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Crackers and fire trucks - Gigi's Story

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When I was 7-months-old my parents moved to Simpson St, East Melbourne. It runs off Victoria Pde, parallel to Punt Rd. We lived near a park. On the far side of the park was my kindergarten. I loved that park. When I was a bit older, we used to go there and let off our crackers. Legitimate crackers that you used to buy at the milk bar on the corner of Victoria Pde and Punt Rd.

My school was next door to St John’s Catholic Church. I think it’s undergone renovations and is becoming something else now, something to do with the church. The church is beautiful. Because we were at the school we used to go next door to the church and walk around and cross the Station of the Cross and all that.

Then there was the fire brigade. We went to the fire station in kinder so I’ve got a photo of me sitting on a big fire truck with one of those heavy helmets on. I’m talking ’54 or ’55.

The other thing was coming down Punt Rd – we used to go swimming at Elwood. We would catch the bus along Hoddle/Punt. At one intersection, could be Toorak Rd, there was a hotel that had a neon sign with a bottle that used to tip and fill the glass. My father used to always tease me and try to close my eyes so I wouldn’t see this dreadful thing of this liquid going into the glass. It was just a joke. I was only about 5 or 6.

We didn’t often go down as far as St Kilda at night time. At the corner of Albert and Simpson Streets, where our house used to be, that’s now an apartment building. But opposite that, the little miner’s cottages are still there.

Beautiful places along there. If you go along Victoria Pde, you come to Smith St, where Mum used to do her shopping. There was a very good little shopping centre just near Victoria Pde. And also, after you cross Punt Rd going away from the city, there was a lovely shopping centre there. They had a secondhand bookshop, a huge hardware store that also sold wool by the ball, and things like that. That’s all gone, of course.

Red rattlers - Queenie's Story

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When the Queen came out to visit, I saw her on Hoddle Street, near the Darling Gardens, opposite where Wheel and the Wrecker was. She was in an open car and heading, I think, out to Heidelberg. So many memories of Clifton Hill for me.

The night of the killings, one of the girls that died lived in the street that I lived in. Julian Knight lived on the corner of Branston Street and I think it was Gordon Street – my brother lived in that street. It was all around Clifton Hill, in Rushall Crescent, I think that’s where they found him, through the gardens, round the back of the station. That’s where they got him.

I remember the gates that were in Clifton Hill before they changed the roads. I can remember the POWs coming home in the old red rattlers and they were all so thin. And my girlfriend and I stood at the gates and watched them and they were waving to us. And I thought, 'You’re going out to Heidelberg, whether you’ll come home from there, I don’t know.' But they were just skin and bones. I’ll never forget that.

I used to walk from Dundas Street, right down High Street, down the Ruckers Hill, past the Westgarth Theatre, around to Clifton Hill, down to my mother’s, where we lived when we were kids.

A thriving strip - Anonymous' Story

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In the 1950s, before the ‘slum’ demolitions began to widen it, Hoddle Street in Collingwood was a thriving shopping strip much like Smith Street is now. The original street ran between today’s median strip and the Abbotsford side footpath. There were pie shops, green grocers and grocers, butcher shops, a cinema and dance halls. And between Victoria Parade and Alexander Parade there were no less than five hotels. After a days work in the shoe factory Bryce & Duncan, women would often buy the ingredients for their families’ evening meal – then they'd shell the peas in each others company on the train ride home.

The Punt Road bus met with the double decker bus in Johnston Street. Many factories, mainly footwear and clothing, were in the suburb, and lots of workers cottages lined the streets. Many of the people living in the workers cottages were subsequently relocated into the public housing estate between Hoddle and Wellington Streets.

My lifeline - Anna's Story

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Punt Road is not just a major arterial. For a time, it was a lifeline to my mind, an artery to my heart. It got my blood pumping, my mind whirring, my heart singing.

I lived a decade in the north, but each month crossed town for a southside bookclub, born of bayside friends. I had one baby, and then another, and Punt Road was my escape route from the intimate, beautiful yet terrifying world of full time parenting.

Words swam as I shifted gears down the multi-lane, glistening dark road. Across town, across grid. The rhythm of road and drums, bass beat, music loud, my hands drumming on the steering wheel, I swept across a world to read between the lines.

That highway was a bridge, a way out, a conduit to reconnect with the world of words, the spaces of the mind, the things beyond reality. That arterial road gave me a blood transfusion, with its pumping streams, and even with its blockages. It promised me more. Punt Road, you saved my sanity!

Billy carts, newspapers and stars - Edmund's Story

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When Edmund was around 11-years-old, he lived on Hoddle Street with his mother. This was in 1942 and 1943. His father went away to the Second World War and never came back. So Edmund and his mother lived in a small flat on the corner of Hoddle and Victoria Streets. 

Edmund went to school at Yarra Park on the corner of Victoria Street, and he and his friends raced billy carts down the hill. Due to the petrol rationing, there weren't many cars on the road – people would save their petrol for the weekends so, during the week, the road was free for billy carts! You could get a lot of speed up on the hill – but Edmund never won the races because his friend’s cart had bigger wheels.

One day, a guy on a bike came along and grabbed Edmund's billy cart and disappeared up towards Smith Street. Edmund ran after him but couldn’t find it. He was devastated.

Each night Edmund had to be home by 5.30pm to put dinner on for his mum, while she worked in the city. What he didn’t tell her was that after school he would sell newspapers on the corner of Victoria and Hoddle. In those days it was a much smaller intersection. Trams still came down the middle and they were packed, with people hanging off the boards.

Edmund would sell papers to people as they got off the tram, or as he rode the tram up and down Victoria Street/Wellington Parade. But one night his mum came home from work early and caught him selling papers. He was in a lot of trouble.  

During the war there were blackouts at night. On summer nights, he would lie on the nature strip in the middle of Punt Road and look up at the stars. When the lights were on, you couldn't see the stars.

Vivid memories - Anne's Story

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Cremorne Court. These words were emblazoned in green concrete letters across the front wall of the red brick block of flats where I spent the first six years of my life. There were eight flats in the block which was situated at 389 Punt Road, Richmond, opposite Gosch’s Paddock. We lived with my great aunt on the first floor in a two-bedroom flat. A flight of concrete stairs led to the front door, used only by visitors, and at the back there was a flight of grimy black wooden stairs.

I still have vivid memories of my life in this flat. I remember running wildly around the small lounge room with a green cushion over my eyes and tripping over a little one-bar electric heater. As there was no safety grid, I burned my leg quite badly. I certainly screamed with pain but later, when it had healed, I remember being quite proud of the scar.

Another of my earliest memories is of my mother in a chartreuse silk dressing gown carrying a kettle of boiling water down the back stairs. It was night time and I had possibly been woken by the commotion. There had been a car accident on Punt Road and my mother went to help.

There were plenty of children to play with and we would run or ride bikes and scooters round and round the concrete path which surrounded the building. Behind the block there was a communal laundry and a tiny caretaker’s bungalow. Mr Robertshaw was the caretaker, an elderly man with whiskers is my only memory but I know my father was friendly with him and I later discovered the reason. Charles Emerson Robertshaw was a writer who had written short stories about the Australian bush for The Leader newspaper under the nom de plume 'Coolibah'. Sixteen of the stories were collected and published in a book entitled Wirragoona Romance of Australian Station Life. On the cover page is written my name, then 'Love and kisses from the author'. 

I vaguely remember my father suggesting that, for one reason or another, Robertshaw had fallen on hard times and that's why he lived in the caretaker’s bungalow. I have always felt there was something special about the book as it was given to me by the author but have never read it maybe fearing that it would never live up to my expectations.

Living in the flats proved to be a health hazard. Whilst recovering from measles when I was five, I slipped and scratched my ankle on the back steps. A week later, I had a high fever and was eventually diagnosed with osteomyelitis, a disease often found in slum areas. After an operation and ten stitches in my leg, I had to wear an iron splint for eight months and missed school for a year. However I still managed to ride my scooter around. When the splint was finally removed, I was so excited. I went to our neighbours’ place and announced that I was going to take off my shoes. My friend’s mother was very surprised when I showed her I was no longer wearing a splint and I experienced a moment of sheer pleasure at being free of the calliper.

Hang on! - Janina's Story

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Just wanting to share my Punt Rd story or, should I say my mother's, who is now in her 70s. My mother came from a big family – she was one of twelve children, the second youngest. I remember her telling me that her father (my grandfather) drove a truck for a living delivering various things.

Mum said that often in the summer months her dad would come home from work and he would say to my grandmother and all the kids, Come on let's go down to St Kilda beach.

So all the brothers and sisters would put their fold-out chairs on the back of my grandfather's truck and head off for St Kilda beach. But when they got to the hill on Punt Rd, that's when all the brothers and sisters held on for dear life.

My grandfather's truck was an open truck with only two slats of timber on each side. As they drove up Punt Rd Hill they all had to hang on to the sides of the truck and, I suppose, pray that their chairs would stay in one place. I suppose they all made it safe and sound!

Image courtesy of the State Library Victoria: www.slv.vic.gov.au
Date(s): 1970.
Creator: Le Dawn Studios, photographer.
Copyright status: This work is in copyright; Use of this work allowed provided the creator and SLV acknowledged. Copyright has been assigned to the State Library of Victoria

Route 246 - Andrea's Story

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I am a 53-year-old women who has been travelling Punt Road since I was 18. I used to lived in a flat on Punt Road – with the screeching of the brakes a nightly occurrence and the Nylex clock my own personal clock. I lived in Abbotsford and caught the 246 bus when I studied at Swinburne in the 80s. I lived in Richmond and travelled to Swinburne to work, again, on the 246.

For many years my son travelled to school on the 246 along Punt Road. First with his loving mum then ignoring her to hang with his mates.

My best friend lived in Elsternwick and, when I again lived in Abbotsford, I travelled between our two homes again on the 246 (she passed away almost two years ago). Sometimes it would take two hours, sometimes 20 minutes.

I now live in Westgarth and still work at Swinburne/NICA and still travel on the 246. I have an amazing array of 'shoe shots' of my feet up in the bus as I yet again journey down Punt Road. A girl has to occupy her time whilst the footy traffic clears and I do love shoes! You see I don't drive, and have never driven, so Punt Road is my walking route. My bus route. My taxi route. And many times I sit in other's cars as we crawl along the road that has become an artery of my life. Punt Road is truly my road!

Cate's Story

In late January 1989 I was 25-years-old and newly married. My husband and I had saved up and bought a car which we took turns using. My mother was away on holidays for a couple of weeks and had asked me to look after her house but she was very particular about her car and I was not allowed to drive it.

I decided that I was a pretty good driver so I would use her car anyway (she'd never know). All was going very well until I was driving along Punt Road. I was approaching the intersection of Swan Street. Some poor frazzled mum was trying to get out of the service station on the corner and nobody would let her out so I slowed down and waved her through. She gratefully entered the traffic, only to have the lights change on her as she was a couple of metres into the intersection. Instead of just going, she suddenly stopped. 

Then she reversed. With a heavy jolt – right into my mother's car. 

We pulled over to exchange details and, as we stood at the roadside, I looked at my mother's car just in time to see the entire bumper bar fall off onto the road in one last gesture. 

The next week was a mad rush to get the car repaired before my mother came back from her holiday. When she did arrive back, she called me to thank me for cleaning her car so nicely. 

Kate's Story

My father (born 1914 or 15) had a story about the punt road hill - when he was a little boy a man was driving a horse drawn vehicle with a heavy load up the hill and mercilessly whipping the horse(s) which was struggling, not coping with the the steepness. My father was dismayed/mortified/deeply embarrassed when his outspoken, horse-loving mother very loudly scolded and abused the man.