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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. 

Excited, loud and boisterous - Xenophon's Story

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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.

Growing up at Wesley - Mandy's Story

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I was born in 1954. Between the years of 1963 and 1969 my bedroom was on Punt Road. At the time my family lived at Wesley College in the building beside the chapel. We had a flat upstairs as Dad was the boarding house master and we needed to live on site.

I shared my bedroom with my sister Pippa and we had a large casement window that looked out onto Punt Rd. In those days the traffic stopped between about 1 and 4 am so there was this eerie quiet while everyone slept. Then the traffic would start up and I would know morning was coming. I could tell the time of night by the amount of traffic there was. There was a different feel to the morning traffic which was more purposeful and less chaotic than the night traffic.

In my adolescent years, a retreat for me was to sit in that window and hang my feet over the edge watching the world go by and wonder what part I was going to play in it. There was a boarding house across the road and I would watch the comings and goings, not understanding what was really going on.

There were always shrouded women in black heading home with their carts carrying goods from the Prahran market. I vaguely remember a house with a large grapevine and vegetable garden in the front. There were many Greek migrants renting in that area at the time and they seemed exotic and different to those of us born in Australia.

My bed was alongside this window and I could see the lights from Punt Rd shining through cracks in the corners of the ceiling. I would imagine the roof falling in when the trucks started up in the early morning, as well as seeing imagined spiders and other creepy crawlies creeping into the room.

Needless to say it was a dirty place to sit!! There was always grime everywhere.

Down below the window was a garden bed with marigolds. And on the other side of the road was a good friend who was the chaplain's daughter. I could see whether they were at home then go and find her for a play. This meant traversing the traffic because whoever used a traffic light?! Always a life threatening event but again adding to the fun.

One of our favorite things to do was to play in the chapel tower which was out of bounds to the boarders. It was a dirty disgusting place filled with old cigarette butts from bad boys who went there to sneak a smoke. To us it was an exciting and interesting place – slightly naughty, dark and dank.

I started having nightmares in that bedroom which carried on for years. I can't blame Punt Rd for that, though at night for a child it was scary. The boarders had movies on Saturday nights and some of them were third-class monster or vampire movies. My brother would hide from his sisters as we returned home through the dark school. He would jump out and I would just about die of fright. Then I would have to walk through the buildings and along the oval on Punt Rd. All the shadows would loom large and the lights on Punt would cast eerie shadows. There was no other lighting as, in those days, schools weren't lit at night. The worst movie was something like The Monster from the Deep. Scared me shockingly.

Sometimes we would drive the length of Punt Rd to see our cousins who lived in Macleod. The drive took forever. We drove over the Punt Hill, past the silos, under the bridge and all the way to the Heidelberg overpass. In those days Hoddle Street was Punt Rd to me; for years I didn't realise that it changed its name.

I spent years walking along that stretch of Punt Rd, down to High St and along to Prahran state school. Later I would stand on the corner of Punt and High to catch the tram to school. Usually running, come to think of it! And that dreadful feeling when the tram sailed past, knowing you would now be late for school.

We left Wesley College and Punt Road when I was 15, to start a new life in the suburbs.