Saturday, 4 August 2018

A 34-year-old joke is just that

For most of my life (my later school years excepted) I have always joked about “Fighting Hill” for the actual suburb of Box Hill, assuming the name “Box Hill” comes from the sport of boxing which I was learning about from the old Rules of the Game as a seven-year-old boy circa 1984. At this time I first read Melway and discovered “Box Hill” as one of the more conspicuous suburbs in that street directory. I probably was not thinking for a second about the logical origin of “Box Hill” when I started assuming it was named after boxing, although both in 1984 and now I knew there were no boxing rings in Box Hill.

My parents always said “Box Hill” had nothing to do with boxing, just as “Richmond” – which I jokingly called “Moneymond” and found really illogical given it was then and traditionally a poor area – had nothing to do with people there being rich. These jokes disappeared after a while, but recurred to me when I watched the 5:00 [from Melbourne Central] Mooroolbark train and others go express from Richmond to Box Hill, as I described in an earlier post here, although my mother consistently says this is anti-social and in calmer moods I agree it is not “done” to gesticulate by punching.

A few years ago when watching a documentary about a bout between late boxers MuḼammad Ali and Joe Frazier, my mother said that boxing should be banned because it causes brain damage as observed with Ali himself. I then joked that if boxing were banned “Box Hill” would need to be renamed to “Whitehorse”, although knowing the joke as utterly silly.

However, a survey done by the Herald Sun during the summer of 2013/2014 compiled the etymology of almost all place names in and around the Melbourne metropolitan area. For Box Hill it said:
  • Box Hill
  • This name was selected at a meeting of residents in 1861. “Box Hill” was chosen because of the large number of yellow box [Eucalyptus melliodora] trees growing among local forest.
There is nothing whatsoever to do with boxing in that! Nor is there anything to do with a box-shaped hill, as some people including my brother have at times imagined and which when in a calm mood makes more sense to me than being named for the sport of boxing.

This fact – a confirmation of what was already obvious to me whenever in a serious mood – still does not stop me from thinking of funny stories whereby Box Hill was named for the sport of boxing, and having it renamed “Whitehorse” if and when boxing were banned. Sometimes titillating humour really overshadows sense!