How things have changed. When I came to live in Lisson Grove as a young bride, the area was very different. In 1965, the shabbiness of the forties and the fifties was still much in evidence. There were still many houses needing a touch-up paint-wise. Old tanks stood on rickety stands behind dwellings behind that still had protruding stove recesses and many still had the old “thunderbox” in the backyard now used as a tool shed, or a wood store. The closer you went to the railway line, the dirtier the houses became because the coal dust settled an everything. It was undesirable to live on a street next to the railway as coal dirt from the stream trains soon blanketed the house in grime.
We live in a sprawling Queensland house at 36 Lisson Grove – far too big for 2 people. We were 2 doors across from my husbands (Ted) parents in Hunter Street and 2 blocks from my parents in Cromwell Street.
Two things I remember about early married life – Galloping to catch the train to work & Wooloowin train was a quaint little station with a cast iron bench set that resembled tree branches holding them together. We awaited suburban trains with wooden carriages that had bench seats side to side with doors that opened to each pair of benches was to take a large handkerchief to sit on, as there was always a film of coal dust and cinders to contend with. Then away the train would puff. Today, people now actually pay to take a nostalgic ride on one of these steam trains. Then we regarded the filth as a necessary adjunct to training travel. There was no air conditioning and conditions in summer were almost unbearably hot and humid.
The other aspect of this introduction to married bliss was the housework. Every week the white painted kitchen cupboards had to be scrubbed down – because of the fallout from the trains – even though we were a block removed from them. The tilux surrounds to the both had also to be scrubbed and the bath and hand basin cleaned thoroughly. Washing clothes was also a drama. The laundry was like in most houses, inconveniently located under the kitchen downstairs very cold and windy in winter. The “piece de resistance” was the modern gas copper boiler replacing the wood copper boiler. Sheets towels, linen had to be boiled before bluing and rinsing. Shirts and cotton dresses tablecloths, doyleys all were routinely starched with silver star starch before hanging them out on the lines stretched between two posts with a cross beam, so they looked like giant T’s. After pegging, the line was propped up with a wooden clothes prop to catch the breeze. After drying, the wash was sorted folded and prepared for ironing, all the starched items had to be pressed. There was no such thing as steam irons. By contrast, the ironing was damped down and press with a dry iron created the steam.
The main difference between then and now was the closeness and atmosphere of the suburb then compared with what exists today. You knew who everyone was, those who were outsiders. People knew how you fitted in – somewhat like a small country town. Now it is much more impersonal with many transients passing through. Many today like in home units or apartments, stay only a few years and don’t make lasting relationships with others in the area nor have they made a commitment to the area.
I was reminded of this when talking to a scrap metal merchant collecting from the council clean-up the other day. He had long-ago lived-in Balmain Street and asked if I remembered several persons in Wooloowin Avenue. I certainly did and was able to reminisce about the little shop at the bottom Balmain Street run once by Mrs. Murphy – a well know identity of the area as shopkeeper and station mistress. For streets around I still, tend to name the houses according to who occupied them back in the sixties – people who had lived there for decades.
We later moved into 45 Lisson Grove the Lord House and up further on Lisson Grove lived the Mc Ananey ladies – who were really very old when we
lived there – down from them lived the Wgllie’s who had a big plumbing business in Albion and Wilson’s who had a journey works behind 36 Lisson Grove. A large picture of it is on the Dickson Street side of the railway in the older folks’ minds as it burnt down just before Ted and I married.
From being the youngest couple of the area, we are now about one of the oldest – So when we visit Aabon where we spent the majority of our married lives, we notice changes that have occurred and remember what used to be. It still has a charm of its own, but it is different – more cosmopolitan, tolerant and in many ways more interesting – interesting people, an eclectic mix of building styles and more street trees than ever before and a cleaner more efficient railway.