Cemeteries, Dairies and Nut Trees – Merlynston Part 1

So my earliest memories of space are of the immediate neighbourhood in Box Hill South.  If I may digress before I even get into this post, I found out this week that one of the blokes I now work with lived around the corner from me and in fact knew some of the kids I went to school with.  It is a small world.
And back then it was even smaller.  Childhood memories sometimes play like incomplete scenes in a movie and different days run into one another so we end up with an amalgam of images rather than distinct chapters and such are my memories of Merlynston.
Most people in Melbourne have never heard of this tiny suburb north of Coburg and on the edge of the Fawkner Cemetery.   For a time my Grandfather was a grave digger there and a Chapel is named after my Uncle who for a long time was on the Board of the cemetery trust.
I was born not far from there and Mum moved back into a bungalow at the back of my Grandparents place at 55 Orvieto Street after I was born whilst they were saving for their own home.   They had been living in a flat at Mordialloc for a few years. 
But my memories of Merlynston don’t stretch back quite that far, they in fact begin on any one of dozens of weekends when we visited Nana and Pa which seemed to be at least fortnightly, usually on a Sunday.  Now here my cousins may in fact say that my memories of Orvieto Street may well differ from theirs but for me they are very vivid.
Pa would generally meet us on the front porch and usually he’d have a 2 shilling piece to give us.  Pa had his voice box removed after getting cancer of the larynx the year I was born and it was a source of grim fascination that he had a hole in his throat covered with a gauze square.  He sort of talked with a wheezing croak that was really hard for me to understand.   I wonder what his voice was like – did ne sing, did he have a baritone or tenor?
On the wall in the foyer was a crushed velvet belt containing badges that Pa had collected during his time with the New Zealand army in the First World War.  On a cabinet at the end was a photo of my Uncle Keith in uniform and I have this vague recollection of a photograph of the Queen.   On the side wall was a portrait of Nana’s Mum and Dad.
But it is the smell that stays with me mostly.  Nana would inevitably be baking and the smells of fresh scones and roasting meat would greet us as we walked inside the front door.  I loved the scones piping hot from the oven covered in melted butter and smothered in vegemite.
The lounge room to the left had a piano and Nana would sometimes sit down and play it for us and my favourite part were the big club chairs which I would perch myself in and read from the set of encyclopedia from a bookcase against one wall.   In later years Nana had a huge 26 inch black and white TV with a hard wired remote control.  I remember being fascinated by being able to actually sit in a chair and change a channel or turn the volume up and down.  It was to be years before we had one at home.
The back yard had a lemon tree which legend had it was well watered by the men of the family.  At the back of the yard was a wood shed and a chook house and if we were lucky, Pa would allow us to go down and collect the eggs.  There was a massive nut tree – walnuts I think – that dominated one corner of the yard and my cousins Paul and I spent a fair bit of time climbing it.
But the magic place was Pa’s garage which we used to sneak into and poke around.  It was full of tools and the cut down wagon that Pa used to push around the streets of Coburg whilst he collected beer bottles for return to the brewery.  I still marvel at him as an octogenarian with one leg shorter than the other because he got blown up in France in the First World War, and no voice box because he had it removed as a 72 year old, pushing a cart laden with hessian sacks full of beer bottles for miles oblivious to the traffic he was holding up.  In 1974 Pa was the first of my Grandparents to pass away and I have always counted myself lucky that I had all of them with me for so long.

There is much more to write about Merlynston and that will come shortly.  I have asked my sisters and cousins to make a contribution as well and will post them as they come.


  1. Lavender Luz said,

    December 11, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    You paint a fascinating picture of your Pa and the times you spent with him.

  2. Loz said,

    December 12, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Thanks Luz – he was a bit of a bugger, but there were reasons for that and I'll leave that for some later posts 🙂

  3. Loz said,

    December 12, 2010 at 10:20 am

    And here are some commets from my cousins posted on Facebook -#Barbara – Great job Laurie, it was an almond tree and it was huge :)6 hours ago · LikeUnlike#Alice – Laurie I agree the best part was the smell of Nan's cooking, but even better for me was when I got the honor of being the one relegated to the wall bed in the kitchen and Pa would get up at sunrise, stare the wood stove and cook breakfast, boy I can almost smell the steak, eggs and tomatoes with hot buttered toast lavished with vegemite washed down with a cup of tea.about an hour ago

  4. Fay McAliece said,

    May 17, 2012 at 5:44 am

    Those chooks came from us at 42 Orvieto St.
    We had to get rid of them after Mrs. Fleming in Galeka St. complained about them.
    From then on we bought our eggs from Mrs. Joyce.
    5 shillings a dozen.
    Highway robbery my father said.
    Fay Taylor

    • lozster said,

      October 31, 2012 at 7:58 am

      HI Fay and thanks for your comment – my family seemed to make up half of Merlynston to us in those days.

  5. Valerie Benson said,

    October 31, 2012 at 4:28 am

    I remember your grandfather well he was known as “Old Mr Joyce” in the neighbourhood and was the local bottleO he had a horse in the beginning, I can’t recall the name, but it was a bit like the old milk horses that knew which way to go without telling. Old Mr Joyce had to get rid of the horse when I believe it was council regulations said it was unsanitary to keep a horse in the back yard. It was then that he began pushing the cart. I can also recall that at no time did anyone ever toot Mr Joyce to pull to the side of the road so they could pass, waiting instead for when he noticed them. After he completed his work he could be found at the front of his house saying hello to all that passed. He was usually the first to greet newcomers to Merlynston

    • lozster said,

      October 31, 2012 at 8:00 am

      Hi Valerie
      Thanks for the visit and the comment. It’s gratifying to me that people find these posts. Do you know my Aunty Norma? If so I’ll pass on my regards. I’ll be catching up in the next few weeks.

      • Valerie Benson said,

        October 31, 2012 at 8:19 am

        I know Keith, Gwen, Alan and Helen I was at school with Alan primary and high school. Lived in the same street.

  6. lozster said,

    October 31, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Uncle Keith passed away last year. I’ll hopefully catch up with Aunty Gwen and Helen in the next few weeks as well. If you like I’ll pass on your email address

    • Valerie Benson said,

      October 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Sorry to hear about Keith Joyce I would have been at his funeral had I known. He and Gwen came to both my parents and my brothers funerals it was at my mothers funeral that I last saw them. You can pass on the email if they want and do say hello from me with my best wishes.

    • Valerie Benson said,

      October 31, 2012 at 10:24 pm

      I remember wanting to go and see the Russian ballet and my friends just weren’t into that sort of thing so I went with the Lady Mayoress of Coburg, Gwen Joyce for the season, I think it was three sessions. Anyway just some of the many fond memories of the Joyce family.

  7. Lawrie Newell said,

    December 13, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    I grew up in Merlynston and lived on the Police Station in Lorenson Avenue from around 1954 to 1958 when the Police Station closed. My late father was the Officer in Charge there before the police station moved to Fawkner. In 1956 when the Olympic Games were on a radio store in the group of shops had a TV playing and we all sat in the street on deck chairs watching the games as no one had a TV set at home. Went to Merlynston Station School so many memories there

  8. Shane Gaw said,

    December 23, 2014 at 3:52 am

    Hi Loz, I know your family well, with fond memories of squeezing you cousin Helen in the back of my VW on the way home from dance lessons. We lived over the road from the Wunsch’s in Lincoln Ave. I was the paperboy for years along Orvieto St, and fill in paperboy for Galeka, Mashoobra Sts. You bring back many fond memories.
    Shane Gaw

    • Shane Gaw said,

      December 25, 2014 at 7:41 am

      Let me clarify that…….. squeezing your cousin Helen “INTO” the back of my VW 🙂

  9. Anita Kauiers. said,

    April 3, 2015 at 2:42 am

    I was born 1954 grew up in Merlynston (Bain Ave) as did my father, George Kauiers. I remember your grandfather Bill Joyce, seeing him around the streets collecting bottles. He was a lovely man even to the kids who were fascinated and curious about his voice.

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