migrants

The great divide - Dale's Story

fence

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

beach

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.