freeway

The shortest distance between two points - Anne's Story

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We lived in South Yarra, a flat on the corner of the Righi. My father had lived there for years. His dog, he claimed, understood that a straight line was the shortest distance between two points, since he always crossed to Gordon Grove according to this principle.

You could smell fresh bread from the bakery over the other side of the hill.

In the 1960s we moved down to Richmond, over from Gosch's Paddock. Once the silos caught fire and we children watched a fireman going up a long ladder, then dropping something, a handkerchief we supposed, which floated downwards for a long long time. We used the Nylex clock, in the morning before school I would stand at my mother's bedroom window and plait my hair, keeping a sideways eye on the time.

At ground level, in dark caverns under the silos, men with rakes turned the barley over in long pits, the whole of South Richmond smelling of malt.

We lived opposite the entrance to Punt Rd from the freeway. One night a couple knocked at the door asking for directions. After they left we heard an accident and went out onto the veranda to see what had happened. A car coming fast around that slip road had run over and killed one of our visitors.

Once a heavily loaded ute lost a chair from its load. We were sitting on the veranda and saw it. Before the driver had time to pull over, another driver stopped, picked up the chair and drove off with it.

I used to walk home from school along Punt Rd and, if the lights were against me at Alexandra Ave, I would walk along the west side and cross to our house, lane by lane between the moving cars, something that would have shocked my mother.

My parents had a friend who was a painter, and he came visiting one day, wearing a pink shirt. He knocked on the wrong door and said he just missed being thrown down the steps by our neighbour who was affronted to have a pink-shirted man on his door step.

Traffic strategies - Kaukau's Story

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Hoddle St is a very, very busy street. I accept that fact that it is a very busy street, and you’ve got a lot of people plowing into it. I noticed this morning when I drove here, 'Whoa! This place is absolutely packed.' So I actually got off it. I ended up on Smith St.

You’ve got three or four lanes at any one given time. Peak hour traffic is just hectic. So I must admit I try to avoid this road during peak hour traffic. I will leave at the latest by quarter to five, because that way you get a perfect run along Hoddle St. And I tend to avoid Punt Rd, full stop. Unless I absolutely must travel down there. It’s a busy road, it’s Melbourne, it’s a city. I accept that fact.

It’s also the gateway from the Eastern Freeway, so you have so much traffic plowing in from the eastern suburbs. This place just gets hectic. But I have learnt to navigate: which lanes to jump into, at what part. At certain sections you know to jump into certain lanes, because some will slow down, some will speed up. At certain times it changes. 

Even if you’re getting onto the Eastern, you avoid like hell the two lefthand lanes until the last minute. People just accept the fact that somebody’s going to cut across, they do. There’s that road rage sort of thing but, for the most part, people are quite accepting to allow traffic to cut in.

I had a massive accident a year ago. But I’ve never broken down along Hoddle St or Punt Rd. I would hate to be that person. Once there’s an accident, it throws everything out. All your natural cues, everything is thrown. It’s like when you allow an emergency vehicle through. I’ve noticed that people just won’t move sometimes – peak hour traffic, but there’s nowhere to move anyway. But, even if there is, they’re more inclined to hold their little space.

I have a tendency to feel that, in a car, you’re quite isolated. And it’s quite different to cycling. In fact I try to stay off the road if I’m on a bicycle. Because drivers aren’t so friendly to the cyclists. So I get on the footpaths. 

Crossing Hoddle St, I don’t like to do it. It’s really busy, so I try to avoid crossing. Johnston St, in Abbotsford, I really don’t know what’s down there. I’ve got a vague idea, but I avoid going over there. Purely because it’s so busy and I’ll know I have to wait.

I haven’t used the footbridge in a long time. I think the last time I crossed that bridge was when I used to catch public transport. It’s a rare occasion. When all you see is traffic you think, 'Nah I don’t want to go out there.' Especially when I know I need to drive out into it. Just getting onto Johnston St to get onto Hoddle St, oh my gosh, that can be… If you don’t time it well, after 4 o’clock, even five minutes to, they change the signals so you can’t turn right. So you’ve got to time it or you’ve got to go through Collingwood, through the residential areas, and then make your way down to one of the other streets. If I miss those lights, I have to go down to Victoria St. So you’ve got to make sure you time it. 

I’m one of those people who takes the back roads. I get lost a lot.

The great divide - Dale's Story

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One thing about Hoddle St is that it does create a major divide for us at Collingwood College. It almost becomes a hard boundary between this part of Collingwood and Abbotsford. And also Victoria Park. Strangely enough it’s like having the Great Wall go through the middle of the wider community. It’s quite strange to have a school that sits on the boundary of this arterial road. It causes problems for us because of noise and traffic and sometimes pollution, but it’s not too bad.

And that’s why our parents, 10 years ago, built this very high, natural wood fence to try and separate it from the major road and the ugliness of heavy traffic going past the school everyday. But blocking it out has meant that people don’t know we’re here. So here we are, on the boundary of this major road, and people can travel up that road – and I hear this story time and time again – 'Where are you?' And I say, 'Opposite the Town Hall.' And they give me this puzzled look, as if, 'I’ve been travelling that way for 20 years and I’ve never seen the school.' They didn’t even know the school is there. 

There’s a carpet place directly opposite, on the other side of Hoddle St, that’s been in business for 32 years. I went in there one day and asked for a quote for some carpet for the school. He said, 'What school?' Again it’s another example of how this road can create a huge divide. And one side doesn’t know very much about the other side. It’s quite strange. What’s worse for us is that there’s another big divide with the freeway. So we’re in the corner of these two big roads, pathways, that create divisions within the community. Which is a little bit sad because the demographic on this side of the road is changing a bit, but the demographic on the other side has clearly changed. It’s amazing what a road can do to a situation like that.

We’ve got an overpass and it hardly gets used. Back 15 years ago it was probably the right place. But now with the shift towards public transport people don’t go that way. There are hard barriers right along the road there. Apart from our fence line, there are other fence lines, that make this quite a serious construct in terms of dividing people. In some respects that’s a little bit sad. The demographic on the east is quite affluent, very different from this side, and they’re only separated by 50 metres. I’ve been in schools with big roads next to them but nothing to this effect. This is a big barrier.

There have been many well-established businesses along Hoddle Street that have survived many years. I’ve watched those businesses. It’s strange, I don’t see many people walking in and out but they keep pushing on. Whether it’s because they’re adaptable, or have been able to maintain their businesses in a different way, I don’t know. But there are also little businesses that spring up. It’s quite unique, the range of businesses, everything from printing, right through to furniture. It’s quite strange in that respect. It’s funny too that the traffic doesn’t connect with the businesses. It’s a strange area like that – the face of the local businesses doesn’t fit in with the type of people that use the road.

The road does have public transport along it. I’ve been using the public transport more. I think there is a large bus usage group that uses Hoddle St. It’s quite an important roadway. It spans quite a few suburbs. It has the ability to connect with so many other forms of transport. The public transport here connects with the freeway that then connects with Doncaster. If you get into Clifton Hill, it then connects with the West, to Moonee Ponds and all that area. It has that feeder ability to connect with a lot of other communities around.

I like the way, as you travel along, you can suddenly see a football club or two. These big institutions that have become part of the roadway. I think that reflects a part of Melbourne too. And it’s also got the multicultural aspect. And the history.

There's a book about the 125-year history of this school. In the early days, when they were trying to get it up and running, there was a little Greek school here. At that time the Greeks were pretty predominant in this area. And the Greeks actually did a march up Hoddle St. It was quite a pivotal point for their political process – it wasn’t long after that they announced that they would build a school. I think that’s how the red building got built. It came from a protest up and down Hoddle St, with all the Greek mums.

There was a girls school here for a while. That burnt down, then they moved to another temporary school, then this one was built. There’s a real history. 

There's a little doll’s house on the corner – that's a miner’s cottage. It used to be on Islington, which is the street parallel to Hoddle. Those little cottages – that’s the last one – they were scattered right through Collingwood and Abbotsford. You can see they’re tiny. I don’t think they had a floor in them. And they’re called miner’s cottages. They go back to the very early days. That was the look along Hoddle St back in those days. That’s the last remaining one.

Our kids got a grant last year, got $1000, and bought some old tables and chairs and the kitchen equipment they used, they got it on ebay, and tried to restore it inside. But that’s reflective of maybe 100 years ago, back in the early 1900s. 

I’ve been here 10 years and I haven’t seen a lot change on Hoddle St. I think it’s one of those institutions that’s going to live on forever and forever. The road itself has changed. But the people around the road, in the immediate vicinity, I haven’t seen much change.

I know when I was a kid there was all this talk about the freeway. As I said, it creates a divide. But it’s really at the top end up there. If it came down 100 metres down here I wonder how it would have changed things. So let’s see in 10 years time. But in the main stretch of things I don’t see a lot of change happening, except some roads getting bigger and wider. 

Mavis and me - Nick's Story

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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.