uni

A happy ending - John's Story

motorbike

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!”

Party house - Suzi's Story

hat

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. 

Savour every day - Breda's Story

sparkler

As a student in Year 11, I remember having such a visceral, overwhelming reaction to the personal stories of the Hoddle Street Massacre. In the months that followed I devoured everything in the newspaper and was completely devastated by the randomness of Julian Knight’s actions and the effect I felt it had on my city thereafter.

I could barely believe it when, some years later, my share house journey began and I wound up in a wonderful house with friends a little way along Hoddle Street, in Abbotsford. Several years of elm tree-lined streets, Victoria Street feasting, the addictive stench of Saturday afternoon brews at the CUB brewery, the sights and sounds of life around the Number 48 tram, the proximity of cricket and footy traditions, and the fun of inner-city pubs and cafes evokes such nostalgia as my friends and I were setting up our lives beyond uni, and dreaming of travel and meaningful relationships. 

On one such adventurous night I set off to meet up with a young man I’d befriended through work. We were going for a drink at the wonderful Bakers Arms Hotel on Victoria Street. It was a ‘first date’ and my housemates farewelled me with excitement and anticipation. My friend and I enjoyed such a great night together and continued on to see comedy at the Prince Patrick Hotel across Hoddle Street. We were still talking and laughing hours later as we made our way back toward my house in Charles Street, back over Hoddle Street.

Whilst I still have no memory of that dash across Hoddle Street, I did not make it home to Charles Street that night. I was struck by a car and suffered serious and life-threatening injuries. I was taken to St Vincent's Hospital by ambulance and later to The Alfred. So began six months of intensive hospitalisation and rehabilitation and many years later I still bear significant physical and psychological scars and limitations as a result of that 1994 accident. My recovery has been amazing nevertheless and it is miraculous that I am fairly able-bodied and emotionally intact given the extent of my road trauma experience. 

We had attempted to dash across Hoddle Street in those wee hours and miscalculated, it would seem, the proximity of a car travelling in our direction. I was struck and injured very badly. My friend saw me go under the car, and ran to my assistance; he was horrified by the physical injuries to my right leg but maintained his composure enough to commence CPR until an ambulance arrived and in doing so probably saved my life. 

The road to recovery was a long one and was assisted by many talented and wonderful family, friends and medical specialists. But as I’ve often said in the intervening years it was a journey I would not walk away from as a truly enriching experience in the story of my life. It taught be so much about myself and my resilience and has equipped me with the most precious of all gifts, to savour every day of my amazing life.

Every single time I drive along Hoddle Street today I am reminded of my accident. These days, more often than not, I have three kids and a husband in the car with me and cannot believe the constant wonder of the days of life. My husband is not my lifesaver – he had mountains to conquer further afield from Melbourne.

Prue's Story

My 84-year-old mother lived in Ivanhoe in the 50s when she was a medical student/medical officer at the Alfred Hospital. She tells us that in those days when she was late for a tute she would frequently drive at 80km per hour down Punt Rd in order to get there on time. I think it may have even been legal to travel at those speeds in the 50s. Certainly not possible these days.