Sunday, May 25, 2008

Yalcowinna Richmond, the Mansion home of bachelor William Highett.

In 1906 the Bethesda Hospital was opened with 50 beds as an intermediate hospital.  I first saw the light of day there, in 1919 ,when a donation of Six Thousand Pounds by Sir Aaron Danks allowed the Methodist Church to buy Yalcowinna, a mansion property on one and a half acres of gardens on Richmond Hill. Epworth Hospital was opened there on 27th February 1920 with 25 beds and a staff of 5.
Recently I found myself back in Erin St receiving positive proficient physiotherapy at the magnificent mansion "Elim" (originally called ) where I was warmly welcomed by receptionists Ann and Loretta and soon introduced to the first of about a doze machines, instruments etc. by Sean....that first visit caused me to write the CEO asking her to express my personal appreciation to Sean for his sensitive conscientious caring..........that letter was followed by another later in the week expressing my similar reactions  to Chris & Libby`s valued assistance in the workouts and later supplying me with information needed when I told them I was extremely impressed by the admirable architecture and wanted to write a blog about it and Epworth Rehabilitation Centre.
The mansion was built in 1867 by William Highett who was born in Weymouth in the county of Dorset England in 1807, the son pf Joseph Highett and his wife Elizabeth (nee Harding). He travelled to Victoria with his brother John, arriving in Hobart Town in February 1830. With a combined capital of 507 pounds and highly respected testimonials they were granted 500 acres of land at Georgetown, later buying extensive land holdings at Launceston and Campbell Town which were managed by brother John.
Two years after his arrival in Van Diemen`s Land William was appointed accountant of the Launceston branch of the Van Diemen`s Land Bank. In  January 1835 he joined the Tarmar Bank Co. as cashier remaining there until he accepted the position of manager of the Union Bank of Australia in Melbourne in 1838 which had taken over the Tarmar Bank Co. in Launceston that same year.
The Union Bank in Melbourne operated from a single storey  brick building on the corner of Queen St and Flinders Lane but with the growth of business a second storey  was added the next year. With continuing success the bank bought land at 30 pounds a foot on the south-east corner of Collins & Queen Sts. There in 1842 Donovan & Crosbie erected an impressive new bank building constructrd entirely of stone designed by George MacLagan.
Later that year Highett travelled to England and while there resigned from the bank and later rejoined the Union Bank as a local director remaining in the position for a number of years, becoming deeply involved with the growth of business and commercial development in Melbourne and was one of the founders and directors of the Bank of Victoria in Collins St.
A bachelor all his life, he decided to build a Mansion home at 29 Erin St Richmond on gardens of 1 1/2 acres naming it "Yalcowinna" - later changed to "Elim". It was described in a newspaper advertisement as a palatial palace built with artistic skill where no expense was spared with its appointments". The ground floor contained a dining room 28 X 16 ft,a ballroom 45 X 23 ft, lavatory 14 x 8 ft, breakfast room 16 x 14 ft, one bedroom16 x 14 ft. and 2 servants` rooms.
The first floor had a drawing room 24 x 16ft and 5 bedrooms of varying sizes. The outbuildings  comprised a four-stall stable, three loose boxes, two coachhouses, a man`s room a hayloft and wood and coalsheds. All these buildings were
'very tastefully laid out" including a lawn tennis court and an asphalt tennis court - 100 x 20ft in size.
A special feature was a huge magnificent coloured leadlight window forming a beautiful background to the upper and lower section of the home above a unique  wide sweeping staircase. The ceilings were 15 and 20ft high daintily decorated with carved & moulded rosettes.........
                              `till next time - in about 7 - 10 days


Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Marge & Harry Greenberg Story - First Meeting

Seeing today is the 15th May, I guess it`s time to reveal the really remarkable story - the genuinely greatest story of my life - that is the background of my momentous meeting with my marvellous Marge (Rostker). Although most of my fabulous family know parts of it I thought it time to put it on revered record for my 13 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.........
also any more gorgeous great grandchildren who may come along...............
Mid-way through my teens, about 16 I think, I started to look for a wife - that is, being perfectly confident I could satisfactorily handle a professional or commercial career ( I was then studying accountancy and working with a Chartered Accountant) I decided I`d look for some girl with whom I could successfully share the rest of my life..........I didn`t want to waste time and from then,after every date (I had many) I would carefully analyse how I felt about the girl and very rarely took the same girl out more than once or twice, naturally not telling anyone else.
I vividly remember thinking I needed to marry a Jewish girl. Sometime in June 1939 I was glancing through some newspapers and suddenly saw a head and shoulders photo of a girl with dark sparkling eyes and cute upturned nose I found extremely attractive.....this was on the Saturday of the King or Queens Birthday weekend. When my younger brother Joe, then 15, walked into the room I said "See that girl? I`m going  to marry her..." (I was then 20) Jo replied "she`s pretty - you`re mad! who is she?" I said I don`t know, then read the column and told him she was Margery Rostker, 18, Queen of Music, one of a group of girls raising money for a charity.
I was then at home with the flu - the only time in my life I`d suffered from it ...there was only one Rostker in the phone book  and I immediately rang her explaining I`d had quite a bit of experience raising money  on committees in similar appeals (as a member of the YMCA). A long talk  revealed I knew at least 3 of her friends - one a boy I was  with at Elwood Central School, and another boy whose uncle had married my aunt and this boy`s cousin, so I suggested she check-up on me and I`d ring her later. When I rang a couple of days later on the holiday Monday she confirmed what I`d told her and I immediately asked her to come to the Victory Film Cinema (now the National Theatre) in Melbourne.
I   borrowed Dad`s car, a 1937 Chevrolet on that wet night and proceeded to her home at 4 Elwood St Brighton and as I was waiting for the front door open I suddenly whipped off my specs and put them in my pocket - thinking I look better without glasses which, at that time were not the fashion accessory they often are now. The door was opened by a little girl about 10-12, Marge`s sister Paula who ushered me into the lounge she introduced herself and asked " Did you know Marge had 4 false teeth?" 
After I answered in the negative I met Marge and her mother and after a few formal preliminaries we left.
It was still raining fairly heavily and, as my vision was definitely improved with glasses, after opening the car door for her I walked round the back and popped them on and got in......she then said, "Excuse me, are you the same chap I met a minute ago?" We both had a good laugh........ I can`t remember what films we saw but afterwards we went upsairs on the corner of Acland and Barkly Strets now occupied by Coles ..Marge noticed a few of her boyfriends came in soon keeping an eye on us...
Walking back to the car I asked her whether she`d like to talk for a while? She agreed saying "Not for too long though" We then drove to a parking area opposite the then Elwood Life Saving Club ( now, I understand a well-known restaurant) known for obvious reasons as "Tail Light Alley", and it`s still called that for I read a reference to it in a local paper recently - anyway that was where we had our first kisses & cuddles........
I don`t know what time we arrived home but before this I was absolutelly positive she was the right girl for me after my 4-year search and she accepted my proposal....she hadn`t been out with many boys on their own,  - groups of boys and girls used to visit her home where she had 3 sisters. We immediately became secretly engaged and I bought her a gold chain bracelet on the catch of which was engraved a heart displaying 'M" & "H" which around to the bottom her wrist when necessary............
After about 6 months we told her parents, waited another six months to become formally engaged, that`s when she had the portrait taken wearing a backless dress to
which my Russian objected - on to which straps were eventually painted! We then married 12 months later on 15th May 1941. For a while we lived with Marge`s mother Sara and her three sisters - her father had country shops and came home intermittent her younger sister Mary was a shy, pretty girl and sometimes before coming to bed I`d gently knock on her door and whisper "Are you awake - move should have heard the scream!
Robert Burton (1577 - 1640) an English clergyman and writer said "No chord, nor cable can so forcibly bind or hold so fast, as love can do, with a twined thread"
                                 `till next time - in about 7 - 10 days

Monday, May 5, 2008

Simple Ordinary Things

When I was in hospital recently, celebrating my 89th birthday, I realised that for nearly 30 years I`d been privileged to be able to appreciate the simple ordinary things .....Before my retiremt at 59, from working for the always necessary dollar, like everyone else, my thoughts were focussed on my wife Marge, on our work and caring for our family. But then I began to think about the simple ordinary things of life.
 Things like food, drink, warmth, family love, family celebrations, sunshine, rain. Things like the first hot steaming cup of coffee in the morning, relaxing in the sunshine when it arrives to duly disperse the chilly, foggy mornings of winter; before that, the avidly absorbing, gentle changes of colur of the leaves at a ofutumn; Like sitting down to a delectable dinner in front  of an open fire and afterwards precisely penning together selections of wonderful (occasionally wise ) words.....
Simple things like the dramatic diversity of the sometimes sparkling shapes and captivating colours of fragrant flowers and the tempting taste of the first nectarines of the season; like enjoying a drink with a favoured old friend; like conversation around the dinner table, sometimes funny, sometimes deep and touching; sometimes stimulatinmg and infinitely inspiring. I think these thoughts come to one more easily with the onset of ageing.... I am aware I seem to be taking more time, doing things more slowly, counting my blessings more, often really listening to what people are saying and discussing their problems with those obviously seeking some help.
I discussed these ideas with an old friend not long ago and strangely enough he had found himself thinking along the same lines. In his own words, "I feel like someone who`s been told I`ve got 6 months to live - like a blind person who can suddenly see!" I suppose it`s something about hope, the eternal spirit you discover in all good people and in all simple and good happenings....
Have you ever experienced the exquisite satisfaction you get when you suddenly get an infuriating itch high up on  your back and the only way you can remove it it is with the help of a long-handled wire hair-brush -  and the rapturous relief felt when you`re in a strange locality and the need for a toilet becomes an urgency.............and you suddenly find one!
And at the end of the day, the welcoming warmth of the electric blanket if you sleep alone and if you don`t sleep alone - after pumping up the pillow and pulling up the covers, you put your arm around your loved one and then s -l -o-w -l -y slip into a sound sleep.........these are a few simple ordinary things!
                               `till next time, in about 7 - 10 days...