Some mornings Mother calls, “Beverley, come along, we are going into the City.” This is exciting. At a moment’s notice we jump on a tram. At Sandringham station we quickly negotiate the high step from the platform onto the train. I sit with my nose pressed to the window pane trying to memorize the names of the stations. At Flinders St Station we rush up the ramp; it’s easier when you hurry. It’s obvious that its war time, the crowds are all women and children.
Sometimes we emerge from the station to find Swanston St blocked off to traffic. Mother says, “Quick Beverley, there’s going to be a march.” We rush across to take our place at the barricades as platoons of khaki clad soldiers, heads held high, eyes straight ahead, arms swinging, feet pounding the road in perfect unison sweep past. We clap and feel very proud of them. Then the barriers are removed and the City resumes its usual bustle.
Draught horses champing at the bit and blowing steam through their nostrils stand impatiently at street crossings, waiting for the traffic lights to change. Amid strong smells of horse sweat and leather harness I watch huge iron shod hoofs and long white hair flowing from their fetlocks as they mark time, anticipating the change of lights and activity. These are proud powerful horses pulling heavy drays, some laden with beer barrels. Wizened little men perched on high seats on the drays, handle the reins. Lighter horse drawn carts are delivering food to restaurants. There are very few motor vehicles on city streets.
When the lights change big green trams clank their bells as they move off. We avoid stepping in horse manure as we cross the road.
We pay the gas bill at the Gas and Fuel building in Flinders street, where the continually revolving doors are a challenge to small children. Visit the department stores of Foy and Gibson, Buckley and Nunn and the Myer Emporium. Have lunch at a nice restaurant with a tall glass of lemonade in a thick heavy glass.
The flower stalls along the footpath in Swanston St are very busy. The scent of huge bunches of violets fills the air.
On a corner of Swanston Street outside the State Savings Bank there is always a man selling toy furry monkeys attached to a stick with a string. This is where I put the brakes on and usually go home with one.
Dad comes home on final leave before leaving for the war in Europe. He brings presents and it’s great to have him home again.
He is leaving tonight and he’s going to show me the train, the “The Spirit of Progress.” He says it’s the best train in Australia. The ‘Spirit’ has been reserved tonight as a troop train. The platform at Spencer St Station is packed with families and young women embracing and kissing soldiers in uniform. Emotions run high.
Dad, wisely defusing the situation, carries me down the platform to see the engine which is getting up steam. I only have eyes for the train, until he is gone