When we first came to Australia in 1954 my father came on ahead (all this was by sea of course) to find us a house. he had been appointed to a job at a school in South Yarra. My mother said just make sure the house is on a bus route for the girls to get to a school. We were then aged 3 and 6. We had grown up first in Cambridge, then in Winchester, both famous old English cities. I had gone to a very ‘precious’ little school and had such an exaggerated ‘plum in the mouth’ English accent that even my parents’ were a bit embarrassed about it!
Dad found a house on the corner of Punt Rd and Greville St, Prahran. He didn’t know it was a pretty rough area in those days. Quite a contrast to where we had come from. It turned out that there was a brothel-cum-sly-grog-shop right next door to us on Punt Rd. There was a little park behind where my sister and I were allowed to play but most of the other kids’ fathers were in gaol! They used to play with pen-knives, they got belted with straps and hairbrushes. It was a world away from our genteel experiences. But we had a lot of fun, albeit worrying for my mother. When Dad was away, as he often was, we would sometimes wake to find sleeping drunks on our front lawn or a brick through the window when someone unhappy at his treatment at the brothel next door had hurled a rock in anger.
There were other softer aspects though. Two doors down in Punt Rd lived the Pepperells, mother and daughter (both seemed old to me then), who were prize cake exhibitors at the Royal Melbourne Shows. They were so kind and generous to us. And their cakes, slices and cake decorations were fabulous. Across the road down Mowbray St was the Blind Institute so there were often low vision people making their way with white sticks from Prahran Station down Greville St to cross Punt Rd at that very dangerous spot. Wesley College was also located at that intersection so school kids had to cross as well. My mother used to write letters to the Council about its dangers. It did have a red illuminated sign saying ‘DANGER’ suspended across the intersection which ironically fell down one night! But eventually Mum succeeded in getting the Council to instal lights there – so people should be grateful to her. Sadly she died last week. As a former writer she would have relished the opportunity to tell Punt Road stories to you.
We lived in that house for about five years. It has since been pulled down and there is an electricity sub-station there today I think.