My earliest memory of Glebe, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, is of the house I lived in. This house had gaslight downstairs and kerosene lamps upstairs. We had an old fuel stove, no bathroom but a washhouse in the back yard. However, we did have a proper, flushing, loo, also in the backyard. There was no verandah, but we were the only house in the street with a balcony, so I thought we were posh.
The street where I lived no longer exists, because it was a tiny little street near Cowper St. The Council built flats on it which have now been pulled down for a new development. The people in that street were colourful and friendly, a bit like Coronation St where everyone spoke to and helped one another. Mrs Tibbs ran the corner shop in those early days, and we bought food with coupons, because the war was on. On Melbourne Cup day because they couldn’t afford to bet, they used to write the horses’ names down on pieces of paper, line them up at the top of the hill in the gutter and then flush them down with several buckets of water. The first paper to reach the bottom was the winner. Most probably the average bet was a penny, and the winner took all.
In those days we either walked or caught the Glebe Point tram which had two red dots on the front. Because of the war there were not many cars; because rubber and fuel were needed for the war effort, deliveries were made by horse and cart. We used to climb up on them for a ride.
The biggest changes came after the war when immigrants began to arrive and we gradually became a multicultural society. So instead of just hamburgers and fish and chips, we had Italian food to enjoy. And I remember men with hairy chests and gold chains. Other changes were the social change from Glebe being more working class when I was growing up, when women stayed at home and children went home for lunch, to more middle class today, with many university students. The big houses at the Point were then used as boarding houses and were often dilapidated. There were people buying at op shops and people shopping at David Jones – that mix of incomes. Today there are more people begging on Glebe Point Rd than formerly, which may be related to drug and alcohol abuse.
Another colourful character I remember was Mr Malthouse who used to hunt rabbits in the 1940s. In his cellar he had lots of rabbit skins hanging up. He would tan them and then sell them. He once gave me one, and my mother made my dolly a fur coat.
What I miss most is really the past and how life used to be here in Glebe. People were closer and seemed more family-oriented. And I miss my tap dancing classes as a child! The things I welcome are the new restaurants and the convenience of Glebe. It’s all here!