How amazing is this?

Melbourne in 1956

Trams. Olympic Games. TV launched. Burke St (not yet a mall). Milk bottle deliveries. Myer Christmas windows.

I recently spotted this video of Melbourne in 1956. I hadn’t seen this before and really enjoyed watching it. It showcases the era and a Melbourne Christmas.

1956 is before my time, but stories from my parents and grandparents made this video somewhat familiar. It is really interesting to watch, spotting things that are the same to my experiences and the things that are so different. Some things I noticed were

  • trams! We have have more modern versions now, but trams have long been part of Melbournian life
  • wide streets in neat grids with crowds of people – the clothing, shops and cars have changed, but it is unmistakably Melbourne. And compared to so many European cities which have (often much narrower) streets going in all directions, this is very home-like.
  • a paddle steamer along the Yarra is something I have never seen!
  • red letterboxes with curved tops along the street, just waiting for some letters to Santa – the actual boxes have changed but the overall look is the same

    Two hotos of red letterboxes in Melbourne - one from 1956 and one from 2023

    Melbourne letterboxes – similar but different over 67 years!

  • newspaper boys and police directing traffic (except in special circumstances) are long gone

About a third of the way through the video, there is a giant man standing on top of Coles’ awning. This is totally new to me so I had to find out a bit more about him. It turns out to be John Batman looking out across Melbourne in the 1830s. Behind the figure were some mechanised pictures, one showing Melbourne in 1830 (ie open land) and the other showing Melbourne’s 1956 skyline. This was art of the decorations for the Olympic games, and I can’t find how long it was there for.

Large figure of a man in bush clothes of the 1830s standing on a roof above a sign saying Coles Burke St

Note this is a screenshot from the video – you can see it better in the Museums Victoria Collection.

A Melbourne Christmas in 1956

Watching the video, I realised it was filmed in the lead up to Christmas. I’m guessing it was in mid to late November as it looks like a warm Spring day rather than summer. It may have been filmed over many days/weeks though, so I could be completely wrong!

What astounded me was the HUGE Santa at the corner of Burke and Swanston Streets.

Santa was standing on the roof at the front of Foy’s, looking west along Burke St and south along Swanston St. I was completely unaware that Melbourne ever had a huge Santa like that. To be fair, I also don’t recall the name Foy’s either!

An incredibly huge Santa standing a corner roof above a Melbourne tram

Melbourne’s huge Santa in all his glory above a tram in 1956

Note the above images are either taken out of the video to show specific elements of the video, or are taken by Love Santa.

A Melbourne Christmas in 1956!