Neat hedges and little old ladies

Posted by
Mary Lou Byrne

My earliest memories of Clifford Street are of neat hedges and little old ladies. However, at No. 11 where I lived we had neither a neat hedge nor an old lady. Just a white picket fence with two large cypress trees at the gate and a family of six, a dog, a cat, guinea pigs and an oversized goldfish that lived in the backyard fishpond.

Our neighbours at No. 13 were two old ladies, Miss Sullivan and Miss Chave. They too had a neat hedge as their front fence. Miss Sullivan, a retired teacher, was always Miss Sullivan but Miss Chave was affectionately called Chavey. Chavey used to make ice cream from carnation milk and pass freezer trays of it over the back fence and occasionally we’d get the mixing bowl too!

Miss Piggott, another old lady, lived at No. 17 and her hedge was full of purple flowers that were good for daisy chains and posies for Mum. Miss Doak further down the street at No. 7 didn’t have a hedge but a very high fence and was definitely old in my eyes. She kept to herself always, walking with her eyes to the ground. Her father, Dr Doak, was a well known early resident of Mosman.

Across the road the Kings lived in a two storey house which always looked rather grand compared to the Federation houses that dominated the street. Next door to the Kings, the Chadwicks had a beautiful home on a double block, again with a neat hedge, an extra wide hedge. Being such a large block it was not surprising this was the first to go the way of the developers and units were built there in the early 1960s.

More units were built through the 1960s in the bottom half of Clifford Street, the block at No. 2, where my grandmother lived, even won an architectural award because every unit had a view out to the Heads. More units seemed to bring more old ladies and they were always passing by our house on their way to Spit Junction that beckoned with an array of shops including a very large Coles store there until the 1970s. Always ready for a chat, along with Stan the postman, the baker and the “egg man”, Tony, they were busy times in the front garden of No. 11.

In complete contrast to old ladies and neat hedges we had the Clancys at No. 10 whose children numbered 15. Their front garden was full of treasures, old and new, pot plants, cars that were being worked on and an assortment of bikes and toys that were part of life with so many children. Apart from the Clancys there weren’t so many children in Clifford Street but Lane M22, now known as Horsnell Lane, that ran between Military Road and Clifford Street, certainly made up for it.

Directly behind us was the back entrance to the Larmans Coal & Coke business. The Larmans delivered coal and coke to the many houses that had open fires and before delivery it was stored in hessian bags piled almost to the ceiling of a large shed. We used to sit on top of the bags with Gloria Larman the youngest daughter eating jelly crystals straight from the box.

Next door to the Larmans was Elvira, a Greek girl who used to bring in sweet biscuits called Savoiardi Sponge fingers which we found very exotic after Mum’s homemade Anzac biscuits. Elvira’s father and uncle started “Ceil-spray”, a cement product that was sprayed on to many ceilings of units built in the 1960s and 1970s.

Further up the lane our friends were the Lew boys, Jim, Wesley, Peter and Alan, the sons of the local Chinese restaurateurs. There was also the rather scary Mosman High School boy whose school bag was emblazoned with “Save the Pigeons” even though the story was he regularly attacked them with a slingshot.

Another teenage boy who would later become a journalist and popular TV personality sped down the lane with his friends on homemade billycarts. Seats padded with remnants of carpet and a rubber thong as a brake, they regularly encouraged my four year old brother to join them.

Almost as much fun was sliding down Clifford Street in the rain on pieces of corrugated plastic in the gushing gutters with never a fear of being swept into the stormwater drains.

Pump up scooters and dragster bikes replaced the billycarts and corrugated plastic and Flemings replaced Larmans Coal & Coke business in the late 1960s. Flemings carpark became a playground for us on Saturday afternoon and Sundays when it was empty of cars and perfect for bikes, scooters and even a game of tennis.

Flemings also served as a place of employment for my brother and I when we were in our high school years, but that’s another whole set of memories…

Mary Lou Byrne · 30 April 2006

Your comment

We lived in Clifford Street, end of 59 to 62, and again 64 to end of 65, we loved that old Street, and remember the Clancy family, i worked at Whittles Hard ware shop, with Claud and John and Bill Smith a lovely chap, best regards Terry.

— terry brown · 1 July 2006, 13:50 · #

Dear Old Stan, From England the one i worked with, a very nice chap was our Stan, used to stutter if he got excited did dear old Stan, loved working at the post office, one day i would love to see dear old Spit Junction again but alas no, so ill make do with your web site, Thanks very much. Terry.PS number twenty was our abode it was flats, very tiny but home.

— terry brown · 1 July 2006, 18:16 · #

Hi Mary Lou,

I’m from 1951, at 666 Military Road (the old tobacconist on the corner where the tram notice was).

I remember the Clancy family. My mother, Jan Wippell, was a bit horrified at the number of kids. Mrs Clancy became famous when the [then] Pope contacted her and congratulated her on being such a good Catholic!

My claim to fame in Mosman was winning the 1962 Book Week of the Year prize. I won a pictorial dictionary and ended up in the newspapers alongside the Mayor of Mosman (and some other girl).

Thanks for the memories!

Ly de Angeles · 1 November 2008, 23:27 · #

Hi Mary Lou..

I hope you are well

I remember you and your brother Guy and your sister whose name i can’t recall

A couple of months ago, I attended at baseball reunion of ex Mosman Baseball Club members and we remembered life going up in Mosman.

Brings back such wonderful memories.

— Wesley Lew · 3 June 2013, 00:09 · #

Great to hear from you Wesley and I hope you and Jim and Peter and Allan are all well. My older sister is Jo-Ann and Katy my younger sister was not around till 1970 so you may not remember her. Fun times in the back lane and the old Flemings carpark ! Mum still lives in the area and the rest of us havent strayed too far.I have been working back in Mosman a while now too so the memories live on. All the best Wesley
Mary Lou

— Mary Lou · 5 June 2013, 20:26 · #

Stan the postman is my father. He’s still alive and well but getting on a bit now and a bit forgetful from time to time.

— David · 13 July 2015, 01:38 · #