On the whole, the childhood and teenage years of my friend, Dianne and I, were fairly quiet, predictable and safe, growing up in Hopetoun Avenue. Because of that, some incidents have stood the test of time, remaining clear as day in my mind. Before the use of Spit Road, cars used Parrawi Road as the main thoroughfare. Waking to the sound of screeching tyres and repeated bumping, was common in the early hours of the morning, particularly in the summer months. The narrow, windy road proved difficult for those who were drunk or going too fast. On one particular occasion, the driver was not saved by the safety barrier, shooting through a gap in the fencing, crashing way down to the ground below. So fortunate was he, that his car landed on a tiny strip of sand, narrowly missing the mass of deadly, big rocks, strewn along the base of the cliff. His car had flipped over on its way down the sheer drop, and miraculously the driver was able to crawl out of the crushed car, virtually unscathed. Seeing the result of this dramatic accident first hand, was a must for us. Walking down Parrawi Road and peering over the damaged fence, we had a bird’s eye view of the wrecked car below, now resembling some twisted monster washed up from the sea.
A few years later, we experienced another memorable incident involving a car. It happened whilst we were walking up Warringah Road, on some errand or other, possibly to buy something at the shops or service station on Spit Road. As we were nearing the bend in the road, we became aware of the most hideous and alarming screeching noise, becoming louder and louder. A car was skewing sideways down the steep hill, the female driver frozen behind the wheel as she attempted to stop the moving vehicle. Unable to negotiate the sharp corner, the car slammed into the high rock wall opposite us. In a state of shock, the poor shaken woman eased herself from the damaged car and gabbled that the brakes had failed. Not a good finish to her terrifying ordeal, but far better than the alternative, of continuing out of control to the bottom of the hill, before launching off the road and crashing below.
The two events just described, most certainly stood out in our basically uneventful and predictable lives. Predictable indeed, was the playing of tennis in your family’s life. Your father, a keen A Grade player, competing at White City and your mother playing socially with a group of friends, often on Betty Curlewis’s court, just along the road from our homes. Mixed social tennis on the weekend was also part of your family’s routine, playing with the Raghettis, Munros and others, on a court in Burran Avenue. For us, this location was perfect, as we could ride the short distance to the court and then spend much of the afternoon happily riding around the newly formed park in the bend of Burran Avenue.
Through her own iniative and hard work, Mrs Griffith, an elderly nearby resident, had painstakingly transformed an area of spare land, into a beautiful usable space, with thick grass and exotic trees. Over the years, she alone maintained this restful park for everyone to enjoy. A circular road was laid around it, providing access to the surrounding homes and a great cycling route for us. Mrs Griffith was obviously an exceptionally resourceful and diligent person both in and out of the house, as I distinctly remember her always wearing her own homemade knitted garments, even knitted grey woolen stockings. She was just one of the many individual and colourful characters who dwelt in our neighbourhood back then.
The court in Burran Avenue was an idyllic location, not jut because of the convenience, but also its amazing position. Set up high on the corner of the road, this sand court commanded a glorious view right out to the ocean. Sheltered by many trees, and set amongst a natural garden, typical of those days, it provided a magical spot for all users. Seated in the old timber summerhouse, we all enjoyed delicious afternoon teas prepared by the women players, a most refreshing, interlude to your parent’s games and to our endless riding. But best of all, were the times when you and I could be the players, having this beautiful court all to ourselves, hitting back and forth to our hearts’ content. How lucky indeed were we, not just to practice and improve our tennis skills, but spend numerous happy hours in another of our neighbourhood’s idyllic settings. Jane Edwards
I played tennis on the Johnson’s court in Kirkoswald Avenue, right where th road turned 90 degrees.