Posted by Linda O'Brien on Oct 03, 2020
It was an event eagerly looked forward to by both my father and myself, even my mother looked forward to it not that she went but it meant time to herself while we were out of the house. My father went as a boy with his brother and I went every year  with my father until we shifted from Albert Park to Elwood in the mid 60’s.... The Old Buffers Carnival.... It seemed to be very much a local event, while one was there to visit the events and side shows we did spend as much time chatting and catching up with people.
I recall buying numerous tickets for the Spinning Wheel and one year my father one a leg of ham which caused great excitement (on reflection I wonder why we were so excited as he was a butcher and ham was not a novelty in the household) One year Dad had purchased  tickets to see Chief Little Wolf  ( see details below) and handful of people were gathered in the tent for the event when it was announced the show was cancelled, but they didn’t want to refund the money to the patrons what an uproar, the patrons won out in the end.
Old Buffers
 The Old Buffers carnival began as a result of a unifying Victorian passion for football. A group of people in Alf Week’s barbershop (formerly situated at 99 Canterbury Road) was discussing the chances of the South Melbourne football team, the ‘Southerners’ or ‘Bloods’ as they were known, winning the premiership flag. The debate became heated and the decided outcome was a football match between Middle Park locals – those from the north of Armstrong Street against those from the south. The losing side was to provide entertainment and dinner for the winning side that night at the Middle Park Hotel. The match took place on Monday 3 June 1907, a public holiday. Combined, the teams called themselves the ‘Old Buffers’. North played in blue and south played in red. The red team was victorious that first year, and during the victory dinner that night a collection was taken up and donations passed on to the Royal Children’s Hospital. And so began a tradition that lasted for the next 73 years. Each year on the King’s/Queen’s birthday holiday, the Old Buffers charity match would take place. Players had to be over 35 years of age and the match, described in The Argus as ‘an amazing burlesque’, was a mixture of rugby and Australian football. Players slithered and fell all over the field and their grotesque efforts to run with the ball, missing it more frequently than they kicked it, caused roars of laughter. The ethics of football were entirely disregarded.1 A charity fund was established and over the years thousands of pounds were raised for local hospitals and institutions. By 1913, the game had taken on a carnival atmosphere with players dressing in fancy dress and sideshows, foot races and wood-chopping competitions adding to the atmosphere. The people of Middle Park embraced the event and took part in costume, parading along Armstrong Street with decorated bicycles, horses and prams. The day grew bigger and bigger and included equestrian events, motorcycle competitions, athletics, model aerobatics, band recitals and carnival rides. Pat Cashmore remembers spending time with her grandparents, who lived on Armstrong Street, during the carnival. ‘How we used to look forward to it’, she recalls: … we had a wonderful vantage point from which to watch the procession. It started at the Baths and went down Armstrong Street to the reserve off Canterbury Road under the viaduct. The local people and organisations dressed up, marched in the procession, then ran the stalls and spinning wheels at the Carnival. What excitement for post-war children! The last Old Buffers carnival took place in 1981. The spirit of the carnival, however, had long since faded and the turnout was disappointing. The South Melbourne Lions Club tried hard to resurrect the carnival but without the support and enthusiasm of the local community, it failed. (Source Port Philip HeritageCentre)
 
Old Buffers – Melbourne

The Old Buffers Carnival began in 1907 and ran until 1981.

Originally organised at Alf Weeks Barber Shop at 99 Canturbury Road Middle Park. The first game arose as a dispute over the merits of the South Melbourne Team when a team from the north of Armstrong street (eventually the Blues), took on the South of Armstrong Street (to become the reds). The losing team ...the North... had to shout dinner for the winners. At the dinner a charity fund was begun for the Royal Children's Hospital. The combined teams called themselves the 'old Buffers'. The 'old' part was certainly a feature as the 1912 Argus report noted that no player under the age of 35 was allowed to take part.
 
Linda O'Brien
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