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Prahran People - Imogen's Story

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We were Prahran People. Every outing was a chance to traverse that great road, whether to join the Fitzroy folk, or sashay with St Kilda souls. We had a pint on punt, sometimes at the Pint on Punt, sometimes at someone’s home on Punt, then launched into the car. The shortest, lightest person was chosen to lie across the back seat people, like a seatbelt.

We chose the new girl to be the seatbelt. No better way to breakdown boundaries. We were too young for common sense. 

“What’s with the boa?” I asked, not sure if I liked her. She was a newcomer. She was someone’s housemate, or someone met her in a Richmond squat, in the bar, at uni or somewhere else. She was just someone who was invited. 

Whether in our own car, or someone else’s, whether we fell out of a cab or were thrown out, every trip down, up or across Punt Rd was an adventure. And every adventure began and ended with Punt Rd, because we were Prahran people.

We only went out at night, so the traffic problem was a party. Could a car ride be more fun than a destination? We chose our favourite music and touched up our lipstick. The back seaters toasted the passenger filled vehicles in the next lane with their Sub Zeros or Carlton Draughts. (Our favourite drinks in the nineties.) 

The girl with the feather boa seemed happy enough. 

We sang as we reached the other side

“Hoddle, Hoddle, Hoddle,” we chorused, huddled like backing singers around an old fashioned microphone on a radio show. We held the feather boa like a microphone. Why? Because at that moment, on a Saturday night, we were our most exuberant, uninhibited selves. It was ritual as we crossed to the other side. The girl with the feather boa joined our car song.

We went somewhere, drank, danced, enjoyed, then looked for our beacon boa. 

Homeward bound again. Strangers at the beginning of Punt Rd could become friends or lovers, on the way back. 

Quieter now, we crossed the river (where a punt once floated) to reach the hill. The Punt Rd hill, our beacon of home at the end of another perfect Melbourne night out.

Potential disaster - Ruth's Story

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I recall with horror my first attempt to drive a mini bus up Punt Road Hill toward St Kilda when the power brakes refused to engage. I had no idea how to prevent the bus from gradually retreating backwards. My cargo, a group of newly arrived Cambodian refugees relaxed after a picnic in the Botanical Gardens. My head filled with graphic images of the horrific circumstances these young parents and their preschool children had fled only to drown in Melbourne's Yarra River. 

Thankfully, after what seemed like an eternity, the traffic slowly began to move and my vehicle moved forward. Whoops, a potential disaster diverted!

Cycling glory - Graham's Story

In 2006, when the world’s elite athletes came to Melbourne for the Commonwealth Games, the cycle road race went up and down Punt Road on quite a vicious little course. It’s a real struggle up that hill and they went up Anderson Street as well, so it was quite a tough little course. And it was won by two Australians, Matthew Hayman won the men’s and Natalie Bates won the women’s.

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Green bus - John's Story

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There used to be green buses on Punt Road that were tramway buses. The bus depot was on the corner of Head and St Kilda Streets – it used to be a tram depot. This was before my time, but you can read about it in My Brother Jack. The tram used to go down Broadway, I don’t where it went after that. I distinctly remember that those buses were old, they were really old.
 
I left Elwood in 1970, they were certainly there then. But, come the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I don’t think they were around anymore.

I remember going up the hill, from the river, and the bus couldn’t make it. So we all had to get out and walk up the hill and meet the bus at the top of the hill, because there were too many of us on board.

Party house - Suzi's Story

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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. 

Excited, loud and boisterous - Xenophon's Story

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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.

I averted my eyes - Barbara's Story

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Having lived both north and south of the Yarra in Melbourne, I have innumerable experiences of the long drive along Punt Road and Hoddle Street. Two stand out for me:

Many years ago, a friend lent me her old Morris Minor in exchange for driving lessons. The car was poorly maintained but it got me around ok. One day, as I drove south on Punt Road, I saw a large truck lumbering up the hill in Toorak so I chose the right lane so I could overtake it – but I didn't allow for the slipping clutch on the Morris Minor. To my deep humiliation, no matter how hard I pressed on the accelerator, that old car could not do more than chug slowly up the hill, just keeping pace with the huge truck on my left.

I averted my eyes from the rearview mirror so I wouldn't have to see the look in the eyes of the driver trapped behind me, stuck in the slow dance of chugging up Punt Road Hill in first gear!

For many years I have enjoyed the company of my sister for dinner at my house in Thornbury. On Sunday 9 August 1987, she headed home as usual to Clifton Hill after the Sunday night movie – but called a short time later to assure us that she was safe. I was mystified until she told me that police had diverted her away from her usual route along Hoddle Street. When she arrived home she tuned in to the news to hear that armed men were marauding through her suburb shooting people indiscriminately. She was warned to stay indoors and not open the door to anyone until police could determine that all of the shooters were in custody.

It turned out that there was only one shooter, a disgruntled young man who lived around the corner from my sister. If she had left my house 15 minutes earlier she would have been caught up in one of the worst mass shootings in Melbourne's history and I may have lost my best friend.