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Growing up on the Lauriston Park Estate, Sydney.

Reminiscences by Allen Windross


I was born in December 1938. My parents lived with my maternal grandfather, Thomas Allen, in a home called 'Kelso', later number 33, on Lord's Road, in the Lauriston Park Estate adjoining and usually primarily considered a part of the suburb of Mascot. My mother Isminea (Minnie) Windross nee Allen was the youngest, born 1905, in her family and when her father encountered difficulties in caring for himself after she left home on marriage her siblings asked that she move back. My grandmother, Maria Allen nee Manley, had died of a heart problem in 1929. I lived for more than 24 years at Kelso. I understand my grandfather, a tinsmith, purchased Kelso as a new house in 1912. Previously the family had lived in Smith Street Waterloo.

Entering the estate
During my early childhood there were three obvious entrances to Lauriston Park, two from Mascot - Lord's Road and O'Riordan Street (previously Old Botany Road) and the third from Brighton Le Sands over the original Cooks River Traffic Bridge. Lord's Road commenced at Botany Road, Mascot just to the south of Hollingshed Street. The first 150 metres still exists as a thoroughfare as it leaves Botany Road and crosses the Botany-Sydenham Railway Goods line. The road continued in a more or less south westerly direction. In the 1940s the southern or left side of the road was the high, four metres or so, timber perimeter fence of Ascot Racecourse interspersed with the brick walls of its grandstands. Immediately after the rail line though was the cottage of the racecourse curator (or caretaker) - 'The Lodge'. This dark brick cottage still exists. Standing at the airport perimeter fence of today it is also possible to see sections of the old Lord's Road. The pedestrian pavement was bitumen and hugged the racecourse boundary. Concrete segments formed the transport road. The right hand side of Lord's Road had tramlines, then a low fence and open land infested with every available form of weed. Although the land was sandy any rain would see the formation of small lakes and the sound of frogs. After about a kilometre the road made a right turn over an artificial hill created by a sewer pipeline. (This I now know was the Southern Outfall Sewer. It was by my time redundant and had terminated with the diversion to Malabar just before this point). The peak of the sewer line hill was probably six or seven metres over the surrounding land. By the early 1940s the airport already occupied all the land on the left or south side of the road after the hill. On the right was Government Road that terminated against the Lord's Road sewer overpass. Against the slope was a small children's playground: Middlemiss Park with swings, a roundabout and a slippery dip. Then came Melrose Street and the first buildings of Lauriston Park. A house, the Adastra Airways office, three more houses then Roslyn Street with Kelso on the western corner. Two more houses then a large open paddock then Wimble's Ink factory. At this point the airport perimeter fence turned north and Lord's Road terminated. My mother told me the road had earlier continued on past a dairy owned by Bill Taylor and some 'Chinamen's gardens'. Opposite Kelso and to the west had been the NSW Gun Club lands used for live pigeon shooting. At the point where the Lord's Road made its right turn over the redundant sewer line the concrete road traffic pavement continued ahead. This was Ascot Avenue. The timber perimeter fence of Ascot Racecourse continued on the left side but there were houses on the right. A number of these houses had tall timber towers on their land. These towers were used by radio stations to broadcast descriptions of races in progress on the racecourse. Just before Cooks River was the control building for the raising and lowering of the traffic bridge opened in 1927. On the right was Puck's Wharf. This timber construction was presumably named for a member of the Puckeridge family, well known as fisher folk in the area. Along the river bank adjacent to Puck's Wharf and towards the redundant sewer were a number of corrugated iron and board shacks. At one point after the Second World War people lived in these shacks that were originally constructed to facilitate fishing in the river and nearby bay. Across the bridge the road became General Holmes Drive and led off to Brighton Le Sands through sand hills that included midden heaps of shells.

The O'Riordan Street entrance came through the underpass for the Botany-Sydenham Railway Goods line. Immediately after the underpass, which is still in place, came Ross Smith Avenue at right angles. To the far left or east was Government Road, then Melrose Street. To the right and thus west was Roslyn Street and then a few buildings in front of the airport. With houses on both sides of the road Melrose and Roslyn Streets were the ones of the estate with the most human activity. The O'Riordan Street access was the one most favoured by those who were intent on visiting the Mascot shopping centre on Botany Road. In the 1950s the government renamed the local streets. Government Road became Eleventh Street, Melrose/Tenth, Roslyn/Ninth and Lords Road/Vickers Avenue.

Kelso and grounds
The house was on the western side of the intersection of Roslyn Street with Lord's Road. The house fronted the latter. The front boundary was marked by a five foot six inches high picket fence. Immediately behind the fence was a well-maintained privet hedge at the same height and about 18 inches wide. Then came a pathway, a garden of hydrangeas and the house. A fence gate was at the centre. The house was double-fronted with the entrance door set back in the centre off a covered wooden verandah. The door was of wood with coloured glass inserts. A heavy brass ornamental knob was set in the middle of the door. The house name was set in a glass-covered panel to the upper right side of the door. Looking from the road the left side of the house held the master bedroom. This room was more than large enough to hold a double bed, triple sectioned wardrobe, dressing table, lowboy, chest of drawers, chairs and other small furniture. Twin windows faced Lord's Road. Behind the master bedroom was a second bedroom large enough to contain a double and a single bed, double-sectioned wardrobe, dressing table, chairs and other small furniture. A large window looked towards the side passage and the house on the western side. The right side of the house had a lounge room with twin windows looking onto the front verandah. This room contained a fireplace, piano, a number of lounges, a large radio and other small furniture. Behind the lounge room was the dining room. Another large room it comprised a fireplace that was the twin chimney of the lounge room, dining table, sideboard, phonogram (record player), small furniture items and a coin operated gas meter. Twin windows looked across the side passage onto Roslyn Street. A wide hall running from the front entrance separated these four rooms. The hall was furnished with pot stands and a hallstand. At the front, back and midpoint the hall had fanlights. Originally at the end of the hall was the back entrance that also opened onto a covered rear verandah that ran across the back of the dining room and down on the left side of the door. Thus behind the second bedroom with an entrance from the rear verandah was the kitchen. This was another large room with a fuel stove, electric stove (earlier gas), sink, two sideboards, dining table, other small furniture and later a refrigerator. A large window looked across the passage towards the next house. Behind the kitchen with its own entrance off the rear verandah was the laundry that had also comprised the original bathroom. This room had a copper and fireplace that was the twin chimney of the kitchen fuel stove. There were twin laundry tubs, a washstand and previously presumably a bath. There was a small window above the tubs. The room also stored paints and tools including my grandfather's trade implements. After the sewerage system became available the rear verandah was fully enclosed and a bathroom was installed on a part of the section behind the dining room. The bathroom included a bath and shower, toilet and washbasin. The original rear entrance door with its coloured glass panel inserts was moved to become the new bathroom door. In the rear garden were fig, lemon, loquat and peach trees. There was also space for a long clothes line supported by 'clothes props', a poultry coup, vegetable plots, woodpile with chopping block and various flowering shrubs. The poultry coup usually held a rooster and about eight to ten hens. At one point there were also white ducks and some bantams. The lawn under the trees and between the gardens was buffalo grass. The side fence was the standard six-foot paling variety. The footpath grass front and side was couch grass. Cutting the grass areas inside and out with a small push mower was a significant task. In 1948 one of the lemon trees was removed to facilitate the construction of a garage with a driveway from Roslyn Street. Kelso was apparently a 'Hudson Ready-Built'. It was timber framed on brick piers about one metre high. The exterior cladding was weatherboard and the roof corrugated iron. Interior lining was also long narrow board. The timber floors were variously: stained or covered by carpet squares and linoleum. My recollections are of electric light but I recall that some of the gas light fittings remained in place. The electric stove was installed in 1938 to replace a gas model. The bath heater was gas. An ice chest food store with meat safe above was replaced circa 1948 with an electric refrigerator.

The immediate neighbours
The house on the western side of Kelso had a number of different owners and occupiers. One early occupier was my grandfather's elder sister Elizabeth, her husband Robert Purvis and their family. The house was smaller than Kelso and on a narrower block. Over Roslyn Street on the other corner lived a family named West. There were other parts of this extended family living in Lauriston Park. Other extended families were also prominent in the community. For example Cummings, Rootsey and Steel. Behind Kelso, facing Roslyn Street was 'Heroic' owned by the McGrath family. There were three sons: Edward, Frank (?) and George. The eldest two both played rugby league with the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Edward made it to first grade. George was somewhat retarded having, as a young lad, been kicked on the head by a horse within the vacant paddock at the rear of Heroic. Across Lord's Road were the entrance gates to a major airport facility. The buildings were first used for aircraft construction (Beauforts?) during the Second World War. Later they became the maintenance area for Trans Australia Airlines. The immediate area was active in working hours, Monday to Friday, but became very quiet at nights and over weekends except as described below by the engine testing activities of Qantas Empire Airways and its associates like BOAC.

Facilities on the estate
There were four shops: two in Melrose Street, one on each side, one in Roslyn Street, on the eastern side and one in Ross Smith Avenue midway between Roslyn and Melrose Streets. There was another on Ascot Avenue. On the west side of Roslyn Street was the community hall. Nearby was an electrical substation. There were no churches, schools or liquor outlets although there was at least one 'sly grog'. Due, probably, to the proximity of Ascot Racecourse a number of the community worked within the horse racing industry. Racing ceased at the course in August 1942 but training activity continued until the airport took the area in 1947. Ascot racecourse had conducted its first meeting in 1906. A well-known jockey Harry McDonagh lived opposite the McGrath family in Roslyn Street. He may have been a role model for one of our gang of children, Chris Gwilliam, who became apprenticed to a Mascot horse trainer, Jack Ireland. Chris was highly successful and was Dux of the Australian Jockey Club apprentice's school in the 1960s.The only other local work, apart from the airport, was at the Wimble's Ink Co. or the marble cutting works. The latter was on Ross Smith Avenue. Motorcars were not prevalent amongst the community until the late 1950s. Most people walked to go to the Mascot shopping centre. The Dolls Point to the City government bus 302/303 ran along Ascot Avenue and the adjoining Lords Road segment. A bus stop with a large wooden shelter was at the intersection of Lords Road and Ascot Avenue. Lords Road also had a tramline from Botany Road that terminated just before the road turned over the sewer line. The expansion of the airport saw a private bus service commence early in the 1950s. This service started in the airport along Ross Smith Avenue, looped along Roslyn, Lords and Melrose, under the rail line onto O'Riordan Street and right into King Street terminating at Botany Road. Later there was a government bus service to the city that followed a similar route except that it stayed on O'Riordan Street.

The people
I would be surprised to learn that any person in the community was rich. The men mostly followed blue-collar work such as trades and labouring. During and after the Second World War some of the married women took full or part time work particularly around the airport. I cannot recall any non-Anglo Celtic family except Indian Joe the fruiterer who had a market garden off Sarah (?) Street on the other side of the railway line and Joe was married to an Anglo Celtic. The age mix was wide and I had plenty of children around as playmates. Children's parties were frequent to mark birthdays. Nighttime adult gatherings were, however, rather rare. In my own family my father had qualified as a master painter and sign writer and worked at this until he was called for war service. He was placed in a transport company but encountered a heart problem while in training in Queensland and was discharged. An elder brother of his had started a company supplying canvas tents to the army and my father took on the position of factory foreman. Around 1950 he grew tired of the daily travel to the factory and applied for and won the position of head painter on the staff of Botany Municipal Council. He held that position until retirement in 1972. My mother ceased work at marriage. Previously she had been employed as a clicker (leather cutter) at a shoe factory on Botany Road Mascot. I was born nine months after my parent's marriage and apparently there were major complications with the process. Subsequently my mother had a number of miscarriages and stillbirths thus there were no surviving siblings for me. This was a situation of considerable concern for my parents and I am aware they considered adoption to augment the family. Any particular excitement in the community usually came from itinerant sales people. There were of course the regular bread-man; fruiterer and iceman but from time to time came the call of 'clothes-props', 'fisho' or 'rabbitoh'. The matriarchs went into the street to inspect the goods and if acceptable they were purchased. There was always a local starting price (SP) bookmaker. If you wanted a bet on the upcoming race in Sydney or Melbourne on a Saturday afternoon you waited for the 'runner' who came past on a bicycle before race start time. Bets were recorded on paper slips. At the SP house these slips were pinned on the inside of a roller blind in the kitchen. If the gaming police made a raid the blind was raised so the bets disappeared from sight.

What we ate
There was but one form of takeaway meal into our house and that was rare in any case. The takeaway was fish and chips with a few potato scallops thrown in on Friday nights. My first experience of a restaurant came when I was about 12 years old. I think my first taste of Chinese fried rice came when I was in my late teens. Lunch in school holiday time was sometimes taken in a city cafeteria, usually the King Street place run by Coles Stores. Thus almost every meal was prepared in the home. Breakfast was typically hot porridge or cereal with milk depending on the season and finished with a spread on some toast. Lunch was almost always sandwiches. The filling was often a homemade brawn or curried egg. Sunday lunch was the exception when a roast meat and vegetable combination was served. The meat was either a lamb leg or a beef topside piece. There were two exceptions: Christmas and Easter when it was roast chicken often the product of the home poultry run. My father had the task of the killing, plucking and cleaning. The evening meal Monday to Thursday was almost always meat and two vegetables followed by a baked desert. The meats varied between lamb short loin chops, Irish stew, Shepard's pie, steak and kidney as well as offal cuts like lamb's fry, brains and tripe. The primary accompaniments were boiled potato and either peas or beans. Sausages were almost never purchased although sausage mince went into various dishes. There were no meats served on Fridays. Often on a Saturday night my father would take over the cooking and almost invariably he served Welsh rarebit. Christmas day always saw an extended family gathering at Kelso. My father would prepare temporary extensions to the dining table as 16 or so were in attendance. The meal was served hot with a selection of roast meat and many vegetables. A few beers were consumed but I doubt anyone went anywhere near any driving limit. The desert was always plum pudding with hot custard. Within the pudding my mother inserted some silver coins: sixpence and threepence. My cousins and I were usually eager to have a second slice of the pudding. The evening meal was taken as the sun set, it was often leg ham and salad.

Pre-school memories
All my brief recollections concern the Second World War: my father receiving his call-up notice, his return from service, the air raid sirens and searchlights, and the bomb shelter constructed in the back garden.

Primary school
Seven weeks after my fifth birthday I was sent to St Bernard's Catholic School on Botany Road to start the Kindergarten year. The facility had a large convent, presbytery, church and school. The teachers were the nuns of the Sacred Heart Order. All of the facility has now gone and is replaced by the ramp off Southern Cross Drive towards the airport. To locate it on old maps it stood on the southeast side of the Botany-Sydenham Railway Goods Line immediately before the Engine Pond dams. There were no regular organised school sports although we sometimes had a rugby league game against another Catholic school. These matches were played at Booralee Park Botany. If it looked like rain the nuns would cancel the game. I recall the older boys grabbing those of us who were younger and forcing us to go into the church at the mid-morning school recess so as to pray it would not rain. Even then I wondered about the efficacy of these prayers. There was also an annual sports carnival. My running performances ensured I was always picked as a forward for the football. A few other children from Lauriston Park went with me to St. Bernard's but most attended Mascot Public in King Street. My single brightest memory is of the end of the Second World War. The neighbourhood set up a march that went around and around the Lauriston Park streets. I was very disappointed that my mother did not let me join in the noisy event. With the war's end came the need to fill in the back garden air raid shelter. Neighbours came along with items of old wooden and metal furniture. Over time these items collapsed down so there was always a hollow in the lawn at that point. These years were times of fun and little concern. Summer school holidays there was often the opportunity to have a swim in the Cooks River adjacent to Puck's Wharf or even to do some 'prawning' in the river at dusk. Then there was the later excitement of Empire (Cracker) Night in May and the bonfires and fireworks. Saturday afternoons were spent at the matinee run by the Ascot picture theatre on Botany Road. All the while the airport grew busier and bigger. Often on Sundays we local children would trespass to see what 'goodies' we might get from the aircraft. I still have a Pan-Am time/city cardboard wheel given to me by a ground engineer. Road traffic on the estate streets was light especially on weekends. The bitumen road centre was an ideal base for cricket, rounders and hopscotch. There was also the excitement that came with a major airport expansion from 1947. The houses on Ascot Avenue were demolished, as was the old sewer pipeline to their rear. The brick and mortar structure was broken up by explosive charges. The noise was impressive. After the workmen departed I spent hours gathering the broken pieces of copper cable they had used to ignite the charges. Although the sewer had not been used for many years there was none the less a distinctive odour in the air. My father sold the copper cable for me to a scrap metal merchant. That Easter Show I set the record for the most show bags purchased amongst my peers. There was also the excitement of watching the huge amount of earth movement as the course of Cooks River was changed so as to allow the construction of the east west runway. Another unusual source of entertainment were the frequent electricity outages or 'blackouts'. Sydney's single coal fired generating station at Bunnerong on Botany Bay could not cope with the increasing loads and the not infrequent industrial stoppages. Usually without warning power would suddenly be turned off. Candles and kerosene lamps were constantly on hand in the house. I recall a female neighbour saying to my mother 'cook your Sunday roast on Saturday afternoon love, the buggers never turn it off while the races are on.' The advice was taken and whatever the cause of the exception the idea proved very sound. On Sundays we walked to St Bernard's to attend church, usually the 7am mass. The trip home was always slow as my parents engaged in conversation with friends. Sometimes my father would point out the presence of some of the star players for the Rabbitohs. My father had played both league and union for his hometown of Toronto on Lake Macquarie and continued his interest in the rugby codes. In a wardrobe at Kelso was a football jumper in the maroon and blue bars of the Lauriston Park team. I assume this was given to my father by one of the McGrath boys. In the winter we would often take the 303 bus to Kensington Oval to watch Mascot CYO (catholic youth organization) play in their league competition. Sometimes they played on Le'Strange Park on King Street Mascot. Their colours were all white. After year 5 at St. Bernard's I was sent to Marist Brother's Randwick now Marcellin College to complete the final year of primary education prior to entering its high school.

Secondary school
In my second year, 1953, of high school I was playing with a school football (rugby league) team on Queens Park Waverley. In the forwards I was taking the ball up when I was hit with a tackle that hurt down my right leg. After I was taken off the field the pain gradually went. Two weeks later it returned when I jumped off a bus on the way to school. In pain and walking with difficulty airport workmen helped me home. In a few days I was off to Prince Henry Hospital at Little Bay. My hip was dislocated. Pulling it back into place proved impossible and eventually there was an operation to pin the joint back together. I was at Prince Henry for 4.5 months then there were many more months of getting about on crutches back at Lauriston Park. I was enrolled at the NSW Correspondence School but made only minimal progress. Chemistry and Physics in the classroom were difficult enough but impossible by letter. An associated distraction was the decision of Qantas to test its Constellation aircraft engines in temporary facilities near to Lords Road. The noise was incredible and a test would run for many hours. Locals speculated it was all part of the plan to get the residents to move out. Another problem was, unrelated to the airport, the smell generated by the boiling down factory of Gearin O'Riordan on O'Riordan Street situated, probably deliberately, over the top of the Southern Outfall Sewer at the point where it crosses under the road between Coward and King Streets. On hot weather days with wind coming from the north the stench was terrible. In 1954 the Prince Henry surgeons decided I could discard my crutches and it was suggested I return to school. Now 15 I objected to joining a younger age class and proposed that I start work and attend 'night school'. This was accepted with reluctance by my parents who had assumed I would go on to Leaving Certificate level.

Working in Lauriston Park

Within days of this decision Adastra Aerial Surveys advertised for a junior male to join its Photographic Laboratory. The Adastra office was at 41 Vickers Avenue, i.e., four doors from home. I won the position and stayed with them until 1965 by which time I was Assistant Photographic Manager. Thus I was in the unique position to see both sides of the significant changes the airport was bringing to Lauriston Park. As the airport expanded so did the associated infrastructure and the number of workers. The construction of an international terminal where the main Qantas domestic facility now stands meant that Adastra lost its original hangar. A replacement was provided on Eleventh Street. This hangar is still in place although with other occupiers. It stands on what was the swampy land between the sewer line and the racecourse. Adastra was typical of other workplaces in the area. When local houses went on sale the homes were purchased and converted to business use. Adastra took one on either side of its office and another in Tenth Street. Some houses were demolished and the community was obviously breaking up by the early 1960s. Many locals though were in the same position as I both working and living in the area. In 1963 my family accepted an offer for the purchase of Kelso. For the first time in nine years I had to travel to work. At first Kelso remained in place but it was later demolished and an aviation fuel tank installed. This has now also disappeared and the land stands empty. The front footpath together with its kerb and guttering are the only remaining artefacts. The last resident of Lauriston Park departed in 1990. Adastra has also gone as it closed its doors in 1976. I left the company in 1965 to pursue a new career so my memories of the community are scant after the mid-1960s.


I prepared this document in early 2004. To aid my reminiscences I looked at old family photographs, wandered around the non-secured areas of Sydney Airport, visited the State Library and looked at an early Sydney Street directory, read two historical publications and visited the Adastra Aerial Surveys website. I also acknowledge the assistance I received from staff of the City of Botany Bay Library at Pagewood. Access to the Local Studies collection of the Library pointed me to the references.

Allen Windross MA (Hons)


Adastra Aerial Surveys Website: www.adastra.adastron.com

Gall, Jennifer "From Bullocks to Boeings", Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1986.

"Gregory's Street Directory of Sydney 1936", Sydney, Australian Guide Book Co., 1936, Map 24.

Keep, G. and Wilson, G. "Lauriston Park: the Forgotten Village", Botany, Botany Historical Trust, 1996.

Willing and Partners, "Engineering history of the development of Sydney (Kingsford- Smith) Airport, 1947 to 1972".

Windross family photo collection.


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