When I was 5-years-old we lived in a house on Hoddle Street almost opposite Albert Road. Once a week, and right on time, a truck would rumble past piled high with briquettes. When it started up the slope of the hill, lots of briquettes would slide off the load and tumble onto the road. An opportunity not to be missed: free fuel for our kitchen stove, the laundry copper and two fireplaces. My thrifty mother and I would run out with a potato sack, fill it up and drag it back to the house. We were pretty safe darting all over the road back then as there was hardly any traffic. It was the mid 1940s and a far cry from today's non-stop stream of cars.
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
Creator: Le Dawn Studios, photographer.
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I have three stories of Punt Road – a road I am very fond of as it served me well for many years when the traffic wasn't like it is today.
Story 1: In the early 1970s, sick of being a secretary, and before becoming a uni student as part of Whitlam's groundbreaking tertiary education for working class women, I got a job driving a one tonne 'truck' delivering yoghurt and cottage cheese all over Melbourne to delis and supermarkets (ethical goods I thought, strange most people thought). The male truck drivers in the delivery bays of the supermarkets used to comment on me as there were no women drivers of 'trucks' at that time. I was about 24-years-old, with attitude.
One morning on busy Punt Road, the bleeding truck started to smell of smoke and the engine appeared to be between me and the passenger seat. Worried that the truck was about to go up in smoke, I underloaded all the yoghurt onto the footpath near the Yarra River (why didn't I just leave it and get out?). I only lasted about three weeks in the job – I never stopped running/driving all day!!! My fond ideas of eating yoghurt under a tree somewhere at lunch never happened.
Story 2: In the 1970s I used to love doing U-turns on Punt Road, memorably at the Clifton Hill end, at any time. People always let me in and it was always quite easy!
Story 3: Living in St Kilda c2003, after 13 years in Hobart, and deciding to drive to Clifton Hill at about 6pm. Gridlocked and shocked I diverged about three times to wait for the traffic to clear. I visited a friend in Richmond, came back to Punt Rd, still gridlocked. Went to the pub in Carlton, came back, same thing. Unbelievable after Hobart especially.
I live just off Hoddle Street in Collingwood. I get the bus to work every morning, just near the Johnston/Hoddle intersection.
One morning, in peak hour, a man maybe a minute ahead of me had gone to cross the road – but an articulated truck had misjudged the gap and had come to a stop with a significant part of its body sitting in the intersection. The man, presumably feeling secure because he had the pedestrian light in his favour, chose to step over the vehicle's pivoting joint instead of going around the truck and into oncoming traffic. But the truck driver, unable to see the man, had stepped on the gas as soon as there was space for him to do so. The man, caught between carriages, died instantly.
I didn't see this occur – I read about it later in the incident report – but when I arrived at the intersection, Emergency Services hadn't yet had time to clear the scene or even cover the body. So I, along with other people at the bus stop, had to wait next a dead body.