Black Rock in the 1920s

The Black Rock District in the Twenties


Memories of the 1920's

There were vacant blocks of land in practically every street, particularly on the east side of Bluff Road. Most of the roads west of Bluff Road had a bitumen strip down the centre but the footpaths were not made. It was considered to be out of the metropolitan area, a place where people had seaside cottages and came for holidays. Many residents rented part of their house out for the 'summer let'. There was a guest house, known as "Mersey" in Glenmore Crescent. It catered for summer boarders.

The site of the Royal Melbourne Golf Links was all Crown Land, and families rambled at the weekends gathering gum tips from low lying trees. Wild flowers abounded – wedding bush, egg and bacon, honey pots, chocolate lilies, Early Nancies, spider and greenhood orchids, and of course plenty of bracken fern.

The iceman had a truck from which he delivered blocks of ice and Coolgardie safes were in common use. Many tradesmen used horsedrawn carts for deliveries – the woodman, the baker, the milkman. A billy with money in it was left out for the milkman. Coin-in-the-slot gas meters were installed in homes and the gasman came around regularly to empty them.

Trams ran down Bluff Road from Sandringham to where the present shopping centre is. There were three grocer's shops, a paper shop, a small lending library, a hay and corn store, a cake shop, a hardware shop, a barber, a haberdashery, two chemists and later on a shoe shop. Shops closed on Wednesday afternoons and stayed open on Friday nights when the Salvation Army came with a portable organ and sang hymns. Most of the residents came down the street on late shopping nights, not so much to shop but to chat with neighbors and listen to the Salvation Army.

Transport to the city was by tram to Sandringham then by train so most shopping was done locally. Beaumaris had not been opened up. It was all bushland and sandy tracks.

There were swamps in Tulip Street and Dalgetty Road where the children went tadpoling, and they gathered pine nuts and hunted for orchids on Balcombe Heights where the R.S.L. now is. Lots of times was spent on the beach and around the rocks which were a constant source of delight. Every rock had a small crab or sea creature under it and there were stacks of easily obtained mussels, with most children only taking enough large ones to make a meal. Walk over the same area today and lift the rocks and nothing seems to move.

Dorothy Hosking (nee Key) (1924–30)

When the tramline was extended from the Black Rock terminus to Tramway Parade the school children were given a ride on the first tram and all charged one halfpenny. Also in 1926 the children were taken to the beach to watch "Cerberus" being towed into Half Moon Bay.

A fence with gates was built around the asphalt quadrangle and after the bell was rung in the morning the gates were locked. If you were late you couldn't get in until after assembly.

Betty Wilson (nee Thompson) (1925–30)

As there were no kindergartens many children commenced schooling before their fifth birthday and weeping four-year olds were not an uncommon sight. The 'bubs' had a slate and a slate pencil with which to do 'pot hooks' as a basis for writing, and had a piece of rag to wipe the slate clean. Girls had handkerchiefs pinned to their dresses or pinafores whilst the boys had them in their pockets or used their sleeves. Snotty noses were quite common. The boys wore short trousers with braces to keep them up, and then knickerbockers from about 12 years of age. On their feet they mostly wore lace-up boots although some children came bare footed even in winter. Chilblains were quite prevalent. The school wasn't sewered until about 1927 and the toilet paper consisted of newspaper. It may not have been too flash but I don't think anyone got germs from it.

The children all walked to school or rode their bikes. Some went home for lunch whilst the rest ate cut lunches with much swapping of sandwiches. The school oval area was all bushland and opposite the school was a large grassy area between Arkaringa Crescent and Ardoyne Street with a cricket pitch and an area for football. A couple of cows used to graze there and I remember one day my hat blew off and a boy threw it back to me with a cow pat in it.

At the end of the sixth grade those children who did well in their exams went to Brighton Technical School or Hampton Higher Elementary while those who stayed at Black Rock in the seventh and eighth grades seemed to spend a lot of time working in the garden keeping the front of the school tidy.

Each Monday morning the flag was raised and with our hands on our hearts we recited "I love God and my country, I honor the flag, I will serve the King and cheerfully obey my parents, teachers and the law". It sounded like a droning chant as did our spelling and tables when we recited them. Spelling was considered important and there were many spelling bees. On Wednesday mornings we had religious instruction and those who were not Protestants were allowed to leave the room whilst this went on.

I remember with some guilt, Miss Stook who was our teacher in Grade Five. She was a gentle soul but she was too kind and the class was soon out of control. The boys particularly were little monsters encouraged by some giggling little girls, and they caused Miss Stook to go off with a breakdown. Miss Graham arrived – short, red hair and glasses. She stood on the platform and gave us an icy look. There was no way we would give her a breakdown and we came to heel very smartly.

There were readers for each grade level, and from Grade Three upwards there was a monthly issue of The School Paper costing one penny, with poems, extracts from books, songs and articles of interest.

Although there was no library, no craft room and no tuck shop we were taught to knit and we did have swimming lessons at the Beaumaris baths. The girls played hopscotch, skipping, basketball, rounders, tiggy, poison ball and jacks and spent a lot of time building huts in the tea-tree. The boys played football, cricket, marbles, Cowboys and Indians, tunnel ball, and teased the girls.

In Grade Four we learnt to write with ink made up by boys mixing ink powder with water and pouring it into ink-wells which were put into special holes in the desks. Our work was often marred by blots and when the teacher wasn't looking some boys flicked ink from their nibs or stuffed blotting paper into the ink-wells. The boys also discovered that the seeds of one of the wattles when squashed produced a revolting smell, and so 'stink bombs' sometimes found their way into classrooms.

Girls who were naughty had to stand in a corner facing the wall or outside the door, while boys who misbehaved received the 'cuts'. Nearly all the class teachers had a strap and you were only sent to the Head Teacher if you were considered to have been very naughty. It was no good complaining to our parents if we were punished because all we got was, "You must have deserved it". Teachers were always right.

Football matches were played against other schools and we had an Annual Sports Day with the usual events and pram races for the littlies. Each year there was a fancy dress parade in the Sandringham Town Hall and some classes would have "Penny Concerts" which they put on for other grades. Other money raising activities were pet shows, flower shows and fetes.

Dorothy Hosking (nee Key) (1924–30)

We walked to school through dense tea-tree scrub which extended from the top of Iona Street hill across to Ardoyne Street. From there on it was over open paddocks to the school gate in Arkaringa Crescent. This open area was the unofficial sports ground with a cricket pitch of well worn grass in the summer, and coats and bags as goal posts for footy in the winter.

There was an abundance of wild flowers, birds and trees that provided great adventures and we were often late getting home, sometimes with torn clothes, but always with grubby knees much to the despair of our mothers.

The present oval was heath land with tea-tree scrub and taller trees on the golf links side. Hammock-like layers of dodder laurel grew between these trees and it was strong enough to support several children. Although it was out of bounds we often ate our lunches there and had to 'freee' when the duty teacher patrolled beneath us. Long benches with seats were used as desks and as the seat had no backs you had to step over the seat to take your place.

In the Depression many kids didn't have a lunch, and I remember their eyes watching as they waited for me to finish my apple so they could beg for the core. In tears I told my mum and she included extra lunch and an apple for me to share. I still cannot bear to waste food even in these times of plenty.

Few kids wore shoes and I used to carry mine in my school bag to be like the rest. It was fun in summer but the frosty, winter mornings were hell.

Keith MacLeod (1927–33)