The shortest distance between two points - Anne's Story


We lived in South Yarra, a flat on the corner of the Righi. My father had lived there for years. His dog, he claimed, understood that a straight line was the shortest distance between two points, since he always crossed to Gordon Grove according to this principle.

You could smell fresh bread from the bakery over the other side of the hill.

In the 1960s we moved down to Richmond, over from Gosch's Paddock. Once the silos caught fire and we children watched a fireman going up a long ladder, then dropping something, a handkerchief we supposed, which floated downwards for a long long time. We used the Nylex clock, in the morning before school I would stand at my mother's bedroom window and plait my hair, keeping a sideways eye on the time.

At ground level, in dark caverns under the silos, men with rakes turned the barley over in long pits, the whole of South Richmond smelling of malt.

We lived opposite the entrance to Punt Rd from the freeway. One night a couple knocked at the door asking for directions. After they left we heard an accident and went out onto the veranda to see what had happened. A car coming fast around that slip road had run over and killed one of our visitors.

Once a heavily loaded ute lost a chair from its load. We were sitting on the veranda and saw it. Before the driver had time to pull over, another driver stopped, picked up the chair and drove off with it.

I used to walk home from school along Punt Rd and, if the lights were against me at Alexandra Ave, I would walk along the west side and cross to our house, lane by lane between the moving cars, something that would have shocked my mother.

My parents had a friend who was a painter, and he came visiting one day, wearing a pink shirt. He knocked on the wrong door and said he just missed being thrown down the steps by our neighbour who was affronted to have a pink-shirted man on his door step.

Traffic strategies - Kaukau's Story


Hoddle St is a very, very busy street. I accept that fact that it is a very busy street, and you’ve got a lot of people plowing into it. I noticed this morning when I drove here, 'Whoa! This place is absolutely packed.' So I actually got off it. I ended up on Smith St.

You’ve got three or four lanes at any one given time. Peak hour traffic is just hectic. So I must admit I try to avoid this road during peak hour traffic. I will leave at the latest by quarter to five, because that way you get a perfect run along Hoddle St. And I tend to avoid Punt Rd, full stop. Unless I absolutely must travel down there. It’s a busy road, it’s Melbourne, it’s a city. I accept that fact.

It’s also the gateway from the Eastern Freeway, so you have so much traffic plowing in from the eastern suburbs. This place just gets hectic. But I have learnt to navigate: which lanes to jump into, at what part. At certain sections you know to jump into certain lanes, because some will slow down, some will speed up. At certain times it changes. 

Even if you’re getting onto the Eastern, you avoid like hell the two lefthand lanes until the last minute. People just accept the fact that somebody’s going to cut across, they do. There’s that road rage sort of thing but, for the most part, people are quite accepting to allow traffic to cut in.

I had a massive accident a year ago. But I’ve never broken down along Hoddle St or Punt Rd. I would hate to be that person. Once there’s an accident, it throws everything out. All your natural cues, everything is thrown. It’s like when you allow an emergency vehicle through. I’ve noticed that people just won’t move sometimes – peak hour traffic, but there’s nowhere to move anyway. But, even if there is, they’re more inclined to hold their little space.

I have a tendency to feel that, in a car, you’re quite isolated. And it’s quite different to cycling. In fact I try to stay off the road if I’m on a bicycle. Because drivers aren’t so friendly to the cyclists. So I get on the footpaths. 

Crossing Hoddle St, I don’t like to do it. It’s really busy, so I try to avoid crossing. Johnston St, in Abbotsford, I really don’t know what’s down there. I’ve got a vague idea, but I avoid going over there. Purely because it’s so busy and I’ll know I have to wait.

I haven’t used the footbridge in a long time. I think the last time I crossed that bridge was when I used to catch public transport. It’s a rare occasion. When all you see is traffic you think, 'Nah I don’t want to go out there.' Especially when I know I need to drive out into it. Just getting onto Johnston St to get onto Hoddle St, oh my gosh, that can be… If you don’t time it well, after 4 o’clock, even five minutes to, they change the signals so you can’t turn right. So you’ve got to time it or you’ve got to go through Collingwood, through the residential areas, and then make your way down to one of the other streets. If I miss those lights, I have to go down to Victoria St. So you’ve got to make sure you time it. 

I’m one of those people who takes the back roads. I get lost a lot.

Good and bad - Brad's Story


That part of Melbourne, the Clifton Hill end of Hoddle Street, certainly brings back some good and bad memories. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, she and I went past Hoddle Street on the night of the shootings. Probably about 10 minutes before it happened. That’s a fairly sad thing for us.

But a happy memory is standing at the railway gates there and watching the Olympic torch run past in, I think, 2000. Other memories are going to the footy in Clifton Hill, but getting kicked off the train and having to catch the bus, because they were doing rail works.

Another sad thing: the day my son was born, when my wife went into labor, I was driving to work and there was a thing on the radio about someone had been knocked off their motorbike and killed down near the Pioneer cement factory down there. Near the Shell service station. That was the day my son was born. And the guy that got knocked off the motorbike was actually our next-door neighbour. So, some good memories and some terrible memories of Hoddle Street.

64 years on Punt Road - Len's Story


My name’s Len and I’m 83 years of age. I came to Punt Road, Richmond, on the fourth of April 1951. It happened to be my brother’s seventeenth birthday. We grew up in Surrey Hills and my father died just before I left school.

I've lived in this same house on Punt Road for 64 years. I’m the longest residing resident between Bridge Road and Swan Street. And how I know that is, I go to a lot of auctions and my observations over all those years is new people have moved in here, old houses have been pulled down and flats have been put up, this type of thing. So I’m the only one remaining. And I would guess that probably I’m the longest residing resident between Bridge Road and the river because there’s not many houses along there.

My mother’s sister, my aunt, was born in a house opposite this one in 1896. She never married. She bought this house for us because we didn’t own our place in Surrey Hills. But my aunt wasn’t saying anything about rent. So my mother said to me, 'When your aunt comes to dinner on Wednesday I want you to bring up the subject of rent.' I was 19. So I did that and my aunt said, 'What are you paying in Surrey Hills?' And my mum said, 'One pound ten and sixpence.' Which was three dollars and ten cents. And my aunt said, 'Well, forget the sixpence. One pound ten a week.'

Now that rent never went up, from 1951 to 1984, believe it or not. When my mum died, my aunt was like a second mother to me. In 1984 she gave me the house because, about that time, the gift duty was taken off – there was gift duty payable on any gift over $10,000, you had to pay duty to the government. So that was taken off and my aunt said, 'Look, it might be put on again, I was going to leave you the house in my will anyhow.' So she gave me the house and I had to pay $1500 stamp duty to put it in my name.

I remember standing on the front verandah our first day here. We got back from work, my mother and my brother, and what we call peak period now, there were still cars but they only banked up to about two houses down the street, that was it. We said, 'Look at all these cars!'  


And then there were no traffic lights at Rowena Parade of course. They were put in after the death of a neighbour. People used to have to run across the road. It was only a four lane narrow road. If people wanted to go to the park you had to dodge the traffic, there was no lights. And this poor lady had a dog, and took it for a walk, at about dusk one night. She was crossing the road and she was hit by a car and killed. And those lights were put in about, I’d say, fairly early 1950. 

When we first came we used to go and kick the football in the park, that sort of thing. So the traffic lights were put there for that reason. The accident highlighted the need for them. But it’s unfortunate she had to die.

I used to walk to work. Go across the park, across where the tennis centre is now. I used to go the long way, I could’ve walked straight through down to Flinders Street. But I used to go around by the river, because I enjoy walking. It pays dividends. I don’t know how you convince people of that, but it pays dividends. And I’ve been lucky, I’ve had a lucky life and I’m very thankful for it. 

These days, you’re getting more and more people travelling to work at 5.30 in the morning, in big numbers, and right along through till six o’clock. A lot of them probably start at seven o’clock in a factory somewhere and they probably go in early, might start at eight, and they go in early and the boss lets them start work and they come back earlier. There’s a big amount of traffic going up the street here. After 3.30pm, you’ll find them banking up from Bridge Road going north. That’s how it is. The traffic’s got them beat in Melbourne. I don’t know what they can do. At this moment, you could go anywhere, you know, within 3kms and there’d be busy roads everywhere. 

There’s an interesting story about Punt Road that not many people would know. We came here in April ’51. A few weeks later, a family named Keon came to live next door. Now Stan Keon, he was the Local Member of Parliament in the State Parliament in the late 1940s. And then the local member, the Federal Member, died and Stan Keon got the seat of what was called Yarra in those days. So he was our Federal Member of Parliament. And in 1954 the Melbourne Masterplan was put on display. It was talked about for several years, they were going to do all sorts of things, roads widening and so on and so forth. From time to time these things crop up. It was on display at the Town Hall. So I said to my mother, 'I’ll go and have a look at this.' Because you never know.


So I went in to look and on the wall there’s a big, black line coming down Hoddle Street, a dog-leg bend at Bridge Road, coming down this side of the road, and another dog-leg bend to go under the railway bridge. So I told my mother and she said, 'You better go and see Stan.' He was an intelligent bloke, a nice fellow, but a very confident fellow. So I rang his bell there and I said, 'I had a look at that masterplan and they’re going to take this side of the road.' He said, 'No no no, that’s the logical side over there.' I said, 'Well, I saw it.' 'No no,' he said. So, that’s all I could do.

Ten days later my doorbell rings and it’s Stan. He said, 'Listen, we’re having a big meeting at the Town Hall, this is ridiculous, I want you to come down.' This was before the Labor split of 1955. This was 1954. So he had a lot of influence and was talked about as possibly being a future leader of the Labor Party. He had the influence to get the thing changed to the other side. It was meant to be this side. All would’ve been taken. There wouldn’t be many people who know that now. 

There’s an overlay now from the river up to Union Street, Windsor. I understand there are 47 properties owned by VicRoads. That was the obvious side because there weren’t so many houses to pull down. I took photos right through the process. Stan lost his seat in the election of ’55. A lot of other Labor men did too.

When I first came here they were still using horses and carts, and sweeping the gutters with a broom. And the fellow would go ahead and sweep up a heap of stuff and the other chap would come along and shovel, and throw it into the tray. Milk was still being delivered by horse drawn vehicle and there was one tremendous crash out there one night and the car had driven into the milk cart. And that was the end of the horses. They didn’t have them anymore.

I went and got a job at the brewery. Started work on the second of February 1950. It was my first job and I stayed there for two and a half years. I got three-quarters of an hour for lunch. And when I went to the Customs, the public service, I got an hour. And I used to go for a walk up to Bourke Street. At that time they were pulling out the cable tram lines, they were still there. I remember leaving an exam at the Exhibition Centre, they had double deck buses in Bourke Street. Then they put the trams in.


I was living here when the Olympics were on. They broke the gate down, I got into the opening ceremony, just by going in the broken gate. The police couldn’t do anything, there were hundreds of us. We ran right up onto the top floor of the northern stand, which has been pulled down and rebuilt. And I saw Ron Clarke come around. Didn’t have a ticket of course. They broke the gates down, the wooden gates. It was only a few police there and hundreds of people. We just pushed through, the cops couldn’t do anything about it. Better not tell anyone…

Around 1988 I changed my front fence. Some entrepreneur opened a nightclub nearby. The standard was the lowest of nightclubs, from what I can gather, I haven’t been to one myself. It was acceptable to go in thongs and singlet and shorts. And the patrons would sometimes come and knock on my door, or ring the bell, then run off. Or urinate on my property. So I applied to the council to have a steel picket fence and lockable gates. I went to see this chap, he was the planning man at the time. He said, 'That’s a heritage area, you can't do that, it would alienate the Punt Road streetscape. Punt Road’s got a lot of brick walls – you can have a brick wall.' I said, 'I don’t want a brick wall. I’ve been here 40 years: I like to look out, people walk past, I know them, we have a chat.'

I challenged them and won my case. It took a bit of getting it together. I photographed all the streetscape from Bridge Road to the railway line. I won the case. As a matter of interest, a mate of mine told me that my case was quoted in the Victorian law journal without mentioning me. This house was built in 1922. The hedge is probably the original. The only condition of my case was that I had to let the hedge grow through the fence. That’s what I was going to do anyhow. I like the hedge, it looks nice, so I was happy.

A lot of accidents used to occur on Punt Road before they widened the road. And you could ring the tow truck and they’d give you $50 a call, but you’d have to be the first to get them. Sometimes you’d ring up and they’d say, 'We’ve already got the one near Rowena Parade.' Someone else had got in first. I remember one year, one of the tow trucks gave me a box of chocolates, a bottle of champagne. He said, 'You gave us $600 worth of business last year.' We’re talking 40 years ago now.

The accidents stopped happening with the widening of the road. Cars are more highly engineered these days and better at braking and so on. Road engineering and traffic engineering are vital ingredients for making life safer on the road.


I’m the only living person in Australia who bought an early model Holden, still has it and still uses it. I bought it at Queensbridge Motors on Queensbridge Street, South Melbourne. The day I brought it home, I told my mother she'd have to keep the garage gates open. I was nervous. I ended up leaving Queensbridge Street around five o’clock. Peak period on a Friday night. And even then it was a busy night. Lots of trucks. There were no blinkers, you put your hand out to give a right turn. I came up here and put my arm out and Mum had the gates open. Got in the garage and sat here for 30 minutes. I couldn’t believe it.

Now if you want to do a righthand turn into Rowena Parade you’ve got a slip lane there. And that’s safe. And you’ve got a green arrow. Whereas before…

I park in Rowena Parade, right near the corner. There used to be a No Standing sign there but someone knocked it down. Doesn’t matter, they don’t enforce it. And then I walk around, open the gate, open the garage, then press the pedestrian light button, which gives me double the green light for Rowena. And then I come around and get in.

Photographs of Punt Road over the years, taken from Len's front garden. Courtesy of Len.

Growing up on Punt Road - Sue's Story


My family and I grew up on Punt Road (between Swan Street and the freeway) and our grandmother lived next door so we have many tales and memories:

* Milk was delivered by horse and cart through the 60s. The horse's name was Jedda and my sister and I used to try to wake up early so we could pat the horse. Mum would make us collect its droppings to use as manure!

* Mum used to send us to the yard to read the Nylex clock and then she'd reset every clock in the house to match (clocks weren't reliable back then).

* Back in those days you could actually cross Punt Road to get to the park with just a little care. Believe it or not we did this as kids, to go catching tadpoles in the Botanical Gardens.

* I remember hearing the roar of the crowd at the MCG on Grand Final day and, from our verandah, being able to see the crowds in the top stands. And of course seeing the fireworks every Moomba celebration.

* As a teenager I used to sell newspapers and lollies during the mad rush of the footy crowds through Richmond Station. How quickly we needed to tally the goods and dish out change before they raced off to catch their trains.

* The intersection of Punt Road and Swan Street used to flood in the 70s every time there was a downpour. Once, the high point of the water was at my mid-thigh level. It was so entertaining to watch passengers disembarking from the city tram (which could go no further), removing their shoes and rolling up their pants to wade to the other side.

* I remember countless car crashes as motorists tried to turn right into the Shell garage. It was tow truck driver heaven.

* My sister and I had a bedroom that looked out onto Punt Road – specifically the big park opposite Shell. The traffic hum (not quite noise) would let you know the time of day – and the weather. A swissshhh sound told you it was raining. Didn't want to get out of bed those days. I remember the headlights of the cars made a travelling ripple pattern at the top of the high walls in the bedroom. How they did remains a mystery to me. 

Image credits:
Courtesy of the State Library Victoria:
Milk cart with horses on country road
Date(s): [ca. 1875-ca. 1938]
Creator: Harvey, John Henry 1855-1938 photographer.
Copyright status: This work is out of copyright

Thick shakes and traffic - Jim's Story


Back in 1983/84, an old friend picked me up from my flat in Fitzroy to give me a lift to a party I was going to in Prahran, and then he was going on to a party in St Kilda. Neither of us had eaten, so we grabbed some McDonalds in Victoria Pde on the way. Punt Rd traffic was gridlocked, and we both complained about the thick shakes as we crawled. Anyway, whilst in the middle of the bridge, packed in with traffic, my friend suddenly unbuckled himself from behind the wheel, got out of the car, and ran across to the other side of the bridge with his thick shake and pretended to vomit it over the side. Despite the effort, it wasn’t all that funny, then he headed back to his car, and suddenly a car coming the other way was screeching to a halt, and THUD, he was on the bonnet, passing me by, heading back the way we came.

I was in shock, and fumbled to undo my seat-belt, looking back, wondering if he was dead, when suddenly he jumped up and rushed back to the car and got back in behind the wheel, looking incredibly embarrassed, as the lights turned green, and he drove on, swearing to himself, “My leg, my leg, my f*@king leg . . .”

At this point, by the time we got to the top of Punt Rd hill, I was bawling with laughter because the whole thing was like a cartoon, and his leg ended up being okay.

About a dozen years later I was pitching a one hour script I had written called Horsy to the Australian Film Commission, which contained a brief version of this incident, and an important scene that accelerates the whole action of the story into another gear. One of the adjudicators liked the script (and I did end up getting the grant) but complained about that scene on the bridge as being implausible. I offered him the phone number of my friend to prove it was. The film never got made, but I’m still hoping one day it will, with that Hoddle Bridge scene in it, despite the years that have passed.

Savour every day - Breda's Story


As a student in Year 11, I remember having such a visceral, overwhelming reaction to the personal stories of the Hoddle Street Massacre. In the months that followed I devoured everything in the newspaper and was completely devastated by the randomness of Julian Knight’s actions and the effect I felt it had on my city thereafter.

I could barely believe it when, some years later, my share house journey began and I wound up in a wonderful house with friends a little way along Hoddle Street, in Abbotsford. Several years of elm tree-lined streets, Victoria Street feasting, the addictive stench of Saturday afternoon brews at the CUB brewery, the sights and sounds of life around the Number 48 tram, the proximity of cricket and footy traditions, and the fun of inner-city pubs and cafes evokes such nostalgia as my friends and I were setting up our lives beyond uni, and dreaming of travel and meaningful relationships. 

On one such adventurous night I set off to meet up with a young man I’d befriended through work. We were going for a drink at the wonderful Bakers Arms Hotel on Victoria Street. It was a ‘first date’ and my housemates farewelled me with excitement and anticipation. My friend and I enjoyed such a great night together and continued on to see comedy at the Prince Patrick Hotel across Hoddle Street. We were still talking and laughing hours later as we made our way back toward my house in Charles Street, back over Hoddle Street.

Whilst I still have no memory of that dash across Hoddle Street, I did not make it home to Charles Street that night. I was struck by a car and suffered serious and life-threatening injuries. I was taken to St Vincent's Hospital by ambulance and later to The Alfred. So began six months of intensive hospitalisation and rehabilitation and many years later I still bear significant physical and psychological scars and limitations as a result of that 1994 accident. My recovery has been amazing nevertheless and it is miraculous that I am fairly able-bodied and emotionally intact given the extent of my road trauma experience. 

We had attempted to dash across Hoddle Street in those wee hours and miscalculated, it would seem, the proximity of a car travelling in our direction. I was struck and injured very badly. My friend saw me go under the car, and ran to my assistance; he was horrified by the physical injuries to my right leg but maintained his composure enough to commence CPR until an ambulance arrived and in doing so probably saved my life. 

The road to recovery was a long one and was assisted by many talented and wonderful family, friends and medical specialists. But as I’ve often said in the intervening years it was a journey I would not walk away from as a truly enriching experience in the story of my life. It taught be so much about myself and my resilience and has equipped me with the most precious of all gifts, to savour every day of my amazing life.

Every single time I drive along Hoddle Street today I am reminded of my accident. These days, more often than not, I have three kids and a husband in the car with me and cannot believe the constant wonder of the days of life. My husband is not my lifesaver – he had mountains to conquer further afield from Melbourne.

He booked me - Noel's Story


Immediately after WW2, as a boy living in Ivanhoe, I found myself barracking for Footscray in the VFL because an aunt lived there and was mad about her Saturday afternoon footy team, most of whom were local blokes. So I saw the great Ted Whitten play his first game of VFL for Footscray at the Punt Rd Oval, as it was then called – the home ground of Richmond. It was Round 1 in 1951 – he kicked a goal with his first kick and was later knocked out by a Tiger roughie. I saw most of his next 300 games.

Many years ago, probably in the 60s, I was waiting on Punt Rd at the Toorak Rd intersection facing north and soon to climb. The lights changed to green, I moved forwards, a parked car ahead of me shot out into my lane, I swung right and found a cop car beside me almost in the right hand gutter. He booked me, I went to court and got off with a warning. I kinda enjoyed the whole experience looking back.

Vivid memories - Anne's Story


Cremorne Court. These words were emblazoned in green concrete letters across the front wall of the red brick block of flats where I spent the first six years of my life. There were eight flats in the block which was situated at 389 Punt Road, Richmond, opposite Gosch’s Paddock. We lived with my great aunt on the first floor in a two-bedroom flat. A flight of concrete stairs led to the front door, used only by visitors, and at the back there was a flight of grimy black wooden stairs.

I still have vivid memories of my life in this flat. I remember running wildly around the small lounge room with a green cushion over my eyes and tripping over a little one-bar electric heater. As there was no safety grid, I burned my leg quite badly. I certainly screamed with pain but later, when it had healed, I remember being quite proud of the scar.

Another of my earliest memories is of my mother in a chartreuse silk dressing gown carrying a kettle of boiling water down the back stairs. It was night time and I had possibly been woken by the commotion. There had been a car accident on Punt Road and my mother went to help.

There were plenty of children to play with and we would run or ride bikes and scooters round and round the concrete path which surrounded the building. Behind the block there was a communal laundry and a tiny caretaker’s bungalow. Mr Robertshaw was the caretaker, an elderly man with whiskers is my only memory but I know my father was friendly with him and I later discovered the reason. Charles Emerson Robertshaw was a writer who had written short stories about the Australian bush for The Leader newspaper under the nom de plume 'Coolibah'. Sixteen of the stories were collected and published in a book entitled Wirragoona Romance of Australian Station Life. On the cover page is written my name, then 'Love and kisses from the author'. 

I vaguely remember my father suggesting that, for one reason or another, Robertshaw had fallen on hard times and that's why he lived in the caretaker’s bungalow. I have always felt there was something special about the book as it was given to me by the author but have never read it maybe fearing that it would never live up to my expectations.

Living in the flats proved to be a health hazard. Whilst recovering from measles when I was five, I slipped and scratched my ankle on the back steps. A week later, I had a high fever and was eventually diagnosed with osteomyelitis, a disease often found in slum areas. After an operation and ten stitches in my leg, I had to wear an iron splint for eight months and missed school for a year. However I still managed to ride my scooter around. When the splint was finally removed, I was so excited. I went to our neighbours’ place and announced that I was going to take off my shoes. My friend’s mother was very surprised when I showed her I was no longer wearing a splint and I experienced a moment of sheer pleasure at being free of the calliper.

Tricky timber traffic light stack - Steven's Story


About 25 years ago I was travelling north up Punt Rd. I was stopped at Toorak Rd by a red light. I was the first car at the lights so could see eastbound down Toorak Rd. The traffic was heavy and a steady stream of cars crossed Punt Rd. Three cars entered the intersection: a sedan, a station wagon and a ute. The ute had some carry bars on it, to hold a large amount of timber above the driver’s cab and the tray – probably a builder’s or carpenter’s vehicle.  

The sedan came to a halt immediately after crossing Punt Rd. The station wagon didn't notice at first so had to brake suddenly. This forced the ute, immediately behind it, to also brake suddenly.  At this point, the load of timber on the carry bars, all strapped together, slid forward off the ute and straight through the back window of the station wagon.

I will always remember the look on the station wagon driver’s face as he got out of the car to inspect the load of timber now sticking out of his car. It was one of utter disbelief. The length of the wood meant that although it had slid forward, it was still resting on the front carry bar of the ute, so the two vehicles were now joined together by the shared load of timber. 

At that point my light turned green and I continued on my way, though the south bound lanes were now blocked.