These thin, plastic discs were recovered from a yard context in Lot 61 during the 2016 excavation of the old CUB complex, near the corner of Swanston and Queensberry streets, Melbourne. The above image shows record CUB2 11317 (scale in cm).
Tentatively interpreted as being promotional material (possibly badge blanks, based on size and shape), they read “MISS AUSTRALIAN AIR LEAGUE 1950” and include the Air League emblem of a winged shield. Small oxidized holes are present on all examples and may indicate they were held together by a pin or similar.
Originally named the ‘Air Mindedness Development League’, the Australian Air League (hereafter the ‘League’) was established in 1934 to promote “an interest in aviation both as a career or as a hobby in the youth of Australia”, and “to provide opportunities to develop good citizenship, teamwork and to develop ingenuity and resourcefulness of members” (https://www.airleague.com.au/about/history).
In September 1950, the League sponsored Miss Patricia Sheales, a 20 year old hair salon receptionist (Age, 12 Sep 1950, p. 1), as a contestant in the Miss Victoria quest (Age, 11 Sep 1950, p. 5). These blanks embody the hope that Patricia would go through to the national competition. Patricia then made a number of public appearances, including the League’s annual parade (Age, 2 Oct 1950, p. 4), the Caulfield races (Age, 23 Oct 1950, p. 8), and a ball (Argus, 2 Dec 1950, p. 8), as well as appearing in several promotional pieces of editorial, such as the image below of several Miss Victoria entrants (Advocate, 16 Dec 1950, p. 3).
Pat Sheales (back row, centre) and other Miss Victoria contestants (Advocate, 16 Dec 1950, p. 3)
Unfortunately, Patricia didn’t win the Victorian competition. However, no Miss Australia was crowned at all in 1950 (Age, 24 Feb 1951, p. 3), due to a dispute regarding the chaperone assigned to the previous year’s winner for her international tour (West Australian, 15 Apr 1950, p. 10). Formerly Miss NSW, the NSW branch of the competition backed the decision, and withheld finances unless another chaperone was appointed – the result being the cancellation of said tour outright, and the discontinuation of the competition until 1953.
These blanks were chosen for the light they shed on the youth organisations and popular culture of mid twentieth-century Australia, as well as for the questions they ask about the site. How was the League, the Miss Australia competition, or Patricia Sheales related to Lot 61? If these blanks were promotional items, they were not needed after the Miss Victoria competition in December 1950, and their yard location could suggest they were simply thrown away, and may not have any further relation to the site. Analysis is ongoing, and will hopefully help to answer some of these questions.
Felicity Buckingham, along with Zvonka Stanin, is currently analysing artefacts from the latest CUB dig for Alpha Archaeology, and can be contacted at [email protected]