Gate crash - Peter's Story


My dad used to work on the Victoria Railways. He used to make those railway gates on Hoddle Street in Clifton Hill and repair them when cars crashed through them. It was in the early '50s – they didn’t have power tools in those days, it was all done by hand. And I remember as a kid going to work with Dad when cars went through the gates.

These days, I go past there on a daily basis and it brings back memories of my old man. Day in, day out. They’re all good memories. I’ve still got the tools that he used to carry around to repair the gates.

Image credits:
Courtesy of the State Library Victoria: www.slv.vic.gov.au
Gate keeper's house and employees on Upfield line, Brunswick
Date(s): [ca. 1970-ca. 1996]
Creator: Rogers, Phillip photographer.

Milk bars at 111 and 107 - Peter's Story

My father-in-law owned two businesses in Hoddle St at #111 between 1955 & 1960, and at #107 between 1960 and January 1971. Both were milk bars – the second one also sold papers, groceries, fruit and vegies.

My wife, at age 8 or 9, would have picnics with her dog on the plantation in the middle of the road, directly outside the shop.

These are photos of the exterior of 111 Hoddle St in 1955 and inside with proprietors Bob and Ivy Smithwick.


Excited, loud and boisterous - Xenophon's Story


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.

Billy carts, newspapers and stars - Edmund's Story


When Edmund was around 11-years-old, he lived on Hoddle Street with his mother. This was in 1942 and 1943. His father went away to the Second World War and never came back. So Edmund and his mother lived in a small flat on the corner of Hoddle and Victoria Streets. 

Edmund went to school at Yarra Park on the corner of Victoria Street, and he and his friends raced billy carts down the hill. Due to the petrol rationing, there weren't many cars on the road – people would save their petrol for the weekends so, during the week, the road was free for billy carts! You could get a lot of speed up on the hill – but Edmund never won the races because his friend’s cart had bigger wheels.

One day, a guy on a bike came along and grabbed Edmund's billy cart and disappeared up towards Smith Street. Edmund ran after him but couldn’t find it. He was devastated.

Each night Edmund had to be home by 5.30pm to put dinner on for his mum, while she worked in the city. What he didn’t tell her was that after school he would sell newspapers on the corner of Victoria and Hoddle. In those days it was a much smaller intersection. Trams still came down the middle and they were packed, with people hanging off the boards.

Edmund would sell papers to people as they got off the tram, or as he rode the tram up and down Victoria Street/Wellington Parade. But one night his mum came home from work early and caught him selling papers. He was in a lot of trouble.  

During the war there were blackouts at night. On summer nights, he would lie on the nature strip in the middle of Punt Road and look up at the stars. When the lights were on, you couldn't see the stars.

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.

Punt Road memories - Jim's Stories


My grandmother, Elizabeth Wilson, migrated to Australia from Scotland in 1923. Not long afterwards, she took over a shop, opposite the Punt Road Oval, that she ran with her family.

Two stories she told us...

Carlton and United Breweries used to graze the Clydesdales that pulled their drays in the paddocks between Swan Street and the Yarra (probably the area known as Gosch's Paddock). The massive horses were stabled close to the brewery during the week but, at the weekend, they were turned out on pastures green for two blissful days. She used to tell us of the horses literally stampeding down Punt Road on a Friday evening just like children coming out of school. Monday morning was a different story as they had to be almost pushed up the Punt Road Hill to face the weekly grind.

Gran was known for her excellent home made ice-cream. Her shop sold Peter's ice-cream. As she would tell us, one day she quietly substituted some of her own product. A customer bought a cone, took a couple of licks and asked "Is this Peter's?" Gran nodded. "Hmm," he replied "They've improved!"

And some stories of my own...

As a cadet journalist on The Herald in 1959, I was reporting on, with a photographer, a brewery lorry that had overturned while turning from Albert Street into Hoddle Street. The gutters were awash with the amber fluid. My next assignment was covering a meeting of the Women's Christian Temperence Union and I wondered why I was getting so many disparaging looks. Then I realised my shoes were soaked in the spilt brewery product.

Those of us young petrolheads of the early 1960s well remember making a lefthand turn from Punt Road at the silos and powering up a ramp onto the very first stage of the gleaming new South Eastern freeway and zipping along its total length to the Church Street off-ramp. Well it seemed very exciting at the time!

And there was once a railway station called Punt Road. The Melbourne and Suburban Railway Company opened it on 5 February 1859 on a line that began at Princes Bridge. It was just to the west of Punt Road. By December 1859 the line had been taken across Punt Road to the present site of Richmond Station. I suspect it could have been by a level crossing as high level platforms did not appear at Richmond Station until November 1885. Wow! Imagine a level crossing there today with all the trains using Richmond. The barriers would never be up and  traffic would be banked up Punt Road to Clifton Hill and St Kilda Junction!

And finally...

Some friends were discussing the best advice they had ever received from their fathers.  The winner was "No matter what time of the day or night, son, never go near Punt Road."

Three words of advice - Fysh's Story

There's an old joke my father used to tell (back in the days when people told jokes and he was still alive).

An old man is dying in bed. He beckons his son to his side, reaches out and grasps his hand. As he gasps for air, he whispers, 'Three words of advice son.'

'Yes dad. I'm listening.'

'Never lend money to a friend.'

'Yes Dad. Never lent money to a friend...'

'Never borrow money from a friend.'

'Yep Dad. Don't borrow off a friend. Got it. And the third thing, Dad?'

'Don't use Punt Road.'


John's Story

Image from www.oldclassiccar.co.uk

Image from www.oldclassiccar.co.uk

I was about 7-years-old and my younger brother was 5. We rode with our father in his 1930s model Morris – a very small car with a very small engine – south down Hoddle Street. It was a bright Sunday morning in the late 1940s.

We crossed Punt Road bridge and Alexandra Avenue and proceeded to climb Punt Hill. The car ascended about halfway then stalled. We had to back down a little to the gutter, then push the car out to do a U-turn to drive back down the hill. (The little car had a crank handle to start the engine, but in this case the engine would restart as the clutch was let out when the car gathered speed.) My father thought that, with a bigger run at the hill, we could make it. 

But alas, on the second attempt the car reached only three-quarters of the way to the top before we had to stop. This time, however, my father was prepared and he stopped the car before it stalled. We could then safely back down and turn around under engine power.

My father still thought we could make it, but was concerned that if he took too big a run at the hill we would pass through the intersection so fast that we may not be able to avoid a collision if another car happened to be crossing Alexandra Ave. (At that time there were no traffic lights at the intersection so, although there was not much traffic, it was too dangerous to speed through.)

Fortunately a pedestrian saw our predicament and indicated that he would wait at the intersection and attempt to hold up any cars travelling east or west along Alexandra Avenue while we sped past! 

With the way supposedly clear, we travelled back up Hoddle Street some 200 metres past the end of the bridge, then gunned the little engine and flew through the intersection. The car proceeded beautifully up the hill, slowing considerably for the last 100 metres, then finally crested. Great rejoicing!

Caroline's Story

photo by   http://s1197.photobucket.com/user/StarShip2000

photo by http://s1197.photobucket.com/user/StarShip2000

My grandmother, Bertha, the daughter of Sir John Monash, nagged her father to buy a horse so that she could ride to school (I think at PLC in East Melbourne) from their place in Hawthorn. This would have been in the 1900s. He (unwisely) bought her an ex-racehorse that was very hard to control – but after asking she did not feel that she could complain, and risk losing the horse.

One day she was riding under the railway bridge over Punt Road, at Swan Street, when her horse bolted at the sound of trains going overhead. It became completely uncontrollable and she could have come to grief except a man passing by managed to grab it by the bridle. This man insisted on leading her home despite her protestations, and made it clear to her father that this was no horse for a young lady, so that was the end of that. 

Many years later (in the 1980s) I lived in a shared house on Punt Road. This house belonged to the mother of a very good friend of mine and it so happens that her mother was friends with Bertha Monash, just as the mother of my friend was friends with my mother. Three generations of friendships independently formed – a real Melbourne dynasty of friendships.

The shared house was the house my friend had grown up in. It was a great house, one of those single-fronted single-story terraces not far from the river on the east side of Punt Rd, still there. I had the room at the back so it was not too noisy. Many share house stories could be told a la Helen Garner (but not really Punt Rd stories), but I do remember that peculiar smell – something to do with brewing? – that always pervaded that end of Punt Rd. Whatever industry that caused it has gone now.