Almanac Memoir: Geelong with All Five Senses

 

T & G Building, Geelong

 

 

Geelong with All Five Senses

 

Many places leave distinctive sensory impressions that stay forever. Geelong, where I was born and raised, is certainly no different. Visually, for me, the image of compact Corio Bay at the bottom of the city centre is prominent, even if that particular view of its natural beauty has always been undermined by the smoky factories of North Geelong on one of the not-too-distant shores. Buckley’s Falls, near Queen’s Park, whether raging in winter or trickling in a dry, hot summer, is another vista prominent in my mind’s eye, because it was part of the semi-rural area of the city in which I spent my childhood.

 

Aurally, an important memory is the hourly tolling of the bell of the clock in the tower of – at one time – Geelong’s tallest office structure, the T & G building in the city centre. This sound was even more memorable because it was made by a statue of two men (meant to be a father and son) which slid out of a doorway below the clock, near the top of building, into public view – each one of the men struck the bell with a hammer. Geelong-ites of times past would remember this very well; also, until not so long ago, if Geelong Football Club made the finals, the statues would be decked out in their distinctive blue and white hoop guernseys, with the numbers of star players on their backs.

 

In terms of taste, perhaps the main sensory impression for me and many Geelong inhabitants of a certain vintage is the glorious meaty and pastry excellence of a Timms pie. There is virtually no Geelong person of a particular age who will not declare that Timms pies are the best meat pies they have ever eaten. These pies have not been available for decades – almost needless to say – but were part of an era when Geelong had many of its own bakeries, not little boutique ones, but large family concerns that served multiple suburbs. The Podbury and Fitzgerald families gave their name to two of these bigger baking operations.

 

When it comes to memories related to touch, the feel of the cold clean water of the Barwon River is prominent for me, as I’d quite often swim in the river near the Queen’s Park bridge, where there was also a Tarzan rope hanging off a tree on a nearby bank. So many Geelong kids and adults, including me, would have climbed this tree, swung off the rope, and ended up with a bomb-like splash in the middle of the river.

 

When it comes to smell, it’s a bit harder to say what’s at the forefront in my memory, though the powerful, greasy, somewhat ‘off’ odour emanating from the tanneries at Breakwater and the woolstores near the waterfront come quickly to mind. My mother once told me that her first-ever job lasted a day – it was in the office of one of the waterfront woolstores, Dennys Lascelles Ltd – and she left almost immediately because she couldn’t stand the smell.

 

But perhaps the strongest sensory memory of all connected to when I was growing up is the sound of radios tuned to Geelong’s local station, 3GL (which became K-Rock in 1990) on a Saturday afternoon during the VFL football season. If you walked around any suburb of the city on one of those afternoons, during this era, the Geelong Football Club game would be on the radio in what seemed like almost every house one went past, often wafting through a window, or from a workshed or backyard. It was the soundtrack to Saturday afternoon life at that time of the year. When I was growing up, the main football commentators at 3GL were Teddy Whitten, Brian Brushfield (or ‘Bushy’, as Teddy called him), former Geelong wingman Wayne Closter, and Peter Le Grand. Often, during that era, one would see Ted striding purposefully along one of Geelong’s central thoroughfares, such as Moorabool or Ryrie Street. He didn’t do anything half-hearted, it seems – even the act of walking was done with power and intent. I can still picture him now – chest out, arms pumping, looking like he’d bowl you over if you got in his way, though knowing Ted’s reputation, if he did so, he’d be equally ready to help you up again, with a humorous quip and a grin on his face.

 

 

 

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About

Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for films with a tertiary education purpose. He laments the extinction of Cascade Pale Ale and Kiwi Lager.

Comments

  1. Nice idea for a yarnKD.

    Childhood bakery stuff is definitely a big memory. The sausage rolls from the Oakey Bakery were sensational. Quite peppery. The traditional cream buns were also memorable

    The pies were less memorable. However the pies at the local footy ground (with mushy peas) were rally good. (They get a mention in Loose Men Everywhere)

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for the comments, JTH – using the five senses to structure this Geelong piece felt like an interesting way to do it.

    I totally agree with you, too, about bakery tastes and the memory of them – more such tastes are coming to me as I respond to you, actually!

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    There used to be a little milk bar at the end of Gheringhap St on a corner near the railway line that sold terrific pies. Years before the by-pass etc I would take that road through Geelong to Melbourne but more often than not would stop and buy a pie. Magnificent! I can’t remember the name of the pies or whether the shop made them but they still live on in my memory. The milk bar is no longer there and has become gentrified like many old homes and shops in Geelong.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for this memory, Col. Possibly the shop sold Timms pies, though of course there are other possibilities. Beaumont’s pies were also really good back in the day. I also recall that Bendigo was synonymous with Gillies pies, and that Gillies opened a shop or shops in Geelong, but this move didn’t really work – I think Geelong-ites felt as if Gillies pies belonged in Bendigo, not Geelong!

  5. Tobyn McDonald says

    I remember walking past the bar door of the Vic? Hotel in Malop St as a child and hearing the low rumble of men’s voices, at a time when it was strictly men, and smelling that beery scent wafting into the street.

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Really interesting, Tobyn. Thanks for that memory – your description of the sound and smell brings it to life for me.

    Maybe you’re referring to the Victoria Hotel, which was a Geelong landmark for more than a century on the corner of Malop and Moorabool Streets, until around 1951. The Bendigo Brank branch currently stands on the site.

  7. Kevin Densley says

    *oops: Bendigo Bank branch*, of course!

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