The tale of the naming of Derrimut starts in 1837, when a large selection was first claimed on the area by Thomas J. Professorson, a dairy farmer originally from Colorado. He spent some years assembling the best herd of cattle he could, paying top dollar for the bulls he wanted for his breeding program. And he succeeded. As early as 1843, the Professorson Dairy was well-established in its area, and becoming a name across the growing metropolis.
With each new technological advance, Professorson and his son, Harold, extended the reach of their deliveries or improved the efficiency of their farming. It was supplying money to the goldfields around Ballarat that really took them to the top, though. Prices there were triple or more what they were in Melbourne, and at the height of the gold rush, the Professorson Dairy boasted its own private railway station, from which three services a day would carry milk (and related dairy products) across the state of Victoria.
The turn of the century saw Peter Professorson, the fourth generation of Professorsons, take the reins. Having weathered the depression of the 1890s, Peter was determined to entrench his brand’s primacy before competitors (several of whom he had bought out at fire sale prices over the previous decade) could arise once more to threaten it. He turned to the nascent practice of advertising. Modern advertising as we know it was in its infancy at the time, but one thing that was already understood was the idea of mascots.
Professorson considered having a cow as a mascot, but he felt that the association of the animal with docility and stupidity in the public’s mind was not one he wanted to encourage, and besides, one of the other dairies was already using a cow mascot (“Mooby the Golden Calf”, later sold to a US conglomerate). So he chose a dog, inspired by the blue heelers his employees used in rounding up his cattle. The mascot of the Professorson Dairy was first introduced in a 1903 newspaper ad campaign, a fairly realistic hand drawn blue heeler named The Dairy Mutt.
It was not amazingly popular until the outbreak of World War One, a time at which, while many of the men were away, more children looked at newspapers. After that, it became a part of Australian folklore, although the breed of Dairy Mutt (the “The” didn’t last long – it was too formal) changed over the years. One highly successful advertising campaign run between 1976 and 1980 featured a Dairy Mutt who was obviously a dingo, with a series of flavoured milks marketed under the group name Dingo Drinks with a series of ads featuring mischievous infants drinking this milk in preference to baby bottles or (in one particularly risque commercial starring Delvene Delaney) breast milk – a line that had to be abandoned after its tagline “the baby’s got my Dingo” became embarrassing.
The cancellation of the Dingo Drinks line was, in retrospect, the beginning of the end for Professorson Dairy (now known as Dairy Mutt Dairy Products after a renaming in 1970). After that, the brand fell into disrepute and unpopularity. In 1990, the last of the Professorsons sold up his interest in the company and moved back to Colorado, where he fathered at least one illegitimate child. The last Dairy Mutt milk deliveries were made on September 27, 1983 – after which the remaining few employees walked off the job. Today, only a distorted echo of the Dairy Mutt name survives in the area.
Suburbs near Derrimut: