Joan Clinnick

Interviewed in 2010

I'm now talking with Joan Clinnick of Reservoir. Joan has lived all of her life in Reservoir and in fact in the same house in Ralph Street. So I'm going to ask her about all the different changes that she's seen in the area. Joan, you were actually born in this house so obviously there was either a lot of land or a lot of other houses.

Yes, it was a mixture. On the other side of the street there was a lot of the what they call the bank houses. There were several of them there and we had houses down to the end of the street. Then part of the way down, we had Mrs Moulden and that land from her up to Spring Street to Edwardes Street and around coming back. Her people, as you might find out, leased all this land from Mr Edwardes. The old homestead was on the corner where the Westpac Bank is and that was our first post office. So the Mouldens had a produce store in the market where they sold grains and all kinds of farm things. At Christmas time they'd bring all the big horses out.

The big Clydesdales?

Yes. Eventually of course that stopped and the land was sold. And before that a new house was built for Mrs Mouldon and her daughter Mona who always had a horse there. So the stables were kept until she wasn't riding any more. Then the land was gradually sold off. It was the most beautiful home. Mr and Mrs Armstrong built a lovely home there practically opposite the last town houses. Of course that was the first building pulled down to make way for the modern.

For those shops that lead to where Coles is?

No. It was still in the street.

I'm trying to get my sense of direction. We're talking about the houses on that side.

Yes. I'm going down that way first.

Down towards the traffic lights that block there?

No, no. This is actually in Ralph Street. That's Edwardes Street you were thinking of.

I was thinking of the block between Ralph Street and Edwardes Street.

I see yes. That would've been sold at that time and then more shops. I'll tell you all about that later. Then at the top of our street we had a wood yard. Then the Butterfields had a joinery factory. This was coming down from Spring Street on our side.

So we're talking about basically the block between Ralph and -

Spring Streets.

The Butterfields had a factory there and there were just paddocks next door to us. We used to have big bonfires there on Guy Fawkes night. Then Mr. Butterfield bought the next block and built a beautiful home. After it was sold, fortunately it was transported away so someone will get the benefit of it. There was another house where my uncle lived briefly and the area was open. The police station fitted in there. That was a big two-storey place.

This is the 20's early 30's we're talking about?

In to the 40's. I remember things really started it wasn’t until after the war that Reservoir moved at all. So that was our street and down this way Mr McFadzean who was one of our leading people - I think he was a councillor - he could've been mayor - that was open then fenced in to where the church is now. That block from Ralph Street through to Kenilworth Street was donated to the Anglican Church by Mr Edwardes.

That's down this end?

Yes. At that time we had a small church there and a big hall further over.

What was the name of the church?

St George's Anglican church.  As I remember in the early 40's I was still going to school – I was going into business college - because we used to take a short cut to the trains. When they took the horses away they took the barbed-wire. Also at the very corner there there was a wine shop. I can't think - a wine something anyhow which you rather ran past. Don't you go near it. That block had the last of the gum trees. Of course the last big one had to be cut down in the park.

So they would've knocked down quite a bit when they actually built the library there and the car park.

Yes. The council have been trying to buy up the houses as the different people sold up

Because the Reservoir library celebrates thirty years next year so that's 1980. But of course it would've been before then that they were trying to acquire the land.

As people died the family sold it.

So a lot of these houses would've been built just before the First World War?


Just after?

Early 1920's. This house was built in '22. I can always remember houses on that side. I can't say how far but definitely when I was eight or nine because we used to play in the street of course.

Of course there'd be no traffic to be concerned about. So there would've been plenty of space in the area. So Reservoir really started off I suppose post First World War but then started to develop further after the Second World War.

Yes. For instance the big woollen mill was down there in Collingwood. Yarra Falls mill. They brought out a lot of people from England I think Lancashire or wherever it was. They had houses built for them up around the school somewhere past Barton Street.

So they were provided with accommodation as part of their salary package if you want to put it that way.

Reservoir really didn't grow. For instance one of the big estate agents owned nearly all of the land going down the hill there and refused to sell it. One of them kept the factory for years. In fact, there were some shops there opposite the station and he would only allow one of any kind there. There were only about half a dozen. Mr Peake the chemist and Mrs Philgate and her daughter had a lovely big cafe-type thing. But in the end after the war the government - I don't know how they did it but they evidently got possession of it. That's how we got all the housing commissions homes there. That's how we got Clinnick Street and there's Moore Street and the different people in that area. If we had visitors we used to walk up to the top of the hill and see the sight of Melbourne.

Yes you probably would've been able to get a bit of a view from there.

There wasn't very much in between.

I think you'd be hard put to be able to do that today. Where did you actually go to school?

Preston Girls' School.

Is that the one in Gower Street?


Opposite where the Preston library now is.


You did all your schooling there?

I went to Zercho’s to do the secretary training. But I went to school with my father in Pender’s Grove.

By going down to Preston Girls' how did you get down there?

By bicycle.

You cycled. Because there wouldn't have been that much traffic heading in that direction.

We used to ride up that street and meet one friend there. We used to go down Plenty Road in to the back and up the hill. I think when it was very wet we probably went on the bus. The bus had plush filled seats and if you'd just had your nails done.

Then you went on to do secretarial training?

Yes, at Zercho’s college. Then I worked at the National Mutual for over thirty eight years.

That would've been during the war when you actually started.

1941 was when I started.

How did you find the war actually affected you? I mean did you have family?

I had two cousins one of whom went out with the first contingent and he came back. He was attached to a British tank rescue and he went through that great battle of Alamein. He said there was a lull - suddenly all the guns had been firing and everything stopped. Then you heard the skirl of the pipers as the troops advanced. It's something you can't imagine. That's where you've got to stop me.

No. It's all interesting.

The other cousin unfortunately died on the Burma Road. So that was rather awful because my aunt rang me and would I go in with her to the POW meeting. There was someone from Viv’s unit who'd been on with the Japanese transport going to work in the mines in Japan and it was torpedoed by an American submarine. He was rescued and of course everyone wanted to know. We were told that Viv unfortunately had cerebral malaria and he died the day before we left. We always wondered of course and he’d been ill for a couple of years so we had no way of knowing I guess.

Back home here were you involved with anything with fund-raising and things?

Not so much here. But I belonged to a war service bureau and that was a very strictly-run club where we had dances fortnightly for servicemen. We weren't allowed to go out -  your mother had to have an interview. It wasn't quite as bad as that. Mother heard about it and went in and I suppose having no brothers and sisters it was great that she did that. So I made friends through there and we worked at the Red Cross and rattled the tin on HMS King George V and on the submarine and at an American football game and the streets. You name it, I've been there with my rattling tin.

Was there actually still rationing at the end of the war here?


Can I just ask about your father because looking at this article here your dad certainly seemed to get quite involved in quite a number of things. He was a teacher: I know you mentioned that before. What did he teach?

Just primary.

Here it says he was involved at Tyler Street State School in Regent. But he also was involved a lot with Thomastown.

Only that he lived there: he was born there. After he married he came here. It was just what he wrote was from talking to the people up there. For instance there was only one house left where the Lutherans came out from Germany. It was the time of Bismarck and they migrated then. Anyhow up there was quite a colony.

Is that Westgarthtown?

It was. But later I think we just call it Germantown. There's still the cemetery there. That's past the boundary.

When was the street actually named after him? Was that after he died? When they actually built all those houses? So they used names of people who'd been very involved in the community?


Because you were working, was it just the dances that you did socially or did you go to the cinema and things like that?

Yes. We'd go the cinema with a group of friends. We usually go riding: there was a riding school over in Plateau Road and we used to go there. Mrs Taaffe was the owner. She and her daughter always rode so there was no galloping or anything like that. They had good horses and we used to cross the creek. We'd collect the horses outside the gates of the park. Then we'd ride up to - my mind's gone on the name of the street - anyhow across there.

That was in Mahoney’s Lane?

No we're not there yet. This was three streets - Leamington Street across there. Then there was a very old-fashioned house sitting up on the top of a hill. Then I think there was one very old house in High Street and it was just open paddocks all the way right down to the creek which we'd cross on horseback because you couldn't get across any other way. It was just open paddocks. That was in the 40's. There were three servicemen who used to come out every Sunday. Alma a friend we'd have them alternately every Sunday night for high tea. So it was definitely during the war.

You were saying to me before it was Mahoney’s Lane where you were going, which is now known as Mahoney’s Road which of course is known as a fairly busy highway these days.

That was in the history of Reservoir. They looked at that first for an aerodrome and then changed their mind. You know some tales you hear you can't guarantee them.

That they're fact.

But a lot of the land was sold just before the Depression. It was going to be this marvellous place. It was going to be a town hall with everything. Of course the Depression came and people just lost everything - no-one could afford to buy it off them. So the estate agents had a good time. They were all back again.

Down from those shops in Edwardes Street, there was a wood and briquette place. Mr and Mrs Bristow used to run it and when he died, she kicked on and she was really a marvellous character. Someone older than I would probably know or remember her.

There were several cinemas around Preston and Northcote. They all sort of popped up at the same time because they became very popular. What do you remember about cinemas actually in Reservoir? Do you remember anything about that?

For many, many years our cinema was in our church hall. We didn't have our church then. The hall had a stage then it had a big boat door. They pulled out the altar and different things you'd need on the Sunday morning, and the night before people were rolling Jaffas down the aisle. So I don't think we ever ventured there again but later on we'd go down to the one opposite the town hall. I can't think of the name. That was there a long time. Then they built the Circle and that has gone. There was the Planet up on the corner of High Street where the tram goes.

That was at the junction.

Yes. Then there was an old place known locally as the flea house. It doesn't say that in the books whether it's true. That was the Gowerville. Then many years later we had our own one here in Reservoir just past where Coles is in  that next block.

That's the one I can't seem to find out very much information about.

It's a lovely up-to-date modern - we had a booking there every Saturday night. It was a real thing where people would come there. So that was a great thing when that started.

Do you recall what it was called? Was it just called the Reservoir cinema?


Someone else actually mentioned that one to me too and also couldn't remember what it was called. But I'll actually do a bit of detective work with that.

I think it was called the Cinema North.

Cinema North. I'll check that one out.

You just mentioned something about the Anglican hall that burned down in Byfield Street.

So that burnt down. In the late 30's the small church was opened and that was on to Robb Street. With the money that they got from the insurance they were able to get a loan from the diocese and build our vicarage. For the first time we had our own Anglican priest.