Saturday, 27 August 2016

A Patchwork of Memories

Week Four in the National Family History Month Blogging Challenge looks at the idea of country or place in family history including what makes a place special or unique.
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One of the assignments in the University of Tasmania Family History unit, Place, Image Object, was to create an annotated map of an area important to your family history. This was to be a creative activity where participants chose materials to create their map. A short reflective statement was to accompany the annonated map / artwork created. This proved to be a challenging assignment as the examples provided appeared to relate more to artwork rather than history but I took a deep breath and did the best that I could.

Although the presentation of the material was a challenge the exercise, from a history viewpoint, was worthwhile. I was seven and in grade 2 when we arrived at our new home in Edinburgh Street, so I based my assignment as an observation of the area as seen largely through the eyes of a child. As I thought about my chosen site I recalled many memories of my childhood and the process caused me to think about how the area had developed from market garden to suburbia. I named the assignment A Patchwork of Memories.
Patchwork of Memories
I chose to look at the a section of the suburb of East Bentleigh which my family moved to in May 1955, an area which several years earlier had been market gardens. This area, locally, also has the name of Coatesville after the name of the primary school established in August 1953. The school was originally South Oakleigh State School but was renamed Coatesville in 1955 after Councillor Leslie Robert Coates. The post office, lawn bowls club and tennis club also use the name Coatesville.

When doing research for this assignment I discovered, on the State Library website, a Collins Street Directory 1952 map of the area showing a blank space for the area where we were to live, go to school, attend church and shop.
Map of part of East Bentleigh 1952 - Collins Street Directory
I created a very basic map for the assignment showing the initial changes made to the area by 1955.

The area on both sides of Mackie Road had now begun to be developed with the addition of streets, a shopping centre, school and church.
Google Maps shows the area today as suburbia
My family moved from rental accommodation in an established area to a brand new house, purchased via a war service loan, built on a developing housing estate. As already mentioned, the area had originally been market gardens. An article in The Australasian in 1906 describes the market gardens in Moorabbin with crops grown  including potatoes, cabbages, carrots, turnips and cauliflowers. Artichokes were grown in the Coatesville area as at one stage as my parents and neighbours found artichokes in the garden for many years. When we moved to Edinburgh Street there were hardly any completed buildings in the street apart from our house, the house on the Mackie Road corner belonging to the family who had owned the local market gardens and a house on the Tambet Street corner.

Other houses were being built nearby and gradually the area changed from green furrowed paddocks with a few houses to streets of houses, made roads and lots of people, including children. The paddocks were places to explore, make cubby houses and daisy chains. The sound of building was prominent during the day but once the builders left, the new structures became play areas for children. We spent hours clambering over these wooden structures forming the intial frame of what were to become rows of brick veneer houses.

For a child the nearby school was an important place. Being only two streets from home it was a short walk to school and in my senior years at primary school I often went home for lunch. Initially Coatesville was the only state school in a rapidly expanding residential area and consequently the class sizes were large until new schools opened at South Oakleigh and Valkstone. When Valkstone State School opened two grade four classes from Coatesville were each day bussed to the new school for their lessons. My memories of primary school include learning to play skippy, hopscotch, swapcards, shelter sheds where we often played but also watched movie films with blackout curtains over the doors, lessons via radio piped into the classroom, school milk each day, ink wells, ink monitors and boys flicking ink soaked blotting paper across the room, rows of desks, blackboard monitors, marching into school to the beat of a drum after assembly, school marching team, inter school sports at Oakleigh, swimming lessons at Brighton baths, learning maypole dancing and the school fete each year. There was also a vacant paddock next to the school (it later became part of the school grounds) where we were not allowed to play but, of course, we did.

The church was where we went to Sunday School - hundreds of children attended each Sunday - attended the Girls Friendly Society (GFS) each week, played in our GFS basketball team, went on the annual Sunday School Picnic (often in a furniture van to places such as Ferntree Gully) and, of course, the Church fetes.

The shopping centre was also two streets away in the opposite direction to the school so I was allowed to go to the shops for Mum to purchase her copy of the Women's Weekly from the newsagent or to buy a bag of broken Nice biscuits from the Grocers. At the Milk Bar we were occasionally allowed to buy an icy pole or a small bag of mixed lollies which we chose from the display cabinet.

Being a new area creating a garden was an important activity and we watched the transformation of the area when lawns were planted, trees began to grow and there was colour from newly planted flowers. Planting a  liquid amber in the front garden proved to be an unwise decision but it did have pretty leaves in autumn.

I don't remember this but according to my mother Edinburgh Street was the first of the smaller streets to be a made road. I do, however, remember the bread and milk being delivered via a horse and cart. One of the boys in my class used to sometimes skip school to do the rounds with the man delivering the bread. For many years each Spring, when there was heavy rain, our section of Edinburgh Street used to flood. Children from all the houses would play in the water until a neighbour pointed out that it may not really be a healthy activity. New neighbours who had just planted their lawn were also not impressed.

In the 1950s there were two firework nights each year - Empire Day (later Commonwealth Day) on 21 May and Guy Fawkes Day on 5 November. These were the days when we could go to the shops and buy fire crackers. It was a community event with neighbours often coming together to let off rockets, fountains, catherine wheels set in holes in the fence, light bungers and wave sparklers in the air. One year we had a bonfire on the evening of the school fete.

Fetes were also community events with people working together to raise money for the school or church. I have memories of Mum making cakes all day for the fete and we would also make toffees and cocnut ice to be sold. Our next door  neighbour spent months sewing aprons and other items for the craft stall. There were always lots of stalls, food to eat and rides. As children, fetes were something to look forward to.

The move to East Bentleigh was a great adventure for a seven year old. This was a time of freedom, a time to explore and to make friends. It was also the building of a new community. 

For our assignment we had to try and capture the feelings of the area in our annotated map. I chose to use Popplet to create my map.
Annotated Map in Popplet -
Using the 1952 map and images I also created a Patchwork of Memories illustrating recollections of my childhood in this new environment. An annotated version of A Patchwork of Memories was also produced in Popplet.
Annotated A Patchwork of Memories in Popplet -
Although this assignment caused initial angst it proved to be a useful exercise in thinking about the importance of place in a family story.

Coatesville (place) - eMelbourne
Bentleigh East - Wikipedia

'Coatesville State School' in Vision and realisation: a centenary history of State education in Victoria. (1973) volume 3 page 492
Coatesville Primary School website
Coatesville Primary School - Know your schools website

'Market gardens at Moorabbin' - photo 1953 - Victorian Places
'Through the market gardens', Moorabbin in The Australasian 25 August 1906 - Trove

 Collins street directory 1952 - State Library of Victoria

Annotated map in Popplet
Annotated A Patchwork of Memories in Popplet


  1. What a wonderful idea for this theme Vicki

  2. Oh marks for your assignment. I had to drop out of this course which was very disappointing. You have done a beautiful job here with such rich memories.

  3. Thanks for your kind comments, Alex. I found this course challenging, not helped by being on holidays for two weeks where the Internet connection was unreliable (good holiday though) but it was well worth doing. Hopefully you will have another opportunity next year. Vicki