June Phyllis Meadows Burr
One of my earliest recollections is being lost in South Melbourne. Bruce (brother) & I had played the wag fromschool, I was 4½ and he 9. It was a very wet day, we had gone home for lunchand had not wanted to return to school, but our Mother said we should. We followed the East Preston tram line which then went over the hump at Thornbury,along St. Georges Rd, and it went somehow to Nicholson St. Our intention was to spend the night under the arch at St. Kilda Beach – a place where the family met for picnics. However a lady found us in South Melbourne and took us to the Police Station. There had been search parties out looking for us, and our parents came by tram and took us home.
There was a Circus in Gower St and on the corner of Plenty and Murray Rds.
I started school at East Preston State School, which had opened two years previously, my brother Bruce having started at South Preston School and all children on our side of Gower St(North side) having to go to the new school.
Hot cocoa at school – children not getting enough to eat during depression years – and Mothers’ Club provided this.
We walked across paddocks from Hill Groveto the school, few houses being built in that area. Opposite us in Gower Stthere were paddocks. Healy’s farm still taking up a large area from David St,Patterson St and to Avondale Rd, which I do not think was there for some years. We would fly kites in the paddocks opposite, tying them onto a 3 rail fence around one of the paddocks when called for lunch and go out after lunch to continue our game. Bon fire nights were a great occasion, most of our bonfires were on the paddock – North East corner of Plenty Rd and Gower St. Potatoes were placed under the wood before lighting thefire and when ashes burnt down, were raked out and eaten hot - lovely. Old residents of the street were Heyfields, Higgs Dairy (corner Plenty Rd and GowerSt), David and Fox dairy on corner of Martin St, Pegrans, Burrs, Allens, Jones,Stafford, Mooneys, Foleys, Pittard, Osbornes and Walshes on opposite side ofthe street. Audrey Osborne and Gladys Allen were my friends our main games beingskippy, hop-scotch, making mud pies and selling them to each other, spinningtops – the boys tops were wound with string and flipped off to see whose spunthe longest, the girls were wound to start and then whipped with cord attachedto a wooden handle. Toolburn(?) buck was a craze for a while. A cardboard circle was cut out, marked into sections with names of racehorses – Phar Lap’stime – in each section. The board was spun on a stick, cherry bibs bet on whichhorse it would stop on. The schools banned this game though as they said it encouraged gambling. Skippy was played on the road which was not made at this time, very little traffic stopped our play.
Bruce and I would take Keith’s bike whilehe was asleep or out (he was working night shift at this time) and Bruce would dink me over to Essendon aerodrome to see the planes. There was a quarry at thebottom end of Gower St between Gower St and Bell St and we would go there yabbying – also mushrooming over the paddocks. When Gladys married and lived in St James Rd Rosanna, we would walk down Gower St over the stepping stones in the creek and across paddocks to Upper Heidelberg Rd and so to her place. M ysister Betty remembers walking from Reservoir Station to Broadmeadows Camp and visit Uncle Dave and Uncle Alex who were in camp prior to sailing during WorldWar 1.
I attended East Preston school for six years, during which time Preston GirlsSchool was built and also the city hall – or new Town Hall as we called it then. I then attended South Preston State School, obtaining my Merit Certificate in the second year, then remaining there another year before attending Northcote Business College. While at South Preston we would catch the cable tram to Helen St school once a week for sewing class.
After leaving school I worked at Joyce-Howefor three years, then to Sheppards Millinery in Flinders Lane. Our amusements were mainly dancing at Strettons in Thornbury and at a hall in David St, thenas we got older to the Tramways Depot, Church socials, dances at St Mary’s Plenty Rd and pictures. Theatres were Gowerville on Plenty Rd, Star later St James on corner ofGower and High Sts, Circle (a new theatre) on High St and the Regent Theatre inThornbury and the Planet, another new one at the junction of Plenty Rd and High Sts. Pictures at the Star theatre where I would bend over so get in for nothing so we could spend the 3p admission on sweets. Iceskating at Glaciarium in StKilda Rd.
While young we had a few holidays at Lockwood, near Belgrave, at a house owned by a friend of my Father’s, at arented place in Mordialloc, also at Aspendale and Dromana. A carrier would pickup heavy cases and boxes of food, linen and clothes and take them to the houses and the family would go by train.
Sunday School picnics, always on Cup Day (we attended the Presbyterian Church which was then in David St, and later the Congregational Church in Wood St), were in furniture vans to Wattle Glen,Eltham or Jaynefield. Remember once when driver of van was apparently drinking most of the afternoon – I think the picnic was at Jaynefield – our family andmany others would not get in the van as he was not considered fit to drive. We started off, walking. Mother then got a lift but the others walked home.
When I was about 10 and Bruce 14 we would often take a 2/- Sunday Excursion by train to Ballarat or Geelong. Bay trips onthe Weeroona or Edina were also great occasions. A car trip was a great occasion – family did not have a car, but Alec Gibson & George Watts (related to Humphries) sometimes took us on a picnic to Rickett’s Point or Belgrave.
Mr Henry Zwar was a well loved Preston personality, shifted away in depression. Zwar’s tannery in Gower St, othertannery in Murray R, Huttons Factory in High St. We used to go to Bell Station and watch pigs and sheep off loaded from tram and herded to factory for slaughter.
Not much money in family, Father retired in his 50s owing to ill health, a small pension from Patterson Lang and Bruce.Keith out of work for some time, Gladys married and Betty only one working. Wenever went hungry though, Mother was very good at making do. John, Glad’shusband, would often slip her something to help out. He loaned Mum my fees fo rBusiness College, and insurance came due later and he was paid back with this. Mum was a great one for these small insurances which paid about $20 on maturity but were very helpful. For some years they only paid the bank the interest on the house and the principal was unpaid for some time. Land house was built on was £50, land in Martin St £20.
I was working at N.S. Sheppard and Son when war broke out. Joined up AWAS in 1942 when I turned 18.
Uncle George, Dad’s brother, out of work during depression, had been staying with us, wanted to get to Adelaide to see Jean & Keith, his children being looked after by deceased wife’s sister,put pack on back and set off to walk there. Dad gave him little money he couldafford, begged him not to try it, was in tears as Uncle left. He walked all the way there, must have been in his 60s.
Even though cars and supermarkets are considered to make shopping easy, I still think that with 3 young children my shopping was much easier in the early 50s then now in 1980. I would write my grocery list, take it to the grocers and he would deliver the same day. Thebutcher would bring my meat one day and take the next day’s order – the greengrocer came round in a truck twice a week.
I remember Dad and brothers listening to test matches on crystal set my brother made. Our first wireless – cabinet type– was a wonder to us. The gramophone would be wound up and we would be playingour records. Sewing machine treadle model, Mother had given to her when she wasabout 16. Still works. No fridges or ice chests even when young. Cool gardiesafe in fernery. Box frame, covered in hessian, standing in a tin of water,with lengths of hessian hanging in water and lying over frame. Acted thepurpose very well. Then came ice chest – what a nuisance emptying the tray eachnight, but what fun chasing the ice man for a lump of ice. He came round in at ruck with the ice and chipped blocks off at each stop. No air conditioning,gas or oil heating. What fun to sit in front of a lovely mallee root fire orsit in kitchen with ones cold feet in the warm oven of the fire stove wherethere was always a kettle on the boil and a hot oven for hot scones.
No hot water service. Bath night was Saturday night, with buckets of hot water being carried from copper. Later achip bath heater, then luxury a gas bath heater.
Washing was soaked in copper on Sunday andboiled on Monday, it took a whole day to do the family washing, no wringers or dryers. Still compared to the last coppers it was luxury, we had a proper washhouse – not laundry as it is now called.
Outdoor W.C. with the night man calling once a week.