I came to live
in Tiuna Grove in 1940 as two-year-old baby and that’s where I grew up. Elwood
wasn’t a rich suburb, it was a family kind of place where people came and lived
in blocks of flats. I grew up in a two-bedroom unit with my parents and a
We didn’t have too much in those days so we had to make our own fun and
improvise with whatever we had. The whole of Elwood was like that. We used to
make our own footy from rolled up newspapers. If you had an elastic band you’d
bind it up with that otherwise you’d use string so it was really just a plug of
newspaper that you could kick to one and other.
In the old days all these London Plane trees used to be pruned every year right
back to their five basic branches so they used grow long thin branches that used
to get pruned every year. The rest used to be hauled away and be put on the tip
down here. We used to collect them make spears. We could make bows and our own
arrows out of that and make our own swords for fighting. You had to be
inventive, that’s what kids did in the 40s.
The first dwellings in Elwood were the large mansions built in the 1860s, but
most of this area was developed in the 20s and there were a lot of flats built
in those times to satisfy the needs of poorer people who couldn’t afford to live
in the richer suburbs. In Tiuna Grove there must have been at least ten
families. People wanted to live in Elwood because the flats were cheaper but the
city was accessible. We used to have a tram here that ran down to St Kilda
Railway station so you could be in Flinders St in fifteen to twenty minutes. For
all the people who worked in the city, that was the beauty of living in Elwood.
And we had the beach too.
My family came from Preston and Footscray and when we moved to Elwood all the
relations from over there used to come every weekend to go to the beach. So it
was always picnic day. All the cousins used to come too. That was the attraction
of living in Elwood. There is a bus that still runs from Collingwood but it used
to terminate at Point Ormond. On summer days it used to be chock-a-block, people
would come in their thousands. The beach the boats and all that sort of thing,
kids playing on the sand, that was the allure of Elwood, that’s why families
wanted to live here all the time.
Point Ormond had some nice little reefs where mussels used to grow. When my
father moved to Elwood he joined the Elwood Sailing Club (back then it was
Elwood Canoe Club) so that’s where he spent Saturday and Sunday At the end of
the day we’d often go and collect the mussels off the rocks and have a fire on
the beach in front of the clubhouse. We’d boil up a four-gallon drum of water to
cook them in and sit there and eat mussels on the beach.
As kids we used to know all the lanes that had the best fruit hanging over the
fence at different times of the year. We’d run all along the night cart lanes
and we’d pick grapes, apricot, everything, all fruits that were in season. If we
got caught, we’d drop the fruit we’d picked to make a quick get a way and run
for it. Sometimes we’d find an old fence on the back laneways and tear off a few
palings. They were really nice when they were old because the timber used to
spit into quite fine sticks and if we could find some string we’d make our own
kites from brown paper glued together with flour and water because we didn’t
have proper glue.
We’d fly them down on the beach. Everything was related to the beach. If you got
the fruit you’d go down there to eat it. The park was different much more open
then, it was our backyard. There was no television, only silly plays on the
radio, so our family and most other families in our street used to eat
relatively early. Half past five or six o’clock was when we had our main meal in
summer time so you’d have some hours after and the kids would want to go outside
after dinner or tea as it was called in those days, and play in the street.
There were no cars then. In the forties Tiuna Grove probably only had three
Elwood is cut in half by what we call the Elwood canal that used to be called
the Elster creek. It was a natural watercourse and then it got turned into a
drain for all the storm water. When we had heavy rains it used to flood out into
Wave St, Tide St and Foam St. They all used to get up to four feet of water
through them. I have a photo of me swimming down Glenhuntly Road, swimming home
from school. All that stopped in 50s when they put in the Head St drain so we
haven’t had a major flood since then. From a kid’s point of view it was great
fun, it was an opportunity for us to get out our toy boats and paddle up and
down the streets. It was another place to play running around in the water the
way kids do.
In summertime when we had heat waves the council used to come around and water
all the trees. They’d bring the water around in a huge steel boiler type
container pulled by a horse and if you asked the bloke nicely, most of those
blokes were pretty good with kids, they’d let you jump in the hole in the top
and dive into the tank. That’s if you weren’t at the beach. We used to have a
whole heap of horse and carts come down Tiuna Grove. There used to be an
oriental bloke that used to sell vegetables and we’d run behind his cart asking
for specks that is anything that was damaged that he couldn’t sell. The milk
came by horse and cart and we had our own dairy, Taggart’s Dairy. Then there was
the Rawleigh man who used to come around but not on a horse. He used sell
ointments and medicines door to door. The Watkins man used to come regularly
selling his products too, he sold food colouring and other baking products. The
iceman came regularly on a horse and cart. We had our own ice works down here,
in Glenhuntly Road opposite St Columba’s Primary School. There used to be a
timber yard and ice works and if you couldn’t go down there and get your own
block of ice they’d deliver it for you. I can remember that quite clearly
because we used to have an ice chest that took a block of ice that would take
three days to melt and it was my job to empty the drip tray. So there was always
something happening in the street and the kids were always out there to see
this, see that.
The street life’s changed a lot over the years but because I was an electrician
I got to know lots of people in the area. They still come here and want things
done. Sometimes if I’m out in the garden little old ladies will come by and ask
if I can help change a light bulb and I always say yes.