Welcome to Another Thursday Doors just please don’t look at the calendar. It’s already Saturday afternoon and if I don’t hop to it, soon it will be Sunday.
There’s no point going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
This week, we’re jumping into our time machines and setting the clock back to 1971 when my parents bought their first home at 101 Coonanbarra Road, Wahroonga in suburban Sydney. I was two years old and they’d been renting a flat in Rose Bay in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. However, Mum was expecting my brother and I was getting to an age where I apparently needed a backyard.
However, while these were practical and heartfelt considerations, consciously or unconsciously, my parents were pursuing the Great Australian Dream of owning your own home parked on the suburban quarter acre block along with the Hills Hoist (washing line), Victa lawnmower, backyard BBQ and the lone family car parked in the driveway.
However, this Australian dream had a rather narrow vision. The prescribed family was comprised of a married Mum and Dad, a pigeon pair of kids, and no divorce. Australia was still under the influence of the White Australia Policy. So, our Great Australian Dream also had a lot of inbuilt flaws and was racist, sexist and completely excluded our Indigenous Australians.
Moreover,, while many Australians aspired to this domestic ideal of home ownership, some artists and writers condemned suburbia as a conformist and narrow-minded wasteland, as depicted in John Brack’s The Unmade Road pictured above.
Getting back to Mum and Dad’s place, as you can see from the rear view of the house in its natural state, it was in a bad way. The sort of place real estate ads would describe as “renovate or detonate” or a”Renovator’s dream”. Indeed, it was so dilapidated,Dad’s father refused to go inside and you can even see him standing in the right hand side of the photo above looking unimpressed.
However, my parents weren’t completely insane, because it had location! Location! Location! Wahroonga is a prestigious suburb and the house was a short walk to Wahroonga Park and the station, where Dad caught the train into the city for work. The house was built around 1916 as a workman’s cottage and has since been demolished, although similar houses have been preserved in this street and now cost over $1 million.Every night Dad beavered away on the place after he arrived home from work. Indeed, the photo at the top shows the front of the house post-renovation. No doubt, he felt triumphant and rather vindicated when it was finished, and he’d proven his father wrong.
However, this triumph wasn’t without sacrifice. I think the MGB was sold to get the house deposit and Dad must’ve been exhausted going to work by day, fixing the house up at night and also having a toddler and a new baby and all that entailed. Living in the house itself was also quite unsafe and mum was horrified to see me bang my head after I fell over a broken floorboard. While we were staying in the house of horrors, my brother also developed whooping cough from his vaccination and was seriously ill. I can’t quite remember if there was a home visit from the doctor which caused my mother to almost die of embarrassment, or whether she had to take my brother out to see him. However, in an unrelated incident, I do remember my brother’s car basket going flying off the back seat of the Morris Minor as we drove over the railway bridge around this time. I was horrified. So, it seems that there were quite a few nightmare’s interwoven with my parents’ pursuit of the Great Australian Dream.
Fortunately, this house soon became a stepping stone and we only lived there for six months. After it was renovated, Mum and Dad rented it out and bought a bigger and better house in Warrawee. They never looked back and moved a couple of times before settling in there current home, where they’ve been living for almost 40 years. If you look at them now, you’d never imagine that they started out in such challenging conditions.
I wanted to share this story as an encouragement to other young couples who are just starting out and struggling to save up for a deposit on their first home. You don’t need to start out where you’ll finish up and hard work, determination, a bit of sacrifice and taking a chance can pay off. Indeed, quite a few of my grandparents generation bought a block and built a garage on it and lived in that while they built the house. Nothing arrived on a silver platter.
My parents’ experience fueled our own pursuit of the dream Australian home on the quarter acre block. We bought a renovator’s dream a short walk from the beach and figured we’d turn it over quickly and move on to something better. However, unfortunately my health and disability issues have slowed down our progress and we are still in the fixer-upper and it still hasn’t been fixed up. We’ve been here for 18 years now and what we did at the beginning needs to be re-done and we still haven’t replaced the floors. However, I’m glad in a way because our place is a home and has a sense of freedom and not having to tiptoe around and barely breathe in case the house gets dirty, the floors gets ruined and your idyllic Vogue Living home comes crashing down to earth in a pile of rubble.
Indeed, we have two kids and three dogs charging round the place and we can all stretch our wings and be ourselves. Give me a couple of years, and I hope to see a wrecking ball go straight through the place and we’ll start over.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip down memory lane and wondered if you’d like to share any stories about renovating, buying your own home or even about dreaming.
This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0 Please pop over and join us.