Almanac Life: Kanowna Street



Four mates moving into a house together was an ambitious plan formulated over a few beers at the pub. We had seen others do it, and it looked like fun. So we wanted in on it also…


He was nobody’s idea of a property tycoon, when we met the bespectacled little man in his bungalow in Newport. Nonetheless, he assured us that he owned a dozen properties in Williamstown, and for the next ten minutes we fawned over him, lauding him as an investment genius. This exercise in ego-massaging had its desired effect, because we were soon signing rental agreements for a three-bedroom shack. Not one of the four of us had yet turned 21, but we had decided en masse that we were mature enough to leave our respective family nests. However, we would learn a lesson: it is not necessarily in your best interests to move in with your friends.


The rent was a collective $120 per week, but Nadge and I paid a little less than Opal and Billy, as we were sharing a bedroom, an arrangement which appalled our then girlfriends. But as it turned out, Kanowna Street was in a state of such disrepair and dysfunction that they never wanted to visit anyway. The house was in dire need of re-stumping, there was no heating to speak of, and the plumbing was in such a poor state that the chances of a hot shower were less than average. We owned neither a vacuum-cleaner nor a lawnmower, which meant both the interior and exterior of the property were a manky shambles. And without it ever having been explicitly stated, there was an open-door policy which meant one could never be sure who was sitting in the comfy chair when you arrived home. The only asset the house possessed was its location. It was a stone’s throw from the Britannia Hotel, and we regularly popped in for pots, and maybe a game of pool, during the ad breaks while watching Sunday night movies. Kanowna Street itself was so quiet that we often kicked a footy on the road out front.


At first, the thrill and novelty of flying the coop to live with three mates created enough of a buzz to overlook the disarray. Billy was an apprentice plumber whose stories often ended with the words “Don’t knock it until you try it!” Nadge was an accountant at the Board of Works, both were fine financially. But I was working part-time and studying part-time, meaning that I struggled money-wise and study-wise. Opal was studying law and would pore over the textbooks in his bedroom with industrial earmuffs over his ears. How he found the motivation to study in that environment always amazed us, but I suspect that the life-size poster of Marilyn Monroe sticky-taped to his wall was a constant source of inspiration.


Dinner was an abstract construct that we could never quite nail down. The first time Nadge collected a kitty and went shopping, he returned with a giant bag of frozen dim-sims, a pack of beef off-cuts, and a couple of slabs of beer. Constantly, I craved a serving of my mum’s roast lamb and vegetables.


We held a house-warming shindig of course, and it still ranks as one of the best parties I have ever attended. Half of Williamstown was there, and every room in the place was bursting at the seams; but it is a little confronting to see your bedroom full of people whom you don’t even know. Some of my vinyl records still bear the scars of that night. The problem was, having such a great night so early in our tenure meant that we had peaked early, and we would never again re-visit those heights.


Citing homesickness, Billy was first to leave. His room was commandeered by Tommy, who would wander about the house of an evening stark naked. But we began to get on each other’s nerves, and the fun was draining from the whole experience. Privacy was impossible, and little things like constantly finding the toilet-seat covered in piss grow old pretty quickly. Foolishly getting involved in a drunken brawl out on the street was the last straw for me, and I packed up my things the following day. The rest of the boys hung on for a couple of months more until the experiment reached its inevitable conclusion.


Was it a fun experience? Some of the time. But importantly, our friendships lived on, and we still tell the tales of Kanowna Street.



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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Cracking yarn once again Smokie, one of those rites of passage we all have to pass through!

  2. Great Read Smokie. can just imagine.

  3. Rulebook says

    Biggest achievement in that is still being mates well played,Smokie

  4. Really enjoying your series of life event posts Smokie. Glad you got out with friendships intact. I somehow missed the whole share-house with mates experience. Reading your yarn I think I may have been better off!

  5. Daryl Schramm says

    Knew a girl who knew someone who had a philosophy something like ‘if the kids are still at home at 21 kick them out to fend for themselves for 12 months then if the want to come back they can. They return more rounded’. Great read.

  6. Smoke – I think I was at that party!!

    I think?

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    No doubt it sounded like a great idea when formulated over a few beers. Couldn’t think of anything worse than living with three other blokes! Is the house still standing?

  8. Wally from Williamstown says

    I miss The Brittania, run by a woman named Yvonne or Evonne Irwin for many years, great old waterside, maritime watering hole, until recently was the showroom for the dastardly development nearby, brought to you by AV Jennings, the old pub building itself is currently up for lease i believe.

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