Saints for Life. The Junction.

Anyone who knew Jack McKenzie (Jackie Mac) had no doubt that his blood ran red, white and black. Jack lived pretty much all his life in Camden St, St Kilda just down the road from the Junction Oval. A few doors down the road lived Len Stephenson, a Sergeant at St Kilda police station and a dynamo around St Kilda footy club during the fifties and sixties. Len was credited with recruiting many a young player to the Saints through an effective policing policy of “see you at training boys, or at the watch house”.

Len’s wife Mel seemed to wash all the club jumpers, as her washing line was always full of the revered red white and black. This is hard to imagine, she didn’t have a washing machine. I don’t think anyone in the street did in the early fifties, all things were washed in a boiling copper and the clothes were cleaned by using a large pole to make sure the jumpers were “agitated”. This was back breaking work and she did it every week for the love of the club. This was a Saints household through and through. Max their son went on to play a few games for the Saints in the 1950s.

Two doors further up at 45 Camden St lived Bill Grant and family. Bill was another Saint for life who along with his uncle and cousins Len, Bruce and young Len Boase were to be found on Saturdays down at the Junction supporting the Saints through thick and thin, mostly thin I’m sad to say. In Carlisle St the Cafarella brothers ran the best fruit shop in town but come Saturday fruit was secondary to the lure of the terraces at the Junction oval.

On the barren wet, windy Saturday afternoons during the fifties and early sixties if you ventured on the terraces between the two grandstands you would find them all standing in the same spot, week in, week out supporting their beloved Saints.

I clearly remember Wels Eicke (197 games, 1909-1924 and 1926) who seemed to have a real affinity with those blokes on the terraces as he was often there beside the fanatics engaged in earnest conversation about his beloved Saints. Wels was on the losing side in the debate about the shift from the junction to Moorabbin and this disengaged him from the club at that crucial time in the mid sixties. He was an old man then and I was very young but my memories were rekindled some years ago when Wels was admitted to the Saints Hall of Fame and his award was accepted by his grandson, also named Wels Eicke.

Up in the grand stand was the Boase boy’s brother-in-law Jimma Bayliss who would on occasion lose his false teeth into the milling crowd below as he reacted to some perceived injustice from umpire and opposition. It was not unusual to see the crowd make a space below Jimma for any such eventuality. Not far away in the stands sat my mother with her baby, nursing him and bottle feeding him as the game progressed.  In 1953 at 4 yrs of age that baby would progress to standing on the terraces at the feet of his father and the assembled fanatics.

There are so many stories from the terraces at Junction Oval. There are so many great Saints characters out there. A long time Saints supporter Chris Robbins told me how he as a boy he stood near Lindsay Fox’s mother. Apparently she was never backward in her support for the Saints and of course for her son as he played his heart out. Those who remember will tell you that Lindsay may not have been blessed with enormous football talent but he couldn’t be matched for heart. Undoubtedly this was a personal quality that held him in great stead in his successful business.

Many years ago I spoke to Douglas Stewart who with his father a Real Estate Agent in Fitzroy St,  never missed a game in that era until 1942 when Douglas went into military service. He spoke with some authority on Jack Kelly, recalling him kicking a bag of goals at the Junction in one particular game.

Douglas remembered Sporting Globe writer Hec DeLacey criticising Kelly for not passing off to other players. Douglas had a lifetime of memories of his beloved Saints. His recollections of players he formed friendships with in the great 1939 side were very clear.

He had a very strong memory of the 1939 sides magnificent win in the first semi- final when Kelly and Rayment on the wings dominated and Fountain and Garvin in the ruck put paid to the Tiger’s followers led by Captain Blood Jack Dyer. These memories were like gold to an amateur Saints historian like me.

Douglas wrote about his passion for the Saints being matched by his daughter who maintained and added to the collection of memorabilia that Douglas started after he returned from overseas service following the war. Based at Victoria Barracks until 1946 Douglas was a regular at Saints training and games armed with his camera and a love for photography. He began by taking photos at training and after showing some shots to committeemen Bob Wilkie and Sam Ramsay he progressed to sitting on the boundary beside coach Fred Froude taking shots at home games.

He wrote that his photo album compiled in that era was still kept by his daughter. I have not heard from Douglas for many years but I often think of the many Saints, passionate supporters who have collected and maintained fantastic collections of Saints memorabilia. I have been fortunate enough to see some collections. I never fail to be amazed at the passion supporters have in not only collecting this material but taking such pleasure in looking after it and keeping it for following generations of family.

The Stewart family was obviously a Saints household. Douglas’s mother was a cousin of saints legend Wels Eicke, and like me, Doug as a baby was taken to every home game and bottle fed in the stands. Perhaps he and my father stood side by side on the terrace at the high point beside the race at some stage. I would like to think so.

The fanatics, as I will continue to call them, were all in awe of the great Harold Bray – Club Champion in 1945,1947 and Captain in 1948.  In fact most of the aforementioned group assembled on the terraces had followed Bray to the club, mates sticking together. This sort of Bray fan club had played with Harold down at Oakleigh and then followed him to the club. I’m still a bit ashamed to admit that my dad Bill Grant had followed the Blues before following Bray to the Saints. What might have been, me a Blue, perish the thought!

The players were larger than life to a small child, Jimmy Ross club champion in 1949,1951 and 1952 was a great player who I revered, a champion beyond words and then there were the greats Neil Roberts, Brian Gleeson and Verdon Howell, all club champions and Brownlow Medallists.

Despite the lack of success on the field it was an era to remember as it saw the rebirth of a club which had been cellar dwellers for years. It began with Alan Killigrew when he arrived at the club in 1956 closely followed by Alan Jeans in 1961 after two years under coach Jim Francis. The Fifties had ended with the Saints poised to enter the finals for the first time in nearly 50yrs.

Jack McKenzie passed away at the end of 2002. He had followed the Saints all his life. He had witnessed the rebirth of the Saints in the fifties. He was there in 1966, 1971 and 1997. Only recently my mind turned back to the fifties while I was writing a piece for the Footy Almanac about the Saints in 1956.  I remembered the times when I was a little boy. Jackie Mac would grab my arm and say “watch Eric Guy go, by jove he’s tough”. “Watch this boy Jimmy Guyatt,  he will be great”.  “Bill Young will put this through just you watch”.

Many of these supporters who graced the terraces in the fifties are no longer with us but many like Bill Grant are following their beloved Saints, through failing eyesight and the trials of old age. They and the many like them still follow the Saints as passionately as they did in the fifties. The terraces have now gone, replaced by comfortable lounge chairs but the Red, White and Black is prominent in their homes whether they be in Melbourne, Mornington, Queensland or overseas.

“Down at the Junction there’s a football ground and that’s where the Saints all hang around, so let’s give three cheers for old St Kilda for this year the premiers they will be, though it’s not yet in the bag we’ll surely win the flag, beside the seaside beside the sea” My best memory of the Saints theme song of the fifties and early sixties, sung loudly on not enough occasions by Jackie Mac, Bill Grant, the Boases, Len Stephenson the Cafarella brothers and the two little Grant boys.

In memory of those Saints for life no longer with us especially brother Kevin who used to be the half time entertainment for the crowd on the terraces and the stands. But that’s another story.

We will never be back to the terraces of the Junction, but the heartland at Moorabbin beckons. The journey back to Moorabbin will bring another flag, it’s a long time coming. Undoubtedly the spirit of the junction will be watching as the Saints come marching in.


  1. Terrific Allan – and I’m not a Saint. The Junction was a fabulous footy ground. Still is. I watched quite a bit of Bernie Quinlan and Gary “The Flea” Wilson play on that ground (my old man was a Roy boy).

  2. Fantastic read.
    As someone who spends a fair chunk of time at a mate’s flat on Camden St it’s nice to know there are some strong Saints ties to the strip.

  3. Graham…..without him there would be no club!!!

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