I was born in
Hawthorn 1918. When I was about three or four my parents bought this house in
Elwood. My parents wanted to live by the sea; Hawthorn had nothing for them. In
the 1920s there was plenty of space in Elwood. There were empty blocks of land
everywhere, all around here where you can see all these flats. They were great
place for kids to play. We’d play cricket and football but on notable occasions,
they used to build bonfires to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night and the King’s
Birthday. It was a great way to get rid of rubbish. Sometimes you’d hear a
neighbour say, “Take this old chair and stick it on. It’s not being used
anymore”. They’d build the bonfire up as high as 10 feet and then light it. All
the kids would be so excited, because it was cracker night you know. You were
allowed to use crackers in those days.
I think Elwood is a wonderful place, lots of entertainment, near the sea and the
shops. Have you ever been to Broadway Theatre in Elwood it was only a little
theatre and then there was the Palais, the Victory (now the National) and the
Memorial Theatre behind the St Kilda Army and Navy Club.
You used to see the horse-drawn carts once a year the when the Sunday school
picnic came down to Elwood. It was a big occurrence and the children from the
outer suburbs would be on these drays with a plank down the middle and they’d
drive down to the beach to St Kilda. That was their big outing for the year,
people were easily satisfied in those days.
Up the other end of Marine Parade you’d go down to Luna Park that was a Mecca
for all people to go. It had the merry-go-round, scenic railway and it was just
past the Village Belle shopping centre – now it’s just called Acland St now.
There were lots of shops there, well-known shops in those days. There were no
supermarkets and you’d shop in your own suburb and it would supply everything
you need. I used to walk to the Village Belle - you thought nothing of walking.
They had butchers and drapers, toyshops. My favourite shop was Ford the butcher.
They had very good quality meat there. We used to get our bread from the corner
of Addison St. It used to come out so hot they had to give you paper to get it
home. You used to see people you knew on the way. Once upon a time everybody
knew each other and if they had a canary you knew its name. It used to be
There was a cable car where the tram number 96 goes now. It stopped at the
terminus where the St Kilda railway station was. It was very easy to get around
then. The Village Belle changed when people got cars - they travelled out
seeking other places. It was an adventure to go to new places to shop.
I’ve been here all my life and I don’t want to be facetious, but I can’t say I
grew up here because I am only four foot tall but I’ve lived here since I was
very young. There used to be a breaking in school called Netley College. It was
a private school where parents sent their kids to get a dose of what the
classroom was like. It was on the corner of Barkly and Mitford and was at the
back of the congregational church. That’s where most of the kids had their early
start. Then I went to St Columba’s. After I got my Merit (certificate) at
Christian Brothers, East Kilda I went on to St Kevin’s College to do my leaving.
A lot of the students who went to the college went into professional life - some
became lawyers, some judges, some academics. Students with good results that did
not go to university joined the public service. First I applied for the
Commonwealth Service but I had to have a medical examination. I was checked over
by the doctor; he was in a bit of a quandary. They wanted to fail me because of
my height, even though I had come thirtieth in the state exams. So I applied for
the State Public Service and started in 1938. I was in the public service for
forty-seven years. I worked in children’s welfare that cared for the bad boys
and girls in the reformatories, state taxation and was regularly promoted. I was
in charge of the correspondence branch in the tax office and managed
thirty-three women in all. I retired in 1979.
I used to play a lot of tennis and I often found myself umpiring for other
people’s matches. I so I decided to apply for umpire classes at Kooyong - that’s
how I became tennis umpire for the Davis Cup. My first match was after the war
in 1946 - I was there for twenty odd years. All those chaps are dead and there’s
little squirt still here. A lot of my friends from round here are long gone. I’m
a life member of the Angling Club; I used to almost run it. Des Pickett is still
a member and I ring him or he rings me everyday.
When I was growing up I used have a keen interest in photography and I often
think of all the landmarks that were here that I didn’t photograph. I just let
them pass, fall into oblivion because I thought that would be there forever like
the Point Ormond Jetty where we used to go fishing for garfish. I caught my
first snapper at the Angling Club and my first garfish on A.N.A. Day (Australian
Natives Association now known as Australia Day) in 1926 off the Elwood Jetty. On
very hot summers day everybody would be panting from the heat and they would all
walk down to the jetty to get the cool breeze. If the change was coming they’d
say “isn’t it wonderful, isn’t it a relief” because our houses used to heat up
so much. Now Point Ormond Jetty no longer exists, it was washed away in a big
Then there is the brick wall that was down on beach. That’s all reclaimed land
now but there used to be this long stretch of sea wall between the road and the
beach. We used to sit on the sea wall and look at the cars as they passed and
name the cars that were passing. On a rough day the water would bash against the
wall and spray the road - some times it flooded the streets.
In those days you thought everything in life will be here forever so you wake up
to discover it has disappeared.