Cemeteries, Dairies and Nut Trees – Merlynston Part 1

Sep 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Featured Article, Laurie's Blog

As we age our sense of space expands.  When we are young our mental map of the world is confined to our home and immediate neighbourhood.  Gradually as we explore and venture out the mental map grows and expands, painting in the unknown areas on the maps or our own private universe.  So my earliest memories of space are of the immediate neighbourhood in Box Hill South.

And back then it was even smaller.  Childhood memories sometimes play like incomplete scenes in a movie and different days run into one another so we end up with an amalgam of images rather than distinct chapters and such are my memories of Merlynston.

Most people in Melbourne have never heard of this tiny suburb north of Coburg and on the edge of the Fawkner Cemetery.   For a time my Grandfather was a grave digger there and a Chapel is named after my Uncle who for a long time was on the Board of the cemetery trust.

I was born not far from there and Mum moved back into a bungalow at the back of my Grandparents place at 55 Orvieto Street after I was born whilst they were saving for their own home.   They had been living in a flat at Mordialloc for a few years.

But my memories of Merlynston don’t stretch back quite that far, they in fact begin on any one of dozens of weekends when we visited Nana and Pa which seemed to be at least fortnightly, usually on a Sunday.  Now here my cousins may in fact say that my memories of Orvieto Street may well differ from theirs but for me they are very vivid.

Pa would generally meet us on the front porch and usually he’d have a 2 shilling piece to give us.  Pa had his voice box removed after getting cancer of the larynx the year I was born and it was a source of grim fascination that he had a hole in his throat covered with a gauze square.  He sort of talked with a wheezing croak that was really hard for me to understand.   I wonder what his voice was like – did he sing, did he have a baritone or tenor?

On the wall in the foyer was a crushed velvet belt containing badges that Pa had collected during his time with the New Zealand army in the First World War.  On a cabinet at the end was a photo of my Uncle Keith in uniform and I have this vague recollection of a photograph of the Queen.   On the side wall was a portrait of Nana’s Mum and Dad, John Dunn and Kate Collins.

But it is the smell that stays with me mostly.  Nana would inevitably be baking and the smells of fresh scones and roasting meat would greet us as we walked inside the front door.  I loved the scones piping hot from the oven covered in melted butter and smothered in vegemite.

The lounge room to the left had a piano and Nana would sometimes sit down and play it for us and my favourite part were the big club chairs which I would perch myself in and read from the set of encyclopedia from a bookcase against one wall.   In later years Nana had a huge 26 inch black and white TV with a hard wired remote control.  I remember being fascinated by being able to actually sit in a chair and change a channel or turn the volume up and down.  It was to be years before we had one at home.

The back yard had a lemon tree which legend had it was well watered by the men of the family.  At the back of the yard was a wood shed and a chook house and if we were lucky, Pa would allow us to go down and collect the eggs.  There was a massive nut tree – walnuts I think – that dominated one corner of the yard and my cousins Paul and I spent a fair bit of time climbing it.

But the magic place was Pa’s garage which we used to sneak into and poke around.  It was full of tools and the cut down wagon that Pa used to push around the streets of Coburg whilst he collected beer bottles for return to the brewery.  I still marvel at him as an octogenarian with one leg shorter than the other because he got blown up in France in the First World War, and no voice box because he had it removed as a 72 year old, pushing a cart laden with hessian sacks full of beer bottles for miles oblivious to the traffic he was holding up.  In 1974 Pa was the first of my Grandparents to pass away and I have always counted myself lucky that I had all of them with me for so long.

lauries christening 1 1957 1

The photo I have chosen here was taken on the day of my christening and I wanted to show it because all of those people and others born after me all lived within a few blocks of that house.  A visit to Nana and Pa’s also meant a visit to the large extended family who were always happy to hear the chatter of young nieces and nephews as we dropped in for a biscuit or sometimes a glass of lemonade.  And if we weren’t doing that we were heading up to the milkbar up the road or the dairy around the corner for a bag of mixed lollies and sometimes a milkshake.

One Comment to “Cemeteries, Dairies and Nut Trees – Merlynston Part 1”

  1. lozster says:

    Just testing the comments section

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