Merino has never been a gloomy town, but street lighting was a continuing problem until the arrival of S.E.C. power in 1955. Very early, of course, candles were the sole source of illumination, and hardly suitable for street lighting, but with the availablity of kerosene, people venturing out at night could at least carry a lantern to cast a reasonable light.
Imagine the street scene at night! Streets such as they were, with deep ruts and holes caused by the horse and bullock carts, often filled with water and mud. Then add the horse, bullock and goat droppings, for Merino was renowned for the number of goats that roamed the town (only squatters could afford house cows then), and you can see why night entertainments while thoroughly enjoyed once you got to the halls, were a bit of a hazard to walk to.
All that changed in 1887, four street lights were installed in High Street. "The four lamps designed to lighten our darkness are now in position and burn regularly from seven until half-past eleven p.m. The improvement this effected is one of the best appreciated that Merino has known for many years past. The lamp in the centre of the township will be found particularly serviceable as the drains, curbing, etc., have always been very difficult to negotiate upon a dark night, even by those who are not strangers to the locality.
" (Our own correspondent).
These were gradually added to over the years, but they all had one difficult problem - they had to be maintained, and lit every night. Apart from the ordinary wick type, kerosene lights, various more efficient "light producers" were introduced as the years went by, under the control of the Glenelg Council.
Mantle pressure Lux lamps, Gloria lamps and larger kerosene operated lamps, these all required the attention of hard working lamp lighters who had to contend with wind and rain, "cranky" lamps and often mishievous boys.
Early lamp lighters included - Thomas CLARKE
, Hilda CLAUSCEN
, Hugh McLEOD
, W. DAVIS
, P. W. DALE
, Angus LANE
, W. BROOKER
, Jack ROGERS
In the 1940s the Merino Progress Association complained that only four of the 12 street lights were operating, and Cr. H. NORTHCOTT
said in Council - "Merino must be the worst lit town in Victoria, with only four of its street lights functioning.
When the Mechanics Hall was re-built in 1930 and a modern lighting plant installed, the hall committee and caretaker Jim KOHN
, were proud of the 32-volt 60 watt lights which brightly illuminated the front of the hall.
In 1955, at the S.E.C. Switch-on Ceremony, a ribbon was cut and Merino was ablaze with light, provided by numerous street lights with 100 watt globes and automatically time-controlled.
These globes which often "blew", have now been replaced with long lasting fluorescent tubes, needing no Maintenance, no fuel, and no lamp lighters.
Source : "Merino Digby Heritage", 1977