I am sitting outside a café sipping a cup of tea, watching people of different ages and nationalities walk past my table.
Cars, bicycles, vans and trams are noisily zipping up and down Brunswick Street.
The houses, shops, cafés, and the pub across the road are a mixture of old Fitzroy and new Fitzroy.
Wherever I look there is a memory of my childhood.
On my left is the cobbled blue stone laneway nearby in Kerr Street, where as children in the 1960’s we played cricket and explored the stable with its pungent odour of horse manure.
We climbed the garage wall using the bricks that jutted out as a ladder. From the roof we spotted a couple of other local kids below in the street and threw stones at them. They returned the favour and I was hit in the head by a stray stone.
On my right is Brunswick Street where the famous W class trams, painted green and cream, used to rattle up and down the tram tracks.
I loved those trams. So much so, that at night I would illegally climb on the stepping board side where I could not be seen by the conductor or the driver. I would crouch down holding onto the hand rail and ride the tram for a few stops. Then I’d jump off and walk away into the night, feeling on top of the world.
Even the café where I am sitting has traces of the butcher’s shop where I bought meat and exchanged friendly jibes with the butcher, Frank. A large man, in his fifties, with white hair and rolled up sleeves that revealed faded bluish tattoos on his forearms.
In the middle of the road I see a young Chris run over by a car, escaping with only minor injuries and shock. We were very resilient in those days. We had to be. It was a tough neighbourhood.
More images and experiences of growing up as a ’roy boy come flooding back as I sit here sipping my tea. I keep thinking of how much Fitzroy has changed over the decades.
It also occurs to me how much I have changed.
And yet, in spite of those changes, that young ‘roy boy is still part of who I am.
Just as the old Fitzroy is still visible beneath the new.
Footnote: Fitzroy is an inner suburb of Melbourne in Australia. It was originally called New Town in the 1840’s and was made a municipality on September 9th, 1858.
First published in StarLink – April 2007
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