In the late 1930s my parents, Ian and Edith Kitson, built a house on a battleaxe block of land at 22 Pretoria Avenue, George’s Heights. My mother designed the house and her architect brother-in-law, Harold Peach, drew up the plans. Building materials were scarce and my mother was unable to have the glass bricks, green roof and cream bricks she had wanted, so it ended up being cement rendered and painted white instead. The house was built in the P&O Oceanliner style of the 1930s with curved walls. The house was heated with an Essie stove which was fuelled with coke and kept going for the winter. There was a chute from the terrace outside the main bedroom where you threw dirty washing down to the lower level laundry, which had a copper for boiling up the sheets and towels. My Grandfather James Mulligan, of Clifford Street Mosman, called the house ‘The Hut’.
In the 1940s the milk came on a horse drawn cart and the milkman measured it out of large metal containers and filled our jugs. The iceman came with a block of ice on his shoulder in a hessian bag, to go in the ice chest. The Moran & Cato man came to take grocery orders, which were delivered later in the week. A truck came with fruit and vegetables which you purchased from your front gate.
Unusually for this time, all the native trees on the site, like the mature angophoras, were kept. The neighbouring blocks were completely cleared to build around the same time. I have an early memory of running down the unmade part of Pretoria Avenue from the school bus stop on Middle Head Road. We always felt it was an irony to have the Mayor of Mosman, George Ferris, living two houses away and not getting a sealed road until after he left his council office.
From the front gate a meandering path lead through a very pretty garden. My mother was a very keen gardener and spent time nearly every day of her life tending the oriental poppies, huge November lilies, iris, love-in-a-mist, white Japanese windflowers, delphiniums, hydrangeas and other flowers. There were always lemon and orange trees growing in the garden with avocado, macadamia and figs added later. The family grew asparagus, lettuce and other vegetables during the Second World War to supplement what was available to them because of rationing.
As children we loved to play in the garden and the bush, which was on two sides of the property. In the bushland there were abundant native flowers, such as tall pink orchids with dark red stems, flannel flowers, red and white heaths, boronias, wattles, egg & bacon plants, grey/pink grevilleas and small green hooded orchids which popped up in the same spots each year. Native wildlife appeared regularly, including brush-tailed and ring-tailed possums, bandicoots, blue-tongued lizards, green tree snakes, red bellied black snakes, brown snakes and the crowned snake that only lives in this area. The birds were plentiful and included eastern rosellas, lorrikeets, blue wrens, crested pidgeons, kookaburras and tawney frog mouth owls. There was a natural water way through the bush next to which I made fairy moss gardens. We made adventurous cubby houses with the local children, furnished from the tip at the bottom of the hill – no plastic, only metal treasures.
We walked to Balmoral Beach through the bush which was adjacent to the local golf course. During the Second World War the Navy took over the golf course and fenced off the bush and the beach was protected with large rolls of barbed wire. At night we could often hear sailors returning late, who had missed their curfew, and subsequently had to scale the 8 foot high, barbed wire topped fence to try and sneak back into their barracks. For the second half of the war my family moved to Armidale and stayed with relatives, while the house was let to a Naval Officer and his wife. My family sold the house in 2003. The new owners have since extended the house with another story and put in a swimming pool.
The neighbours in Pretoria Avenue included:
20 Pretoria Avenue; Frank, Miriam & Margaret Caird and the present residents.
18 Pretoria Avenue; George & Carrie Ferris, made gas producers during the war because of the petrol shortage, and later produced Ferris car radios. George was Mayor of Mosman in the 1950s. This house was later bought by Fred & Leslie Thomson.
16 Pretoria Avenue; was a house on two blocks of land built by a policeman in his spare time. Two old ladies lived in it in the 1940s; one was a Miss Adams. Spencer & Joan Butler bought the house in the early 1950s and installed the neighbourhood’s first swimming pool. Later Joan & Dennis Georgeson entertained all the local children here at eagerly anticipated Christmas Pool Parties, parents optional. The house was said to be haunted by an old sea captain who used to roam the halls slamming doors. This house was demolished in the 1990s, the land was split into the two blocks and one house was built on each block.
14 Pretoria Avenue; was built by the Scofield family and later lived in by the Foxes, followed by the Andreasons, a Swedish family.
The houses in the unmade part of Pretoria Avenue have access from Cobbittee Lane. In the Cobbitee Lane part of Pretoria Avenue lived the Corbetts, Dows, Fahls and Bertwistles.
I remember you and your very modern home (tree through the patio? – not sure if that was yours). We actually lived in 20 Windward Avenue (12 Pretoria). Dad was Bill Turner and I remember knowing you and the get togethers you held at your place many years ago. Just want to update you on the Schofield’s house at #14. When they purchased in 1960, it was an existing house; however, they did some renovations to each level after a number of years. I am still in touch with Jane, their youngest daughter and we both are in Queensland, Jane on the Gold Coast and we are in Brisbane. Jane’s Mum, Jose lives at Mermaid Waters and is now 92. Are you still in Windward Avenue or have you moved away?
Pam Voltz :)
My mother is Margaret Parker nee Caird. My parents lived with Frank and Miriam with my brother and I while they saved up for their first home (I was 5, he was 2). I started school there but then we moved to French’s Forest in 1971. I still have some memories of the house there. One of the stories is that the neighbour across the road spoke to my parents concerned that the cat food had been going missing but the culprit had left a dummy next to the bowl. My brother had a good collection of dummies and buried them all around the backyard. When they tried to wean him off them he would procure them from his buried ‘stash’. I still have a few photos of the house. Mum is 77 now and in a nursing home at Wyee. I recently did a lot of family history research into Miriams side of the family and built a webpage www.archibaldcurrie.page.tl