My name is Leo Wilson. I grew up in Glenroy with my parents and their 9 children. I was 6 weeks old when we moved from Preston in 1950. We lived in Langton Street. There were only 3 houses in the street, no footpaths and no roads. It was the start of the housing boom for Glenroy and Broadmeadows.
I remember starting school in 1956 at Corpus Christi. They had a large number of students in each class approximately 80 children were in my year. Sometimes the classes were held in corridors as space was a big problem for the new school.
They were hard times for most families. Clothes were usually handed down from family members or relatives. Mum would often knit our school jumpers. We had one pair of shoes or boots. Dad had a bootlast and would spend Sunday afternoons repairing boots and shoes for school or work that week.
On school holidays we entertained ourselves by making kites, plaster moulds, papier maches, making wooden guns or bows and arrows or playing marbles. Our most exciting fun was making billy carts in Dad’s shed. Several friends would bring bits of wood, wheels etc. When they were painted the ropes for steering were placed on the front. We raced them down where Moonee Boulevard is today also where the Western Ring Road now runs down to the Moonee Ponds Creek. Several crashes and running into the scotch thistles didn’t deter us from coming back the next day for more fun.
Another memory I have were Queen’s birthday and Guy Fawkes bonfire nights. We collected old bits of wood, tree branches, old tires, furniture, anything that would burn. Bonfires were lit throughout the suburbs. It was a good opportunity for the neighbours to get together. Crackers, sky rockets, sparklers etc. There were no restrictions in those days.
I remember coming home from school and seeing sheep driven by drovers down Pascoe Vale Road. That was about 1960. Also milk carts in the morning, the night man collecting the pans, the gutter sweepers sweeping the gutters with a large broom occasionally stopping to have a cigarette. That was Pascoe Vale Road shopping area.
Saturday afternoons we would go to the local picture theatre. We called it the flea house. It was on the corner of Cromwell and Murrell streets. Boys would swap comics or roll jaffas down from the back. Lining up one afternoon to buy our tickets a boy appeared without a shirt on. The lady proprietor spotted him, ran over to him and started punching him in the back. She told him never to come without a shirt on again. She would be sued nowadays.
I remember the old police station and jail on the corner of Pascoe Vale Road and Anselm Grove.
Each year the school had its annual ball at the Coburg Town Hall, school sports at Sewell Reserve and playing in the school football team. The nuns at school were strict but also very kind. We respected them. We knew if we stepped out of line the strap would come out from under their garments. To raise money the school had annual fetes, Easter raffles and Christmas hampers. Each child was given a book of tickets to sell. We would go from house to house selling tickets after school.
When I was about 8 years old I was coming home from school and I got talking to a few boys from the State school. One of them said you’re from the Catholic school aren’t you. He then punched me in the stomach, winding me. I couldn’t breathe. I then realised that I had to look after myself or in most cases run faster than them.
We didn’t have much money in those times. I look back and think we learnt to make our own fun. We had many friends in the same situation but we survived and appreciated the sacrifices our parents made to give us an education and happy childhood.