Thursday, October 7, 2004

Box Hill South - Creeks and Creatures

The suburb we grew up in was probably best described as middle class. When we moved there from Merlynston the houses were springing up in an estate where there were no made roads or footpaths [they were to come later on].

Funny when you look back on childhood how the summers always seemed hotter, the winters colder, and the rain heavier.

Richardson Street where we lived was covered in pot holes - in summer it was dusty, in winter, wet and muddy, and on those really cold mornings the puddles in the potholes would freeze. There were no gutters, instead open drains which were a constant source of fascination. In the spring they were lined with waist high weeds in which lived caterpillars of different sizes and colours and the water that flowed constantly down the hill fed by the drains from houses had weird red worms that lived in it. And of course there were rats, which used to scarper when Dad would pour a couple of gallons of petrol down the drain and then light it with a match each weekend.

Along Eley Road there was a paddock covered with piles of clean fill probably dumped from the housing estate. It was an adventure playground for us kids - great trails to ride the bikes on great places to have yonnie and brinnie fights with the other kids in the neighbourhood. For those who don't remember what yonnies and brinnies were, they were stones, of all shapes and sizes and it was great fun hiding behind the mounds of dirt and chucking hand grenades at the other kids. Remarkably no-one ever really got hurt, the odd bruise but no broken bones or hurt eyes.

Between the mounds was "the creek". It had no name flowing out of large pipes where Swinborne St met Eley Road. The pipes were good things to explore too and it was a challenge to see how far up them you could get before being spooked and rushing back out again. The creek wound it's way through the dirt mounds until it eventually joined Gardiners Creek at the Box Hill Golf Course. There was all sorts of rubbish dumped in it and along it's length, old cars, bits and pieces of machinery, you name it.

At one point there was a large pond which filled when the creek flow increased with heavy rain. This pond was surrounded by blackberry bushes but you could crawl through tunnels beneath them to get to the banks of the pond. That was another magical place, filled with tadpoles that I'd catch and take home to keep in a bucket. I'd often raise some until they grew legs. At one stage dad built a small pond, that couldn't hold water and had a few rocks which we tried to keep them in. They kept disappearing and I always thought they'd made their way back to the creek.

Eley Road was lined with Water Gums [Tristania Laurina] and in the spring they were populated with Emporer Gum Caterpillars and I also used to harvest them and keep them some of which spun their cocoons and emerged as Emporer Gum moths.

As I got older the vacant paddocks were filled with houses, the open drains were piped and the roads made. Even "The Creek" was piped in and the mounds of dirt flattened so that it became a "proper" park complete with kids playground. But you know what, with the disappearance of the disorder went the fun. No more yonnie fights, no more screaming through puddles on your bike, no more tadpoles or catterpillars, or trips up dark pipes. Do kids really have more fun these days. I doubt it!

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