The Yodelling Milk Money Thief and Other Scoundrels

yodelling cat thief

Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), Monday 26th September 1938

In 1938, the residents of Highgate Hill were waking in trepidation, fearing that their morning delivery of milk would not be found on the front verandah.

yodelling milk thief highgate hill 1938

Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), Monday 26th September 1938

Before the introduction of milk bottles early in the 20th century, milk was delivered in bulk. Payment and a billy can for the milk were left on the verandah for the early morning delivery.

Milkmen with horse and cart Highgate Hill 1914

Highgate Hill Milk Delivery 1914 (State Library of Queensland)

After the introduction of milk bottles, empties for reuse were left out with the money. Before this, children often suffered from serious diarrhea problems caused by milk that had gone off.

milk man
A typical Australian milko    (Herald-Sun)

There’s no record of whether the yodelling thief was ever caught or for how long residents of Highgate Hill feared for their milk delivery.

Back in 1914, an earlier thief was ripping off the padlocks on coin fed gas meters to steal the accumulated shillings inside.

british Gas meter coin operated 1940s

A British coin operated gas meter from the 1940s

The shilling had the same face value as today’s 10c piece but was composed of sterling  silver.

1914 Australian shilling

A 1914 Australian Shilling

On one occasion, the audacious thief was surprised by a resident whilst breaking open her meter and he told her that there was a shortage of keys and someone would be around soon to replace the lock. He also adjusted the stove ring for her.

gas meter theif highgate hill 1914

Brisbane Courier Friday 23rd January 1914 (TROVE)

Gas was reticulated around Highgate Hill from 1886 and made a huge change to people’s lives as no longer was a fire needed to be burning in a stove all day. Also gas lighting was far safer than the open flames of lamps and candles. See a previous post, Rat Causes Fire on Highgate Hill 1887 , for an example of the dangers of old forms of lighting. Also, gas street lights made night time commuting much safer.

Coin fed gas meters were still in use much later and still being robbed.

Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), Tuesday 21 November

Brisbane Courier-Mail 21st November 1950 (TROVE)

Also in 1950, a thief tried to carry out just over 2 kilos of sirloin steak from a Highgate Hill butcher shop whilst the butcher was temporarily out. He was sentenced to 2 months of hard labour.

Sirloin theif Highgate Hill 1950

Brisbane Telegraph 31st January 1950 page 15 (TROVE)

Before the advent of supermarkets, there were many butcher shops scattered throughout the suburbs of Brisbane, with their tree stump chopping blocks and sawdust on the floor.

Claude Burton in his butcher shop in Wondai Queensland 1935

A Queensland butcher in 1935 (State Library of Queensland)

Previous posts have covered other forms of local wrongdoing such as A Highgate Hill Con Man and A Highgate Hill Counterfeiter 1934 .

When we first moved into Highgate Hill in the 1980s, we were robbed numerous times. On one occasion a thief  caused a lot of damage smashing through a barred window only to steal nothing but our Easter eggs. Things seem to be a bit quieter these days.

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