stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past
There’s a popular park adjacent to the boundary of Parkes Early Childhood Centre (PECC) where many children play. It is located on Armstrong Street, not far from the CBD of Parkes. This park is called AE Fox Park, and it is named after Alfred Edward John Fox who was the Town Clerk for Parkes Municipal Council for 42½ years! His incredible time working for Parkes Municipal Council began in 1916 and he resigned in 1959. His dedicated service saw Fox awarded the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1959 New Years Honours list. As Town Clerk he worked alongside fourteen mayors starting with Andrew Stewart and finishing with Arnold Cecil Moon.
Born in Warren in 1891, Alfred Edward John Fox was the son of a butcher. Local historian and author, Ron Tindall, records that the early years of AE Fox were not without drama:
[Alfred’s father’s butcher] business went bankrupt during the 1902 drought and after his wife died Fox Senior sent his three children to live with their grandmother in Gilgandra. It is understood Alfred attended Warren Convent School and possibly Coonamble School. His father went to Cobar to the copper mines and stayed at the Great Western Hotel*, run by Tom Clark and his two sisters. Fox Senior married Rose Clark and they had one daughter who was less than two years of age when Fox Senior was burnt to death in one of the mines.
Tindall, R. (1983) page 41
* According to The Cobar Herald it was the Great Railway Hotel that Tom Clarke (not Clark) received Source: BREVITIES (1905, March 25). The Cobar Herald (NSW : 1899 – 1914), p. 5. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103832182
It was during his time as Town Clerk in Parkes that many saw his integrity, humility and vision for the district. No one questioned his intellect – Fox had topped the state when he sat his Local Government exams! Fox was dedicated and hardworking, as evidenced by all the activities and organisations he participated in. Fox volunteered to enlist in the First World War but was rejected. Instead Fox threw himself into the local patriotic and repatriation committees present in Parkes, becoming the Honorary Secretary until the duties became some onerous that the secretary became a paid position. The Second World War saw Fox becoming the liaison officer between Parkes and the RAAF and Army. When Alfred Fox was the first person in Parkes to be awarded an OBE, the local newspaper highlighted his commitment to the community:
Mr Fox was a foundation member of Parkes Swimming Club, a member of Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce and is currently a member of the Child Welfare Advisory Committee, the Technical Education Advisory Committee, Town and District Band Board, President of the Jockey Club, foundation member and member of Parkes National Fitness Association and a committeeman of the organisation responsible for financing construction of the Soldiers’ Memorial, foundation member Parkes Ambulance Board….He was honorary organiser of Parkes’ Golden, Diamond and 75th Anniversary celebrations.
Parkes Champion Post Monday January 5, 1959 page 1
In recognition of all he had achieved for Parkes and district, in 1959 Parkes Municipal Council unanimously agreed that the Community Centre and central playgrounds bear his name as tribute – thus how AE Fox Park received its name!
During his time as Town Clerk, Alfred Fox played crucial roles in many of the amenities and infrastructure that modern Parkes enjoys today. Fox’s negotiation skills were primarily responsible for the grant which delivered the majority of funds to build Lake Endeavour Dam. Along with Mayor Spicer, Fox negotiated successfully for the establishment of an air navigation training base in Parkes during the Second World War. The benefits of the training school were twofold – the economy was boosted at a time when many country towns suffered or disappeared; and postwar when air transport became an industrial boon, Parkes had received a ready-made airport during the war (as Tindall illustrates, prior to air training school Parkes airport was just a paddock). Proving that he possessed the cunning of his namesake animal, Alfred also negotiated for the site of the Australian National Radio Astronomy Observatory – which today locals and visitors know as “The Dish”. Without Alfred Fox, it could be argued that Parkes would lack its swimming pool, airport, Lake Endeavour Dam and The Dish.
Yet despite his hardworking and persuasive powers, Fox was also a humble man who was passionate about his community. The original proposal for the naming of Parkes’ new dam was Lake Fox – honouring the efforts of the Town Clerk in securing the majority of the funding for the venture. However Fox declined this, instead suggesting that Endeavour was a more suitable name. While possessing humility, Fox also had a sense of humour. Historian Yvonne Hutton writing in Parkes Champion Post includes the following story:
There was even a bet between one of the local doctors and the town clerk, Mr Alfred Fox, who was game enough to drink a glass of water out of the pool, it was supposed to be so clean.
Parkes Champion Post Wednesday, December 14, 2005 page 2
Tindall records that young Alfred dreamt of being on stage. Without his grandmother or father’s knowledge, Fox successfully auditioned with a travelling concert troupe who were impressed with his multiple instrumental skills and good voice. Unfortunately for Alfred, the first performance would be in Cobar – home town of his father. Tindall states that Ambrose Fox was astonished to see his son as one of the star performers, and after the show sought out the manager of the performing troupe. Young Alfred’s career took a different path – much to the benefit of past, present and future Parkes Shire residents! (Tindall, 1983 page 41)
1891 – Born at Warren* to Ambrose Fox and Ellen Cook
1894 – Alfred’s brother, Albert E L Fox, is born in Coonamble. Alfred already had an older sister, Elsie Isabelle, who was born in 1890 in Minmore, New South Wales.
1899 – Alfred’s mother, Ellen, passes away in Coonamble. She was 29 years old
1906 – Alfred’s father, marries Rose Clarke
1908 – Fox commences work as a junior clerk in Dubbo
1909 – Alfred’s father, Ambrose Fox, died as a result of an explosion in a copper mine at Cobar on 28th October. It was ruled as an accidental death
1916 – Alfred starts work at Parkes Municipal Council as town clerk. Mayor at the time was Andrew Stewart. His first day of work was September 4th
1916 – Alfred marries May Rose Cauvarel, daughter of Mr and Mrs A Cauvarel, of the Royal Hotel, Dubbo, at Sydney on Tuesday November 7th
1917 – Owen J Howard becomes Mayor
1918 – Albert Godfrey Forbes Bollinger becomes Mayor
1920 – Donald Geddes elected Mayor
1921 – Charles Thomas Woodward becomes Mayor
1921 – Alderman Woodward, Mayor, dies on September 13. As Town Clerk, Fox had to organise a special meeting to elect a new town mayor. Edmund Cancross Best was elected unanimously.
1925 – Tom Howard becomes Mayor
1926 – Frank William Spicer elected for the first of his 12 terms as Mayor
1929 – Theophilus William John Keast becomes Mayor
1930 – Donald Geddes becomes Mayor. This is his third time as Mayor – he previously served in 1911 and 1920
1931 – Frank Spicer becomes Mayor again, serving until 1939
1940 – Keith G Mazoudier becomes Mayor
1942 – Wallace Leo Clarke becomes Mayor
1947 – Leslie Loftus Miller becomes Mayor
1949 – Charles Joshua Barber becomes Mayor
1952 – Kenneth Ivo Payne becomes Mayor
1953 – The last Mayor that Alfred Fox would work with was Arnold Cecil Moon who was Parkes’ longest serving Mayor when he finished in 1965
1959 – Alfred Fox is awarded the Officer of Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List
1959 – Fox retires from his position as Town Clerk. He served the district for 42½ years
1977 – Alfred Fox passes away on January 5th. He was 86 years old and at the time of his passing a resident of Bellevue Hill, in Sydney. Fox was buried in the Catholic portion of Rookwood Cemetery
*[NOTE: There is an entry on Ancestry.com which has the year of birth as 1892 and the place as Peak Hill. In addition the Australian Cemetery Index website (www.austcemindex.com) records Fox’s age at his death as 84. This means that he could have been born in 1893]
Parkes Shire Library would like to thank the following people and organisations for their assistance in making this post possible:
If you have stories or memories that you are willing to share about Alfred Fox and/or AE Fox Park please contact Parkes Shire Library via email@example.com so that they can be shared and kept for posterity on this blog. Alternatively you may leave comments on this page.