Almost since its inception the Melbourne Bushwalkers has been involved with publishing. The walks programme was the first Club venture into print.
These small booklets were ambitious publications of several pages, designed around the centre-page spread of the walks programme. The office bearers were set out on the first page. Subsequent pages contained useful information about the functions of the Club: 'Club News and
Views', also 'Notes from the Walks Secretary'. This latter article embraced details on how to hire and care for equipment, and the necessity for leaders to fill in walks reports and carry a first-aid kit. Later editions included previews and reports of walks and some small articles helpful to the new bushwalker, for example, 'Food and Packs'. Only three of these booklets were published: spring, summer and autumn 1945-46. There is no record of who initiated their production and it has been suggested that it was the work of a Club member who had access to or an interest in a firm of printers. Before these booklets were produced walks programmes were printed out on a single sheet, first by carbon copy then by means of a spirit duplicator and finally on an old gestetner. Frank Pitt bought this machine second-hand, pulled it apart and reconditioned it. From the winter of 1946 onwards walks programmes were printed on a single folded sheet of coloured card and a magazine, edited by Ken Hewitt, was issued separately from time to time as material became available.
From these programmes and occasional printed notices developed the News of the Melbourne Bushwalkers. The News, as it is called, is a monthly bulletin. The earliest issue, No. 1, came out in August 1948. In the beginning the News was edited jointly by Nancy Morgan, Norm Richards and Egon Donath. These editors, appointed by committee, would change in the following years. The first News convenor was probably Bob Bittner, who was elected to the Subcommittee in 1956. Bob produced the copy and printed it on the old gestetner. Athol Schafer was elected to the Subcommittee in 1960, having taken over the job of convenor / editor from Rose Kinson for the last issue of 1959. Athol continued in this role until 1964. After typing the stencils Athol used to ride his pushbike from Glenhuntly to Bob Bittner's house in Chadstone to print them. For convenience the machine was moved to Glenhuntly and other members came along to help on printing night. When Athol retired, the job of News convenor seems to have changed almost annually. (In 1965 the Constitution was amended to provide for an official position of News Convenor.) The printing, however, remained a joint affair. As more lengthy news items were submitted and track notes became more frequent, the News became a major Club project with many members being involved in typing and printing. In fact the social evening of the month was the printing, collating and addressing of the News. Ten to fifteen eager members were to be seen taking turns at turning the handle of the old gestetner and walking around the table picking up pages or writing addresses on wrappers. The old gestetner was replaced by a new one and moved from Athol's house to Sue and Rex Filson's in 1969.
In 1971 it moved to Barry and Gwenda Short's house where it was to stay for the next 11 years except for six months with Ian and Marion Hill while the Shorts were away. During the period with Gwenda and Barry an electric motor replaced the handle on the old gestetner, making life a little easier for the printers. Even so, 'News night' was still very active. The gestetner's next move was to the home of Peter and Anne Bullard. Production here continued for the life of the duplicated bulletin. Computerised address labels replaced the handwritten wrappers and an offset method of printing replaced the old duplicator: 'News night' no longer existed. The Melbourne Bushwalkers still publish the News but its content has changed considerably. Its early numbers contained chatty columns of gossip about Club members, 'Sue's Snippets', a cartoon, humorous anecdotes of happenings on walks, walks reports in the section, 'Along the track', as well as poems and short contributions. The present News contains previews for proposed walks and activities, descriptions of memorable walks, reports on Committee procedures and so on.
In 1949, at the instigation of Norm Richards, Club President at the time, it was decided that the Club should have an annual magazine. The first issue appeared in October 1949 and cost £107 for 1000 copies. An Editorial Committee, comprising Norm Richards, Nancy Morgan and Frank Pitt, was set up. Their editorial explains:
The Melbourne Bushwalkers have for long cherished the ambition to possess a journal through which the Club could become articulate, but until now the exigencies of the times have precluded such a venture. Bushwalking, by its very nature, provides a wealth of experiences for its devotees and, even as our stone-age ancestors sought to record their history in ochre daubs on cave walls, so it is natural for walkers to desire to set their experiences on record.
... And so we present "Walk" to you. The future lies ahead.
The first edition was dated for the year of issue but subsequent editions were dated for the coming year. Therefore the second issue was dated 1951, which erroneously indicated that there was no issue in 1950. This second edition was edited by Norm Richards with Egon Donath and Fred Soutter also on the Editorial Subcommittee. It was obvious that the driving force behind the production of the journal was Norm Richards who remained the editor until 1961. From then on Walk magazine continued under the guidance of several editors until 1987 when sufficient contributions failed to appear and the Club subsequently deemed that the costs of producing the magazine outweighed its usefulness. At the Annual General Meeting of 1988 members discussing this decision offered many emotional speeches: 'How many new members have been brought into the Club by . . .'; 'Think of the PR that we get from ...' ; It has been produced for 38 years, surely we can . . .' However the facts of the matter were that, with escalating printing costs and the difficulty of obtaining sufficient advertising, the Club could no longer afford to publish the magazine. It was a very sad night for many who had worked so hard to keep the magazine alive.
Looking back on the journal one finds endless interesting reading, track notes, anecdotes from walks and reports of members' touring trips. Every issue presented an editorial and these reflected the mood of the editor and indicated the current issues of the times.
Walking is an enjoyable pastime. Come rain, hail or shine the enthusiasts are abroad at every opportunity that they may get their fill of its pleasures. An intangible attraction weaves a spell about them and off they go walking for its very own sake.
Why do we walk? This is a question that has been worrying most walkers ever since they first got the idea of going out of doors and spending their leisure time in such an abnormal manner.
The past six months have heard much parliamentary debate on the subject of National Parks. Ten years' activity on the part of conservation societies, walking clubs, natural history societies, ski clubs etc., and at least two stillborn parliamentary efforts, have at last culminated in a Bill actually being debated by the Victorian Parliament last April.
For many years it has been our dream to have some large tract of Alpine country reserved for use as a National Park.
Certainly the Golden Age of Bushwalking, so say the old hands, closed a good decade-and-a-half ago when the new roads cast their net over the grassy plateaux of the High Country and through the great Gippsland Forests . . . Don't let the developers, the subdividers and tourist promoters have it all their own way. Our expanding population of youth needs space to walk, even if it is in areas not so untrammelled as the old hands would like.
In recent years, much concern has been voiced over the low level of physical fitness in the community at large. It is agreed that people of all ages are not as fit as they should be; while . . .
... This leads us to ask why should there be a road over the Baw Baw Plateau ... Let the Government Departments concerned take note from the Mount Skene Road, where just two months after its opening the lookout points were carpeted with cans, glass and other rubbish expelled from cars.
The events since Walk 1971 was published are astounding and frightening. Part of the Colong Caves National Park has been lost; the Clutha Development scheme threatens to take over valuable bush and farm land irrespective of the rights of individuals; and the beautiful Lake Pedder is shortly to be submerged.
Our technological revolution has produced an accelerating use of natural resources which must be apparent by now to everyone. The bushwalker can no longer afford the luxury of insularity, one can no longer simply immerse one-self in the bush at weekends and forget the larger issues of the exploitation of the countryside.
The L.C.C. proposals for the Alpine Study Area caused over one thousand people, many of whom had never rallied in protest before, to march down Bourke Street in support of an Alpine National Park.
As well as the reflected interests of the editorials, the magazine articles contained a wealth of information on current issues. The journal also presented service information for the use of bushwalkers. The 'Track Notes', started in the second issue, were also much used by the general public who liked to get away into the bush at weekends. Some authors of the track notes, like Fred Halls (F. W. H) and Athol Schafer (A. S.), are represented in almost every issue; some like Tyrone Thomas (T.T.T.) and John Siseman (J.S.) went on to publish independent walking guides. Many Club members were coerced into writing articles for the magazine; some, like Dick Johnson and Graeme Wills-Johnson, were so successful that they have become well-known authors on natural history, national parks, and conservation issues.
'Book Reviews' evaluated bushwalking and natural history books from the bushwalking viewpoint. In the second issue the well-known 'new map issues' also appeared. This kept the public informed on maps that were useful to the walking fraternity. In actual fact there were not many maps available to the bushwalker. This led the Melbourne Bushwalkers to consider publishing its own. Stuart Brookes was the instigator. When Stuart left to join the Victorian Mountain Tramping Club he continued publishing maps under their logo. The task of producing the MBW maps was taken over by Robin Mitchell. He did not have access to dyeline printing machines, so a large contact printing frame was constructed and the prints were exposed on a bright sunny day; then the papers were rushed inside to be developed. Many maps were produced in this way. Robin was joined in the project by John Brownlie and Rex Filson and after a time they formed Algona Guides. This independent venture evolved into publishing books and field guides.
The track notes in Walk became so popular that in 1973 it was decided to gather them together in a separate booklet, Track Notes '73. This publication was edited by Geoff Greenwood and contained the updated notes for many of the popular bushwalks outlined in previous issues of Walk magazine as well as many new notes especially written for this issue. The track notes were preceded by short chapters on safety in the bush, navigation and equipment necessary for walkers.
The Melbourne Bushwalkers has published another two short booklets: The Melbourne Bushwalkers Song Book and Guide to Bushwalking. In early days singing was common on the van and around the camp fire. Some members played musical instruments but more often we sang unaccompanied. Often we would be awakened in the mornings by Felix Harding's melodies on the flute. Singing on the van was very popular. Young fresh-faced Bob Steel took great delight in leading the singing of risqué ditties with great gusto. No one really knew whether he knew the nuances. In the early sixties it was decided to produce our own song-hook. Doug Pocock organised a monthly song sheet to be included in the News, the idea being to collect them into a booklet. This was a piecemeal affair held together in a vinyl cover. These song sheets were later replaced by a more ambitious publication with a printed cover. The songs were a reflection of the times - a mixture of popular folk, scouting and tramping songs.
The Guide to Bushwalking, once given to prospective members, has gone through many editions. This small publication set out the rules to which the Club expected members to adhere when on walks, explained the Club contact system and gave the beginner advice about the equipment and food necessary on walks.
In these 50 years the Melbourne Bushwalkers has produced many records of its activities.