Memories of Iluka Road

Posted by
David Carment
Streets
Time
1951—1973

My parents, Max Carment (1918-2007), a chartered accountant and his wife Diana (nee Sulman, 1927-2005), and I (born in 1949) moved to 26 Iluka Road, Clifton Gardens from Cremorne in 1951 as a bigger house was needed with my sister Ann (later Annie) about to be born. I cannot recall the exact purchase price but my father later told me that houses in Iluka Road were quite cheap in those days in comparison with many other parts of Sydney’s lower north shore. My brother Tom was born in 1954. My parents sold the house in 1973 after Annie and I left home. It was a most comfortable and large but far from luxurious brick bungalow on the side of a steep hill sloping towards Taylors Bay. It had 16 rooms of greatly varying sizes, terraced garden beds and sweeping harbour views. Until insect screens were installed a few years after we moved in mosquitoes and flies could be very annoying. My parents also had to have a garage built. Two more rooms, a front deck and a swimming pool were later added. Although designed by the prominent Sydney architect B. J. Waterhouse (1876-1965) in about 1939 and in pretty good condition, the house was recently, and inexplicably, demolished. Other Waterhouse designs include May Gibbs’ house, ‘Nutcote’.

Iluka Road was a wonderful place in which to grow up as there were other families living in the street with children of around the same ages as Annie, Tom and I and the nearby Ashton Park reserve provided a large playground for all kinds of adventurous activities. Popular recreations included bush walks, war games, street cricket, racing our scooters (our parents did not allow bikes because of all the hills), swimming at nearby Clifton Gardens, which we called ‘Cliffo’, and fishing. We also sailed a yacht that was anchored not far from the house in Taylors Bay.

When we moved to Iluka Road many of the blocks were covered with bush and unoccupied but that changed as more houses were built. Neighbours on the lower level of Iluka Road where we lived included the Theosophist community in the huge and imposing Manor, the Clarks, the Middletons, the well known bookmaker Bill Waterhouse and his family, the Monticones, the Coombs, the Stephensons, the Harringtons, the Rileys, Ollie Alldiss and his wife, the Stockwells, the Neaves, the society photographer Monte Luke and his wife, the Dobbies, the Kings, the Hamiltons, the Briggs family, the Bradley sisters, who became famous for their bush conservation work, and the Heaths. We were especially friendly with the Stockwells. Good friends on the upper level of Iluka Road were the Rickards.

For some years after we moved to Iluka Road, meat, fruit, vegetables, bread, milk and groceries were all delivered to our house. Initially the bread and milk deliveries were by horse and cart. Mosman Junction as we always called it (‘Village’ seems to be quite recent) was a much less impressive shopping centre in the 1950s and 1960s than it is today. I can remember no restaurants or bookshops and my mother, a superb cook, frequently complained about the poor quality of the meat sold at the local butcheries. The purchase of items such as good clothes and books required ferry trips into ‘town’.

Most residents of the street were from business and professional backgrounds. I don’t, however, recall anyone, with the possible exception of Bill Waterhouse, as being really wealthy. ‘Comfortably middle class’ probably best describes its social composition. In those days the richest people seemed to be concentrated in eastern suburbs like Bellevue Hill and Vaucluse.

Almost all the children attended private schools. I initially was at the Miss Godsons’ kindergarten in Kardinia Road before going on to Mosman Prep and Shore. Other popular schools included Sydney Grammar, Riverview, Queenwood, which my sister attended, and SCEGGS Redlands. Most people were Protestants but there were a few Catholics. As Presbyterians, my own family went to services from time to time at Scots Kirk in Mosman. I generally walked to and from Mosman Prep, often with a friend, but used buses when I was at Shore.

After 1972 I lived in Canberra, Perth, Rockhampton and Darwin and only moved back to live in Mosman (at my parents’ former house in Fairfax Road) last year. From time to time I re-visit Iluka Road as it holds special memories for me. It has, however, changed quite a lot as some of the most attractive older homes have been demolished and replaced with generally less interesting structures that occupy more of each block. One of the few houses in the street that appears in a 1919 aerial photograph was recently demolished and another in the same photograph is under threat. The ease with which demolitions are often approved has pushed up property values to extraordinarily high levels, meaning that only very wealthy people or those with huge mortages can now afford to move to the street. I am most fortunate to have lived there before this happened.

David Carment · 26 October 2007

Your comment

Just a few notes on the very interesting account of Iluka Road. In the early 30's my brother Dion attended a kindergarten run by the people at the Manor. I remember going to a Christmas party there. One of the more colourful personalities in the area was Madam Kirsova who was a ballet dancer who left one of the companys that came to Sydney in the 1940's.

Morella Road was a bit more cosmopolitan than Iluka which was something of a back water. Names from the thirties and forties included the Parers, Lyons, Hemingways, Keeches, Wynns, Doblyns, Snellings, Neilsons - all with families of children. We (Hamiltons) lived two up from the Clifton Gardens Hotel, demolished in the 60's. Agreed a wonderful place to grow up!

October '08

— David Hamilton · 19 October 2008, 00:57 · #

David Carment’s is delightful, as is David Hamilton.
I, of course, remember David’s brother Tom well, who was my age.
We lived in the Madame Kirsova house.
I went to Miss Heath, then Miss Godson’s, then Mosman Prep then Shore.
The “bush” was our playground.
I now live with my family on the southern corner of Burrawong and Thompson.

— Rob Waterhouse · 19 October 2009, 22:20 · #

These recollections are interesting to me as I am researching the lives of conservationists Eileen and Joan Bradley, who developed Bush Regeneration in Ashton Park in the 1960s. I would be glad to read any stories anyone has about the Bradley sisters and their mother, ‘Dot’ .

— Anne Cook · 17 March 2010, 23:59 · #

I read the article on Iluka Road, and was disappointed to see that the writer did not include the Boothroyds who lived at "Pendragon", 44 Lower Iluka Road, the same part of Iluka Road that the writer lived on. There was overlap in the dates, in that in the 1954 Electoral Roll period, my grandmother May Boothroyd, my Uncle Arthur Boothroyd (artist, e.g. for the Women’s Weekly, but later solo), and my Uncle Jack Boothroyd were still living in that street when the writer lived there. Jack gave his address as 3 Iluka Road, but May and Arthur were at 44. (My Uncle Gordon was on the Electoral Roll as being at "Pendragon" with his mother and Arthur there for a while from when back from Britain in 1954.) "Pendragon" (the source of my father’s favourite nickname for my Grandmother) was, I believe, immediately next to the Misses Bradley, whom I met several times – or it might have been a couple of doors away. (Uncle Arthur was a friend of theirs and took me there.) A Bryden-Brown family also lived in the street (Mrs Bryden-Brown lectured in German at Sydney University late ‘50s and early ‘60s).

Till the time of her marriage to Rev. Roderic (JRLJ) Johnstone, then Curate at St. Clement’s Mosman, my mother Beryl lived there too; but that was long before the Carment family moved to the street. By 1954 another of my uncles, Sharland, was in Western NSW, managing a station.

I did not live in Iluka Road, but I stayed there at least once, and visited often. At nights we used to enjoy the city lights from my grandmother’s balcony which overlooked the bay. We heard the tooting of steamships as they signalled, watched small white-sailed yachts sailing, and sometimes small flying boats landed in that very bay. Many times we went down the steep bush path from the house to the beach and scrambled on the shell-encrusted rocks with their little pockets of sea-water, and we also walked along a bush track in the direction of Bradley’s Head. The steps and garden up to the street level from the house was very steep.

My Uncle Arthur, the artist, by the way, turned 100 years old on 1st October 2010, and died on 10 February this year. In addition to being an artist, at one stage he was Rector’s Warden at St. Clement’s Mosman. Another thing about him, he had a studio on Raglan St behind a house for a while, but later he built one at the street level of my grandmother’s house; may have converted the garage to it, or added it on beside the garage.

My sister Catherine Hewett is on the pastoral team of St. Clement’s Mosman still.

Regards,

Liz Christmas (nee Johnstone, daughter of Beryl Boothroyd, daughter of Kenneth and May Boothroyd)

— Liz Christmas · 10 August 2011, 10:12 · #

Our family moved to 9 Iluka Rd, in 1965-1972 (8 years), after building a house in Sirius Cove with a dodgy builder (Dad had to sell to an architect, who fixed all the problems). I had just started high school at Willoughby Girls High with 29 girls from my primary school, Castlecove Public, so was allowed to commute to school via 3 buses everyday. My brother, Peter Cary, is a year younger than I. We loved the teenage life of Clifo with the bush and the water. We are a sailing family, so Dad, Paul, immediately moved our yacht ‘Clancary’ from Mosman Bay, onto a mooring in Taylor Bay with the dinghy chained to the rocks. We loved exploring the bush and swimming at Clifo and walking the dogs around the area. Peter was transported back to Castlecove for the last year of primary school each day, then went to Mosman High. I remember our neighbour in the Walter Burley Griffith designed house at 7 Iluka, Mrs Loaney, who liked to make us afternoon tea. Also the families mentioned by David Carment, as well as The Lils (5-6 kids, Roslyn my age), Valda and John Ulm and their 6 kids (only moved out in last couple of years), Vic Nicholson at 5, I think, who was in advertising and on The Inventors TV show. I travelled on the bus to school with Sun and Lyn Montecone. I remember the Stockwells coming to Mum/Olive’s and my assistance when our corgi was having her pups. When I turned 14, I started babysitting lots of the neighbours in Iluka, Kardinia and Morella Rds. My brother and I became friends with Prue and Brad Boxall from 2 Kardinia, and it is probably Ted their Dad who suggested that I go into advertising. In the late sixties there were only 7 or so yacht moorings allowed in the bay, so we got to know most of the other owners. Dad said it was ‘sad day’ when the Clifo pub was demolished in ’66 I think.

Today my husband and I and two grown children still live in Mosman (28 years in our Holt Ave house now), still sail and spend a lot of time walking the old 13 year old dog at Clifo, with the occasion swim. We have many friends living in Clifton Gardens, mainly from work days and children’s school friends, so spend quite a lot of time there and enjoy the coffee shop and Ripples restaurant. The children went to Mosman Public school, then Jen onto Queenwood Junior and senior schools and Chris ferried to The Scots College in Bellevue Hill. It is my favourite spot Monday to Friday in Sydney!

— Toni Heath (nee Cary) · 6 October 2012, 10:57 · #

I am pleased that my memories have attracted so many interesting responses. As Anne Cook indicated, the Bradley sisters were remarkable women. I regret, Liz Christmas, that I do not recall the Boothroyds. I was, though, only four years old for most of 1954. I do remember the Bryden-Browns. One of them, whom I sometimes visit when I go to Canberra, married an eminent scientist and was very friendly with my mother. I am glad Toni Heath mentioned some of the families on upper Iluka Road that I did not. The Lils were particularly pleasant people.

— David Carment · 19 February 2013, 14:34 · #

Hello, can you remember the nicest man I ever knew, he was your postman, a dear man, Jack Gaynor, I worked at the post office with him a true gentleman, worked so hard for his family, so through these pages, I would like to say hello to Jacks family.

Terry Brown, now Horsham Sussex, England.

— Terry Brown · 31 December 2013, 06:47 · #

Terry,

If he is the person I think he is I remember him well and fondly.

David

— David Carment · 24 January 2014, 12:51 · #

Thanks David, regards Terry,

— Terry Brown · 5 February 2014, 22:27 · #

Here’s an article I wrote recently that you and your readers may enjoy David.

Growing up in Clifton Gardens in the 1960s was to be immersed in and enveloped by the natural world.
By day we would roam through the bush, collecting so many ticks on our backs that when we got home, Mum would put on a frypan to burst them when she plucked them from us with tweezers and metho. We’d scramble across the rocks like crabs, and our bare feet would leave blood prints all the way home when we slipped on oysters.
At dusk one hot day, running back from the beach, we crashed headlong into a llama escaped from the zoo, and set new land speed records in reversing and hightailing. At night I could hear Taronga’s lions roaring their discontent.
The baths at Cliffo were our backyard pool, where we’d swim until pruned, go fishing for stripeys, yellowtail and croakers, bomb the many jellyfish, and comb the beach for imagined treasures. And all the while we’d wonder at the holes in the chain-link shark net, and wonder what may lurk under the not-so-pristine waters.
The zoo was our theme park, which we’d enter once in a while through the front gates on a family excursion, or more often via a hole on the fence in clandestine raids to collect Fanta and Tarax bottles to claim the threepence rebate, which we’d spend on Sunny Boys and Smiths Chips.
The zoo and Cliffo were linked fantastically by a giant stingray that swam in circles in the old aquarium’s shark pool. From the viewing platform above, it was tradition to try to lob pennies and ha’pennies onto his broad back. Legend had it the massive black ray had been caught in our baths, but I don’t know if we ever quite believed it, despite all those holes in the chain-link net.
Yet 50 years later I discovered that this particular urban myth was actually flesh and blood – some 350kg of it.
During a stint on the Mosman Daily as acting editor, I received a letter from a reader complaining about the state of the shark net at Balmoral, and how common stingrays were in the baths. I recalled the story of the giant ray of yore in an editorial, and a letter arrived shortly after from Jean Taylor.
Jean has lived in the same house overlooking Clifton Gardens for 53 years, and vividly recalled a bleak winter’s day sometime in the early 1960s when she went down to walk her dog along the wharf, and discovered the ray.
“It first seemed like a big, big patch of seaweed, then I saw the left edge of the ray feeling along the net and realised what it was,” she wrote.
Jean rang the zoo and a truck soon arrived carrying two dinghies, a large net and several men, who eventually succeeded in trapping the ray and whisking it away. They told her it was a “Captain Cook”, and that it measured 9ft wide by 11ft long.
Jean surmised the ray must have come along the bottom under the net and then “forgotten how to get out”. When she later saw it swimming its sad circles at Taronga, she told me: “I felt bad for dobbing it in.”
But was the zoo’s ray and Jean’s ray really the same animal?
Taronga’s archivist provided newspaper clippings from the 1950s concerning several stingrays being transferred from the graving dock at Garden Island to the zoo.
“I am instructed by the Trustees to convey to you their deep appreciation for your kindness in connection with the receipt at Taronga Zoo Aquarium on the first inst. of two Captain Cook Stingrays, from the Captain Cook Dock. We are very pleased to have these two specimens, which together with the Stingray also received from the Captain Cook dock in November 1952, make a very fine display in our Aquarium,” wrote zoo secretary Lieut-Commander A. H. Brew in December 1954.
Perhaps these rays were still alive in the early ’60s, although in 1952 zoo chairman Sir Edward Hallstrom told newspaper reporters of the new rays: “We do not expect them to live for very long, but when they die they will make a grand feed for the zoo’s polar bears.”
It is probably safe to assume that the zoo’s aquarium had a giant stingray-shaped hole in its exhibition when Jean Taylor made her telephone call.
This is at least partially corroborated by Taronga’s operations manager and former aquarium manager John West, who started at the zoo in the mid-’60s and well remembers the giant ray swimming alone in the shark pool.
“The ray was so big that when it died (in the middle to late 1960s), we needed a front-end loader to haul it out of the pool,” he said.
West estimated the size of the ray to be about 2.5m by 3.5m, or about 8ft by 11.5ft – almost identical to Jean’s 9ft x 11ft ray – and said a so-called “Captain Cook” ray was almost certainly Dasyatis brevicaudata, the smooth or short-tailed stingray common in Australian waters.
Wikipedia described this species as: “The largest stingray in the world, this heavy-bodied species grows upwards of 2.1m (6.9ft) across and 350kg (770lb) in weight”, although there have been reliable reports on bigger specimens. Mature females are about a third larger than mature males.” From this it is safe to assume that Jean’s ray was a female – and she had a secret.
“The interesting thing about that ray was that it was the only specimen of its species in the aquarium, but when they did an autopsy on it, they found it had several stingray pups in its reproductive system,” West said.
“We concluded that this must have been a case of delayed implantation, where a ray can mate with a male but not get pregnant until several years later. We believed it may have been complications with the birth of the pups that killed the ray.”
So the stingray of myth is made real. Jean’s massive smooth female ray was caught and taken the short distance from Clifton Gardens to the zoo – John West has little doubt the “tough” animal would survive the trip. If there had been other specimens there at the time, the zoo’s medical team would not have been surprised by the pups found during its autopsy.
All we need now is a photo.
Jean recalls women arriving during the ray’s capture and taking snapshots of the procedure and wonders if they are in existence today. Taronga’s archivist and this company’s photo library have come up empty, but they will be in an old album or a camphorwood trunk somewhere in Sydney.
A picture would seal the transition from myth to reality, but for small boys who grew up in Clifton Gardens during the 1960s, there is now no doubt. Jean Taylor has reached 50 years into the past and made fact of childhood fantasy.

— Brad Boxall · 25 August 2014, 12:29 · #

I have just found this blog and found it so interesting! I grew up at 25 Iluka Rd. My parents are John and Valda Ulm and they are still alive and living in Greenwich. My brothers are Charles and Scott and Ben and sister Killara. Our house was built in 1961 and my parents rented on Military Road while it was being built. I was born there (at home) almost across from Mosman High. As children we used to explore the bush and play cricket on the street outside our house. I was terrified of getting ‘six and out’ because it meant either scrambling down the pol to the bottom road or walking all the way around to get the ball. I went to Mrs Heath’s preschool and we seemed to know everyone in the street. Such happy, happy memories.

— Kylie Ulm · 30 August 2015, 12:23 · #

I grew up at 25 Iluka Rd. I have really enjoyed reading these memories. My parents built the house in 1961. While it was being built we rented a house on Military Road, which is where I was born (at home). My parents John and Valda Ulm are still alive and live in Greenwich. My brothers are Charles, Scott and Ben and my sister is Killara. I went to Mrs Heath’s preschool at the end of the road then Mosman Infants, Primary and High (with a few years in NZ in the 70s). We used to roam the bush looking for drop bears and swim at Clifton Gardens Beach. There was always a cricket match outside our house. I was terrified of ‘six and out’ as you would have to either scale the pole to the bottom road or walk all the way around to retrieve the ball. My parents used to have Boxing day parties. The milk was delivered and the fruit and veges from ???? the green grocer family on Military Rd. All the dogs would roam the street and had their own pecking order, as did the kids I think. Good days.

— Kylie Ulm · 30 August 2015, 12:40 · #

What an interesting page to find!
I was one of the few children who was approved to live in the Manor, mostly it was older people which is why it was commonly thought of and referred to as a nursing home. I lived there for a couple of my younger years (1979-81) and attended Mosman primary and then Queenwood, then again from 1985 for another few years, attending Mosman highshool, and as my parents remained living there it was a big part of my early adult years, until a few years ago. We would often get people ringing the front door bell, asking if they could look inside or location companies wanting to shoot commercials there. While I remember the Manor fondly as a great place to explore, getting lost in the ridiculous maze of rooms, it was also a pretty serious environment for kids, so I headed out into Iluka rd to play and spent much of my time residing at 40 Iluka rd with the wonderful King family and their 3 children, Dacre Jnr, Diana and Catherine who was my age. I wasn’t aware at the time that these early friendships would become lifelong.
Of course times change and it’s with some trepidation that I visit Iluka rd now, so many wonderful memories of kids being kids but so much has changed, except the Manor which doesn’t seem to ever change!

— Jen Hooker · 6 May 2016, 11:14 · #