Childhood memories


From the earliest age I was, like the elephant's child in Kipling's "Just So" stories, full of "satiable curtiosity". When I started school we lived in Fitzgibbon Crescent, off Hawthorn Road in Caulfield and we went to Grimwade House on the corner of Orrong and Balaclava Road, a bit over 2km away. We were supposed to catch the 4d tram, which went along Balaclava Road, and then turned south into Hawthorn road. The fare was a penny for adults, and a halfpenny for children.

I soon decided there were more interesting ways to get home, and set about looking for alternatives. Caulfield Park was alongside Balaclava Junction, at the corner of Balaclava and Hawthorn roads. Our nanny had taken us there to play before we started school, but on one occasion I had been accosted by an older boy in the public toilets (though I had managed to escape without harm), and we were not encouraged to play there by ourselves. However there was a maze of streets between Hawthorn and Orrong roads, and I explored a number of these.

We had rented the house in Fitzgibbon Crescent, but in 1941 my mother bought a house in Sidwell Avenue, East St Kilda, the first she had owned, which was much closer to the school. Again I soon got bored with the direct route, and resumed my exploring. The area had only recently been sewered, and there was still a night cart lane between the backs of the housed in most pairs of roads, and these provided many additional possibilities. Over time they were absorbed into the adjacent properties, and nearly all have all long since disappeared.

I found a "better" way to school, which involved going up to Inkerman St, and coming back down Sidwell Avenue from the northern end. It was still under a kilometre, but on one occasion my teacher accompanied me home to talk to my mother. She clearly did not like walking, and was very dubious about my supposedly better route, though I assured her that it wasn't any further. When we turned round, and started to come back down Sidwell Avenue her suspicions were confirmed, and she eventually managed to make me see that it had to be further that way. But I still preferred it!

The move provided new opportunities, and one afternoon I found Green Meadows Gardens, with several large gumtrees, and was puzzled to notice that a number of the branches bore clumps of small branches that did not seem to belong. My mother could not recognise these from my description, so I asked one of the gardeners, who told me they were mistletoe clumps. This (at seven!) was my first botanical observation.

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019

Caulfield and East St Kilda