Mike Rutherford muses in this article about his childhood memories from the 1950s, about the time he spent here in his school holidays. How different were our suburbs then – read how Mike explored the area as a kid, and about the variety of the shops along Wheatland St and Brighton Rd.
RECOLLECTIONS OF SEACLIFF 1950s
Mike Rutherford talking to 5049 CC Association in June 2020
When did you first spend time here?
My grandmother bought a vacant block in Acacia Street in the early 1950s. Even before she built on it, we would drive down to Seacliff in my Dad’s Model A Ford (often with the canvas top folded down in summer) to go to the beach, and on Saturdays be allowed to join the adults in the green, shady beer garden of the Seacliff Hotel, where the kids would be treated to pints of raspberry and lemonade, while the women sipped their hock, lime and lemon drinks (or Barossa Pearl if it was a special occasion), and the men “shouted” rounds of beer …. from the jug.
When my Grandmother built her home, I would spend most school holidays in residence up until the late 60s, with the summer vacations the highlights.
So, what did kids do back then?
Because I wasn’t a “local” I didn’t have any friends nearby, so life was fairly solitary. The neighbourhood was still only sparsely settled then – lots of vacant allotments, especially in Marino and Kingston Park. I’d go exploring along the rail line up into those areas, which was like being in the country although very open and fairly tree-less. I think grazing still existed down to about the Marino Rocks Station, and there were big concrete and steel remnants of the quarry flying fox near Marino Station that were great to climb over. However it was the beach that was the real attraction. Dad built me a bicycle-wheeled trolley to transport my huge (and heavy) plywood surf ski via Maitland Tce, and down the “zig zag” to the seafront. Pushing the contraption back up the steep hill and home at the end of a day was a huge effort! But it was all worth it. I paddled as far north as the Brighton Jetty, and south almost to Hallett Cove, in much the same way as the modern day kayakers do. I’d have my swim mask, and a couple of bricks tied to a long rope, which I used as an anchor when I wanted to go over the side. Sundays were beach cricket with the men. Sometimes there would be 30 of us kids and adults. One of the men parked his utility with a huge icebox in the back, on the esplanade, to which the men adjourned at regular intervals for a beer while the kids were sent off for a swim or to look for crabs under the rocks.
What are your most vivid memories of the time?
Coming here was always during school vacations or on weekends, so everything was like a holiday and my memories come through that filter. And I was quite young. I think steam trains were still running then, and I reckon most trains terminated at Marino. I certainly remember the “Red Hen” railcars and their over-powering smell of diesel. The range of local shopping is another of my lasting memories. The huge (for its era) Woolworths supermarket on the corner of Pine Ave and Brighton Road provided our weekly shop. There was a butcher and drapers in the strip of shops at the top of Brighton Road on the western side, where now there is a chiro/massage business and hairdresser. Opposite (where is now the “Organise” home storage products shop), was our local Medical Practice and Pharmacy. Further north, on the western side, in what until recently was the “Wooden Blinds” outlet, was our local hardware shop, with nails, screws, etc in bulk – which would be weighed out into paper bags. Opposite and further north, the current tattoo studio was a newsagent, and next to that a ladies’ hairdresser. I think there was a Shell service station on the N.W. corner of Brighton Road and Wheatland Street. There was another service station on the N.E. corner of Brighton and Seacombe roads – later to become Viverit’s Crash Repairs and now under another name. Because we lived at the extreme southern end of Seacliff, and we had all these local shops, we rarely ventured to Wheatland St, so my memories of businesses there are very sketchy. I vaguely recall a large “emporium” on the southern side, but others might know more. The imposing police station at the eastern end was also very conspicuous. This was all before Marion Shopping Centre, so we were very self-sufficient. Significantly (for a child), I think the sideshows and rides came to the esplanade opposite the hotel for a few years, but I can stand corrected. I certainly remember them at Brighton just south of the jetty.