So the challenge this week is about Richardson Street and where we grew up in Box Hill South. I’d like to firstly talk about the irony of that. When I married in 1987 to Andrew I became a “Richardson” and now we live in Richard Drive. People always comment on that – when I fill in an application form or put down a layby as if I have never heard the comments before and it is always a first! I always comment back that is was lucky I never called any of my 3 sons Richard.
So, where to begin? Richardson Street Box Hill South was a lovely neighbourhood to grow up in. Mum and Dad always mentioned that when they moved out there it was considered in “the sticks” and Nana and Grandad and Nana and Pa said that they would need a cut lunch to get there. Funny how in later years when I married and moved to Cranbourne, they gave the same comment to me and that they had used places like Cranbourne to visit and share a picnic.
We lived on a corner in Richardson Street, right next door to Massey Street. As Laurie has commented on previous blogs, our neighbors were our “Aunties and Uncles” and that was both sides, both Richardson Street and Massey Street.
Our house was a modest brick veneer and timber house. It had a lovely timber low fence but one of the outside features I loved the most, was the entry into the house, which was a small gate next to the letterbox that had two hedges growing either side of it that had grown over the top and formed a canopy. We had a little pathway then that wound its way up to the front porch. Our front porch was concreted in later years with a lovely verandah and we spent many hours on the front porch playing with Barbie dolls, talking or just sitting there with Mum and Dad. In years to come, our kids often sat out and played there with us. It did frighten me though when my kids came along as there were no posts or fences to stop them from falling over the porch. It was just a steep climb up and had two sets of stairs going down either side of it. I remember Karen & Laurie and Mum & Dad talking about when it was built and the rats that went running across the porch in their disturbance. Luckily, I’m pretty sure I don’t actually have the memories of seeing them.
Our garden had a couple of special things that formed part of it that I also loved. We had a magnificent tree in the front yard that Dad attached tyres to that we were able to swing in. It provided a beautiful amount of shade in the hot summers that we could sit under and that’s when we ventured off the porch onto the garden chairs of that tree. It was also one of Dad’s bug bears as it dropped a lot of its leaves and Dad was always raking them up and then setting fire to the pile once he had enough to do so. We also had a gorgeous purple magnolia tree that sat to the side of the front porch; it was always one of my favourite flowers even though it was nude in winter. And then, right up the back of the garden was another of my favourite plants and still is today, an enormous Bird Of Paradise. I always thought that I’d take some of that plant when we left Richardson Street, but we were unable to do so.
The other part of my memories of the outside of our house was the vents at the top of the brick veneer right under the roof line. They lined the whole side of the house and we always had birds nesting in there. I often found baby birds that had fallen out of their nests. Some of them I was able to bring to a healthy age where they could fly away, others didn’t last the distance. But I often remember the shoe box, and the eye dripper that I would feed it from after digging up some worms in the garden as well. The shoe boxes were kept in the outside laundry that was attached to the back of the house as Mum wouldn’t let me keep them inside. She did however let me attempt to raise them, so I can be grateful of that. When it was Winter Time I would rug up the cold laundry and keep the door shut in an attempt to keep out the wind from getting to my creatures. I guess this is where I started my love affair with animals and birds.
So into the house we go. When you walked into the front door, after knocking (no such thing as door bells for us) you immediately entered the dining room to the left and the lounge to the right. A big open plan space. We had terrible brown swirled carpet that was there for as long as I can remember. I was told that Mum & Dad covered up the beautiful timber floor boards and I assume that is probably the first thing that the new owners ripped up in the house. We had white venetian blinds throughout the house. In later years they were covered by very bright, bright orange lace like curtains that sat over the front of the Venetians. It was a very 70’s style house and we were right up there in fashion. We had a gorgeous old brown leather lounge suite that consisted of two armchairs and a couch. They had timber arms, but it was really comfy and I think it would suite my house today if we still had it. The biggest expensive in the loungeroom was the “Parker” brand furniture. Mum was really proud of her Parker furniture and her and Dad gave me the bar when they moved out of Richardson Street. Even though she was dismayed to see that I had stripped it back and painted it (several times) I think she was happy that I had it. They had two bar stools in front of it that matched the orange curtains with orange cushions. Dad would spend many an hour sitting on those bar stools, drinking his VB at the bar. So much so, that for a joke one year he was given a horse riding helmet for the times that he would fall asleep and fall off the bar stools. This was so he wouldn’t hit his head, being that he was such a small skinny man. The Parker furniture continued into the TV cabinet that also was our crystal cabinet and we now have to decide what to do with that now Mum has passed away. We were very up to date with the Joneses and our new furniture.
One of the features of the loungeroom was our gas heater that replaced the old open fire. Again, I’m pretty sure the gas heater would have been pulled out by the new neighbours and returned to its former glory. Beside that we had an open cavity that we used to put all of our newspapers in that in olden days would have held the timber for the open fire. But above the fireplace was a beautiful timber shelf that ran the length of that wall. This was where we would show all of our cards for each occasion, birthdays, Christmas’s etc. And above the fire timber mantle was a painting that Laurie bought for Mum & Dad of an ocean scene. From memory he bought it out of his first pay packet as a special present for Mum & Dad. I remember it having a really heavy gaudy gold frame, but it was a richly painted scene of some waves splashing across rocks. I loved that painting.
Into the dining room and we had a gorgeous antique table that seated 6 of us, so plenty of room for all of us. This was surrounded by some gorgeous high backed chairs covered in an antique furnishing that was later given to Laurie. Also in the Dining Room we had my pride and joy – my Nana Joyce’s piano. Nana Joyce gave it to me on my 12th birthday, on the proviso that I learnt to play the piano. I did and learnt for around 5 years before I gave it up. Unfortunately I think mostly because my teacher was this old fuddy duddy lady living in a house full of antiques (and Toby Jugs that scared me) and if she ever heard me playing anything other than what she wanted me to learn, it was a quick wrap across the fingers and a stern warning to stop “jingling”. The piano is German, French polished, with matching antique brass candelabras. Unfortunately Mum thought it was a great place to hold all of her indoor plants of which there were many. This consequently lifted the French polishing and is still yet to be restored today.
From the Dining Room we had a servery into the kitchen. Underneath that window, we had a cute little hall stand that held our telephone – the old black, turn dial phone and underneath it held the phone books. It had a little stool on it that we could sit when talking to someone on the phone. This certainly wasn’t a time of mobile phones or hands free one’s. if you were having a conversation, you just had to put up with everyone else listening. Mum & Dad would always be spread out on the dining table doing their bets. They loved to have “a flutter” (their words) on the horses, so much so that every Saturday, Dad would be up with the sparrows, having had his breakfast at the head of the table, and then Mum would race up to East Burwood to put their bets on. I often went with her because I would go into the newsagency and buy a magazine.
The kitchen was quite tiny and awkward. It continued the terrible brown swirl carpet into there. I was never quite sure why we did that as the carpet was always filthy from the kitchen cooking. It had laminated cupboards that Mum painted several times over. I think they started out a green colour and then eventually were painted a light brown. There were a few overheads so we did seem to have plenty of storage space. We had an upright fridge, I think it might have been a Westinghouse, and it was black. A very groovy colour that again, I wish we had today. The oven was a standing oven, electric with electric hot plates and I always hated bending over to get things out of the oven. I strongly recall Christmas days where Karen, Shirley and I would be in the kitchen using the mix master to mix up cream for the desserts. I can’t tell you how many times the cream got curdled because we talked too much.
The kitchen had a small verandah off it going out the backdoor and again down a set of (timber this time) stairs into the back yard. When we had our birds, they would always hang outside the kitchen door during the day and then be bought in to live on top of the fridge of a night time.
After leaving the dining/lounge room, we had a door that entered the hallway. Off the hallway was Mum & Dads room to the right, with Laurie’s room to the left. Next to Laurie’s room was the toilet (a separate one) and then the bathroom. Opposite the bathroom was the room I shared with Karen until she got married and then I was old enough to buy my first double bed and have a room to myself. Again each room had venation blinds in them with a lace type curtain over the top. I find I’m struggling to remember the colour in our bedroom, but I think it was green. Karen and I had matching single “Queen Ann” beds – very pretty timber old fashioned style. We also had a matching Queen Ann dressing table that sat in between us with a mirror and two drawers, one for each of us. We had matching green coloured quilts that sat over the top of our beds. In later years Mum bought me a whole new set of linen that was Laura Ashley, pink, frilly with lots of flowers and cushions that I fell in love with. I remember thinking our green quilts were pretty daggy. Our bedroom had floral wallpaper as a feature wall. It had large pink flowers on it. It was a very girly bedroom. When we would spend our childhood years going to the show every year, I would always come home with a doll on a stick and I would hang them from the venation blinds for show. We both had a double wardrobe each, which was pretty roomy, although again I’ll mention I probably spent more time in Karen’s than mine.
Bamby our gorgeous poodle would sleep on my bed every night with me. I had a sliding door to my bedroom to save space and he would “bail up” anyone that tried to pass the door of a nighttime in protection for me. Mum told me he wouldn’t let Grandad Smith go to the toilet one night as he was almost passing my door.
From our bedroom we would go out the back door to the outside laundry and down another set of timber stairs and into the backyard. I won’t mention too much about the backyard as I think Karen and Laurie have already talked about the famous BBQ that Dad would always cook. But aside from that, we had a shed a Hills Hoist clothes line and every Summer an above ground pool for our entertainment. We also had an outdoor fold up table and umbrella and we would venture out there and spend our days in the sunshine. Especially Dad, who would again, enjoy his VB in the sun, and fall asleep in his white singlet (funny they have made a come back hey kids) and with a tied up in the corner handkerchief covering his bald head so he wouldn’t get sun stroke. He did however also have a spot of Savlon on his adams apple placed on almost every day as he was convinced he had skin cancer. Probably as a result of falling asleep too many times outside.
Our friends were always welcome in Richardson Street. They were allowed to have sleep overs and visit whenever they wanted and I think Mum & Dad enjoyed a house full. Christmas was always at our house, with our spindly little Christmas tree, filled with buckets of presents underneath it and always with the spare one’s “in case” we had extra visitors we didn’t know about.
At the same time, growing up also had its fair share of some sad moments. Mum and Dad were notorious for arguing. Big, loud, strong arguments that would send me to bed with a pillow over my head as they would yell so much. Mostly it was about Dad drinking too much. I was always scared that I would wake up and find that Mum had murdered Dad over night over one of their arguments. She certainly ruled the house.
Then when boyfriends came along, they would go to bed reasonably early to ensure we had some privacy. But it was only a matter of time, before Mum would decide that they had been there long enough, and we had been on our own long enough, that would start the knocking on the loungeroom/her bedroom wall. We would have to excuse ourselves and go down and see what she wanted. Inevitably we were told “that’s enough now, it’s time for so and so to go home”.
Mum was a very strict Mum in Richardson Street. We had curfews even though I ignored most of them, particularly when I became a policewoman and tried to tell her I had grown up enough. Dad however, would always ensure I had money. He would follow me out to my car, whenever I was going out and put his hand out and hold mine and slip in a $10 or $20 note. He would tell me that he had “had a win love, here’s some petrol money!” These were the wins that he wouldn’t tell Mum about.
By the time Mum & Dad were moving out of Richardson Street, the place was falling around their ears. It was hard to believe that a lifetime of smoking had seriously changed the colour of the walls and ceiling. They were cream when they should have been white. Again, days of smoking inside were totally acceptable.
As pensioners they had no money to do the much needed renovations, rewiring should have been doing, plumbing fixed, a bathroom and kitchen renovation that was never going to happen whilst they still lived there. So they sold up and moved into Karen & Gerry’s. Little did we all know that instead of the $110,000 they got for the sale of Richardson Street, would have turned into nearly a million dollars had we have waited and held onto it. Who knew Box Hill would have graduated that far?