When I was at primary school at Black Rock during World War 2, my friends were Italian children who lived in an old house in the bush up Cheltenham Rd. Their father was a prisoner of war who worked on farms at Tatura and their mother worked long hours in a factory. I sometimes went home with them at school lunch time.
The Royal Melbourne Golf Club is also at the end of Cheltenham Rd. This is in the days of petrol rationing. The members catch the tram to Black Rock and are picked up by a horse drawn coach that takes them up the scrub lined road to the Club.
It’s on the kid’s way home from school. When they hear the horse approaching at a stately trot they hide in the bushes. When it’s abreast they leap out, calling out in high falsetto voices, leaping alternately into the air. I am given a place in the leaping order. It’s a very impressive operatic performance and someone is always in mid air; great choreography. The horse is a big fiery, half draught chestnut mare. When we leap out she turns her head to look at us, rolls the whites of her eyes, shies across the road and then bolts. The driver is a big man with a red face who wrestles with the reins; he looks as if he has no sense of humour. The coach is completely enclosed in black canvas blinds so the golfers can’t see what’s going on!
We sometimes jump in the bunkers on the way back to school. A running jump over the edge and you’re airborne like a bird, then land on your heels and slide down the beautiful white sand. If the golfers see us they run at us, shouting and waving golf clubs in the air! We don’t understand why they get so excited.
Somehow Mother gets to hear of these escapades. I am sent to a polite girl’s school at Sandringham. It's a culture shock!
Two years later my sister goes to work in the office at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club. The green keeper, who used to burst into the office before important golf tournaments, fuming about those damn kids in the bunkers again, is off work with high blood pressure.
The horse drawn coach no longer runs up Cheltenham Rd. The horse Ginger has been retired because of her dangerous behaviour. She would bolt up the road and into the long driveway to the Clubhouse at flat gallop, and then stop dead on a white line that the coach wasn’t meant to cross, causing the members who were seated in the back to be thrown onto the floor!
I was eight, for us it wasn’t malicious, just a lot of fun and it was only a game.