I had just turned 2 years old in 1942 when my family moved to Flat 4, 16 Lennox Street, a neat block of four flats at the bottom of the second stage of a two-stage hill situated off Prince Albert Street at the Zoo end of Mosman. The building, then called Ainslie Court, is still there, although I would expect there could by now be internal changes that would probably render the characteristics that I remember, into much different configurations.
Dad was a nephew of C.V. Stevenson, the founder of Radio Station 2UE and for most of the time we lived in Mosman, he was employed by the station as a Sound Recordist. The proximity of our flat to ferry transport was most beneficial to my father for easy access to the city, as the nature of his job often called for working all kinds of hours. We always gained access to Taronga Zoo Wharf via the walking track that skirted Sirius Cove and the outer perimeter of the Zoo. Return journeys usually included the trip by tram from the wharf to the stop at Thompson Street, followed by a short walk down Thompson Street to Lennox Street and home.
My mother was occupied with “home duties” as many mothers were in those years. Although I remember little of it, when we took up residence at Ainslie Court, World War 2 was in progress and the enemy was already wiping its feet on Australia’s doorstep. I do have a vague memory of searchlights and air raid sirens that according to my mother was probably a memory initiated before our move when we lived at another residential flat, St Orans in Spencer Road Cremorne. Mum had stood at a darkened window with me in her arms, to watch as the harbour was searched for signs of the enemy midget submarines that attacked Sydney in 1942.
Swimming in Sirius Cove
Lennox Street was a memorable place in which to spend a childhood, a place from where most destinations were easily accessible. As a boy I spent a lot of time down at Sirius Cove where the bushland environment became anything that my playmates and I wanted it to be. It was Tarzan’s jungle, the badlands of the American west and Sherwood Forest all rolled into one, anything our imaginations could conjure. The area to the north of the swimming enclosure was not the well-kept parkland that it is today. It was in fact, not much more than a rat-infested dump and the area was often used to build bonfires for the celebration of cracker night on Empire Day, the 24th May.
The shoreline within the swimming enclosure was scattered with refuse that mainly had floated in on the tide and made its way through the seaweed festooned shark netting that stretched from one side of the cove to the other. Occasionally a bag of copra that had fallen or been dropped overboard from a vessel in the harbour, would find its way to shore where after lying in the sun for some time would begin to rot. The acrid smell of the stuff was indeed foul. Notwithstanding any such drawbacks we still braved the patches of weed that may have been hiding dangers like broken bottles, to take pleasure in the cool harbour waters on hot summer days, while surrounded by the cacophonous din of a multitude of cicadas in the surrounding bushland.
We swam and played carefree, especially at times when the king tides made the water wonderfully deep, almost to the very top of the shark netting. It was a safe place to swim, though as a young boy I often wondered at the signage on the shark-net that warned “SHARKS” and underneath, the words, “Do Not Swim Outside the Net”. It seemed to me that the signs were an affirmation of where the sharks swam and I thought, “If sharks don’t swim outside the net, does that mean that they swim inside the net?” Often than not Mrs Kerr from up in Whiting Beach Road would be there in her black cossie and white tennis shade, keeping an eye on all that went on. She used to swim with a sidestroke action that was amazingly effective and the white tennis shade bobbing up and down in the water easily identified her.
In those years the stormwater pipe that ran along the eastern side of the swimming enclosure was above ground and we would run along the top of the pipe to the place where we could enter the water and swim or wade to a large wedge shaped rock just a little way out from the water’s edge. That rock is still in existence, but its appearance to me now is much smaller than I remember it as a child.
There would no doubt be some who would still recall going home from the cove with scrapes and scratches as a result of slipping and falling off the stormwater pipe while running along its curved surface. The pipe had its exit point on the eastern side and outside the swimming enclosure. I remember being in contests to see who could reach the farthest point inside the pipe. There were vent holes in each section and we would prove our superiority by poking a stick up each vent as we reached it. I’m not sure when the stormwater pipe was constructed. I do however have a photograph taken around summer 1946 showing in the background the area on the eastern side of the swimming enclosure where the pipe would be, but no evidence of it is apparent.
Our neighbours in Lennox Street are fondly remembered. Until 1947 the property, next door to the east of where we lived, was vacant and supported only a driveway that serviced a large property to the rear. There was a tennis court on this property owned by a family, by the name of Doyle, who owned a yellow and black Rolls Royce.
Around 1947 building operations began on the vacant land next door and the local children, including myself, used the foundation trenches in which to conduct war games. In 1948 the Vance family took up residence in the newly built home, a white double storey building. Mr Vance, I seem to remember, had been a coast-watcher during the war and he and his family came to Australia from Fiji, moving into their new home that became number 14 Lennox Street. The Vances had two daughters, Louise and Penelope who were a little older than me, and the family became good neighbours and friends. Louise, the younger of the two sisters became a good mate and we had a lot of happy times together. An area that we always referred to as “Cupid’s Bush” bounded the eastern side of the Vance’s property. The area was virtually the extended back yard of the owners and at one time even supported a chook run at it’s far south western corner. Louise and I laid claim to one particular tree in the Cupid’s Bush, to which we were able to gain access by climbing over the old stone fence on the Lennox Street side. We solved many childhood problems in that tree, climbing from branch to branch or just sitting aloft and talking. Some of the stone fence still exists I believe, but there are houses on the site now and our special tree is well and truly gone. Saturday nights were sometimes a treat when I would be invited next door to the Vances and the two girls and I would settle down in the kitchen, turn off the lights and listen to old Nancy, the Witch of Salem on the radio, as she narrated one of her Witches Tales. I wonder where Louise and Penny are today?
There was a very large home directly over the road from our flats and I believe a family called Cleabourne or Claybourne lived there when we first moved to the area and I think they had a son named Darrel. Group Captain John Waddy, World War 2 fighter pilot and later a Liberal politician and his family, occupied it in later years. The Waddy’s elder son Lloyd, whom we never really knew, was at University at the time studying law, but I was friends with their two daughters, Denise and Rosalie. Still later the Dwyer family owned the home.
Other neighbours were, the Cullens, the Seatons, the Petersons and the Elders. Does anyone perhaps remember Ray Elder? Ray was paralysed and could only move his wrists, hands and his eyes. His family would carry him on a stretcher out into the street on pleasant sunny days where armed with a mirror he would watch the comings and goings of life in Lennox Street and he always had a pleasant word for those who passed by. Ray was quite an accomplished artist and used to draw little pictures for some of the children. He also made stuffed animal toys. The house where he lived with his two sisters was an old dark and foreboding place, buried in trees and I remember it had an observation turret on the roof. The siblings had lived there in Mosman for a very long time and one of the sisters once told me that she could remember when the tide would come in at the cove right up to where the footbridge at the bottom of Lennox Street crosses Sirius Cove Road. As children, she and her sister and brothers were able to swim right at the bottom of the street.
The old house no longer exists, but right opposite where it once stood, there was a beautiful old sandstone home that had been built with terracotta tiles on the roof that had, I was told, been transported to Australia on the Second Fleet. Today, this lower section of Lennox Street is now re-configured into a cul-de sac with newer homes in the area.
Up the hill there were the Connells and their children Peter, Barry and later Deborah. They had a scruffy looking black dog called Taffy. Mr and Mrs Mathers, an elderly Scottish couple lived opposite the Cornells and further up the street were the Dodds with their children, Kingsford and his younger brothers David and Bruce. Kingsford and I spent many hours under their house building roads in the dirt on which to run our Dinky Toy cars and I remember too that Kingsford was the possessor of a magnificent wooden rocking horse he called Burnborough. The Goddard family lived across the street from the Dodds. Their children were Brian, Ian and an older sister, Jill. Next door to the Goddards was a family by the name of Nash and their children were Robert and Pam. There was also a family called Laver and an English family by the name of Williams, but I do not recall their children’s names.
Out of school
Balmoral during the summer months was often a popular destination and many happy hours were spent there at the swimming baths and also fishing from the adjacent pier. We had most everything within walking distance from home and certainly reachable by bicycle.
During teenage years I attended the Congregational Church in Belmont Road where the Rev.Winston Jones was the Minister and Rev.C.Venton Hayman succeeded him in later years.
The Picture Theatres in the Mosman area were a matter of personal choice. There were four theatres from which to choose that were within a reasonable distance from home. My friends and I chose the Southern Cross at Neutral Bay that by our estimation presented the more desirable programme. We were treated to a feature film, at least 20 cartoons and three serials each and every Saturday afternoon. Only two shillings would buy each of us an afternoon’s entertainment, 9d admission, a penny each way in the tram and the rest was spent in the milk bar next door. A Saturday afternoon at the Southern Cross was always a memorable event. The darkened theatre full of excited followers of Deadwood Dick, Batman, or Superman and other various serial heroes was never a dull venue. Without fail there would be beams of torchlight raking the audience to identify particularly noisy individuals, some of whom would be removed by them ushers. We went there religiously until we outgrew the entertainment and our interests were channelled in other directions.
My Grandparents John and Ruby Elder lived in 18 Lennox Street. They had 5 children, the eldest , my Father all grew up there. My Great Grandpa John Elder and his Wife Anne lived in the house with the lookout construction on the roof. Interested to read your article Richard, I remember when the flats you lived in were built. The Petersons were relations who lived in 20 Lennox Street and also the stone house named “Red Marley”. John Elder.
You are the first to comment on my post since it first made its appearance. I had thought all those I used to know in Lennox Street were no longer with us and it has been a while since I last checked this site.
My family moved into No 18 from the flats next door about 1959-60. The arrangement at that time with your family, mainly through Dorothy Elder, was as carers through the week for your grandmother Ruby. Dorothy used to drive a little blue Ford Prefect and would pick up Ruby on the week-ends so that she could spend some time with her own family. This situation lasted until Ruby died and the house was sold. My Dad with your family’s permission, worked tirelessly on the property while we lived there and cleared the back yard of the old gardens and garden structures that had become overgrown and uncared for since Ruby’s husband John, died. I have very fond memories of “old Mr Elder” and as a very young child I spent a lot of time with him in his garden and exploring the marvellous things contained in his old garden shed in the back corner of yard. He was a very kind old gentleman and I remember him making a wooden boat for me, which I was very anxious to test out in the water at Sirius Cove the next time I was taken down there for a swim.
The old house is not there now at least not in its previous state. If you type the address into Google you can see it in its present incarnation.
The house at No 20 is not the original house where the Petersons lived.But the lovely old stone dwelling called Redmarley is still in existence. I have a sketch of it in of all things a cook book with the title of “Cooking and Looking at Mosman”.
Lennox Street, the best place in the world to make childhood memories.
Thanks for your comment John.
My parents Philip and Barbara Lusher built the house at 13a Lennox Street. We moved into the house on my tenth birthday. The Dwyer family lived next door. We knew the Seaton family as well. I dreaded walking up the steep hill to catch the bus to Queenwood School. We quite often heard the lions roaring at the zoo if the wind was blowing in the right direction. Later when I was working I often walked on the bush track from Sirius Cove to Taronga Zoo ferry wharf to catch the ferry to Circular Quay. It was a lovely area.
Interesting to come across this info as I was trying to track down details for my grandfather’s residence in Sirius Cove but do not have address. Cecil Kerr was born in 1901 & grew up in an apparently large residence at Sirius Cove & later moved to Middle Harbour side of Mosman when he married. He was a Protestant who married a Catholic & from what I have been told was then estranged from his family at Sirius Cove. I am keen to know if you have any more memories or info of the lady Mrs Kerr from Whiting Beach Road – approx age, no. of children, any history, etc. Thank you for your blog and your memories of delightful Mosman.
We live in the flats now and agree it is a wonderful place to be a child and an adult. I loved reading this. We also walk the track to the ferry and paddle at the cove.
My mother Betty Parle grew up at 13 Lennox Street. Her parents Harold and Mabel moved there in 1921. She married in 1941 at the age of 21 so you may not have encountered her but she had two younger brothers in Eric (3 years younger) and Dennis (10 years younger). I have many memories of family gatherings in the 1960s there especially of all the hydrangeas and the white stucco of the time.
I lived with my grandmother at number 5 from 1961 to about 1966. When she bought the house some years earlier it had been converted to a sort of boarding house, although the tenants had their own kitchen and bedroom and shared a lounge and bathroom. She sold it in about 1970 and I think it was converted back to a single home. I have seen it on Google and it still looks the same from the outside.
Obviously I was later than most of the others posting here and I don’t remember anyone my age living in the street then. There was a big house on the corner that had what I now know as a Staffordshire terrier that barked whenever any one went by, it was always out roaming the footpath and I was terrified of the thing.
I attended Mosman High School, starting in 1962 the year after it became Co-Ed and the first year of what was known then as the Wyndham System. Changing from 3 & 5 years to the current 4 & 6. I think it’s reputation is a lot better these days.
I used to go down to Sirius Cove but never swam there. I didn’t know about the walk around to the Zoo wharf or I would have used it instead of the long trek down the hill.
We built a new house at 14A Lennox Street in 1985 I think. We bought from the Gilder family. 14A was down a narrow drive beside 14 . We were there for 14 years and sold to a widower with 2 young children. Now February 12th and the property is once again on the market for a sizeable amount
Fascinated by your article! My grandparents Elsie Madeleine and Thomas Henry Jones owned Ainslie Court. My father Lloyd grew up there and studied medicine. Mum sold the block after Lloyd died in 1976.
I am trying to trace my lost father's steps. We believe he lived at 24 Lennox Street mosman in 1989ish. Can anybody tell me if there was a boarding house or mens home in Lennox Street at one time?