By Jillian Wild
In May last year, my eldest son Jamie moved to the very trendy suburb of Yarraville. With its funky cafes, trendy shops and superbly renovated homes, it has fast become the go-to place to put down ones roots. It was once a working mans suburb, populated largely by post-war Greek and Italian immigrants in search of a better life. It also just happens to be the suburb where my family has its roots.
Turn the clock back to the mid 1940s. My father John was living at Number 16 Forrest Street Yarraville, attending the local primary school just around the corner in Powell Street and probably saving up his pennies to go to The Sun Theatre not too far away in Ballarat Street. In the 1950s he would emerge as a talented player for the Yarraville football club.
Sadly, Number 16 Forrest Street was demolished in the 1980s when it was sold to a developer after my grandfather passed away. Yet my own childhood memories of it are still crystal clear. It was typical of the houses of that era; white weatherboard with lattice work adorning the front. The house sat on a huge double block and was adjacent to the footy ground, with a wood yard in-between. My grandad Jack had a very impressive veggie and flower garden out the back. He grew gladioli and chrysanthemums and almost every vegetable known to man and won many gardening competitions.
Jack drove a light blue Morris Minor, and loved a smoke, a bet on the horses and a beer at the now very swish Railway Hotel in Anderson Street. The driveway at Forrest Street was quite narrow and curved and it was a mystery to all how he managed to safely get old Morrie into the garage after a few too many beers at the Railway pub. My Grandma Elizabeth, or Lizzie as my dad affectionately called her, was a kind hearted soul who loved to slip my sister and I twenty cents to spend on mixed lollies at the local milk bar in Powell Street. I can still smell the sweet aroma that permeated the shop and hear the little bell that rang on entering. Lizzie always had a full length apron on and made the best pasties ever. One of her favourite pastimes was to sit in the spare bedroom with the curtains pulled aside and enjoy a cosy uninterrupted view of her Yarraville boys playing their hearts out on a Saturday afternoon.
Next to the footy ground are two tennis courts. Back in the day, it was where locals could gather for a social hit and friendly get together. Those courts hold a huge significance in our family history. It was there, back in the early 1950s, that my father John met and fell in love with my mother, the beautiful Yvonne.
Number 139 Coronation Street Kingsville is where my mother Yvonne grew up. The house still stands, but I have no recollection of it as my mother and her family moved out in 1955, before I was born. From what I’ve been told, it was a home filled with laughter, friends and lots of extended family members. My mum’s dad Harry was a returned World War I serviceman. He was an incredibly generous man and was always on for a joke or tale to tell, whilst my mother’s mum Hilda was an exemplary homemaker who had extraordinary skills in knitting, crocheting and needlepoint.
Fast forward to 2016, and Jamie and his beautiful partner Natalie, along with their two dogs, move into Goulburn Street. Nothing unusual about that, except for one extraordinary fact. Jamie is literally a stone’s throw away from where both his maternal grandfather and maternal grandmother grew up. Forrest Street is a ten minute leisurely stroll from Goulburn Street, and Coronation Street is a twenty minute brisk walk from Goulburn Street. My thought process about that scenario goes along these lines: the very streets that Jamie and Natalie now walk, both my mother and father have walked as children and teenagers some seventy years previous. There’s also a distinct possibility that many, many moons ago both Yvonne and John walked along Goulburn Street straight past Jamie’s house en route to The Sun Theatre. That has got to send a tingle down anyone’s spine. Call it what you may, but in my opinion, that’s nostalgia in its purest form.
So, to the irrepressible Yarraville, cheers, our family is truly grateful to you for our unique story. To those old asphalt tennis courts, cheers, you hold a love story so special. And to Jamie and Natalie and the newly expected November arrival, cheers… you have chosen the perfect place to create your own special family memories.