I remember family beach trips down Punt Road to Elwood. I also travelled that road daily to get to Collingwood Girls High School in Vere Street, Collingwood. My sister and I both attended Collingwood Girls, often saving our train fare to buy fish and chips and walking to school. Very few cars in those days and fond memories.
When I was in my teens I lived in Thornbury. On a Saturday afternoon, my friends and I would catch the tram down to the beginning of Queen’s Pde. And there’d be a bus there and you could hop onto that and it’d take you along Hoddle St, Punt Rd, right down to St Kilda Junction, down to Ormond Beach. I don’t know how long it took.
The memories, gee, I got terribly burnt a few times. Then we’d go to the pictures on Saturday night and I couldn’t stand up – I’d be that burnt on the backs of me legs, murder!
When I was 7-months-old my parents moved to Simpson St, East Melbourne. It runs off Victoria Pde, parallel to Punt Rd. We lived near a park. On the far side of the park was my kindergarten. I loved that park. When I was a bit older, we used to go there and let off our crackers. Legitimate crackers that you used to buy at the milk bar on the corner of Victoria Pde and Punt Rd.
My school was next door to St John’s Catholic Church. I think it’s undergone renovations and is becoming something else now, something to do with the church. The church is beautiful. Because we were at the school we used to go next door to the church and walk around and cross the Station of the Cross and all that.
Then there was the fire brigade. We went to the fire station in kinder so I’ve got a photo of me sitting on a big fire truck with one of those heavy helmets on. I’m talking ’54 or ’55.
The other thing was coming down Punt Rd – we used to go swimming at Elwood. We would catch the bus along Hoddle/Punt. At one intersection, could be Toorak Rd, there was a hotel that had a neon sign with a bottle that used to tip and fill the glass. My father used to always tease me and try to close my eyes so I wouldn’t see this dreadful thing of this liquid going into the glass. It was just a joke. I was only about 5 or 6.
We didn’t often go down as far as St Kilda at night time. At the corner of Albert and Simpson Streets, where our house used to be, that’s now an apartment building. But opposite that, the little miner’s cottages are still there.
Beautiful places along there. If you go along Victoria Pde, you come to Smith St, where Mum used to do her shopping. There was a very good little shopping centre just near Victoria Pde. And also, after you cross Punt Rd going away from the city, there was a lovely shopping centre there. They had a secondhand bookshop, a huge hardware store that also sold wool by the ball, and things like that. That’s all gone, of course.
I remember summer holidays in the late 1970s/early 80s – in the back seat of Dad's FC Holden driving up Punt Road Hill on our way to Elwood Beach for some fun in the sun.
Living in Fawkner Street, South Yarra, and attending South Yarra Primary School during the mid-1960s meant that I had to cross Punt Road every day to attend school.
Punt Road, South Yarra, was a busy and dangerous stretch of road with many accidents and road fatalities.
We used it to take the bus to Richmond and Elwood Beach. Often used to walk up to the Botanical Gardens or to Domain Road to watch the last stages of the Moomba Parade or to play along the banks of the Yarra River.
The two milk bars on the small strip of shops at the pedestrian crossing opposite South Yarra Primary were a meeting place for many of the school students both before and after school.
I recall meeting school friends at one milk bar in the mornings sitting on the stools watching the cars and pedestrians on busy Punt Road with each of us buying a small bottle of Fanta and having a sculling competition. Being a migrant kid I didn’t realise until later in life that, by doing this, my friends were imitating their dads at the pub.
I also recall that we were obsessed with football (Richmond in particular) and going a few times to the MCG on a Saturday to watch Richmond play. We would meet on Punt Road outside the school at about 9am (I was about 10-years-old proudly wearing my Richmond scarf that my mother knitted for me) and catching the Punt Road bus which was one of those old English buses (single level not a double decker) to get off at Swan Street, Richmond.
We would meet up with another friend from school who lived on the army barracks on Swan Street and kick the footy before walking over the bridge to watch the reserves and then the firsts play.
After the game we would take the very crowded Punt Road bus back home with many passengers who were drunk, abusive and scary – to me at least but not to my Aussie mates who would laugh and not be afraid to answer them back. At the time, being a migrant kid, I couldn’t understand that type of behaviour and disrespect.
When we would cross the river before going up the Punt Road hill, I thought the overcrowded bus would never make it, with the bus driver constantly changing to a lower gear.
I remember it was getting dark probably about 6pm and thinking that if my very protective Greek parents knew what I was going through they would never let me go again.
I just hoped that I would get home in one piece and that my parents would believe me if I said the bus was late and that I was always safe. Now that I think of it, they probably never believed me since I smelt of cigarette smoke and beer from the Punt Road bus ride.
I recall every Thursday morning in the winter months, our grade walking up Punt Road to Toorak Road to catch the Number 8 tram to the City Baths.
We would return by lunchtime and when we would get off the tram at Toorak Road, the teacher would let us stop off at the fish and chip shop to buy some chips. Unfortunately this didn’t last long as some of the boys, when walking back to school, decided to throw chips through every open window of the houses we passed.
I recall being chased down the road by this huge bloke who jumped out of a house screaming at us. It didn’t matter if you were or were not the one who threw the chips. You just ran for dear life.
Another recollection is the Punt Road bus ride to the beach. This was a trip taken by the Greek migrants living in Fawkner Street, en mass, carrying food and drinks for a whole day at the beach. I recall the passengers on the bus scattering, grunting and sneering at us, as we came onto the bus. This never concerned me since we had the numbers, being in the company of my parents and their friends. We were excited, loud and boisterous. I’m sure many of the passengers got off before their destination just to escape the ‘foreign invaders’ as many viewed us.
We sometimes walked up Punt Road to the Alfred Hospital. I recall my mother telling us how my father carried my seriously ill brother, who was about 10 at the time, some 2km up Punt Road all the way to the emergency department of the Alfred Hospital. I can only imagine the fear and panic he felt and how long that walk would have seemed to him.
Another memory of Punt Road was in the late 1970s when I was driving home from a party very late at night in my VW 1500 Notchback. It was about 3 or 4am, not a car on the road, driving up the Punt Road Hill with too many passengers in my car. The car was on its last legs, sounding very sick and struggling to get up the hill.
According to one of my passengers the reverse gear was the strongest gear in the car so we turned into the first side street and then reversed up the Punt Road Hill. Only a couple of cars drove past us but no one stopped or reported us.
It must have looked crazy but we did get up the hill at which point, we reversed into someone’s driveway and continued down the other side of Punt Road.
Just wanting to share my Punt Rd story or, should I say my mother's, who is now in her 70s. My mother came from a big family – she was one of twelve children, the second youngest. I remember her telling me that her father (my grandfather) drove a truck for a living delivering various things.
Mum said that often in the summer months her dad would come home from work and he would say to my grandmother and all the kids, Come on let's go down to St Kilda beach.
So all the brothers and sisters would put their fold-out chairs on the back of my grandfather's truck and head off for St Kilda beach. But when they got to the hill on Punt Rd, that's when all the brothers and sisters held on for dear life.
My grandfather's truck was an open truck with only two slats of timber on each side. As they drove up Punt Rd Hill they all had to hang on to the sides of the truck and, I suppose, pray that their chairs would stay in one place. I suppose they all made it safe and sound!
Image courtesy of the State Library Victoria: www.slv.vic.gov.au
Creator: Le Dawn Studios, photographer.
Copyright status: This work is in copyright; Use of this work allowed provided the creator and SLV acknowledged. Copyright has been assigned to the State Library of Victoria
For the best part of his life my father worked at Olympic Tyres in Footscray. We lived in Clifton Hill and, for many years, my father travelled by train to his work, an old red-brick and corrugated iron factory that took up about two city blocks opposite the railway. The same two blocks are now covered in up-market units and town-houses but, in the Olympic Tyres era, it was a gloomy and smelly place that churned out truck, motor-vehicle and even airplane tyres.
In the 70s and 80s my father worked in the tube department, on rotating shifts: dayshift one week, afternoon shift the next and evening shift in the third week. Then the same all over again for the next three weeks and for many years that followed.
He worked 12-hour shifts and usually overtime on the weekends. He had no choice; he had five children at home to feed plus our Mum, who looked after us. My father’s job came with two benefits, apart from his wage: tickets to Luna Park in St Kilda once a year at Christmas and the occasional faulty tube, the black rubber tubes that were in most wheels in the days before tubeless tyres.
Because we were too poor to ever go away for holidays, our only excursions as kids were to St Kilda and Elwood beach. Our journey to the beach, by bus, took us along Hoddle Street and Punt Road, one straight line of two single lanes that connected a working class suburb in the North with a middle class suburb in the South.
What makes these trips memorable is that we used to take our ‘floaters’ with us on the bus, i.e. inflated tubes, that my father had brought home from his work. Five children, five tubes, five happy faces. It never occurred to us that it might look a bit odd, filing onto a crowded bus carrying five inflated tubes. Because we had grown up playing with tubes in the river in Clifton Hill, the river that was diverted to make way for the Eastern Freeway, we never felt self-conscious about piling into the green and yellow bus with our pumped up tubes. That trip down and along Hoddle Street and up Punt Road took us, my brother and three sisters, to our two favourite places, Luna Park and Elwood beach.
My father stopped working at 65 in 1999. He ended his working life at the same company where he started it, at Olympic Tyres, which had been bought out by South Pacific Tyres. They made tyres at the new factory at Somerville for a few years but, after the change of owners, the company started to import tyres instead and eventually stopped making them altogether.