history

A tiptop bit of geography - Bill's Story

richmond

I started following Richmond in 1943. I’m 80 years of age now. 1943, I was a 10-year-old at school. A classmate said, 'Who do you barrack for?' I thought, oops... Richmond had just been premieres so I immediately said Richmond. A couple of other guys said Richmond. Whilst 1943 we’d won the premiership, this was post the premiership, I didn’t know I was going to wait another 24 years till we saluted again. But my friend, named Bruce, nominated Richmond as his club, and he lived nearby.

We then went to every Punt Rd game. I’m 11 at this stage. It was easy to get to Punt Rd on public transport – we lived in Caulfield. We’d get a tram that took us down to Acland St where the bus came straight to the ground. And, apart from two years when I played football, I missed three games only in 50 years. Of which, all those years post war, till we moved to the MCG, which was 20 years, I missed three games of footy, but only one of them was at Punt Rd.

So on the journey I saw every game at Punt Rd which was Saturday afternoon. Always. Every second week. No-one would have seen more games here, in that period. My origins started because of the ’43 premiership. In those 50 years where I did miss three games, I was appointed to various jobs here. One as a statistician. And in 25 years as a statistician I didn’t miss a game. Seconds, firsts or practice games, interstate, everywhere. So that accumulated nearly 1200 games without a miss officially. So my involvement as a statistician developed from my early interest. I’ve always kept details, stats and scrapbooks. So the club identified me, and appointed me club historian in 1986. Which is getting towards 30 years ago. And the origins of the museum and where we’re at now, and the history, had a bit of a starting point.

Initially when we started getting goodies coming in, the club announced that we now have a club historian, and we’d be happy to collect bits and pieces. We had many players say, 'Oh that’s good, I’ve got it in the garage or under the bed or when I go it’ll go with me.' So there was a couple of cubby holes in the old building. One was a disused toilet where we stacked boxes. Those places got filled. And I did give up a room at home. And in the end, before we got the museum, I could only sidle my way in and out of the room with boxes and bits and pieces.

The origins of our collections, or donations, really started when I was appointed, because there was someone official, recognised by our supporters, and the bits and pieces that have come since is a flow-on from knowing there is a resting place, where it can be shared, by supporters. The supporters love it. One of our famous guys, Jack Dyer, in our former museum, he spent nearly one day going down just one wall. Long before we had something established quite like this. Players love to see bits and pieces. You could have a player say, 'What do I got to do to get my jumper?' The answer is, 'Give us one.'

The beaut thing is we endeavoured to get a team photo of every year. When the team photos were taken, on that day there may have only been the 18 or 19 selected. Some would be in the seconds or injured. But the team photo wasn’t inclusive of the whole list for that year. We had footballers coming in, with grandsons, showing them the photo with grandpa in or dad and, oops, on the day of the photo… So what we did then we researched everyone who played in that year, we identified everyone in the photo, and they went way back. We also had underneath: ‘Also played’. So if grandpa was injured on that day, grandson wasn’t disappointed: 'You told me Grandpa you played for Richmond and you’re not in that photo.' So little things like that where former players are proud of it, proud to show off to their children, grandchildren, and the supporters. And even a lot of staff here now who don’t have Richmond origins but our history is here. We did have one group of management here said, 'We’ve got no interest in the history – it’s today or tomorrow.' But I’ve never seen a house or anything built that didn’t have a foundation. So we’ve got a good example here, back to 1885.

I can remember my first visit to Punt Road Oval in 1944. The bus pulled up out here and with a child’s member ticket you came in the grandstand area. And it had a smell: the ground was one-third quagmire type. You could see patches of green, patches that weren’t mud anyway. As you ran down the race you were straight away covered in mud. This was in the middle of winter. It had a smell of, a sour smell, like damp. Yet that was Punt Rd.

Down the end of the grandstand there was a bar area. We used to have halftime entertainment here, better than the halftime entertainment they had over there. There was one older fellow, I was young so everyone was older, he had a long coat on and a hat. At halftime he took it upon himself to enter the ground and protrude onto the ground. He wasn’t supposed to be there. He’d run out on the green bits, which wasn’t easy. And the ground would erupt, 'Here he is!' Then the police would come to chase him. This was like those Keystone Cops. The nearer they got to him, he’d slip and slide and they’d slip. And we used to look forward immensely to this fellow, you’d get a half the game start at the bar, so his courage was there.

I remember when the guy went round the ground with peanuts for thruppence a bag. At halfway he’d walk round. Say they had an end of season trip coming or a wedding, they used to march around with a big tarpaulin, say four people, one each corner. They’d march round the ground and you’d throw coins. If you were near the boundary, come this opportunity of the canvas collection thing, you’d get hit on the head with a 20c piece. So that was a bit of comedy and you’d see kids running round hoping that two shillings didn’t make it in.

It was just such a 'look forward' routine. You knew which bus you got on, every second week, and if it was Collingwood, Fitzroy, Carlton or St Kilda. There was a tram you could get. We went on trams to virtually every game. Saying I didn’t miss a game, that included their away games. Looking forward to this Saturday afternoon, growing through my adolescent years, right up until they moved.

As the bus gathered passengers on the way, you’d see these regulars get on in their Richmond regalia. I can still visualise this bus – it was a green bus – you nearly had the same seat. It was this Saturday ritual. It pulled up right out front the oval. You were there at the doorstep. The bus was just ideal. 

I guess I liked the bus trip too. I was 11 initially. We used to get on a tram, then a bus that got us onto Acland St, so it was really two buses. My friend Bruce lived on the bus route. You’d nearly see the same people on the same bus. 11-years-old, your parents say you can go to the footy, it was safe to go in those days. You don’t probably think of any danger in those years.

On the way home, you did it in reverse. And most times it was a loss. But we always had Brownlow Medalists in that time. We always had some star players. Collectively we only made the finals in 1947. In 1947 we played the first semi-final against Fitzroy and got beaten. We didn’t play another final till ’67.

More often we lost than won, but we had some icon players who stood out. I remember sticking up for myself and Richmond: often the better of the two teams may not have played the best game. We’re a pretty rugged lot here. We had some wild men. We had a guy named Mopsey Fraser who was mad. The lovely individual thing about Mopsey Fraser, rightly named because all his hair went out curly, at the start of the match, he wet it, so he came out looking spivvy. And then all of a sudden, as the game progressed, it’d… Beautifully nicknamed, beautifully cartooned. He actually got reported in his football career to the point where he missed 83 games. Not all of them here – he went on to coach Port Melbourne. 

What kept you interested back then: the personalities. We had another guy named Jeff Patterson. He became an entrepreneur, he rigged an Australian boxing title, he did everything that was a bit different. He drove big Cadillacs or something. He went into a hotel in Tassie. He was one of the first people to introduce overseas artists to this hotel in Tassie. Mopsey Fraser became a partner with him. On three occasions they stole their own safe and claimed the insurance.

To get into the footy ground, there was a plan adopted by young children. I didn’t do it but I did see them do it. Gather up a player as he’d be walking to come to the match, with a kit bag, every player had a kit bag. And they came by public transport the same as us, a lot of them. A lot of them lived around Richmond. So the plan was, and Charlie Calendar developed it, say to the player, 'Can I carry your bag?' And of course that got him in for nothing. And that was a thing you did back then.

There were holes round the fence you could climb through anyway. And I knew of them too. I can honestly say I never did. I always had a season ticket. But the kids that were short of thruppence, which was what it cost to get in. Charlie did that way, way back, this would be the ‘30s. As a result he was always round the rooms and he developed the role that they now call the Property Steward. Insomuch as he wheedled his way in and looked after the chewing gum. He was very thrifty, he cost the club little, because just using chewy as an example: he’d cut them in half and then if you wanted the other half you had to trade in the first bit. 

Charlie was the inaugural because, when the interstate teams developed, they were annual games, Charlie got appointed as the Property Steward to travel with them. The other terrific thing about him, he was so ‘cartoonable’. He had an extended nose, he always rolled his own cigarettes, he could keep it in his mouth till it got right down to the burny bit, his chin nearly went up to his nose. I’m not trying to paint him as ugly – he just had the right face for the job.

The players had to bring their own socks and shorts and take it home. Charlie’s wife, for many years, washed the jumpers. He saved them money. He got all these interstate trips – some of this collection of goodies, some of the stories he could tell, his initiatives to get into the ground for nothing. He died, he got to about 80. In his later years they gave him a title of Property Adviser here. He was just so much of Richmond for 60 or 70 years.

I can remember Punt Rd, in the ‘60s, I would come with my father and Uncle Tom (not an uncle but a close friend). We would drive from Caulfield, up Punt Rd, to an area that’s between Swan St and down at the freeway. There was a big hotel down on the corner – it’s gone now. We’d park the car as near as we could to the pub because, in 1966, prior to that it was six o’clock closing. You could park on Punt Rd all day and we’d get on the other side, about equal distance to the ground, so we had to walk to the ground, but then we’d walk straight down to the pub.

The game would finish at around five o’clock. By the time we got to the hotel it’d be quarter past, we knew we had three-quarters of an hour, and our car was nearby. Often I can remember a bit before, this side street that’s up beside the pub, if you got here early enough, we could park the car there, and we had a car you couldn’t lock, it had a dickie seat in the back and the canvas. We’d park there conveniently. It’s a clearway now, you can’t get anywhere near it. 

The lovely other thing here, Alice Wills is the only lady we’ve had as a life member of this club. She sadly died about a month ago. She ran a supporters club here – she ran this grandstand, the front six or eight roles, Alice controlled. This Uncle Tom, in the early ‘60s, I used to bring him in my car then. He was getting fragile in walking. We’d get a standing pozzie in front of the grandstand. And one day Alice Wills spotted me, who she knew reasonably well, not so much Uncle Tom. She said, 'Billy, your friend down there, he’s having difficulty standing down there all day, isn’t it? I’m going to ask all the ladies to move up one and Uncle Tom can come and sit up amongst all these ladies. There’s only one thing he’s got to do: every day we put in a shilling and vote on our best player.'

 

We had a player in the ‘60s, Paddy, whose dad also played for Richmond in the ’30s. I hear the yarns from Paddy who tells me yarns from his dad. Everyone who lived in Richmond barracked for Richmond. A lot of the players lived in Richmond. So two o’clock on Saturday Richmond moved from the residential, across Punt Rd, to the ground. And the rivalry, which is unique in the world, for a city where there used to be 12 teams, or 11 plus Geelong, to sustain a competition, with a population and a following, is world unique. If you cross Victoria St, from the Richmond location into Collingwood, well that was enemy territory. Every second Saturday afternoon, everything in Richmond stopped to attend the game. 

I can remember Graham Richmond, who became a powerhouse here, back in the ‘60s towards the ‘70s, he started buying up homes in Richmond. They were rundown. He had a group of tradesmen doing them up. So the suburb started to change from these, not flash homes, and it’s one suburb from the city, it’s got transport everywhere. So it’s a tiptop bit of geography to develop. The content and the people changed, as the pioneers of the suburb moved away, their families moved away a bit. Demographics changed.

There were no seatbelts back then. Deaths were a thousand a year when there wasn’t that many cars on the road. The dopey thing we used to do… The fact that we could conveniently park not far from the game, not far from the pub, we had an hour between the game finish and six o’clock closing… You could almost walk along Punt Rd faster than you could drive along it. Even though they have widened it, it’s still this conduit between north and south. You’ve got to get over the river.

Image credits:
Courtesy of the State Library Victoria: www.slv.vic.gov.au
Aerial view of Richmond, Victoria, showing Punt Road oval in foreground.
Creator: Airspy.
Copyright status: This work is out of copyright.

64 years on Punt Road - Len's Story

puntroad

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!'  

puntroad

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.

puntroad

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.

puntroad

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.

puntroad

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.