Almanac Life: Our Winter Family


The photo is famous. In our family at least. It’s the early 70’s and in all likelihood we’re preparing to pile into mum’s Ford station-wagon for the drive to Princes Park. There’d be others joining of course – various combinations of family and neighbourhood hopefuls lined up in knitted navy. Grandma would ride up front, aunties in the back, kids piled in tight at the rear. Always more kids than seatbelts.



Rob Spurr (left) with his cousins Alan and James Clark


Our nominated patch of Princes Hill real estate was on the outer wing at the back of a decaying covered terrace, a grandstand missing the grand bit. Heavy wooden stools would be lugged across muddy carparks and planted next to a chosen pylon that would play host to those kids with superior climbing skills. The pylon became a meeting point over the decades, with friends from opposition clubs knowing where to drop in for a chat and a gingernut biscuit.


According to Mum it was the best view in the ground, apart from the blind spot directly below the beanie line where Magro cleaned up Jezza. We didn’t see the incident but learnt a bunch of handy new phrases in its direct aftermath.


To our left, I’d stare longingly at the goal square and its impressive backdrop of cheering inhabitants seated in the Heatley Stand. Who gets to sit at the footy? To our right, toward the scoreboard, an acrid smoke cloud would rise above a sea of lubricated sardines.


A visit to the chip stand required precision timing five minutes before half time. Large tubes of SAXA salt would be emptied onto white flaccid offerings and smothered with vinegar. Sadly, many would be lost to the terrace dust in the return crush.


Our trusty pylon attracted a loyal crew over the years. Amongst them was the wonderfully named Mr Ruck, a kind old man seemingly from the set of the Sullivans who would offer up aniseed rings from a white paper bag. We hated them but being lollies, pocketed them anyway.


One year Mr Ruck was an unfamiliar no show for round one. When not sighted by round three, Mum sadly surmised that he must have died in the summer. Our enduring football relationship had never necessitated the need to exchange contact details.


In front of Mum stood Mr Morrow, a fair-minded supporter who’d drive his vintage Mercedes to the games and enjoy steaming coffee from grandma’s silver thermos. On the right would be a guy mum named ‘the oracle’. He’d listen to 3AW via a small radio tucked into his white towelling bucket hat and loudly channel updates from Harry Beitzel. ‘The oracle’ was a decent bloke but would often be the butt of our jokes on the trip home, that is when we weren’t complaining about the umpires.


It was generally accepted that umpire Robinson ‘had it in’ for Carlton. When his number would appear on the pre-game scoreboard, heads would start shaking and the game would be all but written off. Subsequent moaning on the car trip home would often be interrupted by the radio commentators noting that Carlton had received ten more free kicks than the opposition.


We saw all the big moments from our humble perch. Bosustow’s mark, Blight’s unwelcome bomb and numerous acts of poignant grace from the Flying Doormat. Agony and ecstasy. All shared with our extended navy family.


We go back occasionally now to watch our women in action. Gravitating to our familiar wing in the Legends stand, I bore the kids with stories about the peanut man, the souvenir box burning down and the ludicrous bravery of our cheer squad who would circle the ground at half time with a blanket sized to capture a fraction of the monetary hailstorm directed their way.


The northern views across the rustic Gardiner stand invariably invoke a momentary drift to some sweet childhood memories of family and community. A gentle elbow from my son will restore focus in time to admire some individual Vescio brilliance, who’s just slotted her second from the pocket where the Heatley once cast its afternoon shadow.



The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE


To return to the  home page click HERE


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.


Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE






About Rob Spurr

Rob Spurr is a Melbourne based CFO. He started writing a few stories to avoid home schooling his kids during the COVID lockdown.


  1. Love this story … brings back lots of memories … thank you Rob!

Leave a Comment