On Brunswick Road, my grandparents’ house was nestled in between two fairly large houses which looked similar on the surface, but were like chalk and cheese behind the front fence.
On our right lived the Saunders, an Australian family – a father, mother, two sons, and a daughter. I hardly remember the two siblings who were much older than me, save for that Bruce was a champion rifle shooter, a skill that was quite alien to a migrant Eastern European Jewish family. But I was very close to Ricky, and was quite miffed when we moved away to East Brunswick. Here is a photo taken of us in my grandfather’s backyard on one of my visits back there.
The most vivid memory of their house though, is the smell – a mixture of the 14 dogs their father, a greyhound breeder, had at any one time and the ten year build-up of fat and other by-products of the lamb chops their mother cooked for dinner every night. I didn’t dislike it; in fact to this day, whenever I go somewhere where somebody’s been grilling chops, it takes me back to those days. It’s a smell I associate with Australian Anglo families.
On the other side lived the Marionellis, an Italian family – a father, mother, daughter, and son. I’m not sure what the father did for a living, but he kept a lot of chooks and grew a lot of vegetables in the backyard. And whenever you walked into their house, you were hit with an overwhelming smell of olive oil, fried peppers, and strong cheese.
I did knock around a bit with their son who was a few years older than me, but he always seemed a little rough around the edges and was probably going to end up being a hoodlum. However, he went away to Italy as a young teenager, ended up studying in Milan (or Rome or Naples, or something), and returned years later as a leading left wing intellectual – a professor of Political Science somewhere.
So, there, when I was between the ages of around 4 and 8, you could find us – Ricky Saunders, Johnny Marionelli, and Moshe Goldberg – a motley crew of seemingly mismatched kids, the sons of a first generation Scottish-Australian, an Italian-Australian immigrant, and a Jewish-Australian immigrant, running around Brunswick Road, chasing chickens in one yard, riding on the back of Bluey the greyhound in another yard, picking plums from my grandfather’s grafted fruit trees, and generally making nuisances of ourselves.
Later, as I said, we moved to East Brunswick, and with a shop on one side and a big factory on the other and an Espresso Bar with a Bocce court at the back, we no longer had neighbours, and had to walk down a hundred metres to find playmates. But here, on Brunswick Road, I got my first taste of “growing up in Carlton” and the multicultural melting pot it was.
When I went back to that house, it had hardly changed, at least not on the outside. The same wide cobble-stoned driveway, the little enclosed veranda, it was as though time had stood still. The only difference was the occupants – the Polish-Jewish immigrant family had been replaced by a lovely lesbian couple who were only too eager to hear stories about their house’s past.
For a little before-and-after, here is a photo of my mother with me and my sister some time in 1957. You can see the cobble-stone driveway and the red brickwork around the front porch. And then, next to it is a photo of me in front of the house in 2014. Same driveway, same red bricks, same little Moshe…..