Prahran People - Imogen's Story


We were Prahran People. Every outing was a chance to traverse that great road, whether to join the Fitzroy folk, or sashay with St Kilda souls. We had a pint on punt, sometimes at the Pint on Punt, sometimes at someone’s home on Punt, then launched into the car. The shortest, lightest person was chosen to lie across the back seat people, like a seatbelt.

We chose the new girl to be the seatbelt. No better way to breakdown boundaries. We were too young for common sense. 

“What’s with the boa?” I asked, not sure if I liked her. She was a newcomer. She was someone’s housemate, or someone met her in a Richmond squat, in the bar, at uni or somewhere else. She was just someone who was invited. 

Whether in our own car, or someone else’s, whether we fell out of a cab or were thrown out, every trip down, up or across Punt Rd was an adventure. And every adventure began and ended with Punt Rd, because we were Prahran people.

We only went out at night, so the traffic problem was a party. Could a car ride be more fun than a destination? We chose our favourite music and touched up our lipstick. The back seaters toasted the passenger filled vehicles in the next lane with their Sub Zeros or Carlton Draughts. (Our favourite drinks in the nineties.) 

The girl with the feather boa seemed happy enough. 

We sang as we reached the other side

“Hoddle, Hoddle, Hoddle,” we chorused, huddled like backing singers around an old fashioned microphone on a radio show. We held the feather boa like a microphone. Why? Because at that moment, on a Saturday night, we were our most exuberant, uninhibited selves. It was ritual as we crossed to the other side. The girl with the feather boa joined our car song.

We went somewhere, drank, danced, enjoyed, then looked for our beacon boa. 

Homeward bound again. Strangers at the beginning of Punt Rd could become friends or lovers, on the way back. 

Quieter now, we crossed the river (where a punt once floated) to reach the hill. The Punt Rd hill, our beacon of home at the end of another perfect Melbourne night out.

Fish out of water, prize winning cakes and the dangerous 'DANGER' sign - Valerie's Story

Photo by Bonney Studios, courtesy of the State Library of Victoria,

Photo by Bonney Studios, courtesy of the State Library of Victoria,

When we first came to Australia in 1954 my father came on ahead (all this was by sea of course) to find us a house. he had been appointed to a job at a school in South Yarra. My mother said just make sure the house is on a bus route for the girls to get to a school. We were then aged 3 and 6. We had grown up first in Cambridge, then in Winchester, both famous old English cities. I had gone to a very ‘precious’ little school and had such an exaggerated ‘plum in the mouth’ English accent that even my parents’ were a bit embarrassed about it! 

Dad found a house on the corner of Punt Rd and Greville St, Prahran. He didn’t know it was a pretty rough area in those days. Quite a contrast to where we had come from. It turned out that there was a brothel-cum-sly-grog-shop right next door to us on Punt Rd. There was a little park behind where my sister and I were allowed to play but most of the other kids’ fathers were in gaol! They used to play with pen-knives, they got belted with straps and hairbrushes. It was a world away from our genteel experiences. But we had a lot of fun, albeit worrying for my mother. When Dad was away, as he often was, we would sometimes wake to find sleeping drunks on our front lawn or a brick through the window when someone unhappy at his treatment at the brothel next door had hurled a rock in anger. 

There were other softer aspects though. Two doors down in Punt Rd lived the Pepperells, mother and daughter (both seemed old to me then), who were prize cake exhibitors at the Royal Melbourne Shows. They were so kind and generous to us. And their cakes, slices and cake decorations were fabulous. Across the road down Mowbray St was the Blind Institute so there were often low vision people making their way with white sticks from Prahran Station down Greville St to cross Punt Rd at that very dangerous spot. Wesley College was also located at that intersection so school kids had to cross as well. My mother used to write letters to the Council about its dangers. It did have a red illuminated sign saying ‘DANGER’  suspended across the intersection which ironically fell down one night! But eventually Mum succeeded in getting the Council to instal lights there – so people should be grateful to her. Sadly she died last week. As a former writer she would have relished the opportunity to tell Punt Road stories to you.

We lived in that house for about five years. It has since been pulled down and there is an electricity sub-station there today I think.