Bob Kelly decided to build an entirely new hotel, so left and sold ‘Boolarra Club Hotel’.
Next, Peter Townsend took over Hotel: more renovation; was going to become ‘arty’ venue like ARC in Yinnar, with very regular music and gallery/exhibitions – launched 1991.
After some time Hotel was then taken over in 1997 by Jeanne Heynatz and Warwick ‘Smokey’ Dawson. They planned to ‘refurbish the building progressively…’.
In 2006, Geoff and Chris Dunkley purchased Hotel, then in 2014 Carolyn and Luke Dunkley took over with the major relaunch as ‘The Old Pub Coffee House and Eatery’. This, unfortunately, wound up late 2016.
Longest direct contributor to Link: Roz Carstairs 1982-2000 (and again recently) also Di Billingsly principal typist for roughly same era and Peter Scott – may be the second longest overall personal contributor as a photographer for the Link, 1982-1996.
The longest overall contribution from community group: clearly Boolarra Historical Society …has been in almost every single Link since 1982. BCDG has also been in almost every edition since that group formed in 2001.
Our favourite picture: panorama ‘early history shot’ of railway crossing looking towards township in black and white has now appeared seven times!
Boolarra South Landcare first appeared in 1998.
Items that were included for many years, but gone now are Girl Guides, Tennis Club and the various Churches (two or three full pages, sometimes).
By 1998, after many years of evolution, a very neat, refined format of paper was achieved.
The first colour newspaper was front cover in 2009, the bushfires edition.
Also, 2009 Vol.28 No.2 first Roger Rabbit item, then disappeared until the late following year. Began as the familiar ‘in rabbit-character’ style articles from 2010.
New wide style and full-colour format started December 2010 (Vol.29 Ed.4).
Five out of six previous Committee had resigned 2009 – BCDG took on the printing of the newspaper temporarily until new Committee with Jan Thomson editor, Mark Cooke president. Sylvia Sauppe and Luke Potter join the newspaper, now called ‘The Boolarra Link’ – new masthead, changed graphics: first new edition featured very large Boolarra history piece, four pages plus. Vol.31 Ed.4, 2012, Alan Hall starts with Link, soon becomes subeditor.”
(This piece was written by The Boolarra Link sub-editor Alan Hall)