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.