A community in the balance

First impressions - 1986 - summer

It had been left for over two years, neglected and overgrown. We had to cut our way through the wild roses growing across the verandah. The verandah, a wide, cool oasis. The front garden, all tangled yellow grass and one huge 'original' elm.

We had moved from a shared Tocumwal in Ainslie - now our 'own' - knobs, windows, taps - all the things we use, touch in a house, all seemed familiar, but slightly shifted (go into any Tocumwal and you know its character and its features).

Inside - dark, smoke-blackened, sad - even the old rocker still seemed to be rocking. The back bedroom - so dark - must have run out of windows that day.

'Original' kitchen - stove, cupboards, shelves. Old orange paint, fluoro light. Even the painted red linoleum in laundry/bathroom was original 1940s red-lead.

And a water copper - our first disaster - when a visitor unknowingly threw her clothes in and flicked the switch - no water. A robust fire and call to the brigade - brought out all the neighbours that day - got to meet them all.

The close neighbours were quick to check us out - a government house in the middle of 'owners' -and with a number of children and an old Kingswood.

And now the house is beginning to 'soften'. Front verandah has just been revealed. A lot of work needed to save its structure. It's wrongly aspected - more than half of the house doesn't see sunlight - sky lights, big windows, solar passive extension. Important not to lose the rambling 'Queenslander' finish to the front and to some of the high quality crafted timber finish to the doors and cupboards.

We still use the old Canberra stove - just lighting it, using the original tools, and as it glows and hums, the house is warmed. It keeps us connected to the past as we speed towards 2000.

Bonding

When we moved in there was more government housing with larger families. At one stage about 11 children who played together in ever-growing groups and who moved, in and out like the tide between houses. Friendships grew - and tensions too - out of this - the large family.

At No. 8 - our babies born almost at the same time (hers' almost on our verandah). Strengthened the tie. Rosalina is our boys' godmother. We would rock, walk and on a couple of urgent occasions, feed each others' babies.

It was a great personal loss to see Rosalina and her family go. Then later the house cut up like a huge beast and tossed out in the early morning - dual occupancy makes its move in.

Streetscape has led to:

children's games

combined garage sales

parties with the women's band ex No. 11 Way

balloon watching

some sharing of things owned in common, like lawnmowers

friendship/neighbourliness

being aware/involved in significant 'life moments' of those around - births (at home), birthdays, death

Into the nineties

About this time the streetscape starts to change from a quiet country back lane to high density. More traffic - speed. Hedges and old world gardens (even a habitat tree) come down. Some barriers go up.

More private ownership - dual occupancy - childless professional couples - high turnover of student houses - busy lifestyles - little time or interest in 'the street' - more locking up - more franchised services - less sharing and involvement in the street - a community in the balance.

Liz, Way Street, 1986-1997 (contributed 1996)

 

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