My car broke down on Punt Road when I was on my way to a fancy dress part dressed as a pimp. I had to leave in a tow truck in my costume.
My grandmother, Mavis Clay, lived with her grandmother on Punt Rd, at 354, for a while in about 1920. Mavis is 98-years-old, and her memory is fading. She attended South Yarra Primary School for a short time, and may be their oldest surviving student. The house is apparently haunted, doors opening and things moving around. The house didn’t get electricity until the 1960s, when there was a problem with the gas lighting. I was in a Jamaican restaurant a few doors down when there was a small earthquake in about 2010.
My old Datsun once broke down in the middle lane at the Eastern Freeway entrance intersection, heading southbound. The RACV guy was not aware that if you travel northbound you can accidentally end up on the freeway. I watched helplessly as he got sucked onto the freeway and waited as he had to go up to the Chandler Hwy and come back.
I worked at Christ Church Grammar School on the corner of Punt Rd and Toorak Rd for five years, 2008-2012. All of my classrooms had views of the traffic in some way. Many students lived in South Yarra and crossed Punt Rd to get to school. The school pick-up traffic could be insane and it was mostly Volvos. Coincidentally, my Dad’s parents got married at Christ Church South Yarra.
I lived in Elsternwick and studied at LaTrobe University. I usually caught the 246 bus, travelling the full length of Punt Rd or sometimes just from Richmond station. I remember getting off the bus to check out a shop or café and catching the next one.
I remember driving down Punt Rd after break-ups, one-nighters, all-nighters, going to the footy, to the city or the tennis centre. I can recall heaps of times when I was walking along, crossing or driving down Punt Rd. It’s a big part of living in Melbourne.
Tony owned a Bentley. When he crashed it, he had to send away to England for a new door. The door took three months to arrive and, the day after it was fitted, the Bentley broke down trying to get up Punt Road Hill. Tony had had enough – this was the final straw. The next day he sold the Bentley.
I have three stories of Punt Road – a road I am very fond of as it served me well for many years when the traffic wasn't like it is today.
Story 1: In the early 1970s, sick of being a secretary, and before becoming a uni student as part of Whitlam's groundbreaking tertiary education for working class women, I got a job driving a one tonne 'truck' delivering yoghurt and cottage cheese all over Melbourne to delis and supermarkets (ethical goods I thought, strange most people thought). The male truck drivers in the delivery bays of the supermarkets used to comment on me as there were no women drivers of 'trucks' at that time. I was about 24-years-old, with attitude.
One morning on busy Punt Road, the bleeding truck started to smell of smoke and the engine appeared to be between me and the passenger seat. Worried that the truck was about to go up in smoke, I underloaded all the yoghurt onto the footpath near the Yarra River (why didn't I just leave it and get out?). I only lasted about three weeks in the job – I never stopped running/driving all day!!! My fond ideas of eating yoghurt under a tree somewhere at lunch never happened.
Story 2: In the 1970s I used to love doing U-turns on Punt Road, memorably at the Clifton Hill end, at any time. People always let me in and it was always quite easy!
Story 3: Living in St Kilda c2003, after 13 years in Hobart, and deciding to drive to Clifton Hill at about 6pm. Gridlocked and shocked I diverged about three times to wait for the traffic to clear. I visited a friend in Richmond, came back to Punt Rd, still gridlocked. Went to the pub in Carlton, came back, same thing. Unbelievable after Hobart especially.
It was the early 1960s on a nice summer day when my somewhat flashy boyfriend picked me up from work in his brand new shiny MG sports car. Puffed up and pleased with himself he'd lowered the roof and we made quite a spectacle cruising through the city.
Then we came to Punt Road bridge and were almost over it when the engine stopped and refused to restart. In peak hour traffic with horns blasting and other drivers yelling he sat in the car refusing to get out and push. He kept repeating over and over, 'This just doesn't happen to a brand new car!'
Finally he was persuaded and I moved to the driver's seat and steered while he pushed the car off the bridge and around to the left. Once safely on the grass verge beside the river I looked at the fuel gage – empty.
Turned out the tank had not been completely filled before he took delivery of the vehicle earlier that afternoon. We were simply out of petrol.
Approximately 18 years ago, pre-mobile phone days, I got trapped in a borrowed car in a torrential downpour. The rain was so intense, that the little Mazda conked out, right atop the Punt Road bridge crossing the Yarra. Visibility was zero due to the rain and the waves of water caused by passing traffic. And, of course, I could not find the hazard lights. I was terrified that the other cars and trucks whizzing past would not see me and that this is where I would end my days on earth.
But then, my Punt Road Miracle occurred – the driver's side door opened, and a young man told me to jump out and come with him. He put a blanket over my shoulders and covered me with an umbrella and took me up to his flat on the hill, where I could use his phone. I was stunned by his kindness. And even more so when another lady in his lounge room told me that she too had broken down; he had spotted her distress from his flat on the hill, and rescued her also.
I don't know this man's name, but I think of his generosity of spirit every time I pass that bridge on Punt Road. Thank you!
My anecdote involves me in an old, heavy car, when I'd first got my licence, breaking down right at the peak of the hill after the river (towards South Yarra). I broke down but, because the car was so heavy, I couldn't take my foot off the brake or I would roll backwards. Other cars were beeping furiously at me and I was alone in the car freaking out – and crying! Eventually someone came and helped me roll the car backwards into a side street but I can never drive up that hill without thinking about it!
For four years I lived in St Kilda and went to uni in Bundoora. I drove an enormous HQ Holden Monaro and petrol was $20 a tank, which was a lot in the late 80s if you were a student.
Back then there was no public transport to the uni, which was even further out than Latrobe, so Punt Road was the main link. Sure, you tried a few other combinations and back roads over the years, but Punt Road was always the fall back option.
So peak hour, HQ Holden and me. Of course it breaks down. So my memories of Punt Road are always tinged with guilt as I sit in my car which is too heavy to push solo, blocking traffic, shrinking under my steering wheel and waiting for the RACV to rescue me. Ahh Punt Road, you make me like a Catholic.