A happy ending - John's Story


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Melbourne University held a 'Prosh' every two or three years. The 'Prosh' was a procession of floats and crazy students down the centre of Swanston Street in August at the end of second term. Each uni faculty designed a theme for the procession, which took about an hour before crossing Princes Bridge and celebrating in the Alexandra Gardens. Amazing, these days, to think of the massive disruption to Swanston St and cross street traffic that would have ensued, simply for shoppers and lunchtime office workers to be bombarded with flour bombs from the engineering students on impossibly unsafe mechanical conveyances.

Our Commerce faculty decided it would have a look-alike Queen and Duke of Edinburgh wave regally to the crowds from the back of an open Land Rover. The royal couple was preceded by a ‘cop’ motorbike outrider. The cop was me. I rented a policeman’s uniform, complete with helmet and accurate copy of the police badge on the helmet, from a fancy-wear hire shop in Bridge Rd, Richmond, just around the corner from Hoddle St.

After the Alexandra Garden revelries I motored north along Hoddle St to approach Bridge Rd. Even then the traffic was heavy late on the Friday afternoon. The Triumph motorbike that I had borrowed was still coughing and spluttering from its overheating while crawling down Swanston St earlier in the day.

There was a cop on point duty at the Bridge Rd intersection. As the columns of vehicles approached up the hill the policeman turned his back to us and waved at the oncoming Hoddle St traffic to stop at Bridge Rd. The phalanx I was part of slowed in anticipation of the constable about to turn around and wave us to stop. “Damn!” I thought, “this might prove expensive…”  I was driving an unregistered motorbike with no plate on either the front or rear wheel, the bike was unroadworthy because the brakes were faulty and I had no licence to drive motorbikes. I might also have been over the alcohol limit, if they had one in those days, but without instruments to test blood alcohol levels the tests were to walk a straight line and to find your name in the telephone book in less than a minute.

I was in the outside lane, signaling with my outstretched arm that I intended to turn right into Bridge Rd (there were no turning indicators on bikes then). As the policeman raised his hand to stop our vehicles he looked a bit more closely at me as I approached. To everyone’s surprise, he then waved the northbound traffic to continue to move on quickly, glanced over his shoulder to ensure that all the southbound traffic had indeed stopped, and then gave me a generously large wave and a brotherly smile to indicate that I could proceed unimpeded through the intersection.

I had to laugh as I spluttered through, hugely embarrassed, waving my thanks and thinking, “These policemen really are nice people!”

Gold leaf - Laurie's Story

Going along Punt Rd north, over Toorak, when you get to the top of the hill with the traffic lights, the house on the left is the original police academy. On the corner of Domain Rd. It's a lovely old house. And just down from that there’s a home with golden leaf eaves. I presume that’s still there. I used to see it every day going to school to St Kevin’s, in Toorak.


Party house - Suzi's Story


I was one of five people (three of us were student nurses at the Alfred Hospital) who shared a house halfway up or down Punt Road Hill, between the river and Domain Road. Right at the point where all the trucks change gear whether going up or down – a very noisy part, but we got used to it.

It was a very old, rundown house but we had loads of fun and lots of parties, each one themed, which were always visited by the police asking us to turn the music down.  We discovered that an assistant police commissioner lived nearby and clearly didn't like people having a good time. Sometimes the cops came when it was just us at home and would greet us with, "We'll just wait for a break in the traffic noise to tell you to be quiet." 

After our housewarming party (hats were the theme for that one), the visiting police came back to join the party after coming off duty and one of them ended up marrying one of the guests!

Despite having parties we did study hard too, often late into the night and a call would go out "Who's up for a coffee at Notturno's"?  It was the only place open all night, in Lygon Street, Carlton. Like all good share houses people moved on and others moved in. The landlord lived next door and as long as the rent was paid wasn't too fussed who actually lived there and rarely bothered us at all!

It was a halfway house for students of many disciplines. At one time the lounge room floor was completely taken up with an architectural model which was being entered into the competition for the new Parliament House in Canberra. They were "even a group of students entered the competition" mentioned during the subsequent discussions about this competition.

This old house with lovely stained glass windows and pressed metal ceilings is now boarded up but still standing when last I drove past. There are many, many people – some in very eminent positions today – who will remember this old house fondly. 

From bars to convents - Zoe's Story


In the early 1970s, Zoe was living in Brighton and working at one of the first wine bars in Carlton. As you did at the time, she and her colleagues got very sloshed after work most nights. And then Zoe would drive home at 1 or 2am.

She remembers driving down Punt Road one night (full as a boot) and turning into the Maccas on the corner of Glenhuntly and Nepean Highway (which might still be there). Police followed her in – they'd been following her car as it meandered down Punt Road. When they told her she was driving dangerously she screamed at them. They got scared and backed off.

The next morning she woke up with crippling embarrassment for what she'd done. So she baked a cake and took it to the Elsternwick police station.

A decade or so later, after a long international flight stuck next to a nun who prayed for eight hours, Zoe decided to become a Catholic. She went to the (now destroyed) convent on Hoddle Street, near Clifton Hill Station, and visited 95-year-old Sister Paul every week for 18 months.  Hoddle Street always reminds her of that now.

He booked me - Noel's Story


Immediately after WW2, as a boy living in Ivanhoe, I found myself barracking for Footscray in the VFL because an aunt lived there and was mad about her Saturday afternoon footy team, most of whom were local blokes. So I saw the great Ted Whitten play his first game of VFL for Footscray at the Punt Rd Oval, as it was then called – the home ground of Richmond. It was Round 1 in 1951 – he kicked a goal with his first kick and was later knocked out by a Tiger roughie. I saw most of his next 300 games.

Many years ago, probably in the 60s, I was waiting on Punt Rd at the Toorak Rd intersection facing north and soon to climb. The lights changed to green, I moved forwards, a parked car ahead of me shot out into my lane, I swung right and found a cop car beside me almost in the right hand gutter. He booked me, I went to court and got off with a warning. I kinda enjoyed the whole experience looking back.

Fight, Flight, Freeze - Paul's Story


On a dark evening in 2004 I was making a call from the phone box on Punt Road, near St Kilda Junction, when a man became agitated and started verbally abusing me. 'Get off the f**king phone,' he shouted, before manhandling a woman he was with so she crashed into me.

'Hey man! Leave her alone!' I said, and I ended the call and walked into the shop in a nearby convenience store. But the man followed, picked up cans from a shelf and started throwing them at me.

I used the ice cream freezer as a barrier, and we paced around it like kids playing a game. All the while he was throwing cans of beans and soup at my head! Funny in retrospect but not at the time.

I offered to pay for a drink but the shopkeeper said, 'No, it's alright mate.' (Meaning 'Please get out now while you can!') I paid anyway, stepped outside and the man punched me in the face (what would today be called a coward’s punch or king hit). 

I did what any grammar school boy would do when being assaulted; I ran like the wind! I ran to the Pint on Punt and sheltered beside the bouncers. But It was dark and I couldn’t see the man, so I wasn't sure which way to escape. Then I heard horns beeping from the junction on Punt Rd. 

I learned later that the man had got a metal bar and started smashing the windows of a car waiting at the traffic lights. The car was trapped and could not escape. The man smashed the panels and windows while the driver beeped her horn in desperation. 

I gave a statement to police. My evidence was important as I was asked, 'Did the man have any distinguishing characteristics?' 'He had a messenger bag over his shoulder,' I mentioned casually. 'Aha, that’s important,' said the police officer.

Fast forward a few weeks and I attend a photo identification session at St Kilda police station. There are about 16 photos of men who all look like my assailant. I studied each of them carefully trying to remember what the man looked like. Then I spotted him.

'That’s the chappie!' I announced. The police officer wrote down my exact words. Apparently they have to state exactly how the witness makes identification.

Anyway, I needed victim counselling as the experience challenged me – still challenges me – as to whether I behaved bravely, 'like a man'. Do men run away? Do men stand and fight? Did I do the right thing? I wish I could answer those questions.

Victor's Story

photo by www.autoartmodels.com

photo by www.autoartmodels.com

Leaving the disco,  feeling like Superman and travelling faster than a speeding bullet, I accelerated from Toorak Rd along Punt Rd heading north towards my parent’s home in Gold St  Clifton Hill. This was the early swinging 1960s. It was the top of a very early Saturday morning and  the only car on Punt Rd was my white Jaguar E Type 3.8 Coupe, one of the first E Type’s on the road in Australia and it was faster than a Ferrari at that time and I knew it. I flew over the top of Punt Rd Hill, glided over the Yarra, and as I flashed past Swan St with the green light I saw the 1962 powder-blue divvy van turn on its siren and blue light and attempt a chase. 

Passing the MCG in a flash,  and with a selected healthy respect for some traffic laws and cops, I stopped at the red traffic lights at Bridge Rd. In the background I could hear the painful roar of the police car labouring up the hill behind me. But as the lights turned green I took off like a jack rabbit.

As luck would have it I got stuck at the Victoria Pde lights. At this stage it appeared the cops were still flat out somewhere in the Punt Rd distance and determined to catch me. Luckily the lights changed again and I took off. At the next red lights at Johnston St, I waited for them like a quivering rabbit. This time I could clearly hear them trashing their car from as far away as the Collingwood Town Hall as they screamed down towards Johnston St and my stationary Jaguar. 

Third time lucky? Lucky for me indeed! The lights turned green, I shot off east along Johnston St and the cops barrelled straight past me. I could hear the torturous gnashing of suspension, brakes, screaming tyres as the divvy van continued down Hoddle St  and experienced struggle street while trying to turn. 

Meanwhile, I hid myself and my Jaguar E Type amongst the Collingwood housing commission flats. I lit a Peter Stuyvesant and listened to the wailing police siren in the distance.

After 20 minutes, three Peter Stuyvesants and a loud ticking heart I gained enough courage to drive up Gold St, careful to avoid the conspicuous Punt Rd. I also avoided noise by driving in top gear at 5MPH, and blended into the darkness with no lights.

I heard nothing, saw nothing, and cheerfully turned on the lights and cassette player. I swished up my parents' driveway whistling to myself, stepped out of the car and opened the garage doors. I was speechless when I saw the divvy van parked inside with its lights flashing blue. Someone behind me grabbed me by the collar and a rough voice said, 'Gotcha ya little bastard!'

There was a happy friendly ending but that is another story.