Bert Levy Bio Note #4

Bert’s schooling ended abruptly, probably at the age of 13 or 14 around 1884 -1885. Most sons at that time would have been expected to work in their father’s business. Bert describes his first job in the Lone Hand Magazine of 1912.

Lone Hand Magazine February 1912

From a newspaper report of 1883, we know Simon Levy (Bert’s father) had established a boot factory in industrial West Melbourne. (19 Howard Street according to a West Melbourne Heritage Review. Melb City Council)

That industrial action mentioned by Bert rolled on for nearly a decade after 1883 with Mr W. Trenwith and the Boot making union campaigning to end the use of ‘sweating’ where employers hired non skilled and non-union labour at much reduced rates. The term obviously referring to ‘sweat shops’. Simon Levy’s factory may have been in the firing line early in the dispute in 1883 however, it is not mentioned again in the Melbourne press. The focus of the strike action switched to Richmond and Collingwood boot operations and either the Levy Boot making operations came into line with union demands and banned sweating or there were bigger players that needed attention.

Ballarat Courrier report

In moving from Ballarat in 1875, Simon Levy may have initially started boot making in Melbourne at 59-63 Cardigan Street, Carlton. Sands & McDougall Trade Directory lists Simon Levy, a boot maker at this address in 1880. There are a number of references in local and Jewish newspapers of the Levy children winning prizes etc and living in Carlton in the 1880s, possibly in Cardigan Street, however we do know the family later moved to a terrace house at No. 32 Story Street, Parkville.

Number 32 Story Street, Parkville (left) behind the tree. (Number 34 has the lights on) Thanks to neighbour ‘Thornie’ (@No.36) for supplying photo. Finally, in Bio note #4 a photo of Bert’s father, Simon.

Final paragraph of Bert’s piece in the Lone Hand Magazine in 1912. Bert’s father had passed away in 1904 not long after he had left for America. This was his first visit home to Australia in 8 years.

4 responses to “Bert Levy Bio Note #4”

  1. Nice lace out delivery of that article Jack.



    1. ‘lace out’ delivery – well done on using word press site, mark. You are a knob with the language and keep it up.


  2. avatar

    The Melb addresses tell you that they must have been comfortably middle class. Cardigan St was and still is at the smarter end of Carlton south and Story St at the very smartest end of Parkville. There was a substantial Jewish presence in Carlton after the split within the Bourke St. Synagogue and the Yekke went to Prahran and St Kilda and Polaks/Litvaks set up the East Melb Congregation with its own Cheder. My lot started in Greig St, Fitzroy,c. 1850, moved to Drummond St Carlton and then in 1923 to Elwood.


    1. Howard, you are a champion and I’m thinking of nominating you to be the Number One ticket holder of the Bert Levy Eccentrics Club I’m becoming more aware of just how Jewish Carlton was, the more I look into it. We live in Princes Hill and I walk past the old synagogue building on Lygon Street opposite the cemetery daily. I think now the building is occupied by some greek island diaspora. Yes, you are correct in saying the Levy’s were probably middle class. I know Story Street well and went to BBQ at friends last night overlooking the Levy backyard. Two former legal men, Graeme Thorn and Gordon Ley (now friends) live on either side of the former Levy residence. Just looked up Greig Street Fitzroy, sadly I think it may be gone… the street name that is.


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