An auspicious intersection

Posted by
Brucey M.
Streets
,
Time
1945—1957

When travelling east on Military Road, in the late 40s early 50s, you reach the cross road / intersection of Cowles Road. On each corner of this crossing there was a landmark of interest to the local community.

The first being at the tram stop (en-route to The Spit). This corner was occupied by a very sober looking petrol station, which had long since passed its use-by date. The prominent Amos family, who lived close by, took over the site and sucessfully ran their removalist company from these premises for many years. The corner blocks were eventually sold for re-development and are now occupied by a complex of professional suites and home units.

Across the road from Amos, the much loved Blue Bus would chug up Cowles Road to stop outside ‘Telopea’ a grand old two storey mansion with a well weathered front garden. The original house (known as ‘The White House’) still stands, mournfully blocked off from its once grand garden by a dividing wall. The building has had many different occupants since it was divided into professional suites (including, it was said, a covert SP Book Making operation!). Next to this block is ‘Boronia’, the twin structure, which had various re-births. e.g. as Mosman Library, later to become Boronia House Restaurant and Reception Centre… (it has recently re-opened as a new and different style restaurant).

The ‘White House’ corner garden was eventually transformed into a grand, and ultra-modern for the day, Ampol Service Station. This was officially opened with great fanfare and a touch of theatre, by Jack Davey – (at the time, one of Sydney’s most famous radio personalities). The site has been re-modelled over the years and continues providing products and services to the passing motorist.

Directly over the road was a tram stop (for the Wynyard / Lane Cove / Chatswood routes), which in later years was moved slightly east in front of the shops, and hovering over the stop, in all its grandeur was the gracious two storey brick residence and practice (complete with tennis court), of the noted G.P., Dr. Geoffrey Mutton. This beautiful example of early 20th century architecture was eventually demolished to be replaced by a Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food outlet! … and to compound this sad situation, the tennis court was replaced by a drab block of box-like home units – which at least supplied a wonderland of half-built rooms, corridors and what seemed to be miles of scaffolding, for the local children, including myself, to claim for a time as the ultimate playground… (in the early fifties there was less consideration given to safety procedures / precautions around building sites).

The next corner house on the western side of Cowles Road, as you proceed towards Cremorne was another grand old two storey building built in a similar style to the Mutton Residence and surrounded by a high fence. The grounds were heavily wooded and a multitude of tall shrubs, ensured complete privacy on all sides. To the youth of the area the building took on a mysterious air and many legends were born as we became increasingly fascinated by ‘The Haunted House’. To add to the intrigue, the only sign of life was the rare sighting of a tall thick-set gentleman dressed in a baggy three piece suit… which had obviously come from a bygone era. He would usually be seen carrying a shopping bag as he made the short journey to the shops leading up to Spit Junction. When we boys spotted him coming, we would hastily cross Military Road, dodging old cars and the odd horse-drawn Baker’s or Milko’s cart, so as to study the mystery man and conjure up all sorts of colourful images, most of which revolved around the magic and mysterious rituals that we believed took place in the house.

Sometimes at night, when my friend Peter and I were dressed in our very rudimentary (self-made!) ‘Batman and Robin’ outfits, we would creep up to the side paling fence of the house, and clamber high up into the overhanging limbs of a huge Camphor Laurel tree that provided the (slightest) view into the poorly lit upper room of the eerie dwelling. We never did see any one or any thing in the room and ultimately decided to cease our clandestine activities when we both dropped our box-like bicycle torches – thus rendering useless the thin shaft of light, which was needed to guide us through the murky night light surrounding Memory Park and other bushy areas at the bottom of Cowles Road. At a later date, one of the North Shore’s most modern commercial premises, the Norman G. Booth, Holden car sales and service building was constructed next door to the old house, creating quite a contrast.

Whether it be the excitement of watching the various Scottish Bands gathering at the official starting point for the annual Highland Gathering (that would wind its colourful way to Balmoral Oval)… or climbing the double, barbed-wire topped gates of The Fresh Food and Ice Company, (now a Mosman Council Works Yard), to sit atop the carts (and horses!) housed within the compound walls and let your imagination have free rein… the intersection inevitably became the doorway to a world of fond childhood memories.

Brucey M. · 10 October 2007

Your comment

Later Brucey I’ll tell you the story of the haunted house and it’s occupant. Thanks for reminding me that the doctor at the white house was Dr Mutton..not Nash…What a crime that demolition was as was the ‘haunted house” I only remember Amos as “Amos” at the moment…even in the 50s….they were in a smaller building and I recall them building a larger one on the western corner of the north intersection of Cowles and Spit.

The Ampol, the place you speak of, used to carry the “sign of the flying winged horse” before becoming Ampol….does this ring a bell…? That sign was about 2 metres in from the footpath and right on the Boronia boundary. Many times I walked through there to seek cicadas and leaves for my silkworms at what was then Mosman Library’s border between it and the garage. I’ll write about the other later when I have more time..and about Mosman tyre service….Don’t forget just past Mutton’s heading east was the pet shop and then Seidler’s milk bar then Moran and Cato Later Geoff went down past the then RSL near to where the Mosman Medical Centre is today. That was where I was attended -to by Geoff after cutting the top of my finger off at age 15 (1950) using dad’s planing machine in the factory adjacent to Yeff’s glass (I called him Yeo in another posting but felt I was wrong) on one side and the post Office/Tram terminus on the other (east spit road)

cheers Tony

— Tony Clancy · 8 February 2008, 02:57 · #

My goodness! I was born in 1951 and Dr Mutton was my doctor. I lived at 666 Military Road.

My dad was Eric Wippell and he owned the tobacconist/hairdressing salon there. I’m pretty sure I recall that the tram stop was right outside our shop. I have fond memories of sitting on the awning of the upstairs (we lived up there) and watching a parade go by.

There was a hairdressers for ladies next door and my sister and I used to get out into the alley and search through their rubbish for “women’s treasure.”

I recall there was a little lane beside our shop that led to the back of all the surrounding shops. It was a paddock where the local teenage boys would do up their cars. There was a huge mulberry tree there and Lorraine Kenny lived in one house (I ended up with her dog Bobo when he was discarded for no longer being a puppy). Also close by was a sports store and some young guy named Nat had won a few surfing championships. Just down from them was the Optometrist where the Wolfe family lived. Their sons, John and Kenny, became our friends (our being me and my sister).

Those were the days when the Mooneys owned a shop and all the Moonie kids, Joan Carmody’s kids and the Dutch hamburger owners (Maneveld’s) would hang out in large gangs and ride our scooters to Balmoral Baths and back. Wow, what a climb!

Ly de Angeles · 1 November 2008, 21:53 · #

My my…it is fascinating how one easily forgets! I was wrong in locating Whittles hardware store, it was in Spit Road almost across from the Kings Theatre. The Barber near Cowles Road was Mr. Pearce, a pleasant chap who liked to have a tipple or two!
The Siders owned the sweet shop just up from the Barber, and my younger sister used to work for them.
The Pet Shop was run by the Hampsons and their son Doug became a highly respected camera operator at either channel Seven or Nine.
Huckles shop was close to the Cremorne Orpheum which I believe was owned by the Virgona Family , I remember Bruce Huckell as he was a year or so in front of me at Mosman High…. The Orpheum was a modest theatre andmy sisteter was an usherette at night there so I often spent time beyween it and The Southern Cross

— Brucey M · 7 May 2009, 05:36 · #

whatever happened to the mosman church of christ 3 generations of my family were baptised, married and had funerals there as well as spiritual friendship and leadership. i will always remember the cave like sunday school rooms underneath.

— christine · 29 May 2009, 15:06 · #

I also remember Geoff Mutton well; he was our GP as well as a long-time family friend. I recall the tennis court in the grounds of his house, and although I don’t have a clear memory as to when it was replaced by home units, Geoff’s house and practice was certainly still extant in the early 60s, as I had occasion to have several boyhood cuts (camping and surfing injuries) sutured by him at that time. On the mention of Huckles – wasn’t that the shop with the magnificent diorama of the Blue Mountains in the window?

— michael · 23 June 2009, 06:42 · #

Yes, I remember Huckell’s Radio well, and the window display with the model trains. When developers bought all the surrounding buildings to build the Strata shopping centre, Mr Huckell hung out until the last minute before selling, with the result that his shop stood out like a “shag on a rock”, with all the earthworks going around him. Finally, he sold out, and they gave him a nondescript shop around the corner, sadly without the model trains display.

David Healy

— David Healy · 7 August 2009, 01:50 · #

Does anyone live in Cowles Rd now? Would you know if Christopher Lewis still lives at no2/87a

— Carolyn · 5 September 2009, 23:11 · #

I seem to recall that there were two Mutton brothers, who were both GPs. “Dr Geoff” and “Dr John”. We lived down towards the bottom of Cowles Road on the Mosman Bay side, and “Dr Geoff” was our regular GP, but occasionally we saw “Dr John” instead.

The Tram Stop for tram going towards Cermorne Junction was outside the Mutton’s house, between Gurrigal St and Cowles Rd. For several years after the trams stoped running, the painted, fading, red “Wait Here For Trams” sign was still visible on the wooden power pole outside the house. The replacing bus stop was moved to the other side of Gurrigal Rd to provide (some) wet weather potection for waitng passngers under the shop awning.

All the wooden power poles that used to support the tram overhead wires were numbered with small, individual, raised, cast metal numbers, and it took several decades before the last of the numbered “tram” poles disappeared in Mosman.

There was a pet shop (the “Pet’s Pantry”?) just across from the Mutton’s house on the opposite corner of Gurrigal St.

The Amos repository in Cowles Rd was orginally a Government bus depot, going back to the time when the Route 144 double deck buses first started running through from Manly to St Leonards. It became redundant as the bus services were expanded and space was made at North Sydney tram depot (at Neutral Bay) to hold buses, by removing some of the open air “waterhole” tram storage sidings on the West side of the tram shed building. The Cowles Rd bus depot, with a high roof and tall and wide enterance to cope with double decker buses, was ideal for handling the large Pantecnicons that Amos used in their Removal and Storage business.

Re Huckle’s Radio shop at Cremore, the shop was on the opposite side of the road to Orpheum and a bit further towards Neutral Bay. The working “model” in the side-street window, with trains, cars, “mountain devil” incline and realistic sounds was always a great treat for me!

I seem to recall that the Ampol Service Station at the corner of Cowles and Millitay Roads was one of the very first Ampol branded service stations.

I always remember having to carefully spell out C-O-W-L-E-S when giving my address, otherwise whoever was writing down the road name would come up with some strange renderings/spellings!

Cheers,

Bill

— Bill Bolton · 21 December 2009, 00:58 · #

Some of the above facts are not entirely correct. I lived on the intersection from 1946 until Dad sold the surgery in 1969 when we moved to Burran Avenue. Our house was called "Lugano" and was 505-509 Military Road but we called it 507. There were three Dr Muttons in Mosman, Dad - Dr Geoff, Mum - Dr Sylvia, and Uncle John - Dr John. We moved into "Lugano" in March, 1946 but Dad had been practicing there since January. He was still in uniform as he didn't get out of the Army until February. We could not buy it straight away so we rented it for about a year. The tennis court was on another lease and even though we tried to buy it they would not sell. The tennis court had some cement rendered small building on the side in which, during the war, a two-up school used to run. They were very upset when Mum stopped it. Dr Spate ran the practice before us. When we moved in the black-out curtains were still on all the windows and the grounds were very, very overrun. Mum would never have a pelegonium as they were about 5 foot high and had to be hacked down.

After many years my brother Geoffrey turned the grass on the Cowles Road side into a cricket pitch and we had to put up a very high wire-netting fence as a few balls had gone right through the toast-rack trams. Dad eventually turned the pitch into his putting green.

About midnight on some nights the breakdown tram, as I called it, would go along the lines making sure they were still in the correct place. It made a terrible noise and used to scare me. I thought it was a monster for many years as my bedroom was at the front of the house.

The Ampol garage was owned by Eric Baume, who was on TV. He put a TV in the front window of the service station and all the neighbours used to bring their deck chairs, dinner, etc, to watch the TV as very few houses had a set at that time. They sat under the roof that protected the pumps from the rain. They were there every night in all types of weather.

Our house and "the haunted house" were built by the owners of 'Boronia" for their two daughters. Our house had been sold out of the family before the war but old Mrs Flavell, the other daughter, and her son, Colonel Ken Flavell (he had not gone to war but had only had a desk job and got his rank as an honorary Colonel of the militia after the war) lived there until the old lady died. Whenever she got sick Dad was not allowed to enter the property, so she used to go to a motel in St Leonards and Dad would look after her there. One day a week her son would drive her into Sydney so she could check up on her things in private box in the vault of the Commonwealth Bank in Martin Place, Sydney. As they passed the Traffic Cop going down Martin Place they always gave him an apple. In the end the house was a terrible mess as they had not thrown out any newspapers which lined all the walls and roof leaked everywhere. Ken sold the place when his mother died and moved into another house they owned in Wudong Street behind Norman G Booth (Booths bought this house also when Ken died and they store cars there). In the end my Mother, Ken's Doctor, had to get him meals on wheels as he was living on Sao biscuits and starving to death.

The "White House" was owned by the Cowlishaws. Old man Cowlishaw had been Mayor of Mosman in the 1930s when the land for widening Military Road had been aquired so he made sure it came off our house then "Boronia" so his place wasn't touched. At the back of his place, where there is now a block of flats, was an enormous garage for over 10 cars.

One Sunday morning there was enormous crash outside my bedroom window. One of the horses had bolted home and taken the corner from Military Road into Cowles Road too quickly and turned over. There was glass and milk everywhere. The cart was lying in its side and the horse was trapped. Everyone raced out and the men got the horse out of the shafts. It was OK with only a very few cuts. It took ages to clear the road. I had a great time, sitting on the stone end of our fence, watching.

When the Queen first came to Australia she passed down Military Road on her way to the Zoo. We decorated the house with bunting and both my Grandmothers took up seats in the little upstairs balcony at the front of the house. I again sat on top of the stone end of the front fence.

It was great when they moved the bus stop as on Friday and Saturday nights, after the Mosman Hotel closed, some of their patrons would sit on the seat at the tram stop and then throw their empties into our garden. We had quite a collection of glasses and bottles.

Mosman was a great place to live in those days. Wouldn't have missed it for quids.

— Roslyn Chapman nee Mutton · 25 April 2010, 06:04 · #

my grandparents grew up in mosman and went to mosman high school as did my father. the names are thelma thorn (nee johnson)john thorn(e)..jack!! and lewis thorn born 1937, he grew up in cowles rd and im not certain but i thought his house turned into a doc or dentists building.my fathers sister is barbara thorn(e)now konemann(long time married.she was born in 1939.

pauline · 14 May 2010, 13:29 · #

ive been in the old house of the flavell’s and its haunted we wrote the whole story of staying in the house before it was demolished

— Anne Ilsley · 27 September 2010, 17:28 · #

Oh I remember the house you refer to as The Haunted House. I visited it just before it was demolished in the 80’s. Yes it was definately haunted. Can anyone tell me more of the owner and the house. Was it once called Lucerne by any chance. Do the names Viviene or Henry Flavell ring a bell. Oh boy do I have a story to tell.

— Lyni · 29 September 2010, 08:21 · #

My family moved to Mosman in 1942 and I still have fond memories. We moved into a semi detatched house – number 7 Gurrigal St., and I also recall Dr. Geoff Mutton as our family doctor and, in fact. Dr. Speight before him. Their were two Doctor Speights – a brother and sister, both operating from the big house. The shop on the corner, Pets Pantry, was not run by the Hampson’s, who were family friends, but owned and run by a Mr. William (Bill) Bray. Apart from Dougie Hampson becoming well known as film and TV cameraman, his brother Roy went on to become a prominent TV presenter in Victoria.

Next door to the Pets Pantry, going toward the Junction was a barber shop and then, I think, the milk bar, owned and run by Mr. and Mrs. Smith, before the Seidlers.

I also recall many of the businesses in the juction. Cash and Carry and Callaghans grocery shops, Moran and Cato and Mc Ilwraiths. The Mosman Hotel run by the O’Regan family and the Eiffels chemist shop in Spit Rd. And of course, everyone in Mosman knew of Mr. Frank Whittle’s hardware store also in Spit Rd. Every Saturday my siblings and I would have a choice of movie theatres, Kings, The Rex, and the Kinema, all in Mosman. The Orpheum at Cremorne and the Southern Cross at Neutral Bay. It was six pence to enter and three pence to spend.

I sold newspapers on the trams between Spit Juction and Balmoral Beach, this also encluded the Naval Depot. We arrived at about six o’clock in the evening and were always given thick roast beef sandwiches and still went home and ate our tea, except when our Mum had cooked tripe and onions. This then was a battle between us kids and our father who would insist that we ate everything on our plates, keeping in mind the poor children in China who had nothing to eat.

— Ron Faulkner · 23 November 2010, 14:09 · #

The milk bar in Military Road was run by the Sider family. I was a friend of, and attended Mosman Primary with, the elder son John. Louis was the younger son. I presume that Sider was a contraction of Siderakis, as the parents were of Greek origin. We lost contact after primary school.

My mother, Mavis Sykes, ran the ballet school in Bardwell Road opposite the Marist Brothers School, and we lived on the corner of Harbour Street and Short Street for many years before the block was resumed in 1966 for the electricity sub-station that now blights Harbour Street.

Dr Geoff Mutton snr was our family GP at time. I recall I once played with Geoff jnr in the attic of Lugano. My eyes were out like organ stops at the fine toy tractors, trucks etc that he had. There is a Dr Goeffrey Mutton who is a surgeon in Orange, NSW and I assume that this is/was Geoff jnr.

Dr Geoff Mutton snr continued to be our family GP even after we moved to Lindfield in 1951, returning in 1956 to the same house in Harbour Street. I recall that he and his brother Bertie (who had a surgery in Willoughby) came to our house to operate on my poisoned leg when I was 7 or 8. Bertie administered the general anaethesia and I was operated on in my bed. The days of house-calls, let alone home surgery under ether, have gone the way of the grand old mansions of Military Road.

Further along Military Road towards Spit Junction, next to the Mosman Hotel, was a fruit and veg shop run by the Yee family. I attended Mosman Primary with Hansen Yee. He was an outstanding student at both Mosman Primary and North Sydney Boys High School. He has recently retired from a chair in Electrical Engineering at Sydney University. My mother always shopped in Yees and insisted on taking me with her on every shopping trip so I could see Hansen sitting up in the shop with his nose in a book, hoping that the example would not be lost on me.

— Ian Campbell · 21 April 2011, 19:26 · #

Hello Ian Campbell,

I am an ex ballet student of your Mother’s, Mavis Sykes.

I would like to please get in contact with you.

May Bouquet-Brown email

— May Bouquet-Brown · 20 June 2012, 20:12 · #

Hello Ian Campbell,
Were we in classes together at Mosman Primary? I was in Hansen Yee’s class.
(Perhaps you might remember me as ‘Frank’ Elliott after Mr O’Grady referred to me as ‘frankenstein’ because I was tall and skinny.)

— Graham Elliott · 30 June 2012, 22:08 · #

We lived at 454 military road and Dr Mutton was also our dr.I commenced school at Sacred Heart & my brother, Terrence O’Flynn was at Marist Brothers-all changed now.Our border collie used to visit both schools for morning tea and lunch -the nuns and brothers would ring mum up to come and collect him.It became a regular event I think

— marcia Hatcher · 28 January 2013, 13:46 · #

Brucey M (believe he was a neighbour of our is Cowles Rd, has neglected to name the family who lived in the old house torn down for Norman G Booth’s business. Our family is trying to piece together history of the area & we are stumped for the name! One point we do recall is that the son was an ‘Officer’ in the army reserve, did rifle shooting as stated, and kept his classic car in a garage in Gurrigal St. As small boys we often chatted with him (between our backstreet ‘Test Cricket’ games, & admired his old car. Our ‘Pa’ was a ‘Milko’, we too played in the old milk depot where we often collected horse manure for our vege & flower gardens. So, Mr Brucey, what was that man’s name (we used to refer to him as ‘Colonel’ X – we need the surname, I’m positive he was ‘Ken’).
Regards
Linds M.

— Linds M. · 28 October 2013, 11:42 · #

Dear Linds…(I assume that is Manton).
If so, I remember many happy days of cricket in the back street, chasing Grandpa Bourke’s chooks and forays including getting caught climbing the gates of the “Fresh Food And Ice Co.” Dairy. And your Dad working at Mosman Junction.
But, Sorry Linds, all I know apart from the common knowledge re Booth’s
site, was that I went to school with Geoffrey Booth, who did live in the next street (forgotten the name), behind those premises when we were about 10 – 15 years of age.
Cheers Old Mate.

Bruce Manuel · 13 December 2013, 17:05 · #

Hi May and Graham,

Some time has passed since your posts. Please forgive the delayed response.

I well remember you Graham. One of the highlights of 5th grade at Mosman Primary was the day Mr O’Grady bestowed your nickname of Frank. I assume that you didn’t carry it with you for the rest of your life!

May, I tried emailing but your address was incorrect. The Mosman Library has recently published an excellent online presentation of the Mavis Sykes story which you may find of interest. The link is mosmanfaces.net/stories/mavis-sykes

— Ian Campbell · 19 October 2014, 20:27 · #

Mr Ian Campbell,

I hope this finds you well and in good health.

Please forgive me for the late response.

If you wish to contact me I can forward my email address.

Thank you kindly!

Duta May Bouquet-Brown · 17 November 2016, 01:40 · #

I only came across this site on Sunday 18 December 2016,when I googled Hansen Yee, ex Mosman Primary School student, who as well as being a brainbox was a good drawer. I asked Hansen to draw a cowboy for me, I did and do love my Westerns.
For now I’d just like to ‘say’ that I’ve had a ‘whale of a time ‘ (an attempt at Mosmanic symbolic humour) reading the contributions from 2009/2010,and I hope those folk still visit the site from time to time.I’ I'll pop in and make a few comments after Christmas but for now…Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Mosmanians past & present.

— John Sider (aka Seidler) · 20 December 2016, 14:32 · #

Does anyone remember the Swan family of Burran Avenue, Balmoral – they lived there in the late thirties, early forties.

— Pamela Clifford · 26 June 2017, 14:18 · #