Mitchell Road memories

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Janis Pap

Mitchell Road Mosman was the centre of my early childhood universe in the 1950’s. We lived with my maternal Grandparents in Mitchell Road when I was born. Although my family moved away from the family home, in and out of Mosman, the grandparents’ home was the one constant of my early childhood. Early childhood memories evolve around no 9 Mitchell Road Mosman and its environs. My sister Susan and I would spend time with our Grandparents, the Beesons on weekends, holidays, and later extended stays for school holidays.

The 1950’s was a slower paced time. We listened to the wireless for evening entertainment. Mother played Johnny Ray records on the radiogram, “Sammy Sparrow” was required morning listening on the wireless for children. “Australia rode on the sheep’s back”, we were “British to our bootstraps”. This was the era of pounds shillings and pence, Sunday roast dinners and “Sunday best” dressing up.

Mitchell Road was in close proximity to Parriwi shops, Mitchell Lane, Stanton Road and Spit Road – these formed the boundaries to my early neighbourhood. You could catch a bus or tram easily nearby. It was a pleasant stroll to Spit Junction from there and Balmoral was only over the hill, although a hair- raising trip down Awaba Street in my Aunts’ Morris Minor! Aunty seemed to relish terrorising us by driving very fast down Awaba.

Mitchell Road has always been a short narrow street. One of the peculiarities of the street was that there were only house frontages on one side of the street. The other side was all garages and fences, as those houses had frontages on Bapaume Street and backed onto Mitchell Road. My Grandparents house was in a short section between Mitchell Lane and the lane before Killarney Street. Their home was a Californian bungalow of liver brick, with a sleeping Mexican number 9, house number and a rambling rose covered timber arch entry gate Some houses had garages, though no 9 did not. I was always amused that grandfather put his Austin A40 car, to bed each night by covering it with a tarpaulin, since we did not have a garage.

The front gardens of the houses in the street were well tended. Grandfather would mow the lawn with a hand mower, and trim edges with shears. The front garden in no 9 was symmetrical with a central path leading from the pink rose covered timber arch entry to the front steps. There were lawns either side of the path. Frangipani trees adorned the front of the house either side of the path. Red wild single roses bloomed against the low wire and timber front fence and hydrangeas grew along the low side fences.

One of my earliest memories of Mitchell Road was of looking past my Grandparent’s front door out to the street, past the wide timber verandah, down the steps through the entry archway across the street to the fences and garages opposite. The view at night of the lights on the bridge at Northbridge from the front verandah was enchanting for a child.

Grandparents enjoyed good relationships with their neighbours. As my Grandparents were English they tended to form friendships with other English families. They enjoyed a close affinity with the Date family near Mitchell Lane. These were the times when neighbours would pop in to see if you needed anything from the shop as they were going. I recall the Date’s daughter would always call in with her big cane basket to see if Grandmother needed any supplies. I, in time would run errands for Grandmother when I was older. She would go over the shopping list with me count out the money, and run through the change with me.

There were no children our age nearby so Susan and I amused each other by playing together in the front garden. The neighbours on one side were the Elliot’s, a Scottish family. Their children were much older than us. The neighbours on the other side, Ray and Ella were married without children.

Our play was confined to inside the front gate. It included tea parties with our china tea sets, sitting in child size furniture, playing with our dolls, riding our dinkies on the paths, making daisy chains from clover. We also liked to dress up in my Aunt’s clothes. When other children visited we would play “oranges and lemons”. One particular game we liked was jumping off the top front steps. We invariably grazed our knees or elsewhere from such games. Aunty would entertain us with her monkey and skeleton puppets.

Sunday was the day of rituals. We would accompany Grandfather to fetch the Sunday paper from the papershop near Stanton Road. He would buy us crayons, colouring pencils, colouring in books or scrapbooks. Susan and I would colour in to our hearts content on the front verandah. We would dress in our “Sunday best” for the formal midday Sunday roast lunch. “Sunday best” was our party dress bought from our favourite children’s dress shop, located down from the Christian Science Church Military Road Mosman. After lunch we would go outside and play watched by doting parents and grandparents.

Other highlights and memories from a bygone era was the delivery of bread and milk. The baker and milkman delivered their wares by a horse drawn cart. The clip-clop of horses’ hooves heralded their arrival. A curiosity for me was the occasional messages the horses left behind – you had to be careful where you stepped in the street!

Janis Pap · 30 April 2006

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