Cover Story

Cover Story

Growing up in Templestowe


Recently I was reminiscing with friends on Facebook about growing up in Templestowe during the 60s, 70s and 80s. Everyone in the discussion had warm and fond memories of their ‘Tempy’ days.

The Yarra was often discussed, and it’s not surprising. It formed a big part of our youth, as we spent many long summer days swimming and just “hanging out” there. It was a natural playground.

We owned it and relished the freedom it provided to explore limits, exhaust the endless energy of teenagers, and forget our struggles. I remember a tall gum tree leaning over the brown flowing river, inviting us to climb it. After it surrendered to our breathtaking ascents, we would “pin” drop into the murky water below, holding our bodies as straight as we could, feet first. Two seconds of ecstasy before the shock of icy brown water assaulted our senses. We didn’t know what dangers lurked beneath the surface. Miraculously, no one was ever hurt.

Our favourite meeting place was Westerfolds before it was a public park. The ‘Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted’ sign beckoned us into Westerfolds when it used to be a farm. There were cows, horses and even camels. I remember being chased by a bull there once. I don’t remember running as fast, fear and adrenaline producing a gold medal hurdle over a barbed wire fence in one bound.

The bull, at least, was enforcing the prohibition on entry.

Our discussions also featured the freedoms we enjoyed as kids. We rode our bikes anywhere, walked long distances to and from school, visited each other’s houses at will, played cricket and footy in the streets, climbed trees, built cubby houses in the neighbouring paddocks, rode horses and minibikes and the more adventurous went yabbying and fishing in the Yarra and Ruffey Creek.

We “owned” the streets, the shops and the landscape until the street lights came on, and we knew we had to be home.

I remember the great raft race. It was an annual event where rafts would be launched at Fitzsimons Lane and float to Finns Reserve. Local businesses and clubs would each build a raft, and I remember as many as 50 racing down the Yarra. It was a time when the whole community would come together, lining the banks of the river to watch the race of a lifetime! We loved to hurl flour bombs at those on the water.

I loved Guy Fawkes nights. During the year, people would drag branches and garden offcuts to the nearby paddock, so the pile was metres high on the big night. Once lit, it seemed like the largest “bonnie” you would ever see, the heat so intense your skin melted if you got too close. Parents would gather around, flagons of wine in hand, chatting in the warmth of the fire until the wee hours, cursing us as fireworks would whizz and whoosh out of the fire in random directions. Again, I am amazed that no one was ever hurt.

On Saturday mornings, the ‘Tempy’ folk would run into each other at the local shopping strip, hastily stocking up for the weekend before the shops shut at 12.00 pm, only reopening on Monday morning. Dad would race up to buy a flagon of wine from Spiro, the local bottle shop owner. Whilst alcohol was a motivator, for Dad, the ritual was only complete after he’d had the opportunity to chat with others. Most people either knew or recognised each other’s faces. It was a tight-knit community.

I remember hotter and longer summers, the smell of rain on asphalt after a hot spell. I remember milk being delivered by horse and cart; empty glass bottles were swapped for full ones by a brave milkman in all seasons while we slept in the warmth of our beds. I remember the tops of the bottles freezing on cold days and the shiny foil tops being pierced by other locals — greedy magpies searching for the cream. I remember home-delivered Tip Top bread and Loy’s soft drinks.