05 October 2011

The Melbourne YMCA

The YMCA letterhead from 1931, scanned from one of George's letters.
The Melbourne YMCA is such a prominent character in George's letters, but frustratingly, it isn't easy to find a significant summary of its history on the Internet.

The eMelbourne website, which is an online encyclopedia of Melbourne, includes this information:
"By 1924 Melbourne boasted the largest YMCA in the southern hemisphere. Its new premises opened in City Road near Princes Bridge in 1925, and a decade later membership stood at over 2000 men and boys...

After a long period of decline, the Melbourne YMCA closed down in 1980, many of its functions being taken over by the Victorian State YMCA." 

Note that the "decade later" statement above refers to the 1930s when George was general secretary and writing these letters.

The Melbourne YMCA in 1974
(Original courtesy of Lindsay Bridge via Flickr
and edited version courtesy of Michael Williams via Flickr)
The YMCA building where George worked was located near the Prince's Bridge in South Melbourne. A contact on Flickr, Michael Williams, who lived at the Melbourne YMCA in the mid 1960s and has a photo set devoted to his time at the Y, remembers the address as 2 City Road.

Regardless, the building was demolished during the development of the nearby Arts Centre complex.

The Prince's Bridge area in
South Melbourne, 1945
(courtesy of the
University of Melbourne Map Collection)
The Prince's Bridge area in
South Melbourne, 2011
(courtesy Google Maps)
(A) denotes approximate location of YMCA


I was able to find a Melbourne Argus newspaper article from 12 Nov 1926 noting the opening of the then new Melbourne YMCA building. The article, about the YMCA's Armistice Day observances, notes that the association's new building stood as "a perpetual reminder of the splendid work done by the association during the war, and of the hundreds of Y.M.C.A. members who had served with the A.I.F."

Clipping from The Argus (Melbourne) Friday 12 Nov 1926
Courtesy of Australia Trove digitized newspapers and more
In this case, "perpetual" means only 54 years, which is actually a good run for a building in a thriving city in the 20th Century, I guess.

On a personal note, I remember touring Melbourne in 1980 and visiting what was, I think, the YMCA building, and being told it wouldn't be around for much longer. I remember being shown George's name on a wall placard somewhere. I wish I'd paid more attention, but I was only 11 years old then. Maybe a search of old family photos will turn up something. 

I also found it interesting to note that an Internet search of "Young Men's Christian Association of Melbourne" turns up many Y publications that exist in library collections today, which is consistent with repeated statements that George includes in his letters about distributing the publications and donating them to libraries.