Jean Carboon (nee Wittick) – Community Interviews 2020

Jean Carboon (nee Wittick) taken in January 2020 - born in Bacchus Marsh in 1935, remembering Bacchus Marsh in WWII and the Darley Military Camp.

Jean Carboon (nee Wittick) born in Bacchus Marsh in 1935, reviewing her autograph book from the 1940s, remembering Bacchus Marsh in WWII and the Darley Military Camp.

Taken in January 2020.

Courtesy of Jean Carboon’s Personal Collection.

Jean was only five years of age in 1940 when the Darley Military Camp was established.   The family lived at 72 Gisborne Road and she had just started school at State School No. 28 in Lerderderg Street.

Supplies are short 

She recalls her father meeting an American soldier Bill McKercher at Eddie Toole’s petrol station. Her father invited Bill home for a meal and they became good friends.

“Bill would often come to our place for a meal when he was off duty”.

Jean Carboon

The family must have made a big impression with Bill, because at the end of the war they received a box full of soap from his mother. She believed that Australians were short of soap. Jean and her sister Vera just loved the floating soap called Swan Soap.

1940-50s Swan Soap packaging manufactured by Lever Brothers Company USA.

Swan soap was introduced by the Lever Brothers Company in 1941. It was advertised as a soap that could be used in the kitchen as a hand soap or in the bathroom to bathe the baby.

Lever Brothers used the Swan brand name to sponsor several radio programs during the 1940s.

Swan Soap is no longer marketed.

Courtesy of Wikipedia and Etsy Sales.

A typical Swan Soap full-page colour magazine advertisement from the 1940s.

“Heavenly suds for everything – cause this baby-gentle floating soap is a sudsin’ honey”!

Image curtesy of private eBay sale.

Essential Services

Dad worked at the Darley Brick Company, where his father was the manager”.  

Jean Carboon

The Darley Firebrick Company was classified as an ‘essential service’ during World war II. The manufacture of the fire brick retorts assisted in the vitally important production of ammunition.   To maintain production on the home front, women replaced men at the at the Darley Firebrick Company.

Her father could not enlist as he worked in an ‘essential service’. He didn’t like going to church. He felt that the congregation would have looked unkindly on men who hadn’t signed up.

Throughout the war there was a shortage of petrol and work trucks operated on gas producers fired with coke.  The coke collected from Stawell, facilitated the firing of the bricks. The overnight trip to collect coke was a family affair, even Sailor the dog came along for the ride.

Jean remembers the petrol shortages and the impact it had on everyone in Bacchus Marsh. Petrol-powered vehicles travelling around the town mostly belonged to the Military at the Camp and the locals rode bikes.

Soldiers come to town

Photo of Jean Carboon (nee Wittick) in her swimming outfit, taking tea in the front garden of her family home at 72 Gisborne Road in 1940.    The fence in the background is where she used to stand and wave to soldiers with her autograph book. 

Gisborne Road is in the background behind the front yard fence.   

There were no houses opposite the home just open paddocks.   Houses were built after the war using building materials from the Darley Military Camp when it was demolished.

Courtesy of Jean Carboon’s Private Collection.

Jean remembers standing at the front fence waving and calling to the men in uniform marching past along Gisborne Road. She asked the US soldiers for their autographs as they walked by the family home. Soldiers who signed her book were from all over America:   Virginia, St. Louis, New York, Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, Ohio, Denver Colorado and Chicago. Many of the soldier’s left little messages in her book as well.

 “To little Jean. Good luck from an American soldier. We’re hoping to be home by Christmas. It’s a swell place. I love it here and united we stand”.

Myron Kaypner
Myron Thomas Kapner's U.S. Army WWII draft card.

Image of Myron Thomas Kapner’s U.S. Army WWII draft card.

It was identified from a signature in an autograph book owned by Jean Carboon (nee Wittick). He signed it when he was stationed at the Darley Military Camp, Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia.

Courtesy of

“Oliver L. Jenkins from Wheeling, USA wrote: July 13th 1942 is when I would like the war to stop“. “That was the day of my 7th birthday”.

Jean Carboon

World War II Ends 1945

Jean recalls being chosen to ring the school bell, the day the war ended. The bell was in the big Gum tree near the school’s entrance.  

I sang out the war is over, the war is over! The teachers told us we could all go home for the day”.

Jean Carboon

Learn more about Jean’s war time experiences. Find out how the war impacted on the manufacturer of Fire Bricks, operation of work vehicles and the number of American soldiers who signed her autograph book. Check out our Facebook page now.