« Music | Main | Elsie Kilton And The Westwood Mills Fire »

U3A Writing: My Grandmotherís House

...The tasselled lamp shade hung centrally from the high ceiling, heavy curtains hung at the sides of the front window with lace behind them shielding the room from the world outside...

Barrie Mansell recalls his grandmoher's house.

She died in 1958, but I remember the house and contents reasonably well. In the years since then numerous owners have not changed the facade, however modernisation of this early 1900ís homeís interior and yard would have been necessary to meet the current residentís expectations.

46 Fawkner Street, South Yarra shared a common dividing brick wall with the neighbour, who was once a Greek family. Brick work extended from the front of the house to the footpath, probably about four metres, then a brick fence with a cyclone mesh and pipe fence which had a cyclone and galvanised pipe gates at either side, some ornate iron work surmounted the gates.

Two concrete paths ran from the gates to and under the veranda covered front of the house. A corrugated iron side gate completed the front. There was a small garden about three metres square with a circular garden in the centre surrounded by a footpath and four triangular flower beds at the corners. On each side were low brick fences. All of this was very complex by modern standards.

The front door was beside the dividing wall, it and the side panel featured lead light coloured glass, a similar style of lead light was found on either side of the single front window. A dark green painted wire door completed the doorway.

The long dark high ceiled passage beyond ran beside the dividing wall to the dining and living room at the back. Two fringed lamp shades hung in the passage, at night these cast restricted illumination on to the carpet runner and stained timber floors and skirting boards.

The first room to the left was a bedroom with a timber framed double bed, placed on a floral carpet square over the stained timber floor, and this was the era of carpet squares, repeated in the two other bedrooms and the dining and living room. Side cabinets, a small wardrobe and a fireplace with mantel piece completed the furniture. The tasselled lamp shade hung centrally from the high ceiling, heavy curtains hung at the sides of the front window with lace behind them shielding the room from the world outside. A wooden framed picture of Gallipoli and another, a framed collection of foreign coins reflected my grandfatherís military experiences at the Boer and Great War.

The second room was also a bedroom, similar to the first, with a larger stained wood wardrobe that included the back to back fire place from the front bedroom. The curtained side window faced across the narrow side pathway directly to the cream painted weatherboard wall of the other neighbour; this made this room gloomy. But even gloomier memories of this room as my grandfather lay dying of a broken back following a fall from a ladder onto a railway track in 1944.

The next room was my grandmotherís bedroom, with a single low bed along the far wall, a painted wardrobe to the right and a dresser with mirror to the left. The curtained window was in the far right corner, this faced toward the back of the house into a flywire netted back veranda, with roll up canvas blinds to protect it from the weather.

The dining and living room, always seemed crowded, a round wooden table and chairs on the dividing wall side and a mantled fireplace on the back wall. On the front wall was a cabinet for china and cutlery. Another cabinet included a gramophone, complete with sound horn; the record collection below was almost entirely Richard Tauber, their favourite singer. A single lounge filled the remaining space, a curtained window and central lamp shade typified the era.

Beyond the dining and living room was the kitchen. On the front wall next to the door sat a wooden cabinet ice chest, a black ironed wood fired stove surrounded by a floor to ceiling brick wall, next to this in the corner beside the dividing wall, sat the concession to the era of gas, an early white enamelled oven with a gas ringed top.

A large green painted wooden table and chairs dominated the lettuce green decor of the kitchen; this included the large cabinet with side board against the dividing wall. The sink was at the other side of the room complete with plain timber surrounds, a single cold water tap, all the plumbing visible.
From the kitchen was a walk in pantry with more green painted cupboards. The back window had a cheap faded lace curtain, a feature in the floor was a small chamber to keep food cool, and the hatch had a folding pull ring for access.
The door on to the veranda was near the kitchen sink; beyond this was a wire door out onto the side path which led to the concreted backyard. Alternatively a right turn led you to the smallest of bathrooms; this featured a chip heater at the foot of the footed white enamel bath. A small corner hand basin and mirror beneath the small widow with the cheap lace curtain.

The expectations of the early 1900s extended to the outside laundry, a wood fired copper, with double trough of concrete this suggests an update, the thought of tapped hot water not yet conceived.

The inevitable wood shed cum work area almost completes our tour. At the very back was the toilet, a wooden structure including a bench arrangement with the old ball cock and chain flushing system. It was painted white timber inside, no light except that which entered above and below the door.
Attached to the door was the traditional toilet roll of somewhat heavier quality than we choose today, a picture from a calendar showing a Paris river scene that I often contemplated, perhaps my grandfather had recalled his own visit to the site during the Great War, I never did ask him if it was the memory.

Outside the toilet door lay the concrete backyard with a narrow garden strip against the neighboursí paling fence, their fig trees branch offered juicy fruit in season that coincided with summer school holidays. Beyond the tall wooden paling double gateway laid the cobbled bluestone laneway.

This was a typical weatherboard house of the era; they sell at what we would consider as very high prices compared with the modern home with facilities that meet our expectations. But it was once a comfortable home for my grandmother.


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.