Breamlea, Victoria

Breamlea, Victoria

Saturday, 16 April 2016

57 Fyans Street, Chilwell - our family's heritage

After a hundred years on this planet, my mother’s childhood home is being moved to a new location. So I thought I would put down a few of my memories that were created there, at 57 Fyans Street, Chilwell, (now Newtown in Geelong). My Grampa bought the property from his brother and lived there from the 1940s until he died in 1978.

57 Fyans Street Chilwell
In the Lounge room was an old brick fireplace with a gas heater put in.  The ceilings were incredibly tall and the walls had a high picture rail, from which hung heavy etched mirrors on chains.

Grampa had painted the doors and walls of the house many times over. He was at one stage a painter by trade. However due to his dislike of removing paint, he always simply added the new layer without taking off the old.  Consequently, the lounge room door and door jambs were so thick with glossy layers of lead paint, that you could easily press a fingernail into it and leave a quarter inch deep fingernail imprint.  The doors simply could not close properly because of the paint thickness. However, you could achieve a complete vacuum seal of the room if you wished. You simply jammed the two paint layers together, and the door would stick fast. In fact, separating the door from the door jamb was a problem for me as a child, as I wasn’t strong enough to break the paint vacuum seal. It was stronger than Tupperware. Stronger than Superglue.  When you finally broke the seal, the paint made the loudest squeaky sucking noise in protest. If you were so unfortunate as to have to break the seal and go out of the Lounge room, the blast of artic air rushing down the hallway was enough to rocket you to wherever you were going. In a hurry.

Grampa also applied his "never mind the old stuff" theory to carpet.  Many layers of carpet were installed over top of each other. There were family rumours that Grampa had planted cash between the layers, and also behind the fireplace. After he died, there were searches conducted.

In the corner of the Lounge room beside the sticky door was the black and white tv set, and in front of Grampa’s chair was the pouffe ball that my Mum had bought him as a footrest.  It was made of gray vinyl with a burgundy top, on which was printed in white names of popular tv shows of the time, such as Bonanza, Gunsmoke and 77 Sunset Strip. The pouffe ball was always referred to as “the poof” and I always wondered why the grownups snickered whenever it was mentioned.

One memorable evening in the late 1960’s, with my brothers and me in our pyjamas and dressing gowns, we were sat in front of the old black and white with a small bag of Twisties each, the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. I sat on the pouffe ball. We watched Johnny Farnham singing live “Sadie the Cleaning Lady”.  We also watched John Williamson sing “Old Man Emu”.  It was cutting edge stuff and according to the host, who may have been Bert Newton, just so indicative of how Australian performers could be as good as their counterparts from overseas. This was revelatory, apparently. However, my childish self couldn’t see why we shouldn’t be as good as overseas entertainers. At that point we were still suffering from the cultural cringe. Convict hangover I suppose. Paul Hogan hadn’t come along yet to teach us that Aussies were okay just as they were. And Twisties don’t taste as good now as they did then either. Times move on.

I have lots more memories of 57 Fyans Street Chilwell.  My Mum can tell you about the ghostly hand that appeared and crossed that very same Lounge Room in front of many witnesses.  I lived in that house several times during my lifetime.  I will never think of that place without remembering my dear wonderful Grampa.

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