Sunday, 30 March 2014

Let’s talk of ocarinas and other things

The Fleiner family of Coburg: another story demonstrating the interconnectedness of things.

While I was researching the Coburg Art Festivals of the 1940s, I came across a reference to a James Fleiner who played an ocarina solo in the Coburg Branch of National Theatre Movement’s production of ‘Variety Steps Out’ in 1948.
Curious, I looked a little further and found that Jim Fleiner had a hairdresser’s shop at 579 Sydney Road, Coburg. He used to make films and show the films in his shop. He also ‘played the tin whistle for his young customers.’ (Broome, Coburg between two creeks, p.306)

Image of Jim Fleiner’s hairdresser’s shop in about 1938. 
Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Arthur Whitbread and James Fleiner (on right) at corner of Waterfield and Bell St Coburg, 1923. 
Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Jim’s brothers Fred and Leslie served in the 1st AIF.

5096 Private Frederick Thomas Fleiner, 14th Infantry Battalion.

Frederick (Freddie) Fleiner, a labourer, enlisted on 21 January 1916 aged 18. He had been born in Albury, NSW in 1895 but his parents Phillip and Mary moved to 12 Linda Street, Coburg where they lived from at least 1909 until the death of his father in 1916 while he and his brother were on active service. Frederick attended Moreland State School and his name is found in several Coburg typed lists of names connected with the Coburg Roll of Honour, although his name is not listed there. He died in 1982 at Heidelberg.

669 Private Leslie Fleiner, 31st Infantry Battalion.

Leslie Fleiner, a bookmaker’s clerk, enlisted  on 12 July 1915 aged 21 years 10 months. Like his younger brother Freddie, he had been born in Albury, NSW but was educated at Moreland State School while the family was living in Linda Street, Coburg.  On his return to Australia in June 1918 with a severe shell wound to his forearm, he lived with his widowed mother for a time at 115 Bell Street, Coburg.

And, as is the way in all research, the Fleiner family were connected with another World War One soldier from the area. Jim Fleiner, our ocarina playing hairdresser, married Louisa Johnston, sister of Donald (Don) William Johnston who served in A Company, 7th Battalion and left with the first contingent. Don was killed in action on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 8 May 1915.

Don was the son of Andrew Johnston of the Thistle Cyle Shop (and later the Coburg Motor Garage) at 288-290 Sydney Road, Coburg where he built his own ‘Thistle’ brand bicycles. A stalwart of the Coburg Cycling Club, Andrew Johnston ‘fostered cycling in Coburg, trained various elite cyclists and was president of the club for the 15 years to 1920,’ according to descendant Barb Wilcock. Donald was a member of the Coburg Cycling Club and would have participated in many of the cycling and social activities sponsored by the club.

Thistle Cycle Club Outing to Campbellfield, c.1903.
Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.


  1. This is fantastic! Jim happens to be my paternal great grandfather.
    I grew up hearing stories of the life in coburg, From my grandmother Essie fleiner.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Jillian. I don't suppose you've ever heard any stories about the Johnston family? ie Louisa Fleiner's famly. I've been trying to find out more about Andrew Johnston, her father, and Don Johnston, her brother who died in WW1.