Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Book of Me, Written by You - Week 5


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Today is week 5 of what is going to be a 15 month project. Each Saturday, at around 12.30am UK time the lovely Julie from Angler's Rest will release the prompt for that week's Book of Me, Written by You.

The prompt for week 5 is Your Childhood Home

When did you leave home?
Where was it?
Where did you move to?
Was it rented or owned? –  with parents/Grandparents
Was it inherited
What was it like – describe it – each room.
Were there a favourite room?
Is there anything you particularly remember from the house?
Pictures
The road & area

I left home when I was about 20.  I moved to a friend's place first and then into a rental property in Chippendale.  

Our home was in Sydney and was called "Avondale" at 44 Toxteth Road Glebe.  We hadn't lived there for very long - say about five years.

In the Google picture above Number 44 is the behind the gum tree.  The first of a row of three terrace houses...next to the house with the portico.

We officially moved in there 7th December 1976 from Canberra - though I boarded in Canberra for the last term of school while my parents hunted for a house in Sydney.

Here's how my mother described the move in a letter to her father:

"I'm writing this at the Drummoyne flat (a Sydney University flat where we stayed until we found somewhere to live).  We still live here but I think we should be actually living in the house after this weekend.  We have had considerable problems.  Jim fell down the stairs at Drummoyne last Saturday week and had to be taken to Royal North Shore at midnight.  He has been on crutches for a week.  .....we ended up moving the furniture in on 7th: it was chaotic.  With Jim on crutches, and supposed to be lying with his leg elevated for seven days, the Selles came down en masse from Faulconbridge on Sund, 5th, and tore up all the old stinking carpets for us, nearly killing themselves in the process.  Warren ripped out 5 kitchens with his trusty crowbar and all in all they rendered it possible for Grace Bros to move in on the Tuesday.  It was fumigated on the Monday.  Serje came over while Grace Bros were there and helped organize the whole hideous business.  The removalists kept referring to Professor Domicelj as "son" everytime they spoke to him, much to his delight.  This country is a constant source of entertainment to him....For the first time, I completely forgot my birthday....(it was her birthday on the 7th)  On the 8th I drove to Canberra to collect Alex and the cats.  That simple sentence covers a wealth of events and minor disasters, starting and ending with the agony of going from place to place & begging for petrol to get there and back..(there was a petrol shortage at the time)....Situation of the house.  Basically sound.  We have to build a bathroom and a kitchen, so you can imagine what it is like.  No cupboards or wardrobes so our clothes are lying around on the floor and packing cases.  Jim is building like a beaver.  The boat is in the front hall.  There are 110 cases of books & belongings, mostly books.  It all has to be painted and carpeted inside and out.  A garage has to be built immediately to store everything.....Haven't done anything about Xmas this year.  Can't cook, no stove; however I'm determined to go to Church this year! "


This was such a big move for my parents in so many ways.  Real estate in Sydney was much more expensive than in Canberra, so we essentially moved into a fixer-upper.  My mother and many others saw Glebe as a slum.  For me it was tremendous fun...though I'm sure for my mother it was akin to a nightmare.

I don't have very many photos unfortunately...or not many that I can find easily (when will I ever have the time it takes to get my photos in order????)

Here are some that might give you an idea of what it was like....





This was taken when we were trying to build a laundry.  I learned bricklaying under the expert tuition of my father.







You can see the roof tops of the houses across the lane-way in that photo.  Oh and the ubiquitous Hills Hoist.  I'd never lived somewhere with a lane at the back.  It was novel and quite interesting for me.  After a few years I was ducking across the back lane to babysit three children - I'm trying to remember their names - I think they were Dymphna, Imogen and Billy...not sure.

While we were renovating and because we didn't have a kitchen, we often went out to dinner to a cheap Italian restaurant in Darlinghurst called No Name - where no questions were asked and no-one cared how you were dressed.  Lots of fun.  We'll never forget the man standing over the huge vat of pasta with a fag hanging out of the corner of his mouth constantly.  The food was great and by all accounts still is !

Yes we were probably part of the vanguard of the gentrification of Glebe in the 70s and I remember the hoo-ha over whether one was renovating or restoring.  We tried to do a bit of both.  Stripping back staircases and fireplaces was fantastic.  As a fledgling historian I loved the uncovering of history.



When we bought the house, it was divided into six flats.  Here are some photos of the bathroom everyone would have shared. Tiny and less than my mother would have desired......



The house was four storeys which I loved, having lived in a single storey dwelling most of my life.  I lost lots of weight running up and down those stairs.  My room was in the attic.  

My memory is that the kitchen was originally two rooms - maybe a scullery and a ??? but we made two rooms into one and this is a photo of part of the kitchen.




I loved that kitchen.  Exposed brick walls were very new and "in" in those days.  The kitchen utensils hanging from a hoop was also very groovy.  You can see the interest in the family history was already firmly entrenched by the photo collection on the back wall.

Whilst I'm an only child, we were fortunate enough to have my best friend from childhood eventually come and live with us.  Judith tried boarding school in Sydney but we all decided it would be much better if she came and lived with us.  It was great fun having a sister for a couple of years while we finished school.  We went to different schools.  Hers was on the North Shore and she left home very early every morning at about 7 if not before to get to school on time.  I left at about 7.30 I think.

Here's Judith on the front verandah outside my parents bedroom at the front of the house reading a letter.



Here we are playing dress ups in the costumes I had to wear in the school play "Charley's Aunt"



Here we are again near the front door in our school uniforms.



Here's another shot looking the other way.  We are standing in the handkerchief pocket sized front yard.




I guess my favourite room was my bedroom or the kitchen, though my father's study was lovely too.  We painted the walls of the study a deep burgundy.  It looked great.

My bedroom was wallpapered with really yummy old fashioned vine-type wallpaper which hid several unsightly stains from previous tenants.  On a Friday night you could lean out the window of my room at the back and watch the trots at the Harold Park Raceway down the road with their bright floodlights and hear the relentless calling of the races over the loudspeaker.  In the morning you might be woken by the sounds of horses hooves clip clopping as they did their training around the suburbs in the early morning.  I see they've put another window in the front of the bedroom from that Google photo to give it a bit more light.

Parking in our street was a nightmare on a Friday night as Harold Park Raceway was very popular and people parked for miles around.  My mother loathed anything to do with racing or betting so I think that really probably got on her goat a bit.

Ironically I have just discovered on the net that a former alderman, mayor and bookmaker used to live there or at least bought the place.  There's a great history of Glebe which I saw yesterday at Bent Books and am sorely tempted to buy.  It's called Grandeur and Grit by Max Solling.  You can get a sense of it here in his online article for the Dictionary of Sydney.

Living in Glebe was never dull.  Judith and I used to laugh about our public transport experiences.  It was never too early to find a drunk sitting next to you on the bus.  Sometimes the smell of urine was overwhelming.  We came from Canberra (really a large country town and pretty new in the scheme of things) and so were much struck with the evidence of poverty and lots of old people who often seemed homeless.  I learned to walk quickly and negotiate the mentally unwell.  We probably grew up very quickly in those last couple of years of school.  But Glebe and inner city Sydney was exciting to live in.  Lots of different cultures and great restaurants all along Glebe Point Road.  Lots of pollution too though and I suffered from lots of hay-fever attacks as a result.

Later, when I went to Uni, I could walk there which was great.  It took about half an hour and I loved finding my way through the back streets of Glebe and looking at all the architecture. 

If I miss anything about the house, it is the sense of history and the different levels.  But I don't miss the traffic, the pace and the pollution of Sydney.   Although I am glad I learned to drive in Sydney - now that prepares you for anything !

6 comments:

Kristin said...

This really sounds exciting! I love the brick kitchen walls.

diane b said...

A lovely story of part of your history. I remember Glebe used to be a run down suburb when I lived in Sydney but then people like your parents moved in and now it is a trendy place to live. Your parents did it tough at first and I see a similarity with my parent''s struggle to make a home in Sydney in 1949. The story is on my sidebar or here:
http://diane-adventurebeforedementia.blogspot.com.au/p/chapter-2-settling-in-australia-949.html

Kat Mortensen said...

Your description of the fellow leaning over the vat of pasta with the fag hanging from his mouth reminded me of a baker I once worked for. He did the same thing over the danishes, and I sold them as "poppy seed"!

Alex Daw said...

Dear Kristin - we loved those brick walls. It made the place more home like somehow.

Alex Daw said...

Ha ha...poppy seed...noooooo! :)

Alex Daw said...

Dear Diane - Always good to hear from you. I know comparison is the thief of joy and all that but I can't help but compare myself to my parents generation and those before them and feel that I come up very poorly in "effort" stakes.