The Callister family made some interesting contributions to Ballarat and through their connections with the School of Mines. Cyril Percy Callister was born at Chute on 16 February 1893, the son of a schoolteacher and postmaster. His older brother Reginald Clive Callister, the eldest of the ten children, was born in 1889. They were both students of the School of Mines Ballarat.
Cyril, a chemist by training, became a food technologist and the inventor of the well-known brand Vegemite, perhaps one of most famous trademarks in Australia. Cyril Percy Callister discovered vegemite around 1922. The Fred Walker Company, a Melbourne based manufacturer later known as Kraft, hired him as a laboratory assistant to develop the yeast extract spread. It took some years but by 1954 the special Vegemite song ‘We’re Happy Little Vegemites’ demonstrated the popularity of the spread. Callister was also known for packing cheese in a can to preserve it and for developing Kraft processed cheese, ‘Kraft Cheddar’.
Reginald Clive Callister, his older brother, investigated the possibility of establishing a pottery industry around Ballarat using local clays. In 1919 Reginald was appointed as Investigator by the Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry. The Council of SMB announced this on 27 June 1919 He was attached to SMB to carry out these duties. Ballarat, especially the Lal Lal locality was thought to be rich in clay deposits.
Cyril attended the School of Mines, Ballarat (SMB) around 1910. He then went to Melbourne University where he obtained his B.Sc. in 1914, M.Sc. in 1917 and D.Sc. in 1931. With Sir David Rivett in 1931 he secured the royal charter for the Royal Australian Chemical Institute becoming president of the Society of Chemical Industry of Victoria in 1935-36. Reginald Clive attended the School of Mines Ballarat (SMB) in 1909, studying geometry, algebra, and land surveying. He became an Associate of the SMB in 1911 in Metallurgy. He served in World War I and afterwards returned to Ballarat to take up an appointment with SMB.
The Ballarat Star of 1919 reported that
… Ballarat has yet to learn in the fullest and completest sense the immense value of the School of Mines and [its] Technical Art School to the community and the great benefits that would accrue to all if the advice and guidance of the expert and experienced principals and staffs of the Schools were more frequently consulted and availed of in connection with various municipal, commercial and industrial enterprises. The present movement … to extend the pottery industry in Victoria is almost entirely the outcome of the preliminary investigations of the Principal of the Ballarat School of Mines … some excellent samples of white earthenware have been produced, realizing the immense possibilities for Australia generally, and Ballarat in particular.
After investigating the property of local clays and the production of white earthenware and porcelain, Reginald was transferred to Melbourne around 1923 and died in Sydney on 21 September 1971. Cyril died on 5 October 1949. How interesting that little is known about this ‘hidden’ history and these interesting and famous sons of Ballarat.