West Preston

As a child I wondered at the re-action of people when told we lived in Preston.
ooh! Was the re-action.  I thought there must have been something wrong with Preston.
(Preston was an area with many ‘Housing Commission’ dwellings and a lot of industry)
whereabouts in Preston was the next question? West Preston (largely privately owned housing)   –  Oh, ha ha!  Somehow Preston seemed to now be O.K. – The next question – where exactly?
Stephen Street, just off Oakover Road. ooh! What was it about this place Preston I called home?

I thought it was great! Yet there were obviously questions in the minds of others.
Another thing I puzzled about; what was it that made living in the country so much better for a child than living in the city/suburbs? I thought it was great! And I thought about this often.
It wasn’t ‘til I was much older that I came to the conclusion that the things that I thought
made the place I called home so great, were the very things that many people held against
Preston – the factories! – some of them quite smelly at that! And we lived right in their midst.
The “spine” if you like, Oakover Road, the next street to ours, held so much to explore and to investigate for a small boy.
The Merri Creek on the western end, with it’s black mud which immediately told Mum and
Dad where I had been as it clung tenaciously to my boots.  The Creek never gave up it’s
treasure of fish to me.

Just off Oakover Road, as you come up the hill from the creek, was our Sunday School, Oakover Methodist.
We usually had a roast for Sunday lunch, and on a hot day, heading off for Sunday school
trying to remember the catechism for the day, was – arduous!
The Rivoli picture theatre on the corner of Gilbert Road was a popular venue and was usually
full on Saturday nights and at interval, the owner dressed in his dinner suit, played the Wurlitzer organ to entertain the patrons. Our next door neighbours, Walkie and Daddy Dick! ( All the adults living around us had
nick names) went to the Riv, RELIGOUSLY, every Wednesday and Saturday nights. The usual fare was a newsreel, cartoon, feature film, break for interval then a second feature film

There were two milk bars servicing the theatre, one on the north west corner was a general
milk bar open during normal trading hours, the other on the south east corner opened only
during theatre screening times. It was somewhat up market and sold a more exclusive line of sweets and chocolates. We couldn’t afford the ‘exclusive’ fare at the up-market store.
Moving on to the corner of Scotia Street, and on the left, Bell Training School: Contrary to
what my wife Lorraine might try to tell you, Bell Training was not a school for delinquents or back ward children!  It was a well regarded school and was one of a select group of schools in the metropolitan area where student teachers came for in-field training.
Moving on, we come to the SOUTHERN STATES DRILLING COMPANY. How exotic! We must have been learning about the United States of America and  I was quite sure that these “Heath Robinson” like machines came from across the seas from that mysterious place of The United States. I remember feeling a little sheepish when I learned they refererred to the Southern States of Australia. Directly opposite this factory was Devon Street, vacant right through to Miller Street- three blocks away. Towards Stephen Street was where the bonfires were held to celebrate the various dates of note on the calendar – Empire Day, Guy Faulks day – two I remember.Following one big bonfire, the woman next to the paddock told us she did not want us to have any more” bonnys” there. It must have been quite scary to see this big blaze so close to her house.
So that tradition ceased, however, the poor woman suffered. As the children went home from school rocks rained on her tin roof and her water was constantly turned off at the meter. This went on ‘til the kids lost interest.

There is a large storm water drain running under Devon Street which became an open drain at Miller Street. A great place to play and a secret place to hide cigarettes on the steel girders which supported the road and trams as they thundered over head. Feeling really adventurous, one day, a few of us decided to explore this under
ground labyrinth and crawled up ever smaller drains until we could peep out from the kerb drain to see the comings and goings by the corner of Bell Training School! Reminiscent of Mr Bean looking out from inside a mail box! We had never heard of flash floods!

Back to Oakover and on the next corner was the UNITED CARPET MILLS.
All we really knew about the carpet mills was there was a lot of constant subdued clicking and clacking, what went on in there? One very hot day, the roller shutter door was up and peering through the cyclone gate all was revealed. Long lines of extraordinary machines with cones of wool above them and devices shooting backwards and forwards and – magically – a finished carpet was coming out the other side!  The PURAX FEATHER MILLS on the corner of Austral Avenue was largely a mystery. We knew two things, it stank to high heavens and occasionally  something would go wrong and there would be feathers, – feathers everywhere!

Directly behind the feather mills in Austral Avenue there was a bottle depot. An enterprising lad could do well with beer bottles, sixpence a dozen.  Sixpence ( five cents ) would do you very nicely thank you. Back in to  Oakover, and on to the abatoirs. If you peered with one eye through the picket fence, depending on the day, there would be yards full of either sheep or cattle, we didn’t noticethe smell.

Next door to the abattoir was the pottery. A small venture whose machinery was driven by a horse drawn whim clearly visible from the gate way. Around important days ,like Mothers day, Mothers birthday and at Christmas time, for exchange of a pile of newspapers, a gift of a small vase could be obtained. I usually chose a green one. Mum  always showed the right amount of surprise and delight to receive such a treasure! Bless Her.
Behind the pottery, accessed from the ice works, was the wood yard. At the start of winter there was an impossibly high pile of mallee roots. Enough to see the winter through and towarm the hearth of many homes. I marvelled at the skill of the woodman who was able to construct such a mountain of wood. Years later, I was listening to an American physicist who was being interviewed on the wireless prior to returning home. His field of enterprise was thoroughly gone into and at the conclusion he was asked “ What is the one lasting memory of Australia you will take home? “ To my astonishment, he replied “ MALLEE ROOTS” And went on to tell of the benifits of this discard of mans attempts to tame the wilds of the Mallee.  He liked these gnarled pieces of wood so much, he  went to the extent of having them sliced into thin pieces to make a feature wall in his home in Carlton!

If the weather was hot and the ice melted before the iceman cometh, Mum would send me round to the ice works to pick up a block of ice. If the timing was right, you could see a big long metal box rise up out of the brine and disgorge it’s load of ice. The man would set to with his ice pick and hive off enough for you to carry home in a gunny sack to keep you going. There were a number of freezer chambers attached to the ice works the last of which was occupied by a rabbit dealer. I have never seen so many rabbits in one place. We were ferreters and if we hadn’t been out for a while, Dad would send me round to get some rabbit heads. The man had a large wooden block and the head came off in an instant! Just what a small boy needs – has to see. Rabbit heads were a reward for the ferrets after a days work. These were bonus days, no work and still rabbit heads!

Davies Street was right opposite the iceworks and if the timing was right, after school, we felt the drovers needed help as they herded the sheep , on foot, the last couple of hundred yards to the abbatoirs. I had no idea where these animals came from. Later, I was to figure they had travelled overland from the Newmarket sale yards. Quite a journey for the drovers, probably around ten or twelve miles through the suburbs and the traffic too!

Over St. Georges Road on the left was the smelliest of the lot. The Sterling Soap Factory won The Prize. Dad told us what they did in there to make soap-how could some thing that made you clean come from some thing that smelt so bad? Turning around , here was another wonderland. The tramway workshop. Wow! Look at those funny looking trams! There’s those really short ones, one bogey, and they sort of lurched and rocked and rolled down Holden Street Fitzroy. There is that other short tram, the service vehicle that sprays sand on the tracks-why do they do that? And lots of others just – parked there.

Every other Wednesday, if you hurried after school , with a short piece of hose, a bevy of small boys could help chase the pigs which were unloaded from the cattle trucks at Bell railway siding along to Huttons Hams and Bacon where the mail exchange building is now.

What is best? Growing up in the City or in the Country? Living in a pristine suburb or in a bustling, noisy, smelly suburb?

I know what was good for me and wouldn’t wish to change a thing



Autumn Gathering

March 29th 2017 and another successful event hosted by OM:NI – Hurstbridge!

A rather confronting subject, stress, anxiety, depression and suicide. More than 40 people, Men and Women came along to hear John Doutch introduce the topic, invite us to be involved and explain that it is not normal to experience these feelings and to help us to understand the signs and how we might help ourselves and to recognize the signs in our friends, families and those we come into contact with.

We were able to host this event with the support of Bendigo Community Bank in Hurstbridge and with encouragement from Nillumbik Shire Council. The Deputy Mayor of Nillumbik, Councillor Karen Egan was invited to speak and showed her support by extensive research into the subject and also into OM:NI. We appreciate very much your support Karen. Tina Elmer represented Valley Financial and the Bendigo Community Bank and told the assembly of the valuable links between the Bank and the many organisations in the Community of Nillumbik. Thanks Tina.

Every OM:NI Group from within the Diamond Valley was represented which gave them all the chance to catch up and to share OM:NI experiences with each other. The lunch after the meeting was provided by Ferguson Plarres Bakehouse  and enjoyed by all.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A great day for OM:NI in the Diamond Valley and I’m sure we will all look forward to the next combined meeting.

Blessed Are The Jam Makers


I may have reached a state of Nirvana! I can now make jam! And I’m only 77 years young!  Let me explain.

My son David came to visit from Darwin during January just past. David’s two sons, Ben 13 yrs and Matt 11 yrs, came too. It was a busy time as there were so many places David wanted to take them. There was a spare day in the middle of their stay and we decided to go down along the creek out the back of our place to pick blackberries. in a very short space of time we were back home with 2kg of berries. With clear instructions from the CEO Of Domestic Affairs, the berries were soon cleaned, boiled to just the right point with sugar, and lemon juice added at just the right moment.

The boys stood diligently by the boiler and stirred the pot to make sure there was no sticking to the bottom. We produced nine jars of jam which gained the approval of all the cooks! One jar stayed with the CEO and me with the rest being carefully packed for the long flight back to Darwin.

Well, there were still plenty of blackberries available, so after the visitors returned home, down I went again and picked another 2kgs, taking a little longer this time. Declining any further input from the CEO, single handed the process began again.

Really, it can’t be that difficult. Clean the berries, bring to temperature stirring gently all the while, add an equal amount by weight of sugar add the juice of two lemons and continue to gently boil for a bit more. It just wasn’t working.

So an approach to the CEO, cap in hand – try this, try that she said. At long last, the decision was made to pot up. Then the best part of jam making, cleaning up the sticky mess. Somehow, this stuff seemed to be clinging to every possible surface in the kitchen. The sink, the stove, boards, bowls, wooden spoons, jugs, funnels the floor.

No matter how carefully I washed, wiped and mopped, everything we touched seemed to have remnants of the process clinging to it. Not to worry, the fruits of our labours will be on toast in the morning. Couldn’t wait for breakfast – I was shattered! There it was twelve jars of a brown treacle like substance that would never pass for blackberry jam!

What went wrong? Who knows. Only one thing to do, get out and pick another lot of berries. By this time, my fingers resembled pin cushions with remnants of prickles in everyone of them! Mere trifles the process must go on. Listening carefully this time, the results were there for all to see. Jars of that beautifully coloured, deliciously tasting, ‘WILD BLACKBERRY JAM’- HOME MADE IN DIAMOND CREEK.

Today a Jam Maker, Tomorrow? Who knows?  K R

OM:NI & COTA Victoria

thumbnail_image OM:NI group representatives meeting at COTA Victoria headquarters.

The OM:NI organisation is much bigger than any one group. There are currently 21 groups in Victoria with representatives from each who meet regularly to report on group activites, to discuss future plans and to exchange news and ideas.

During the quarter ending 31 March 2016 attendances at individual OM:NI meetings ranged from three to 30 with an average of around ten. Of the 21 groups, seven had an average attendance of six or less, thirteen groups had averages between nine and fourteen and one group, Eltham, an average of 29 – our Diamond Creek group averaged 13 for the quarter.

The OM:NI organisation is a program of COTA Victoria (Council On The Aging)

COTA Victoria has been the voice of older Victorians for 60 years

COTA Victoria is governed by an elected Board of Management, dedicated staff and volunteers who continually…

View original post 17 more words