Friday, August 5, 2016

My Großvater sings - "a little nervousness was noticeable"

I can't sing!  I am well aware of this but since the journey of researching the grandfather I never knew, I have come to find that I have musical genes on my paternal side.

In 1886 Theodore Wilhelm Vetter arrived in Victoria from Germany, and soon settled in the area of Dumbalk.  In fact within 2 years he had signed up to lease some land.

In April 1890 a new School building was opened in Dumbalk, in fact it had been built by Theodore.  "The building which is 24x13 feet was erected by Mr. T. Vetter, and reflects credit on that gentleman by the neat manner in which the work has been executed."[i]
The opening was celebrated with a musical evening, and different members of the community got up and sang.  Well Theodore was one of them.  He, along with a Mr. Demuth, sang “In Happy moments day by day.”

In happy moments, day by day, the sands of life may pass In swift but tranquil tide away, for time's unerring glass.
Yet hopes we used as bright to deem remembrance will recall.
Whose pure and whose unfading beam is dearer than them all;
Whose pure And whose unfading beam is dearer than them all.

Tho' anxious eyes upon as gaze, and hearts with fondness beat.
Whose smile upon each feature plays with truthfulness replete.
Some thoughts none other can replace, remembrance will recall,
Which in the flight of years we trace is dearer than them all;
Which in the flight of years we trace is dearer than them all.

The reporter from the Gippsland Times noted that the duet sung by the two men was “very affectively rendered, though a little nervousness was noticeable.”

Theodore a few years later decided to leave Dumbalk, and head to Western Australia.  But he stopped in to Adelaide along the way, and during the first week of his arrival there he ventured to the “then very flash Globe Hotel, now Myers.” Here he stayed and became quite acquainted with Adelaide nightlife.  “After midnight the bars were still packed with people.  Vetter joined right up with funny tales and comic songs, and was quite a hero by 2 am.” [ii]

Nearly a 100 years later, his grandson (Me!), would also be frequenting Adelaide bars after midnight – but never singing!!!

In 1905 after spending just short of 10 years in Western Australia, Theodore came back to South Australia.  By now he was a married man with a family, and soon settled in to the Deutsch community.

He became a member of the Adelaide Liedertafel[iii] choir, and in 1908 they were celebrating their 50th anniversary.  On the 17th of September   an anniversary concert was held in the Adelaide Exhibition grounds and the programme of the event includes a photo of the choir and Theodore is proudly standing there.

Among the songs that he sang as part of the choir were “Durch den Wald” (Through the Woods), “Waldkönig” (King of the Forest) and Johann Brahms “Wiegenlied”.

Guten Abend, gute Nacht,
mit Rosen bedacht,
mit Näglein besteckt,
schlüpf unter die Deck!
Morgen früh, wenn Gott will,
wirst du wieder geweckt.

Guten Abend, gute Nacht,
von Englein bewacht,
die zeigen im Traum
die Christkindleins Baum.
Schlaf nun selig, und süß
schau im Traum's Paradies

After 1915 Theodore life changed a bit and there was not quite as much to celebrate as there was in his earlier years, but I am proud to think that I have musical DNA, even if it is with a bit of “nervousness.”

[i] Gippsland Times 30 April 1890
[ii] Sport (an Adelaide newspaper) 6 February 1931

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fired a few shots to let his neighbours know that he had a gun

By 1937 Theodore Wilhelm Vetter had been in and out of gaol a number of times, and this was having an effect on his marriage.

The electoral rolls for that year show that his wife, Mary May, was living in Wright Street, North Croydon, and that their eldest daughter, Mary Louise, was also on the electoral rolls as living there.  We can assume that their youngest daughter, Joan Margaret was also living there.

However there was no sign of Theodore on the electoral rolls, and in fact during his last time in prison Mary did not visit him, whereas previously she had always made the trip to Yatala Prison to do so.

This may well do with the fact that Mary was now suffering from myxedema, a disease resulting from under activity of the thyroid gland, and was most likely unable to make the trip. In fact Mary was to die from the disease on June 30th of this year.

In late January of 1937 Theodore was again arrested, and once more was in Hindmarsh Court explaining his way, or at least trying to explain, out of another fine or prison sentence.

Constable Shannon had arrested Theodore under the Firearms Registration Act.  He had been called to Wright Street, North Croydon, after there had been a compliant about bullets being fired through a glasshouse.  The glasshouse being next door to where Mary and her daughters lived.

On arresting Theodore the Constable had asked him if the gun was registered, and Theodore honestly answered that it was not.  Constable immediately confiscated the gun.

Constable Shannon then asked Theodore why he fired the gun at the neighbour’s glasshouse.  Theodore replied that he had just bought the weapon and had fired a few shots to let his neighbours know that he had a gun.

Once in front of magistrates Evans and Cooley at the Hindmarsh Court house, Theodore had little chance of getting his gun back, and was dually charged and fined £2, and £1 costs.

I can imagine Theodore’s annoyance at this, especially having only just purchased the gun.  But what does not make sense to me is the fact that it looks like Theodore was not living there.  So why was he firing a gun at the neighbours glasshouse.  Knowing that Theodore had a temper, I am inclined to make the assumption that he had called round to visit his wife and family, and that, perhaps, they had denied him entry.  So he decided that the only way to gain entry was to fire a gun!

Sunday, May 6, 2012


In December 1913, a Mrs. Vetter of Brown Street, Norwood, in Adelaide, advertised in the local papers for a “Domesticated Companion”.  Mrs. Vetter was the 1st wife of Theodore Wilhelm Vetter.  They had moved to Adelaide around 1906 from Fremantle in Western Australia.  Theodore by now was running a Contracting business, and had a name for himself in the local building industry as well as the local German community.  He had been President of the South Australian Allegemeiner Deutscher Verein from 1909 to 1912, covering the 25th anniversary of the Club in 1911, when he entertained the Governor of South Australian at the celebrations.

Sometime during 1914 Mary May Brice was employed by the Vetter household.  Mary had been born in Port Adelaide in 1887, and spent time working as a domestic servant in Melbourne in her very early 20s, but now was back in Adelaide looking for work.

Now lets skip forward to 1919 and the Adelaide Advertiser for the 5th of September reports the details of a divorce proceeding that was being heard in the Civil Court in Adelaide.

Albertina Vetter was petitioning for the dissolution of her marriage with Theodore Wilhelm Vetter on the grounds of adultery.  Her council was stating that Theodore had committed adultery with Mary Brice at Greenock between February and March of that year.

Mrs. Vetter stated she had three children by Theodore and they had been married in Fremantle before coming to South Australia.  She was represented by the noted South Australian lawyer Mr. Paris Nesbit.

Mr. Nesbit had hired a private detective – a Mr. Hurtle Levison Gray, who had journeyed up to Greenock, north of Adelaide.  Theodore was now the Licensee of the Greenock Arms Hotel.  On Mr. Gray’s first visit to Greenock he had not been able to see or find Theodore, but he did find Mary Brice at the hotel.  He returned again where both Theodore and Mary greeted him, and Theodore made the disclosure that he was the father to a child born to Mary.

In July of 1919, Mr. Gray returned to Greenock, taking with him Thomas Crowley (safety in numbers!!), where he intended on serving Theodore with citation papers.  It was now that Theodore provided a bit more information for Mr. Gray to take back to Mr. Nesbit.

Not only was Theodore father to one child, but two, by Mary.  Theodore was quite to the point on how this had all come about, stating that his wife, Albertina, was very difficult to live with, and that he had so much trouble with servants while living with her, that the only way he could retain them was to commit adultery with them.

Mr. Justice Buchannan dually listened to the evidence provided by Mr. Nesbit.   In fact Theodore’s council, Mr. G.H. Degenhardt, said very little, his client having said enough already.

His Honor found the charges of adultery proved, and granted Albertina her divorce, but she would have to go to the Full Court to get a decree nisi.

A lot had happened between when Albertina put the request in the newspaper in for a companion in 1913 to the divorce being granted in 1919.

Theodore’s contracting business mysteriously caught fire in January 1915, and there were rumours that he had asked a former employee to set fire to the premises.  He then place advertisements in the papers saying that he was selling everything and going farming.

By April 1915 Theodore was no longer living at the family home, and Albertina had taken him to court to get maintenance of £1 per week.  But by early November Albertina had Theodore back in court, as he had not paid any maintenance for over ten weeks.  The judge ordered the outstanding amount to be paid within one week or Theodore would be imprisoned for 1 month.

However on the 27th of November, Mary gave birth to a baby daughter at a local Nursing Home in Kent Town.  There was no father listed. The informant on the birth certificate was T.W. Vetter of 8 Brown Street, Norwood, listing himself as her Employer.  8 Brown Street was the home Theodore had shared with Albertina, and she was still listed as living there on the local electoral rolls, but not Theodore.

Theodore’s business adventures seem to be going in a downward trend, and his name was appearing many times in the local court reports, being sued by various business men in the Building Industry.

On October 22, 1916, Mary gave birth to a baby boy, again at the Nursing Home in Kent Town, and again no father listed on the certificate.  This time the informant was the matron of the Nursing Home.

By 1917 Theodore was living in at the Greenock Arms Hotel.

So the adultery by Theodore and Mary covered a much longer time than the February to March of 1919 as stated in the court proceedings, and despite Theodore’s very off the hand comment about how he “kept servants” exactly 3 months to the day after his decree nisi in March 1920 he   married Mary May Brice at the Registrar General’s Office in Flinders Street, Adelaide.

The scandal of divorce was extreme in these times, and in fact the Vetter divorce even made the papers in Perth, in Western Australia, where a local society reporter wrote the following piece.


In the divorce case Albertina Vetters v. Theodore Vetters and Mary Brice respondent admitted living with Mary, who was his servant, but said the only way to keep a servant nowadays was to commit adultery with her. A good servant couldn't' be kept without doing so.  

Oh, madam, suspicious and stern,
Oh, worrying, wowserish wife, See what a lesson you'll learn
From this chapter of everyday life,
For Years you've been blaming the man;
No plea or excuses you'd hear; so we ask you, in justice, to scan
Home-truths that hereunder appear. The lawsuit of Vetter and Brice
In highly religious South Oss
Just proves how a man pays the price When the fairy who feeds him is boss.
The case of poor Theodore V.
Might be any man's any old day, And proves, after all, 'tisn't he
That always leads women astray. Mr. V. was as pure as the snows
That fall from Antarctical skies Till womankind wafted him woes
By picking him out as a prize.
And the simplest amongst us can see - Here comes the riddle and rub! - Unless he had mashed Mary B.
He was sure not to get any grub:
Don't imagine, though he may be caught
Linking Mary Ann's lips to his own, That he ever gives Mary a thought
When at night he and you are alone. Good servants are scarce, that he knows,
And servant girls like to be loved,
And want, by their blokes and their beaux.
To be costumed and coiffured and gloved.
If you don't show the girl what she's worth
She'll learn it wherever she'll roam, And as things often happen in Perth
They may as well happen at home.
Oh, women who shadow the spouse
Who won't go to pictures and plays, Don't think it's a belle in a blouse
That's changing his wandering ways.
Though he shuns the Palladium or
Grand, Majestic, the Royal and Pav.,
Though his stay-homes you can't understand
You would, if you harbored some sav. While you laugh' at the quaint Charlie C.,
Or at Olga Petrova you sob,
He's got to nurse Kate on his knee
To keep her from jibbing her job!
It doesn't quite follow, dear ma'am,
Though you catch the old man kissing Kate,
That a writ for divorce you must slam  
And your soul from his soul separate.
There are always two sides to a scene,
And though you're a wife wide awake,
The cause of the kiss might have been
To reward her for cooking a cake. And if he proposes to hie
To Mandurah, down on the coast, it's a compliment p'r'aps to her pie,
Or her excellent tea or her toast. So, madam, if can you catch.
Your hubby at Armadale green;
Don't try your supplanter to scratch
Or make a sensational scene.
Though she's there as his wife and wears
A week-endy sort of a ring,
He's saving you cooking-range cares
By having this sort of a fling.
If she didn't get outings like this
With hubby to see she went straight There's no knowing who she might
In a 10 p.m. park tete-tete.
And when East by the Transline you
And you leave him behind all along, It's nice to know he is with one,
Who'll treat him as one of her own!

[i] Sunday Times (Perth) September 7, 1919

Friday, April 6, 2012


In the 1920s Theodore was having a run of bad luck with business deals and was constantly having income issues.  The household bills were feeling this, and his 2nd wife, Mary May Brice, constantly had to deal with how to meet the unpaid bills.

The Adelaide Electric Supply Company had a number of unpaid bills with the Vetter home in Semaphore, and decided to act in May 1927.  Wilfred Aldersey, the Electricity company’s accountant arranged for one of their collectors to go out to Semaphore and get the unpaid bill finalized and if this didn’t happen to turn the electricity off at the home’s meterbox.

On May 5th Francis Pascoe dually turned up at the Vetter home and knocked on the front door.  Mrs. Vetter answered the door, and Mr. Pascoe informed Mrs. Vetter why he was there.  Mrs. Vetter left Mr. Pascoe at the front door, leaving him with the impression that she was going to get money to clear the unpaid bill.  He started to fill out the receipt when Theodore appeared at the front door and asked Pascoe what he was doing there.

Mr. Pascoe repeated what he had already explained to Mrs. Vetter and that he was waiting for her to return with the money so he could complete the receipt. Theodore then advised Mr. Pascoe that he was going in to Adelaide the next day to do business and would pay the bill at the company’s office then. Mr. Pascoe informed Theodore that unless he was given the money then he was obliged to disconnect the electricity at the meterbox.

Theodore advised him that he had a deposit with the company as a guarantee that the electricity would not be cut off.  But Mr. Pascoe stated that he did not know of any such arrangement and needed to enter the house so that he could access the meterbox to disconnect the service.

As Mr. Pascoe went to step in the front door Theodore struck him with a blow to the side of the head, sending Mr. Pascoe back against the verandah wall.

About a month later on June 11th Mr. Pascoe again came face to face with Theodore.

This time in Port Adelaide Police Court, where Theodore was up in front of Mr. G.W. Halcombe, Stipendiary Magistrate, for assault.

Based on the information of both Mr. Pascoe and Mr. Aldersey, for the electricity company, Theodore was charged for having violently assaulted Francis J. Pascoe at Semaphore on May 5th.  Theodore pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Theodore was representing himself, and when cross-examining Mr. Pascoe, he proceeded to comment after every reply.  Starting with “Lie One” and eventually getting to “Lie Seven”, when the Magistrate’s warnings to Theodore sank in and he stopped with the acrimonious comments.  He then requested to cross-examine the Electricity Company’s counsel, Mr. A.M. Moulden, but at this the Magistrate was firm. He could not!!

Both Mr. Pascoe and Mr. Aldersey gave evidence, and it was clear that Theodore had indeed hit Mr. Pascoe, and that he had hit him so hard that Mr. Pascoe was initially deaf afterwards, and had ringing in his ear for the next 2 days.  Theodore also used abusive language towards Mr. Pascoe, telling him to “Get to ------ out of this” as Mr. Pascoe staggered on the verandah.

Theodore called his wife as a witness, and she stated that it was a lie for Mr. Pascoe to say a blow was struck.  Theodore then claimed that in fact Mr. Pascoe had pushed him as he tried to enter the house, and that Theodore had simply put him out on the verandah.

The Magistrate said that judging by the demeanor of Theodore in the Court room it was obvious he was a quick-tempered, violent man, with little control over himself, and that he did not believe the either Theodore or his wife.

He dually fined Theodore with assault and ordered him to pay a fine of £3 with an additional £3 2/ costs.

The Register – June 11, 1927 – COLLECTOR ASSAULTED
The Advertiser – June 11, 1927 – A COLLECTOR ASSAULTED