I thought I’d start because my memories go back further than Karen and Deb’s. Mum and Dad moved to the Golf Links estate in Box Hill South in around 1959. I was approaching 2 and Karen hadn’t long been born.
The house was pretty trendy for the time, flat roofed, vertical pine weather boards and was one of the first in the area. Unfortunately the builder went bust at some stage during the build and the things that were supposed to finish it off and make it a bit more unusual were never done.
On the South side there were floor to ceiling windows for the lounge room, Mum and Dad’s and Karens bedroom. They were supposed to be french doors that opened onto a full length covered veranda that stretched all the way down the side of the house and then around to the front door. But with the builder bankrupt it was never finished and for a long time we were unable to use the front door as an entry because it stood around three feet off a mound of dirt piled on that side of the house.
That dirt mound became the starting point for my pedal car, our bikes and later on a red go cart that was given to me by my godfather Ivan McNiece. Dad always said that he’d put a motor in it one day but, probably luckily, never did. Apart from pushing it aroud the front yard, we’d also put it on the foot path out the front and go hell for leather down the hill in Raichardson Street to the intersection of Wellard Road. Looking back I’m not sure how we survived really.
In those early days the garden out the front was pretty spartan. We had a couple of apple trees that used to fruit a lot by the time I was around 10 and it was a common sight to see the starlings and miner birds staggering around the front yard drunk on the fermented and rotting fruit that fell to the ground.
As I said in the earlier post, the roads and footpaths weren’t made. When going through Mum’s stuff over the past couple of weeks I’ve found letters from the Golf Links Estate committee of management demanding several pounds for the construction of the roads because the Box Hill Council at the time said they had no money to construct them.
That front yard saw plenty of birthdays which were always celebrated with our cousins and aunties and uncles from both sides as you can see in the photo above. We had a small white fence along the front boundary and spent hours running around and jumping over it. In summer the footpaths out the front became the place where Karen and I would sunbake, smothered in coconut oil and racing each other to see who could get the best tan.
For most of those early years the backyard wasn’t fenced off. It was only when Mum and Dad got enough money to bick veneer the front of the house and finish off the front veranda that we got a roller door on the driveway side and a back gate. We also got the paths concreted at the same time.
As you can see in the picture of Karen and I, before that we had the remains of packing crates laid on the ground in the back yard that lead to the outdoor dunny and to the back steps that lead to the kitchen. There was the obligatory hills hoist in the backyard, a make shift BBQ that Dad had up in the back corner at which we shared many burnt sausages and the best chips you’ve ever tasted.
The sewerage came through some time before Deb was born and I have a weird memory that the piles of dirt you see in the next photo lay around for months. I remember the hole being really deep and we were very excited that the days of having to use the outdoor dunny were going to be over.
As well as the old packing crates Dad used to bring home sheets of masonite and we spent hours building cubby huts like a stack of cards around the front of the house, complete with secret tunnels that we could crawl through and at times, before the front was bricked I could actually crawl underneath the boards and beneath the house where our dog Noddy had scraped a hole.
Deb said in her earlier post that Noddy was a golden lab, but the truth was she was a Heinz 47 variety bitzer and one of the best dogs you could ever wish for. In those days dogs roamed free around their homes and she’d chase our old vauxhall up Richardson Street when we left the house. When we’d return home she’d always be there to greet us and run laps around the house because she was so excited to see us. She died when she was only about 8 years old and Dad swore that she’d been poisoned. Her bones still lie in a grave near the back fence.
We had other dogs after her, Billy Jack, a dalmatian cross who unfortunately caused a few problems because he took a disliking to a woman who lived around the corner and rushed her everytime she tried to pass the house. I think she might have been a bit of a lunatic but one day when I got home from school when I was around 16 Mum and Dad told me that they’d taken him to the vet who had found a home on a farm for him. It was only years later that I learnt that they’d had him put down. We also had our poodle Bamby who became very possesive of Deb and later, when I was about 19 my Aunty Norma gave me Chai, a German Short Haired pointer, who lived until he was seventeen and moved with me to Tecoma when I got married.
At the back of the house were two black wattles and at one stage Dad put an old wooden ladder around 12 feet up in them that was laid horizontally between them and became my tree house from which I could actually climb onto the roof of the house. Up there I felt like the king of the world and would just sit there looking down across Box Hill Golf Course for what seemed like hours at a time. The roof was asbestos sheeting and back in those days no one saw any problems with that. I scrape my name in it and blow the dust away with no idea that there may have been any risk involved in that.
In the late seventies when I was at Uni and got interested in native plants I spent some of my money planting the garden out with natives. If you drive past the old house now you can still see the Iron Barks I planted in the front yard although the new owners took out some of the other stuff I planted along the fence line that screened the house from the road.
In my younger years we had bare floorboards. There was only one thing to sit on in the loungeroom which was what would now be called open plan and attached to the dining room. That seat was an old divan.
That piece of furniture saw all my childhood illnesses – mumps, measles, German measles and chicken pox. It even saw the days when my sisters or I faked illness in order to get out of school. And it was the place of choice for those Sunday nights in front of the TV watching Disneyland. It was there when we woke to find Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny had come. It saw the block fences around zoos and farms and the villages of Lego and the fort full of my cowboys and Indians, and my sisters games with their Barbie Dolls.
It was there when the log rolled out of the fireplace on a still night and burnt slowly through the floor of the house. It rested the weary bones of my four grandparents and accepted the jumps of young kids for years. At some time in the late sixties or early seventies, probably not long after that photo was taken, it was replaced by a three piece vinyl lounge suite, which as the years wore on also collected the creases of my family’s life until it too passed to someone else.
If you look in the photo at the left which shows us on that old divan you’ll notice a convair heater which burnt briquettes and one of my jobs in winter was to cart them in from the old wood box outside the back door. That was later replaced by an oil heater and then when ‘natural gas’ came through the area a gas heater – instant warmth was great after the cold of floor boards.
In the dining room was an old laminex table and stainless steel yellow padded chairs later they were recovered in brown vinyl to match the new fleur lounge suite that was Mum’s pride and joy. There was many a Sunday night spent sitting watching the Sunday movie with my mate Fog as we got older.
My bedroom became my refuge as I got older and the cowboys and indians and matchbox cars were replaced with Airfix soldiers that I spent hours painting and then war gaming with another school mate, David Palmer. I’d spend hours sitting in the room or lying on my bed reading comics, drawing and enjoying my science fiction books. When I got to Uni and started working part time I spent my money on buying an amplifier and turntable and listening to records – the Eagles, Jack Browne, America, Phil Collins, ELO, Elton John, Neil Young to name a few, all of which I still have by the way.
Saturday afternoons Mum and Dad would occupy the kitchen table and listen to the races following and generally losing on their many bets, whilst consuming beer and sherry. Aunty Hazel would often join them and I’d retreat to the bedroom to listen to the footy on the radio. I’d rule up an exercise book and take stats from the radio call and if Carlton lost I’d sulk and maybe come out on Saturday night to watch the footy replay.
I’ll no doubt remember more as we work through this exercise but that’s my instalment for this week.