Pierce Grenfell, a well known local, spent some time with ESC students reminiscing about his life and his participation over the decades in the Eaglehawk community. Pierce turned 99 in February this year and amazed us with his agility and trumpet playing skills .
Although Pierce is an Eaglehawk person through and through, he was born in Long Gully before moving to California Gully, and then onto Eaglehawk. His allegiance to Eaglehawk was founded on his participation in football, a sport that he dearly loved.
The year was 1946 when he decided to settle in Eaglehawk. That was 77 years ago and the majority of that time has been spent living in Napier Street in two houses. Pierce has been in his current house for twenty years.
Pierce married Olga in 1945 and by 1946 they were living in Napier Street. When their family of four children grew and got a bit older they needed more space so decided to move to Church Street. They went on to build a new house in Chapel Street after Pierce retired from running his butcher business. Pierce remembers the new house quite vividly. “It was opposite a great big iron bark tree at the bottom of your playground. We could look at the college across the road from Chapel Street”.
Pierce was the first child of eight. “I was number one, and I’m still the one!” he jokes. He reeled off his siblings names: Pierce, Cecil, Keith, Max, Marjorie 96, Valda 91, Kevin 91 and Robert who is the youngest – he’s
approaching 90 . He had to think about his grandchildren though! He has seven grandchildren and ten great grandchildren. Pierce keeps in regular
contact with his five siblings that are still alive. “This morning I rang three of my sisters and wrote that down in the diary on the bench”.
We asked Pierce about Grenfell Street and if it was named after him. “Yes it is named after me. I was on the Eaglehawk Council. I’ve always been a club man. I was in the Wisemans club, the Rotary Club, the Probus Club, and also had a stint at Council. I did nine years on the council and one year as the mayor. It happened to be the Centenary of Eaglehawk in 1962 and they had a great big procession to celebrate the Centenary. The naming of the street came about while I was on council.
It was originally called Cemetery Avenue and some of the residents weren’t happy with the name. So they approached the Council and it came to the council table. I suppose it wasn’t me, but someone suggested that it be changed to Grenfell Avenue. So it’s named after me”.
Pierce wasn’t sure why the street was named after him. “I was one of the younger members on the Council and it was a policy of the Council at the time to name streets after council members. At the same time, I think there was a new development down Avery’s road and they named a street there, Parker Street. He happened to be the Town Clerk. So you had to be someone of note to have your name stuck on the street, I suppose”.
Pierce and his wife, Olga Florence were married for over 75 years. “That meant we got a message from the Queen congratulating us for that. We were married when we were 21 and it was rather swift. I was in the army in Bougainville when the war ended. We were both having our 21st birthdays and we were sent apart. Our birthdays were in February, the war ended in September, and somehow I got home in October. We were married on the 27th of October. We were still 21. We managed to stay together for a little over 75 years”.
“I can’t help but say this, but I think she was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me”
As well as being a rifleman in the war, Pierce played the trumpet in the brass band. The early part of the war for him was in Melbourne and the brass band used to go around all the different suburbs and play in promotions raising money for war loans.
“We would play on a stage, and we played at the Regent Theatre. I’m quite proud of that. I’ve got photos”
Back in Eaglehawk, Pierce was a member of the Eaglehawk Town Brass Band for over eighty years. The band started about 1884 and they’ve had a centenary that he remembers well. Over the years Pierce assisted a lot of people with their trumpet playing, but was never the musical director.
“They ask me, can I still play? Yes, I can play, but because of my eyesight, I can’t read the music”. “Music has been a wonderful thing for me”
We were curious to ask Pierce if there was secret to his longevity.
“Well, I’m finding more of those secrets now than what I did when I was younger. I live by now, and I say always be ready for what is coming tomorrow”.
“But if you’re thinking of the future, don’t be worried about getting old. Keep active. That’s my thought. And my goal is to keep as active as much as I can”.
Pierce worked for many years as a butcher. His grandfather was a butcher in Long Gully and his father had a shop in California Gully. That meant he was introduced to helping in the shop at the age of 16 and it was inevitable that he follow in their footsteps. He soon learned to carve up meat and run the shop. After the war Pierce came home and worked for his father before having the opportunity to buy his own shop in Victoria Street, Eaglehawk. The year was 1950 and he had that shop for 27 years.
“It was very different from what it is today. We used to go to the market, buy the stock, and it would be transferred to an abattoir, which was up where the registration for cars is now in Lansell Street. It’s all changed now I realized, but I can remember all of it”.
Pierce’s time working in the meat industry has influenced his tastes, telling us that his favourite food is curried sausages.
“I was a butcher and I made my own sausages and I’m a bit partial and judgmental of sausages. And I think last night’s meal was curried sausages”.
These days he relies on Light and Easy which his daughter arranges for him. “I’ve tried other foods. I used to go and buy my own at Eaglehawk, but because of immobility and poor sight I’m based here. But I do like Light and Easy”.
“I don’t cook anything now. The frozen food goes into the deep freeze, so then my job is to take it from there and put it into the microwave for six minutes. And then I’ve got a meal. I have a main meal and a soup in the cooler weather and a sweet”.
Pierce has seen a lot of changes in Eaglehawk over the years.
“The biggest change that I see are the sporting facilities. When I was a kid you only had cricket and football. That’s about all there was. But now there’s all this development of different sports. The netball courts and cricket training nets were never there, even when I was on the Council. That’s happened since, and that’s a big change. I like the development right from the Canterbury Park gates down to Lake Tom Thumb”.
Pierce’s message for the people of Eaglehawk:
“Keep on respecting Eaglehawk and shop at Eaglehawk to help the traders. It’s a good easy village feel and there are plenty of places to park your car for you to wander up the streets and have coffee and pies. It’s a great place that will keep on supporting you”.