Sunday, January 23, 2011


Saturday morning I decided to go to my track training session early and take a ride on my road bike. The indoor velodrome is in the municipality of Darebin. I grew up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne in Preston. It now comes under the district of Darebin. (pronounced Darrabin)
Recently it was commented by one of our fellow bloggers that we seem to have a lot of our suburbs named after English towns. That's true and both Preston and Northcote are such suburbs. Friends in the Loire have connections in the UK and Michael showed me his book on Preston, (G'day Mikee)

From the Darebin historical website
The social history of Darebin begins with the Wurundjeri people - the traditional owners of all the lands and waterways in Darebin. The Wurundjeri are part of the Kulin Nation & one of the 8 clans that form the Woiwurrung language group.
1839/40 � Government land sales in Northcote area. Early purchasers included William Rucker, (Ruucker's Hill) Thomas Wills, Job Smith, Michael Pender (Penders Grove and Penders Grove Primary School) and other speculators.

At 7.15 Saturday morning I took the road bike out of the car and started riding towards High Street, Northcote.
I had in mind to see how much High Street had changed since my teenage days. I remember times of going to the matinee sessions at the local theatres. From memory I can count maybe five in the 7 kilometre stretch along High Street from Westgarth to Reservoir.
There was the Westgarth Theatre that still operates to this day. At the top of the hill (Rucker's Hill) going north was the Northcote Theatre and although the grand building still exists, it  is now a reception centre as is the next one in Thornbury.
The Northcote Theatre, THEN.....

Today - yesterday really.............
 As I rode towards Preston, I was searching for the theatre that I went to often. In my teenage years it became a dance hall. It seems to have been demolished as I could not locate it. High Street then rises again towards the suburb of Reservoir where the last movie house used to be. As kids, we often went here when we moved from Preston to Reservoir. It was fun to roll our Jaffas down the aisles.
The Westgarth still going strong almost a century later.
A closer view. The Westgarth has take on a bit of a cult Culture these days and does the occasional specific festival - I can't explain how many times the Blues Brother have played here.
A Woody Allen festival would be an annual happening.
It's strange to revisit your roots. You get a feeling of both a certain belonging yet not belonging as you've moved on. Still the memories are still there.

Further up the road in Thornbury was this grand Movie house now a reception house,
restaurant and cafes below.
Some further facts about Northcote:
In my primary school years I met kids of my own age from many different nationalities. Not far from home was a migrant hostel and the children went to my school in Preston.
Many were from Italy, Greece and the UK. Several of the Italian kids joined our cycling club when we were teenagers. Some are still my friends today.

From the Northcote Historical Society website.
Today Darebin’s Italians have a range of organisations such as clubs, senior citizen clubs, Churches, cultural, sporting, social and welfare groups. It is common to hear Italian spoken in the street and the language is taught in many local schools. There are numerous Italian shops and businesses all through Darebin. The children of the ‘50s and’60s immigrants now walk many paths in life from trammies to pasta manufactures to doctors, concrete magnates, lawyers, accountants, teachers, politicians and artists.

After Primary School I went to study fine art at the Preston Technical School - One of the Prefects was Ralph Nicholls, an Aboriginal boy and son of Pastor Doug Nicholls. Australian Rules Football drew his father, Doug Nicholls to the local area from the Murray River region, then to religion and he became an advocate of black/white relations. His achievements would require a post of its own and still not do him justice. He is still looked upon as a son of Northcote.

It’s here where Doug’s association with Northcote began. In his first game for Northcote against Brunswick 9000 people turned up to see an aboriginal play footy. He had the spring of a kangaroo, the speed of an emu and the battling strength of a murray cod. In no time the crowd was on its feet. Doug played exciting high marking ‘marn grook’ style footy and everyone forgot that he was black. Doug always played the game and not the man, his opponents were his friends. In 1929 Northcote won its 1st premiership with Dougie the star recruit.

It was a great little ride through memories of my childhood. I'd really like to take Sue back to show her the environment I grew up within. Could I go back to live. No, I like where we are now.
But those memories still linger.


  1. Great to see the building have not been demolished as so often happens. They are beautiful and worthy of restoration of some kind.
    Australian football - I will never get to understand it!!! Diane

  2. Diane, that's 2 of us - I live here and don't understand Aussie Rules.
    Well, I do really but I pretend that I don't to upset those that do.
    A bike is much more enjoyable than a footy.
    Our Tour Down Under finished on Sunday with Lance Armstrong officially retireing.


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