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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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.