The petrol iron

The petrol iron

Visitors to the ASHG history room (Yeronga Community Centre, 62 Park Rd., Yeronga) can see a ‘petrol iron’ on display in the cabinet.

The petrol iron or gas pressure irons were manufactured as early as 1900. The types of fuel used included petrol, alcohol, methylated spirits and kerosene. The pump was used to build up pressure in the fuel tank. The petrol/kerosene iron is on loan from local resident Ros Watson who responded to a call out from ASHG.

ASHG has been engaging with residents and former residents of Villa Street, Yeronga to tell the history of the street. The petrol iron was mentioned in books written by two former residents of Villa Street.

Jessica Anderson nee Queale lived at 56 Villa Street in the 1920s and early 1930s with her parents Charles and Alice Queale. Jessica went on to become a well known Australian writer. Her collection of short stories Stories from the Warm Zone and her Miles Franklin Award winning novel Tirra Lirra by the River and Starting Too Late, Meanjiin, 2003 draw on her memories of life in Villa Street.

Ivy May Lidia Marsh (nee McDonald)lived with her family at 33 Villa Street for part of her childhood in the early part of the 20th century. She wrote a record of ‘some of her’ life for her family who have kindly agreed to her record being quoted from.

Both mention the ‘petrol iron’ in their writings. Ivy May Lydia Marsh (nee McDonald) explains why the petrol iron was seen as a great improvement by her mother and Jessica Anderson’s (nee Queale) recalls the petrol iron being seen as a risk by some.

“Saturday morning, I would help mother do the ironing with a petrol iron. This was a great improvement on the old Mother Pots irons. To get the old Mother Pots irons really hot we had to have the door shut and the stove very hot. Petrol irons were irons with a tank on the back which was filled with petrol. We would light a flame between the tank and the sole plate. The iron would get hot but we would not be sweltering in a hot room with the fire going Autobiography of Ivy May Lydia Marsh (nee McDonald)

One of our (neighbours) coming to the house one day and seeing me ironing my school uniform with a petrol iron, gave a little shriek. ‘Alice, aren’t you afraid to let her use that thing? She could blow herself up.’ Why should she do that’ humorously enquired my mother. ‘She is not stupid. She has been taught how to use it….’Jessica Anderson, Starting too Late, Meanjin, 2003

Photos below: 56 Villa Street, Yeronga and 33 Villa Street, Yeronga