About Cremorne

It wasn’t until my mother came around, when we first bought this house and it was a very old, dilapidated house, 1890. And I never realized the extent until my mother and father came around, and I showed my mom the house. And it was a very old, dilapidated house, and it still had an outhouse in the back. And at the outhouse in the back there’s a lane way and the toilet was at the back of the house. And it was like this, because there was a horse and cart that would come and collect stuff. When you talk about stuff, back in the day, Cremorne was a bit of a slum.

Anyway, my mom started crying. And I said, “What’s going on, mom? Are you happy that I’ve made that achievement?” And, I come from a big family of nine. So, you know, saving up the money, and I thought, “Oh, she’s happy for me.” But, she wasn’t happy. She was genuinely upset. She was upset that I bought such an old house that was so dilapidated, it still had a bathroom out the back.

I couldn’t believe it. I’m like, “Mom, can’t you just be happy for me?” And, she started crying, and she said, “It’s brought back these memories of when I was a little girl and when I needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I had to go outside to this outhouse in the middle of winter.”

For a little girl to do that, now, this was 1950-something.

What I’ve learned about that is … And we talk about this, people in Cremorne will talk about this, is the sewer only went in, running sewers only went in, in 1956 and they were clayers and sewers.

Now, what’s all that go to do with this? That’s when I realized, that’s right, Mom, you grew up in Cremorne, that’s right Mom, you grew up on Punt Road(not sure). That’s right, Mom, you shared a house with another family, because they were poor. They had downstairs, a Russian family had upstairs.

Sometimes there was only, maybe, one toilet to five houses. So, we can get an idea … It automatically paints a picture in my mind; outhouse, pretty rough going stuff.

Anyway, so that got me thinking, “Oh well, you’re in Cremorne for a bit, I said, “Well, tell me the good things.” And she said she remembers every Sunday, they would go for a walk around town, around the gardens, and became friendly with gardeners and they got to know them.

So then, tracing it back from my grandmother, my mother’s name is Downey, but my mother growing up here is quite a good story.

Mother’s sisters were the ring leaders of a small group of … A gang of unruly kids that grew up around Cremorne. My Aunt Dee has a patch on her hair where it’s black. She’s blonde like me, she’s got a patch on her blood, and we asked her how she got that, and they’re playing cowboys and Indians one day, and one of the kids held her down and they had sticks that were lit.

There’s a good book called Struggle Town, and Struggle Town, I think the most amazing bit about that book is that … And a local bloke called Phil Vanderdrift, told me the story as well. In Struggle Town, in the 1930’s when there was depression, people would be tearing out wood … Pilings of fence, boards off outhouses to have a fire for warmth and cooking.

And, it got the point that there was no wood around the outhouse, and if you need to go to the bathroom, you were left exposed. So, that’s how desperate it got here.

Cremorne was prone to flooding, it’s built on the flats of the Yarra River, which are called the mud flats, and it’s built on a reactive clay base. When it gets wet, the clay expands, when it dries up it contracts. These things cause moving in houses, so a lot of the old houses didn’t survive.

If you look at a photographic view of this in the 1930’s, this was all tin roof housing. My mother has taken me for a walk from my house in Dover Street, Cremorne, the sort of things that she tells me, she remembers the brick walls of houses were black, because there was a lot of … People would burn for wood, you could well imagine, that because of the rot, next to the rail network, some of it was still coal.

People didn’t have lot of money to etch or acid wash or clean back their housing, when they restore the match with sandblasting, now, they actually abrasively clean very gentle, but …

So, you could well imagine the living conditions of the area and small things like, it didn’t have any street lighting until after 1950’s. The local council, they petitioned the local council to put it in, but they said we don’t have any budget for it. That the local council updated … They built a whole new town hall in Collingwood, they had money to build a massive town hall in Collingwood.

But they didn’t have any money for Cremorne, which just goes to show the corruption of the … And the time. I didn’t realize how deep my direct aunts, mother, grandfather lived in the area but he lived in the area for some sixty years. We know the houses that they grew up in on Wellington Street. Wellington and little Wellington Street. And then on the other side of the family, on my dad’s side, they had a house in Wellington Street in Collingwood and then I grew up in Wellington Street, Blackburn. Anyways, so the next house, if I finish my renovation and I want to sell this house, I own a house in Wellington Street, Cremorne. There’s just funny little things like that that I’ve learned throughout this process of being in here and whatnot so I know one more too, one more funny one I’ve learned recently.

And it’s about the house that I have and I’ve owned a house in Dover Street, Cremorne. I was speaking to a neighbour and a couple of older gentlemen walked past and they’re having a bit of a laugh and they’re laughing and I’m going “What’s funny? Do you know something about this area or these houses?” And they said “Well we used to come down here”, and they said “There were houses at the top of Dover Street”. Anyway, long story short, they said “There were terrace houses here just like yours”. Okay, great. They said “Well, we would come down here because they’d procure certain services that happened inside the houses”. And we’re like “Okay, well, okay, it did happen”. So there was prostitution and we’re like “Okay, the guys must have come down here for the girls”, and they laughed. And we said “Okay”. And they said “It wasn’t for girls”, so it was the terrace houses, the 13 and the one I own were brothels for men, seeking services of other men. Now this was way back in the day.


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