Of all the suburbs of Melbourne, Officer may be the only one to be named for a job title. It was originally settled in the 1870s as a way station along the way between Dandenong and Pakenham, a place to fell timber for use building those two towns. Its name may originally derive from the title that the head of the tree-felling operation, former British Army Captain and Crimean War Veteran Montague Simmons, was known by: to his men, he was simply the Officer, and he ruled with a will of iron (or, considering his profession, of ironbark).
Simmons left the area in 1882, and was reported killed a duel with a person or persons unknown on the streets of Balaclava later that year, and the town fathers of Officer moved swidtly to disociate their town’s named from him. Instead, it was now claimed, the name derived from the area’s post office, claimed to be one of the earliest in the region. In fact, the area had no post office until the 1920s – the post office claimed to be Officer’s was in fact that of Beaconsfield. When this claim was exposed as false (i.e. within about a fortnight of it being made), the story shifted again: now it referred to a surveyor’s office. This was slightly more plausible, especially as quarrying had by now replaced tree cutting as the area’s major industry. However, when this story too was exposed, the story shifted yet again.
This would become a pattern in the history of the town: never able to take pride in its actual history, it would shift about, looking for a more interesting explanation of its origins. On average, there has been a new story approximately every twenty years since Officer was founded (although curiously, there has never been any arguement about the name itself, nor about its spelling). In the late 1950s, there was a brief local controversy when the locality tried to claim that it was named for early settlers named Officer – which was, as usual, quickly exposed as wishful thinking also. The only people named Officer living anywhere nearby lived in Harkaway, and were a pair of co-habiting confirmed bachelors named Warren and Clyde, who had changed their surnames to Officer by deed poll two years earlier, and who did not at all appreciate the attention this kerfuffle focused on them.
Most recently, in the 1980s, when the management fad du jour was decentralisation, Officer tried to reinvent itself as a secondary business district, now claiming that the name referred to the many offices constructed by hopeful developers. Much like the similarly over-optimistic new office buildings in the city centre, many of these were later converted for residential use or demolished entirely.
Suburbs near Officer: