Victorian Melbourne

Schnapps, emus and boots

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

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The Australian Mont de Piete

Some interesting ghostsigns can be found on a building at the corner of Swan Street and Byron Street, Richmond. There’s not much to see, at first glance – just a stock-standard two storey row of Victorian shops. These days the two shops on the corner are occupied by a patisserie and a Tattersalls, with a handy ATM in between them.

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The real and the fake in Abbotsford

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

Boots and all in Clifton Hill

Back in the early 90s, I worked as a teacher of English to people who had lost their jobs because of the restructuring of the economy. The idea was to retrain former workers from the TCF (textile, clothing and footwear) industries, who came from very diverse cultural backgrounds. Even then, manufacturing was in drastic decline. Back then, I didn’t have much idea how important footwear used to be in Melbourne’s economy. If you want the evidence of that history, suburbs like Clifton Hill are a good place to look. Continue reading

Footy, moustaches and electric girdles: it’s The Sportsman!

Reaching Smith Street, the boundary between Fitzroy and Collingwood, I noticed an intriguing ghostsign on the corner of Argyle Street. The words I could decipher from the faded lettering were: ‘The Sportsman – Sporting paper sold here – Advertisements received.’ There was a word or two I couldn’t be certain of, just below ‘The Sportsman’: I guessed that they might read ‘The Best’ but it’s a shot in the dark. (A sporting chance.) Of the faded purple sign to the right of The Sportsman, it is hard to make out anything at all. Until recently there was something over the top, indicated by the remnants of a metal frame. But the only legible sign on this wall belongs to a paper I’d never heard of – The Sportsman. Continue reading