A Long Time ago at Illawong

When I was little we moved house a lot, according to those who know. I have one memory of living at Croydon, we lived behind a Chemist shop (apparently) and there was one of those great big wooden dolls houses. I know that this must’ve been at Croydon as the dolls house didn’t move with us. I have a faint memory of playing with the dolls house. I’d have been two.

Illawong, and our home there was another matter! This was the house that Jean and Keith built. It was meant to be our forever home, as people say these days. Mum and Dad had bought the block of land, on the top of the cliff on the river, before they were even Mr and Mrs and in both their names. That alone was subject for discussion, as it was not the done thing back in those days.

They built a three bedroom home with not only river views but river frontage, if you scrambled down the cliff (perhaps an over-dramatic word to describe where the house was built, but it was definitely up, and the access to the river was not straight-forward).

The home was lovely. When we moved in a baby sister also appeared. As I was only 2 and a half when my little sister was born I couldn’t tell you if we moved before she came or not, all I know is that I shared a bedroom with my big sister and there was always a bedroom for the baby!

Our home had a lot of gum trees in the garden (which was accessed down a set of stairs just near where the car was parked, outside and to the right of the front door. There was one big gum tree where Dad hung our great big orange rope swing. This length of rope had originally been used on a ship, to tie it to a bollard, and I think it had been snaffled one evening from Wollongong harbour (which now when I think about it would’ve actually been Port Kembla). I’m not sure if Dad had found it or whether it was his Dad, our Grandfather Bill, who did the honours. As it was, that length of rope was well used, and the end of the rope was looped with a piece of canvas that would’ve originally secured the ship to the shore, and also formed the perfect place to sit on our swing.

Me and my Uncle Peter

In the garden we also had a fabulous cubby house that our Uncle Mervyn had built for us. Inside the cubby was a lovely canvas with a beautiful picture our Aunty Joy had drawn for us, of three canaries, including a baby in the nest – on it was also written “Welcoming the New Arrival to Canary Cottage”. So our cubby was Canary Cottage and the New Arrival was indeed our baby sister.

Today, when I was walking our dog down at the Bay and thinking about other doggies I know, and their names, I was reminded that in the garden of our home in Illawong we had a possum called Rustle. He used to visit us a bit, in the big trees out the side. How lucky we were to have wildlife living in our garden, not just passing through!!

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