Something I notice again and again as I walk the suburban streets is old advertising for long-gone doctors, medical services and medicines. Whether it’s a Victorian ghostsign on Gertrude Street offering vaccination and tooth pulling, another in the city for ‘the celebrated specialist Dr King’ (who turned out to be a clairvoyant) or faded messages declaring the benefits of products like Otis Tonic Tablets, the suburbs are rich in evidence of the medicinal options of former Melburnians. Continue reading
A walk down a commercial street, as opposed to an industrial or residential area, reveals a lot about how suburbanites choose to spend their free time. In suburbs that have preserved their older buildings, you also get a glimpse into the recreations and retail habits of the past. Richmond is a case in point – its major shopping arteries contain substantial Victorian and Edwardian street frontages, and if you raise your eyes from street level you see evidence of what people used to do when not at work. Continue reading
Richmond is a place where traditionally life was tough. Janet McCalman’s history of the suburb is aptly titled Struggletown. But in spite of the adversity, people find a way to make it through. Continue reading
Something that strikes me often about the Melbourne suburbs is their quietness. Walk through most suburbs on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and you won’t hear much at all, except traffic (on the busier roads), the occasional lawn mower or leaf blower, perhaps the remote sound of a TV, or the bark of a dog behind a gate. More than once I’ve asked myself: where is everybody? I encounter few other walkers as I make my way around, and occasionally feel oddly conspicuous as a solo pedestrian. Sometimes parks are busy, and certain shopping/cafe strips, but many places seem eerily deserted.
The suburbs are not totally silent, though. On the wall of the Collingwood Neighbourhood House in Perry Street I came across evidence of an intriguing psychogeography project: a list of sounds heard by Lauren Brown, ‘listener in residence’. Continue reading
Picking up my walk from Sydney Road, Brunswick, I headed east along Blyth Street as far as Nicholson Street. Turning south, at number 136A I came across a small brick building with the words ‘Dairy & Milk Bar’ in art deco lettering, moulded out of concrete. That tells us that the building is most likely late 1930s. Continue reading