By Wendy, 71. Landsdale, WA
I remember when we lived at my father’s shop in Botany Road and my parents let me climb out the upstairs window onto the tin roof when the queen came along the road in 1954.
Out the back of the shop, my mother had a copper, a washboard, a cane washing basket, and the washing line held up by a prop. Dad had a vegetable garden in the backyard too, and the man next door kept pigeons.
I remember my mother with a cane baby’s pram on the back step, and I was standing with her in my maroon weather jacket, my plaid skirt, and maroon beret. After that, we all moved to a house in Wilson Street.
In that house, my mother had a big washing machine and a wringer, the bathroom had white and blue tiles, and the white ceiling had pretty cornices and pictures of peaches and ivy tendrils standing out on the ceiling. Every room except the kitchen had decorative plaster ceiling art.
We had a big black Bakelite box on the wall with a dial to ring the number and a big hand piece to listen, and a tall Bakelite radio with giant diodes at the back. I used to listen to The Argonauts every evening.
Television came to Australia in 1956, I think, and it was black and white. We could tell which houses had TV, as we drove past because the TVs had eerie green lights around them.
My father’s toy shop had been a library as after the war there weren’t many books to buy. To make more money, dad used to mend shoes on his shoe last and make buttons; mum used to take in knitting and make the neck band and basque for them and sew them together. Money was tight, but we never went without.
Every Boxing Day, we would all go to Carss Park where we had a swim and played cricket with a tennis racket and ate ham sandwiches and mince pies left over from Christmas. We drank orange Kia Ora cordial, and my father would listen to the Ashes, and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Some of the past is so clear it could have been yesterday.
There is another memory of me dressed in that same maroon beret and weather jacket, and long pants and gumboots. I was at my grandfather’s farm at Armidale, walking across the paddock, avoiding the cow pats, and driving the cows into the milking shed. Grandad milked the cows by hand and the fresh, frothy milk filled up a big bucket. Sometimes, for fun, he would squirt some milk at me. Later, he and Grandma moved from the farm into the town. He didn’t keep cows there but had four big yards of chooks and big vegetable gardens and got the water from a huge water tank. I used to help him feed the chooks and collect the eggs.
Back in Mascot, I remember visiting my other grandparents at Kogarah and driving home along General Holmes Drive around Botany Bay and past the airport, and the swampy area where my father said that birds from all over the world would nest. My father had a black Willies car, and I can still feel the smooth black leather arm rest when I struggled to stay awake in the corner of the back seat as we drove past the round yellow lights, over the railway lines and back to Mascot. When there was a storm, the water from Botany Bay would thrash up over the road and wash over the median strip so we had to drive through it. I was very frightened.
Some of the past is so clear it could have been yesterday. I remember starting school wearing a brand-new brown checked school dress and having my first drink of school milk from a little glass bottle. The milk was delivered each day and left out in the sun. It made me sick and I never drank school milk again. Some of the children had special straws with a little swab of flavouring inside that turned the milk into strawberry, chocolate or spearmint.
I can see myself dancing along the street with my mother when I was five, with David holding her hand and George in the cane pram as we walked to the school in King Street. We passed Geoffrey’s house, then as we got closer to Margaret’s house the smell of manure was overpowering. I moved up closer to the fence of six feet tall wooden slats, where some nails were missing so I could see the stables and two or three horses eating at the troughs. There were more stables across the street. There used to be a racecourse at Rosebery but that is now part of Southern Cross Drive.
Walking a bit further we crossed a lane which joined the lane behind the shops in Botany Road to the L’Estrange Park four streets away. There were other lanes, at right angles, behind each of the streets. The lanes were forbidden, they were dark and dangerous. There were no streetlights.
The water drainage in the lanes was very poor. When it rained heavily, the water swelled up out of the drain and into my father’s garage at the back of our house. In front of the house the rainwater reached the top step at the verandah. When the drain overflowed, we splashed around in the street with our gumboots full of water
When the rain wasn’t heavy, we wore our gumboots, raincoats, and hats to school. We had little cardboard school cases with our books and pencils, and our lunch and play lunch in paper bags … to be continued …
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Hi Wendy, I really loved your ‘Mascot Memories.’ I can relate so well to all the 50s references; your mum’s laundry, the school milk (yuk), the cardboard school cases and cane prams. I also used to like ham sandwiches and Kia-ora cordial. The other reason that I especially enjoyed your article is that I know Botany Road quite well, or sections of it. My sister-in-law lives on Botany Road at Botany and we’ve visited her several times in the last few years. Your house at Mascot looks familiar. I’m sure I’ve been past it in the bus on the way back to Liz’s place.