Albert Haydn Oldis
1887 – 1934
Albert Haydn Oldis was born in Richmond in 1887 and worked as a builder, living in Northcote with his wife, Beatrice.
He became interested in politics and was elected to Northcote Council in 1920 at the age of 33.
In 1921 Northcote Council decided by a narrow majority to set a minimum size of 30 feet for building blocks in the area (Preston had set their size as 40 feet minimum and Heidelberg at 50 feet).
Albert Oldis argued that ‘those advocating for a forty foot minimum… seemed to be doing their best to prevent working men from getting a home.’ And that there were people moving from Heidelberg to build their homes in Northcote.
In 1924 he succeeded William Turner as Mayor and the Mayoral reception for that year was an elaborate affair for 450 guests with ‘an afternoon of tea and music’ and the hall had a ‘fairytale appearance’.
Beatrice, the Lady Mayoress, was ‘wearing a graceful frock of leaf-green silk fulgurante embroidered in silver thread, and the skirt arranged in three-tiered flounces’ greeted guests.
In the same year, Union Avenue in Northcote was renamed as ‘Oldis Avenue’ and as this coincides with Albert Oldis becoming Mayor we can assume the street is named after him.
By the mid 1920’s there was an increase in prosperity in the area, reflected in home ownership and it was perceived that the ratepayers would be less inclined to vote for the Labor party within Council. The make-up of the council moved away from being predominantly Labor as groups of non-Labor Councillors formed themselves into groups.
Albert was a member of the ‘Northcote Citizens League’ formed in 1925 and which arranged coordinated campaigns against the Labor Party with the intent on filling vacancies on the council with their pre-selected candidates. Albert’s role in this was described as ‘the most energetic and was soon their de facto leader’.
Albert Oldis became mayor for the second time in 1932, but was not in good health and had been receiving medical treatment throughout the year.
This coincided with much work for Northcote’s jubilee year in 1933 and a newspaper report described how hard he worked for this cause. ‘His unflagging energy during the preparations for and carrying out of the Jubilee celebrations is widely known and there is no shadow of a doubt but that the unbounded success achieved during that time was in the main due to the efforts of Councillor Oldis’
He invited local citizens to come forward and participate with the Jubilee celebrations by joining committees to plan the events and he was given credit as being the main inspiration behind organising the celebrations
According to the local paper, the Mayor and his wife set a high ‘social standard’ and invited representatives of the business community and public bodies to attend Council meetings so as to come into contact with the leading ratepayers of the area.
'The entertainment afforded to them after each council meeting was lavish and reflected the greatest credit to both the Mayor and Mayoress.'
During the celebrations, Mayor Oldis became the first mayor to wear the Mayoral chain which was presented by Sir William Irvine (Lieutenant- Governor).
Throughout his busy time with Council, Albert Oldis was also on many committees including Public Works, Finance, Swimming Baths and Electric Light. He was also a Vice President of the Northcote Cricket Club and Northcote Football Club as well as being Chairman of Westgarth School Committee.
He died in the spring of 1933 and the Northcote Leader reported that, ‘in years he was only 46 but his energy had accomplished far more than most people would encompass in twice that span. He had an engaging personality and was widely known and respected.’
The funeral service was described as the largest ever seen in Northcote at that time.
The procession travelled from his house on the corner of Vauxhall Road, past both Westgarth and Helen Street Schools where scholars lined the footpath, along High Street and pausing by the Town Hall. The burial service took place at Warringal Cemetery in Heidelberg.
All the Councillors, council staff and representatives from other councils, schools, business, church and sporting communities attended the funeral.
The following year, Northcote Reserve in Westgarth Street (the site of Northcote’s first public recreation ground) became known as Oldis Gardens in honour of Albert Oldis’s service to the community.
Lemon, Andrew. (1983). The Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.
Swift, William George (1928). The history of Northcote: from its first settlement to a city. Northcote, Vic: Leader Publishing.
Prominent Northcote Citizen Passes. Northcote Leader (Northcote, Vic: 1882 - ) 6 October 1933, p 1