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.
Originally our house on Punt Road, Richmond, had a privet hedge. Once I remember a man having a quiet and private piss into it.
Then my mother scavenged a lot of stone and built a big wall. It barely got through council: my father said it was probably because it reminded them of their days inside! It must have made my mother feel very safe because she always used to walk naked from the veranda down the steps to the front gate to get the milk and the paper in the morning.
In those days, the 1960s, the paper boy ('Buggerlugs') and the milko who delivered from a cart pulled by a slow and patient horse, got a present at Christmas time, maybe ten shillings? I don't know, it was my father who kept the custom going.
Hi, I’m Thalia and I’m 15 years old. I've lived in Collingwood for six years.
I’m Sumeyra and I've lived in Collingwood for 17 years, and I’m 17.
I’m Jamie, I lived in Collingwood for eight years and I’m 15-years-old.
Interviewer: How do you get to school? Do you walk along Hoddle St?
T: We live in the flats and Hoddle St is just there.
S: We usually just use the park, that’s right behind the flats. But if I’m staying at a friend’s house we’ll always come through Hoddle St to get to my flats or the school. Yeah, I use it quite a lot.
J: A lot of people cross Hoddle St to get to the train station mostly, because that’s the only connecting main road to get across. Or the park, the one behind the Town Hall. The one where the train tracks are above, right across from there.
T: We call it Station Park.
S: Yeah, that’s what we call it but we don’t really have a real name for it. A lot of people go there to just chill. Yeah, it’s pretty cool.
T: I go over the footbridge by myself, when I’m not with my mum, because she’s scared of heights.
J: I hate that bridge.
S/T: I love that bridge.
J: When I was a kid, I used to call it the Bridge of Terror. I always thought something bad was going to happen up there like the bridge was suddenly going to crack or a truck was going to flip over it.
T: He was always scared when we were going over that bridge.
J: And it was just going to break down and we were all going to fall. I was just always scared of that bridge.
S: I used to love that bridge as a child. When I was on top of it I would feel like I’m flying. I used to call it the Airport Bridge.
T: I just sit there. Sit in the middle. It’s fun.
S: When I was like 5-years-old that’s what I used to do.
T: At night it was pretty fun.
S: I took a photo of the traffic. It was like it was coming and…
T: There’s people in the cars…
S: They keep looking at you like, 'What the hell?'
J: They get worried someone’s gonna chuck rocks. They do it a lot on the freeway. Chuck rocks. Spit. People do that. They go through windshields.
S: Hoddle St leads to a lot of main roads so you can just quickly get to places really quickly. We use it a lot, my family uses it a lot.
T: It’s got everything. There’s pools…
J: I think it’s really good because it connects straight to Richmond. It’s just one straight road down.
T: And Clifton Hill.
J: Clifton Hill the other way. The freeway. Anywhere you need to go. It’s put in a good spot.
S: That’s what I’m saying it connects to really good main places.
J: Yeah, you can just follow that line all the way down to St Kilda. I think it just works really well. I used to live in Collingwood. I used to live down on Gold St, down there. And we used to use Hoddle St a lot, me and my brother. But I moved out down to Doncaster. My mum lived around here when she was young. She lived in Abbotsford, so she would use Hoddle St all the time and she remembers all the stories about that guy, the stabbings and all that.
S: My mum remembers that too because she’s lived here since she moved to Australia. 25 years ago I think.
J: My mum went to this school when she was younger as well. She tells me all the stories about how in Clifton Hill, all the things that happened down there, even the stabbings, that happened down there, she remembers. She said she would’ve probably passed the guy in her car, like a few minutes, or she would’ve walked past him. She was there when it happened, she was walking around there. So if she had walked any minutes later, who knows what could’ve like happened?
S: My mum was like at the park when that was happening. So she heard the noise and then she just went upstairs to the house and was looking out the window. She was like, 'I didn’t know what was going on but I didn’t want to know.' Because she heard gunfire and all that. So she just, she locked the doors.
Interviewer: Living up in the flats, can you hear the noise from the road?
T: Yeah, I live high up – there’s 20 floors – and I can hear everything.
S: Depends on the side of the house you’re on. Where you are, you’re facing the road.
T: I’m facing both ways. I’m the corner.
S: You’re the corner so you’re facing the school and also the road.
T: And also the park.
S: On Saturday nights you can hear the traffic.
J: Saturday nights definitely.
S: Yeah, Friday and Saturday nights. It’s packed.
J: It’s a real connector from the freeway because I live down… If we come through here we go down Hoddle St to get to anywhere, especially if you want to go down to St Kilda, or Elwood down there. Especially in summer, that’s when it’s really busy. And you can, you can notice it. After school, every day is quite busy, but I think Saturday nights…
S: Friday and Saturday nights is just…
J: It’s not banked up but it’s just consistent.
S: Yeah, it just keeps going on. It just keeps coming…
T: Beeping and…
S: It keeps coming, it does not stop. It’s like a flow of cars.
T: You can hear people talking…
S: Yeah, if they talk loud enough, you can actually hear them.
Interviewer: From your flats?
S: Not if the windows are closed, but if they’re slightly open you can actually hear them very clearly. So if I really wanted to I could actually find out if someone murdered anyone. It’s actually that clear.
T: The school speaker, like, if they were asking for my name, I’ll be at home and I’m just like, 'Whoa.'
J: A lot of people, when they go out clubbing and they take Hoddle St to get straight to the city, you can hear their music. The doof doof. My brother has that. They’ve got their sub-woofers going. You can hear that a lot.
S: You can hear it so clear.
T: You can hear that bar across the street.
S: You just open the window and you don’t need music, you can just listen to that and dance to it.
T: There’s a bar across the street near the bridge on Hoddle St and you can hear people playing their music.
J: Is it the bistro? The bar bistro just off… Just next to Collingwood Station when you come straight out, just across there, and it leads to the side road, to the main road across there, there’s a bar down there.
S: We used to have stories, I just remembered one. You know those really, really big party balloons that you used to have? That you could even bounce on them. I used to have one and I was walking down Hoddle St with my mum, because we were just out on Johnston St, we got something from there, from the little grocery shop there. So we were walking down Hoddle St and then I let go of the balloon and it flew onto Hoddle St. And I was running after it. And if my brother didn’t catch me I probably would’ve got hit by a car. And then my brother was like, 'Don’t run anywhere.' And then he went and got the balloon and came back. And my mum’s going ape-sh*@t. And I’m like, 'Mum calm down, I didn’t die.' I was four.
T: I remember walking my sister’s dog.
S: Please don’t say the dog died...
T: No, it nearly got hit by a car. My sister asked me to walk her dog. I was like, 'I might take it to Station Park.' Walked it there. I went over the footbridge, the overpass, because I didn’t trust crossing Hoddle St. And then I went to Station Park and then I walked her and she wanted to go home. So I went to walk through the crossing out front of the flats, on Hoddle St. And then, she bolted in the middle.
S: That’s why I prefer cats, you don’t have to walk them.
T: She bolted in the middle and I ran over the footbridge and then I dropped my phone off the footbridge and it cracked. It landed on the grass and I was like, 'Yes!' Because the dog wanted to go home because she wasn’t used to, like, walking with me and she just ran across Hoddle St. I was just standing there. I was like, 'Oh no.' Because my sister's other dog passed away so I can’t let this one die. My sister was like, 'How was the walk?' I was like, 'Great.' And then these people were jumping out of their cars trying to grab the dog. All the cars stopped. No-one got it, it just ran to the front of the flats. Sitting there.
S: No-one stopped to help me.
Interviewer: Are you guys footy fans?
J: I am.
All: Yeah, Collingwood.
T: Because we see Collingwood football players around.
J: They used to actually come down to the school. They used to do this little thing called the Breakfast Club. Every week, two or three of the players used to come down and meet all the kids.
T: They still do that…
J: Not like they used to.
T: Not like that, but last time was the captain of Collingwood. And the boxer.
J: That was just one guy, they used to do the team. The whole team.
S: That was when Collingwood was here.
J: That was when they used to practice…
Interviewer: At Victoria Park.
J: Now they just do the occasional rock up.
Interviewer: Do you guys go over to Victoria Park at all?
S: I actually go to the Collingwood Club there, because it’s quite an old place. And all my friends who used to live in Collingwood, when we meet up we’d go there to just hang out a bit, and then we’ll go to the city. All my brothers and my family used to go. It’s kind of very important for us. Our family friends moved out a long time ago to buy a house. It’s like a little tradition that we go there.
J: For us, I have a brother and a sister, and the house in Collingwood was just a bit small. And I was sharing a room with my brother at the time and then, he’s about five years older than me. We decided that it’s getting a bit crammed up in there and then we’ve moved out now. But we’ve still got the house, we rent it out. And my brother works on Wellington St so he always goes past the house and sees how it’s doing.
Interviewer: Do you have any stories that you remember when you were living here, particularly on Hoddle St?
J: There was a bit of a shaky one. I was at home with my brother, we were on Gold St, and we knew everyone around Collingwood, we had all our mates from school. And we hear a knock at the door. This was on a Saturday. We hear a knock at the door, go and get it, and it's our friends. They have this look of fear on their faces and they’re panicking. We go, 'What happened, what happened?' They go, 'This guys was gonna stab us on Hoddle St.' He was following them. He said, 'Give me your wallets or I’m gonna stab you.' They were going down to the Collingwood pools, just near Clifton Hill. We were shocked, we didn’t know what to do. The scary thing is, he was out the front of our house, he was standing there looking at the house. Our friends came past the house, he must have followed them. He stopped in front of the house. I was about six then. My brother would've been 11 to 12. We were at home, just us.
T: My mum whacked a guy with her bag…
S: Yes, my mum did that too.
T: The guy got out of his car and he was like, 'Give me your bag.' And she’s like, 'Nuh.'
Interviewer: She used her handbag in self defence?
T: Yeah, she used her bag. Then we recognised him and he was living in the same flat. But he never came.
S: The guy who tried to rob my mum actually wasn’t living around Collingwood. He was living at Richmond or something. He got caught though. He had a knife in his hand and he’s like, to my mum, 'Give me all your money.' And my mum was like, 'No!' And just got her bag and started whacking him. Apparently she had like books from the Collingwood Library in her bag, so she was like hitting him with it. I don’t know what happened. I think the guy just ran off. I wasn’t even there, I was at school when this was happening.
Interviewer: Are there any changes you'd like to see on Hoddle St?
S: It’s changed…
T: We were all happy when there was a McDonalds. We were happy.
S: And the pizza.
T: And Hungry Jacks.
Interviewer: Can you tell us more about Station Park?
T: It’s a meeting-up place.
S: You call up your friends and say, 'Hey, meet me at the Station Park.' And they’ll come. Even if you don’t live in Collingwood. Like if they live in Broadmeadows and you guys are meeting up in Collingwood they’ll know where to go.
T: They’re coming from the train. And, after school at three o’clock, there are a lot of parents around with their kids.
S: Even on Sundays, there’s a lot of parents doing picnics and having fun with their family.
J: It’s good down there, they have a boxing gym that we used to go to. Right across from the station, it’s like an old, white building, if you look from Collingwood Station. I used to go there. They renovated. I got a bit over it. They used to, occasionally, if it was a nice day, you’d go to the park and do some sessions out there. It was good. It’s a very open. There’s one part for the younger kids and there’s this big open space. You can take your pets there, anything you want.
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.
It was night time and we were travelling along Punt Road towards St Kilda, either going to a family event or coming home from a family event. Considering the direction we were going, we must’ve been going somewhere.
My sister Anna was about 12 or 13. I was about 7. Dad was in the passenger seat and Mum was driving, which was usually the case. Anna was sitting on the lefthand side in the backseat, and hadn’t really said much for the entire 40-minute journey into Punt Rd from Diamond Creek. We were travelling down from Bridge Road junction and were across the road from Punt Road Oval, where we stopped at the traffic lights, on the corner of Brunton and Punt.
There’s not many businesses along that stretch of Punt Road or much activity in terms of what to look at when you’re a passenger looking out the car. But at that intersection there’s a pub called the Cricketer’s Arms. And Anna hadn’t said much but she was looking out the window sort of not taking much in, and just said out loud, 'Oh, there’s a pub over there.' And we just said, 'Oh yes.' And Anna said, 'And none of the women have their tops on!' And that was Anna’s first experience of a topless bar.
The excuses or the explanation that Mum and Dad then gave, after the change in the traffic lights, was hilarious:
'Some people feel they want to do those things' or 'It’s just a topless bar'.
'What’s a topless bar?'
'A place where ladies work with no clothes on.'
'Why would they do that?!'
I can’t quite remember the explanation very well but I remember everyone killing themselves laughing except for Anna, who was mortified at the scene that she’d seen.