Oak Park

The saga of the Hollister family – once one of the largest landowners in the Melbourne area, but who slowly saw their lands and fortune whittled away by ill luck – is a sad one, but it is distinguished, for the most part by the dignity and stoicism with which the Hollisters bore their lot. There was, however, one unfortunate exception to this: the tale of how Oak Park got its name.

At one point, the eastern slopes of the Moonee Ponds Creek were a highly sought after farmland. They were sheltered but well-watered, and the soil was rich and fertile. But in the 1920’s, when the government approved the construction of the Essendon Aerodrome, just across the river from what would later be called Oak Park, Glen Hollister was furious. He believed that the increased noise and pollution caused by the airport being so near would cause his land to drop in value, and that he would only be able to sell it at a loss. No one, he reasoned, would want good agricultural land if were tainted with oils and other pollutants. (Selling the land for residential or other construction use seems not to have occurred to him.) But when the government, mindful of his concerns, offered to buy the land off him at full market value, Hollister saw a way to take revenge.

He agreed to the sale, but offered to drop the price substantially if the government would agree to give him a ten year lease on the land – Hollister persuaded them that he needed that time to find alternate pasturage for his animals, especially his dairy cows, whom he claimed were very sensitive, and likely to stop giving milk if moved away from their familiar fields. The government agreed to this plan, and Hollister signed over the sale.

He then spent the next tne years sowing the lands covered by the lease with acorns, and carefully nurturing the oak trees that resulted. None were allowed to be cut down for any reason other than to prevent diseased trees from infecting others. And Hollister made sure to use varieties that gave the maximum number of acorns, which were allowed to fall on the ground and stay where they lay.

At the end of the decade-long lease, Hollister quit the field and the government took possession – to find that the area now known as Oak Park was so thoroughly covered by oak trees and acorns that it would be far too dangerous to keep any livestock there, acorns being poisonous to many species. Hollister had beaten them, although at a cost – had he simply taken the sale in 1921, and not spent so much time and money on the area, he would have been substantially wealthier in 1931. Indulging his bitterness had only given him more things to be bitter about, a lesson that Hollister took to heart – not that it would save him.

Suburbs near Oak Park.