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A tiptop bit of geography - Bill's Story

richmond

I started following Richmond in 1943. I’m 80 years of age now. 1943, I was a 10-year-old at school. A classmate said, 'Who do you barrack for?' I thought, oops... Richmond had just been premieres so I immediately said Richmond. A couple of other guys said Richmond. Whilst 1943 we’d won the premiership, this was post the premiership, I didn’t know I was going to wait another 24 years till we saluted again. But my friend, named Bruce, nominated Richmond as his club, and he lived nearby.

We then went to every Punt Rd game. I’m 11 at this stage. It was easy to get to Punt Rd on public transport – we lived in Caulfield. We’d get a tram that took us down to Acland St where the bus came straight to the ground. And, apart from two years when I played football, I missed three games only in 50 years. Of which, all those years post war, till we moved to the MCG, which was 20 years, I missed three games of footy, but only one of them was at Punt Rd.

So on the journey I saw every game at Punt Rd which was Saturday afternoon. Always. Every second week. No-one would have seen more games here, in that period. My origins started because of the ’43 premiership. In those 50 years where I did miss three games, I was appointed to various jobs here. One as a statistician. And in 25 years as a statistician I didn’t miss a game. Seconds, firsts or practice games, interstate, everywhere. So that accumulated nearly 1200 games without a miss officially. So my involvement as a statistician developed from my early interest. I’ve always kept details, stats and scrapbooks. So the club identified me, and appointed me club historian in 1986. Which is getting towards 30 years ago. And the origins of the museum and where we’re at now, and the history, had a bit of a starting point.

Initially when we started getting goodies coming in, the club announced that we now have a club historian, and we’d be happy to collect bits and pieces. We had many players say, 'Oh that’s good, I’ve got it in the garage or under the bed or when I go it’ll go with me.' So there was a couple of cubby holes in the old building. One was a disused toilet where we stacked boxes. Those places got filled. And I did give up a room at home. And in the end, before we got the museum, I could only sidle my way in and out of the room with boxes and bits and pieces.

The origins of our collections, or donations, really started when I was appointed, because there was someone official, recognised by our supporters, and the bits and pieces that have come since is a flow-on from knowing there is a resting place, where it can be shared, by supporters. The supporters love it. One of our famous guys, Jack Dyer, in our former museum, he spent nearly one day going down just one wall. Long before we had something established quite like this. Players love to see bits and pieces. You could have a player say, 'What do I got to do to get my jumper?' The answer is, 'Give us one.'

The beaut thing is we endeavoured to get a team photo of every year. When the team photos were taken, on that day there may have only been the 18 or 19 selected. Some would be in the seconds or injured. But the team photo wasn’t inclusive of the whole list for that year. We had footballers coming in, with grandsons, showing them the photo with grandpa in or dad and, oops, on the day of the photo… So what we did then we researched everyone who played in that year, we identified everyone in the photo, and they went way back. We also had underneath: ‘Also played’. So if grandpa was injured on that day, grandson wasn’t disappointed: 'You told me Grandpa you played for Richmond and you’re not in that photo.' So little things like that where former players are proud of it, proud to show off to their children, grandchildren, and the supporters. And even a lot of staff here now who don’t have Richmond origins but our history is here. We did have one group of management here said, 'We’ve got no interest in the history – it’s today or tomorrow.' But I’ve never seen a house or anything built that didn’t have a foundation. So we’ve got a good example here, back to 1885.

I can remember my first visit to Punt Road Oval in 1944. The bus pulled up out here and with a child’s member ticket you came in the grandstand area. And it had a smell: the ground was one-third quagmire type. You could see patches of green, patches that weren’t mud anyway. As you ran down the race you were straight away covered in mud. This was in the middle of winter. It had a smell of, a sour smell, like damp. Yet that was Punt Rd.

Down the end of the grandstand there was a bar area. We used to have halftime entertainment here, better than the halftime entertainment they had over there. There was one older fellow, I was young so everyone was older, he had a long coat on and a hat. At halftime he took it upon himself to enter the ground and protrude onto the ground. He wasn’t supposed to be there. He’d run out on the green bits, which wasn’t easy. And the ground would erupt, 'Here he is!' Then the police would come to chase him. This was like those Keystone Cops. The nearer they got to him, he’d slip and slide and they’d slip. And we used to look forward immensely to this fellow, you’d get a half the game start at the bar, so his courage was there.

I remember when the guy went round the ground with peanuts for thruppence a bag. At halfway he’d walk round. Say they had an end of season trip coming or a wedding, they used to march around with a big tarpaulin, say four people, one each corner. They’d march round the ground and you’d throw coins. If you were near the boundary, come this opportunity of the canvas collection thing, you’d get hit on the head with a 20c piece. So that was a bit of comedy and you’d see kids running round hoping that two shillings didn’t make it in.

It was just such a 'look forward' routine. You knew which bus you got on, every second week, and if it was Collingwood, Fitzroy, Carlton or St Kilda. There was a tram you could get. We went on trams to virtually every game. Saying I didn’t miss a game, that included their away games. Looking forward to this Saturday afternoon, growing through my adolescent years, right up until they moved.

As the bus gathered passengers on the way, you’d see these regulars get on in their Richmond regalia. I can still visualise this bus – it was a green bus – you nearly had the same seat. It was this Saturday ritual. It pulled up right out front the oval. You were there at the doorstep. The bus was just ideal. 

I guess I liked the bus trip too. I was 11 initially. We used to get on a tram, then a bus that got us onto Acland St, so it was really two buses. My friend Bruce lived on the bus route. You’d nearly see the same people on the same bus. 11-years-old, your parents say you can go to the footy, it was safe to go in those days. You don’t probably think of any danger in those years.

On the way home, you did it in reverse. And most times it was a loss. But we always had Brownlow Medalists in that time. We always had some star players. Collectively we only made the finals in 1947. In 1947 we played the first semi-final against Fitzroy and got beaten. We didn’t play another final till ’67.

More often we lost than won, but we had some icon players who stood out. I remember sticking up for myself and Richmond: often the better of the two teams may not have played the best game. We’re a pretty rugged lot here. We had some wild men. We had a guy named Mopsey Fraser who was mad. The lovely individual thing about Mopsey Fraser, rightly named because all his hair went out curly, at the start of the match, he wet it, so he came out looking spivvy. And then all of a sudden, as the game progressed, it’d… Beautifully nicknamed, beautifully cartooned. He actually got reported in his football career to the point where he missed 83 games. Not all of them here – he went on to coach Port Melbourne. 

What kept you interested back then: the personalities. We had another guy named Jeff Patterson. He became an entrepreneur, he rigged an Australian boxing title, he did everything that was a bit different. He drove big Cadillacs or something. He went into a hotel in Tassie. He was one of the first people to introduce overseas artists to this hotel in Tassie. Mopsey Fraser became a partner with him. On three occasions they stole their own safe and claimed the insurance.

To get into the footy ground, there was a plan adopted by young children. I didn’t do it but I did see them do it. Gather up a player as he’d be walking to come to the match, with a kit bag, every player had a kit bag. And they came by public transport the same as us, a lot of them. A lot of them lived around Richmond. So the plan was, and Charlie Calendar developed it, say to the player, 'Can I carry your bag?' And of course that got him in for nothing. And that was a thing you did back then.

There were holes round the fence you could climb through anyway. And I knew of them too. I can honestly say I never did. I always had a season ticket. But the kids that were short of thruppence, which was what it cost to get in. Charlie did that way, way back, this would be the ‘30s. As a result he was always round the rooms and he developed the role that they now call the Property Steward. Insomuch as he wheedled his way in and looked after the chewing gum. He was very thrifty, he cost the club little, because just using chewy as an example: he’d cut them in half and then if you wanted the other half you had to trade in the first bit. 

Charlie was the inaugural because, when the interstate teams developed, they were annual games, Charlie got appointed as the Property Steward to travel with them. The other terrific thing about him, he was so ‘cartoonable’. He had an extended nose, he always rolled his own cigarettes, he could keep it in his mouth till it got right down to the burny bit, his chin nearly went up to his nose. I’m not trying to paint him as ugly – he just had the right face for the job.

The players had to bring their own socks and shorts and take it home. Charlie’s wife, for many years, washed the jumpers. He saved them money. He got all these interstate trips – some of this collection of goodies, some of the stories he could tell, his initiatives to get into the ground for nothing. He died, he got to about 80. In his later years they gave him a title of Property Adviser here. He was just so much of Richmond for 60 or 70 years.

I can remember Punt Rd, in the ‘60s, I would come with my father and Uncle Tom (not an uncle but a close friend). We would drive from Caulfield, up Punt Rd, to an area that’s between Swan St and down at the freeway. There was a big hotel down on the corner – it’s gone now. We’d park the car as near as we could to the pub because, in 1966, prior to that it was six o’clock closing. You could park on Punt Rd all day and we’d get on the other side, about equal distance to the ground, so we had to walk to the ground, but then we’d walk straight down to the pub.

The game would finish at around five o’clock. By the time we got to the hotel it’d be quarter past, we knew we had three-quarters of an hour, and our car was nearby. Often I can remember a bit before, this side street that’s up beside the pub, if you got here early enough, we could park the car there, and we had a car you couldn’t lock, it had a dickie seat in the back and the canvas. We’d park there conveniently. It’s a clearway now, you can’t get anywhere near it. 

The lovely other thing here, Alice Wills is the only lady we’ve had as a life member of this club. She sadly died about a month ago. She ran a supporters club here – she ran this grandstand, the front six or eight roles, Alice controlled. This Uncle Tom, in the early ‘60s, I used to bring him in my car then. He was getting fragile in walking. We’d get a standing pozzie in front of the grandstand. And one day Alice Wills spotted me, who she knew reasonably well, not so much Uncle Tom. She said, 'Billy, your friend down there, he’s having difficulty standing down there all day, isn’t it? I’m going to ask all the ladies to move up one and Uncle Tom can come and sit up amongst all these ladies. There’s only one thing he’s got to do: every day we put in a shilling and vote on our best player.'

 

We had a player in the ‘60s, Paddy, whose dad also played for Richmond in the ’30s. I hear the yarns from Paddy who tells me yarns from his dad. Everyone who lived in Richmond barracked for Richmond. A lot of the players lived in Richmond. So two o’clock on Saturday Richmond moved from the residential, across Punt Rd, to the ground. And the rivalry, which is unique in the world, for a city where there used to be 12 teams, or 11 plus Geelong, to sustain a competition, with a population and a following, is world unique. If you cross Victoria St, from the Richmond location into Collingwood, well that was enemy territory. Every second Saturday afternoon, everything in Richmond stopped to attend the game. 

I can remember Graham Richmond, who became a powerhouse here, back in the ‘60s towards the ‘70s, he started buying up homes in Richmond. They were rundown. He had a group of tradesmen doing them up. So the suburb started to change from these, not flash homes, and it’s one suburb from the city, it’s got transport everywhere. So it’s a tiptop bit of geography to develop. The content and the people changed, as the pioneers of the suburb moved away, their families moved away a bit. Demographics changed.

There were no seatbelts back then. Deaths were a thousand a year when there wasn’t that many cars on the road. The dopey thing we used to do… The fact that we could conveniently park not far from the game, not far from the pub, we had an hour between the game finish and six o’clock closing… You could almost walk along Punt Rd faster than you could drive along it. Even though they have widened it, it’s still this conduit between north and south. You’ve got to get over the river.

Image credits:
Courtesy of the State Library Victoria: www.slv.vic.gov.au
Aerial view of Richmond, Victoria, showing Punt Road oval in foreground.
Creator: Airspy.
Copyright status: This work is out of copyright.

Happy here - Nga's Story

park

I’ve been in Melbourne for 31 years. I live in Richmond, but I work here at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House for 10 years.

I come here by car because I work with cooking so I need to travel by car. Sometimes it’s very busy, after work, heading back home. But in the morning it’s very good and fresh. I arrive at work and no problems. After 5 or 6pm is not a good time. That’s the busy time on weekdays. But weekends are beautiful, quiet. Except when the football is on.

The park is good here. I think if they do more park for children to play more people like to come. A family thing. We have a park over here. Behind here. We use it for festivals. A little bit not security, because the people living here are all drinking.

We do a shop every day on Victoria Street and I live close to there. Victoria Street is smaller. This one is a big one, so very happy, for cars. Over there, the community stays closer. We need more space – no more cars but more space. For parks.

I tried the train but I’m not good at the bus. I don’t know where they take us to. I used to do the train before I was driving. So easy for me and quick. Public transport is the best here in Melbourne. Especially in Richmond, we have everything.

I work with the elderly and they use maybe the bus more on Hoddle Street. And then tram and train. I think they’re happy with that. The only thing is the rough people, the drug dealers, they’re around here too much. So if we can solve that, it’s beautiful living here. The elderly people here, my community, they’re happy here. Everything here, the shops here, the people here.

The best place - Antonio's Story

boxing

God brought me to Australia. God told me he’d take me to Australia. In 1973 I was in South America, Peru. I found a job in a ship in Rotterdam and went to Peru, across the Panama Canal.

I arrived in Sydney in 1983. I was working as a cleaner. I was the best cleaner. I moved to Melbourne in 1985. First I lived in Clayton. Then I moved to Hoddle Street.

Hoddle Street is the best place. Everybody here at the Neighbourhood House recognises me. I’ve got a lot of friends here. I set up a boxing gym. My gym became a community gym.

There’s nothing wrong with Collingwood. Good suburb. Good people, bad people, everywhere you go. I don’t drive. I never drive in my life. Now I can’t because I had a stroke. I catch the bus everywhere. This place is very good for public transport. This place is the best place. I like to live here. Sometimes I think I may move to Queensland but others say, 'Don’t go there, because they don’t like black people.' I don’t care, I have friends everywhere.

One way trip to sunburn - Lois' Story

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!

beach

A thriving strip - Anonymous' Story

closedshop

In the 1950s, before the ‘slum’ demolitions began to widen it, Hoddle Street in Collingwood was a thriving shopping strip much like Smith Street is now. The original street ran between today’s median strip and the Abbotsford side footpath. There were pie shops, green grocers and grocers, butcher shops, a cinema and dance halls. And between Victoria Parade and Alexander Parade there were no less than five hotels. After a days work in the shoe factory Bryce & Duncan, women would often buy the ingredients for their families’ evening meal – then they'd shell the peas in each others company on the train ride home.

The Punt Road bus met with the double decker bus in Johnston Street. Many factories, mainly footwear and clothing, were in the suburb, and lots of workers cottages lined the streets. Many of the people living in the workers cottages were subsequently relocated into the public housing estate between Hoddle and Wellington Streets.

Excited, loud and boisterous - Xenophon's Story

beach

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.

Mavis and me - Nick's Story

streetlights

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.

Road rage - Nick's Story

traffic

Stick to the left lane. The right lane builds and backs up at Swan Street or for MCG traffic and can ruin the flow for miles back. The left lanes all flow (with left turns at Bridge Road getting their own lane).

The only things that mess this system up are:

- Buses

- Parked cars (ram them)

- People ever so slowly pulling into Hungry's Jacks (also worth ramming)

- Cyclists (shout at them)

Physics and gravity - Mark's Story

coins

In 1982, I lived in Abbotsford and caught the bus along Hoddle Street and Punt Road to get to work at the Alfred Hospital. One morning I had to raid my gambling tin to extract the bus fare in one, two and five cent pieces. The driver was less than impressed with my present and slapped my hand away, spilling the little coins across the floor of the bus. I didn’t pick them up; just sat down and enjoyed the ride.

The next day, the same driver stopped the bus and opened the back door to exiting passengers but refused to open it for me. I grabbed the hand rails on the side of the entrance doors and hung on for dear life as the bus departed. Knowing a bit about physics and gravity, I figured that it would be imprudent to let go once the bus had gathered a bit of speed so travelled thus from Vere Street to Victoria Street, where the driver was forced to stop and let me on.

Being 19-years-old and probably permanently affected by the night before, I can’t recall much else about the incident — there were no mobile phones with natty cameras to record this heinous crime for tabloid TV — but I do know that the interminably slow moving peak hour traffic probably saved me that day.

Route 246 - Andrea's Story

bus

I am a 53-year-old women who has been travelling Punt Road since I was 18. I used to lived in a flat on Punt Road – with the screeching of the brakes a nightly occurrence and the Nylex clock my own personal clock. I lived in Abbotsford and caught the 246 bus when I studied at Swinburne in the 80s. I lived in Richmond and travelled to Swinburne to work, again, on the 246.

For many years my son travelled to school on the 246 along Punt Road. First with his loving mum then ignoring her to hang with his mates.

My best friend lived in Elsternwick and, when I again lived in Abbotsford, I travelled between our two homes again on the 246 (she passed away almost two years ago). Sometimes it would take two hours, sometimes 20 minutes.

I now live in Westgarth and still work at Swinburne/NICA and still travel on the 246. I have an amazing array of 'shoe shots' of my feet up in the bus as I yet again journey down Punt Road. A girl has to occupy her time whilst the footy traffic clears and I do love shoes! You see I don't drive, and have never driven, so Punt Road is my walking route. My bus route. My taxi route. And many times I sit in other's cars as we crawl along the road that has become an artery of my life. Punt Road is truly my road!