Vignettes from Veronica: a collection of memoirs from the residents of Veronica Gardens

'The Polio Epidemic 1937' by M.M.

In 1937 I was six years of age when the polio epidemic hit our suburb of Preston – hit Victoria really – the block where we lived was hit very badly. Myself, my father and my sister Pat, were suspect for about ten days but we got over it. My sister Eileen didn’t. She had to go off to hospital and be fitted for splints because at that time there was virtually no cure. I think there were about ten kids in our block who got the polio. Anyway Eileen was put into the splints. Dad made a pram out of a twins’ pram. I was only six years old so we couldn’t have anything too high. He made it long enough for Eileen to lay out in – a very clever man was my father.

We used to play in the street in those days. There was no T.V. and sitting inside – my mother never saw us all day.

In the summer during the school holidays when it all happened, we used to get Eileen in the pram and prop her up so she could see what was going past. We’d walk, pushing the pram all over Preston and Northcote, to Beaver’s Road to my grandmother’s and to Thornbury to my other grandmother’s house. That pram went everywhere. At that time my dad had his office in the backyard and one day we went into the office and Eileen was outside and wanted to come in too, so we got the pram in bet we couldn’t get it out! Dad to the rescue, with a lot of laughter. 

Mum used to pack up lunch, sandwiches and the like. We’d have a picnic. We never left Eileen at home and we never played in the street without her. She was five years old. When the younger kids got tired of walking they all sat up on the pram too. There would be about twenty kids around us. 

Over the next eighteen months Eileen was in and out of hospital. Mum badly needed to rest sometimes as she had five little kids to look after. She used to make all our clothes. I don’t know how she had the time to do the things she did. Great Mother. 

The man who ran the dairy at Reservoir had a daughter who contracted the polio too and dad ran into him one day and asked, “How is your girl?” and he said “Oh, she’s cured, we took her to a clinic at the top of Brunswick Street, Fitzroy near Victoria Parade.” (I don’t remember the name of it). They used the Sister Kenny treatment. Dad mortgaged the house to pay for Eileen’s treatment. He took her in the car, laying her across the back seat. Two pounds per treatment. A lot of money in those days. 

What they did was, take the splints off her and told dad never to put them on again. She had to go in there three times a week for massaging and exercises. They showed dad how to do it at home. Eileen had to have special baths and things like that. It was virtually the Sister Kenny treatment which cured her. Within a few weeks she was up and about and running. Back at school with no problems and no sign of having had polio.  

'The Chook that went to the Market' by R.C
Most Friday nights we went to the Coburg market.

Our Grandparents, Mum and Dad, my sister and I, would climb into our old “Dodge” for the six mile drive. 

Early one summer evening as we travelled down Sydney Road, we saw people pointing to the car and laughing. We soon discovered the reason for their mirth. Dad found one of our chooks perched on the running-board of the car. Too terrified to move it had somehow stayed put. Our adventurous chook travelled back home in a Hessian bag safely INSIDE the car. 
'Cookery Classes' by A. H.
Probably with the lingering idea that all girls should become domesticated, High Schools in the 30s arranged for the girls to attend Cookery Classes at a nearby Central School (up to year 8). These occurred once a week in 2nd Year high School. 

Memories remain of the making of Cornish Pasties, éclairs and Cream Puffs. One day, one student made such a mess of hers that the teacher, in desperation said, “What if your husband was coming come for lunch. What would you do?” Without hesitation, the lass replied, “I’d go down the street and buy a pie!!!!!” 
'Shopping' by N.K.
I had finished my shopping at one of the stores belonging to a large shopping combine, and noticed an EXIT sign I hadn’t seen before: so I thought I would try it. 

Suddenly, I was surrounded by three very large security men. “What are you doing here”? I replied that there was an EXIT sign on the door. “That’s only if there is a fire”. I explained that it didn’t mention ‘FIRE’ on the sign. “How did you get in”? I told them that I followed the instructions and pushed the bar. I offered to show them my receipt in case they thought I was trying to avoid paying. They ignored this, and escorted me back into the store and to the girl on the checkout I had used. 

Fortunately she recognised me. I was then escorted through the store to the front entrance and she told to ‘have a nice day’!!!!!  
'Saturday Afternoon At the Flicks' by J.M.
Saturday afternoons the kids in our little seaside towns of Edithvale, used to go to the ‘flicks’ (as movies were called in those days). The piano was played by some long suffering person the while time the silent film was showing. Mostly the pictures would be ‘Wild Western’s’ probably with Tom Mix. The music would be drowned out with the noise we kids made stamping our feet and yelling, urging the ‘goodies’ on when being chased by the ‘baddies’. Tame stuff. Far removed from the sophisticated movies today’s children watch! 

 'No handcuffs' by M.C.
During the course of my duties I was summoned to court as a witness. Two policemen with whom I had worked and knew me very well arrived at my home in a marked police car to escort me to the ‘Children’s Court’ in the city. 

The journey down to the ‘Children’s Court’ and back was one of the most amusing things that happened to me in the job of Probation Officer/Independent 3rd witness person. 

When we stopped at traffic lights, young men saw me in the police car, between two policemen in the back, and with two policemen in the front, laughed like mad, put their hands up in the air and cried “Where are your cuffs?” For me, who had never been charged by a policemen in my life, roared laughing, I thought it was the funniest episode in my entire service.

C. M [0ral transcript] (1999) No handcuffs. Melbourne, Australia. Fitzroy Primary School  
C. R [0ral transcript] (1999) The chook that went to the market. Melbourne, Australia. Fitzroy Primary School 
H. A [0ral transcript] (1999) Cookery classes. Melbourne, Australia. Fitzroy Primary School  
K. N [0ral transcript] (1999) Shopping. Melbourne, Australia. Fitzroy Primary School  
M. J [0ral transcript] (1999) Saturday afternoon at the flicks. Melbourne, Australia. Fitzroy Primary School  
M. M [0ral transcript] (1999) The polio epidemic 1937. Melbourne, Australia. Fitzroy Primary School