On kite tails and such.

Friends and new-near-neighbours-to-be (who are also historical detectives extraordinaire) gave us a photograph last night.  There are several old pictures, either of the house or with the house in them, but I particularly love this one. 

Here it is:

 And a close up:

It was taken in 1935 by Charles Walton. The Harbour Bridge was completed  three years before. Our house was, by then, a boarding house. The area had gone from being genteel and somewhat schmancy to being poor, populated almost entirely by people connected with the harbour – wharfies, coalies and their families.  There are still a few people in the area now who come from families who worked on the habour and lived in the area as far back as a century ago .  I, who have moved on average every two years all my adult life, find it hard to imagine what it would be like to be so rooted,  knotted in, as into a kite tail, and secured there by generations of family streaming back across the years. 

In the photo you can see the rear balconies had been blocked up by then, to provide kitchens for the multiple families living in the house. The woman is standing at my un-garden gate.  The window the children sit under is my laundry window. And to cap it all, the little girl standing up has the good taste and sheer prescience to be wearing my haircut.  I love it!  So much so, in fact, that I’m debating whether it would work to have it blown up as a wall-sized mural somewhere in the house.  A little  Surface View-ish. Yes?  No? 

Speaking of whom and which (and all those little nuggety bits of grammar left by the wayside now in this climate of apostrophic madness – and don’t let me get started on that!), I do have a bit of a liking for this crop of a piece of wallpaper from their V&A archive images:

And that, said Fred, is that.  Other than that I think I have the ‘flu coming.  Either that or someone parked a football in my gullet when I was busily dreaming last night.


10 Responses to “On kite tails and such.”

  1. Love the washing hanging across the lane. Hope this is a tradition you will reestablish, or at least you will choose something to string something across the lane. Did you notice the woman at your back gate disappeared in the close-up, and in fact, so did your back gate.

    • Eh, they don’t call him Eagle Eye for nothing! I was too busy waving my arms around in general enthusiasm to notice, but you’re absolutely right. Interestingly (to me), the woman looks the least posed, so maybe she popped out of the gate at the wrong moment and was off on her errand.

      And actually, I did wonder whether we might re-instate something similar by way of a clothes line, and tie the other end onto those wildly expensive houses down the way. They should be down with that, eh?

      I’m also interested in the clothing on the line – can’t quite fathom the vast and somewhat strange garments, but think we should all wear similar anyway. For the tourists.

  2. I think it would be wonderful to have these photographs on display in your house, tying the past to the present – fantastic. It would also serve to ‘ground’ a part of the house even if it was the said laundry.

  3. There is an old block in Pyrmont where they still have the washing blowing in the breeze – just like that. It’s a lovely sight.

    • I like it too, but at some stage in Millers Point they must have decided that having your washing billowing over the street like that was not the done thing. Now all the houses have a strange upright contraption that looks very much like wooden scaffolding. Very handy for stringing up naughty highwaymen, I’m sure, but I’m not convinced about using them for washing.

  4. We were fascinated by all sheer actions of life in the photo and by the practicality of just how the washing was pegged out and then brought in – where is the step ladder & did you hang out all your laundry or just the large things? Arts of life long lonst perhaps.

    Beautiful V&A corner – could just see that on a landing or a nook.

    • I know – to do all that washing and still peer out of the gate looking so groomed. And I’m interested to know (which I can’t, of course) whether those boys really did read the paper so assiduously, or whether they were posed with them.

  5. The photo has been cut and spliced. It’s the next doorway. Early photoshop? I have been searching high and low for an early photo of our house and the best I have come up with is a shot looking down the hill where our once slate roof is vaguely visible. How lucky to have such a view of life in another time and how poignant to see the slum side of a toff Georgian heap.

  6. I’m absolutely sure you’re right about the larger photo being cut and spliced.

    I’m also sure you’ve probably tried the State Library for photos of your place? A lot we’ve seen have come from the Mitchell Library, which I thought had only NSW material, but apparently they do have stuff from other states. It might be worth checking with them.

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