Before the wedding we rented an apartment in Mary Street, St Kilda at the rear of a large house that belonged to Mrs Leslie and her daughter. We bought a bedroom suite, a lounge suite and a dinning setting to furnish our new home. The Housing Commission were modernising it’s office furniture and we bought a timber desk for our office where I was to continue my studies. We moved in the furniture to the apartment before our wedding day, so that we could take up residence when we came back from our honeymoon.
After the wedding we drove back to Melbourne and had our first night as husband and wife at the Travel lodge in St Kilda Road. The next morning we took off on our honeymoon. The Peugeot 203 had been serviced and ready for a long journey to the Gold Coast in Queensland. As we had taken two weeks leave, we were in no hurry to get to Queensland and decided to see some of Australia. We drove along the Princes Highway, intending to stop at Bermagui, for the first night. Joan Rowlands in Brisbane
Everything was going fine, we passed through Morwell and stopped at Traralgon for lunch. When we were approaching Lakes Entrance we noticed a burning smell from the back of the car and decided to stop and investigate the cause. Much to our surprise, we noticed hot oil squirting out of the rear wheels. I could only gather that the worm wheel drive had become over heated and this had caused the problem. As there was nothing we could do, we drove very slowly into Lakes Entrance and stopped at the first Service Station we came to. The mechanic put the car on the hoist and carefully removed the cap on the deferential resulting in a steady stream of hot oil escaping through the threads. He found that the breather pipe on the fully enclosed deferential had been squashed when the car was serviced in Melbourne and this had gradually over the miles built up sufficient pressure to heat the vegetable based oil.
The unbreakable Peugeot 203
I told him to put in as much “Molibond” ( an oil additive product based on molybidium disulphide) into the deferential as this could to prevent the Phospho-bronze worm wheel from becoming pitted, which he did even though he had not seen such a mechanism. The service station did not have any vegetable based oil in the store, but after a phone call said that they could get some from a dealer in Traralgon. As it was now nearly 5.00pm, the owner offered to put us up for the night at his house and said that the oil should be arriving first thing the next morning. We were thankful for the offer and were glad that the problem was not going to stop our journey.
We woke next morning to a hearty breakfast and when we offered to pay for our lodging, they refused to take any money and were told to go and enjoy our honeymoon. The deferential was filled with the correct oil and after paying for the work done, continued on our way.
At Currumbin Sanctuary – Gold Coast
We stopped in Sydney and Coffs Harbour and made it into the Gold Coast on day 4. We stayed at a caravan park in Mermaid Beach for 7 days at did the usual tourist things, such as a visit to Currumbin Sanctuary and Brisbane and had a great time.
After our stay, we left for Melbourne travelling down the Pacific Highway and again every thing was going fine until the exhaust pipe, where it joined the engine came loose and fell off. We were not far from Coffs Harbour so with the car sounding like a jet engine drove into the first service station to get it fixed. Again, the mechanic had not worked on the Peugeot 203 before and he said he would have to get parts from the nearest dealer as they had no metric fittings. Once again we were offered the owners hospitality for the night, until the parts could be sourced.
In the morning we resumed our journey to Geelong. The car was now running beautifully and we covered the distance between Coffs Harbour and Sydney on the old Pacific Highway (this was before the freeway) in what seemed no time, arriving about 4.00pm. We were planning to spend the night in Sydney, but instead decided to make up for lost time by continuing until we got tired. Relaxing at Bennett Court, Leopold
We may have stopped for tea at a roadside café and continued on the old Hume Highway (again this was before the current Hume Freeway). We could have stopped in Albury about midnight and had a strong cup of coffee and something to eat and kept driving, sharing the drive between us. Just outside Benalla we had a scare, in that we found ourselves on the wrong side of the road and could have had an head-on collision. This was a warning that we were tired and we stopped and slept in the car for about an hour. Thank God the rear squab of the front seats in the Peugeot 203 could be made to fall flat against the rear squab making a comfortable bed.
We then continued through Melbourne to Leopold arriving at dawn at Joan’s parent’s house at Bennett Court, Leopold. We had travelled several hundred kilometres with only the occasional stop and were truly exhausted. We went to bed after breakfast and slept for 24 hours until the next morning. The things one does when you are young and foolhardy.
The next day we drove to Melbourne and took up aboard at our apartment at Mary Street, St Kilda.
10 Mary Street, St Kilda with laneway on right to our Flat
We settled down to domestic bliss, with me continuing to work at the Housing Commission and Joan at the Jessie Mcpherson Hospital in Lonsdale Street, in Melbourne. We both worked hard and managed to save enough money to buy a block of land for a house that Bert said he would build for us.
Joan’s parent’s were regular visitors and Bert the staid old Englishman, acquired a taste for curry when we took them out for dinner at the Carousal that at that time was a restaurant situated beside the Albert park Lake in South Melbourne.
Working in the garden at the St Kilda Flat
We looked around for land and visited several display homes and finally settled on a block of land in Gillon Court, in Oakleigh, on a new sub-division besides Scotsman’s Creek, opposite a reserve that was to become the Oakleigh Public Golf Course. The main reason for choosing this site was that it was close to a station and was within a reasonable distance from the city. We put down a deposit and paid off the land as quickly as possible. It those days, to qualify for a housing loan from the State Savings Bank of Victoria you had to have saving account over a particular period of time with a minimum amount saved each month. We saved all our spare funds and in no time qualified for a loan of Ten Thousand Dollars that was all we needed to commence building our dream home that we designed on a Merchant Builders home.
In the meantime Joan continued working as a maternity nurse.
Bert Freer had the plans drawn up and obtained a permit, but the changes that he made was the cause of several arguments between Joan and her father. We finally had to agree to the plans as Bert was building this house for us at the cost price of the materials and he was not going to charge us for his labour. We compromised as we went along to make sure that the house was finished.
The block had a substantial slope to the rear and to the right of the block and we decided that we would try to build the house with a view to having it as a two storey at the lowest point at the back. Unfortunately, the final plans that Bert drew did not have a room with an 8 Foot ceiling that was connected to the house via a staircase. There was only a room under the house that one could stand up in with a door and window to the rear of the house. Bert arranged to have the excavation of the stepped foundations and the arrangement of the steel re-inforcing and the concrete pour. We arranged for a pre-mix concrete delivery and poured the foundations with the help of Bob Coombes and Peter Freer. Bert laid the bricks with my help in mixing the mortar and carrying bricks, to reach the floor level. We could not get the dark brown bricks that we wanted and had to settle for red bricks that I painted “mission brown” after we moved into the house. Once we reached the floor level, we had the stump holes drilled and the stumps concreted. The floor bearers and joists were put in place the yellow tongue floor was nailed into place.
Bert had the stick frames delivered and the roof beams and ceiling joists. He constructed the frame and roof by himself with my help. We hired a tiling company to lay the roof tiles on the roof.
With Ed as the labourer and Bert the builder we toiled for several week-ends until 1968. In February 1968, Joan found that she was pregnant with our first child and this meant that the house had to be completed before the child was born. This was before the doctors used ultrasound to determine the progress of the pregnancy and until Jacqueline was born we did not know the sex of the baby.
Whenever Bert and Gertrude came to stay with us, we had to have dinner at the Robs Carousel Restaurant that was on the shores of Albert Park Lake. Bert had taken a fancy to curries and he had to have his favourite meal of curried prawns, whenever he came to Melbourne.
Bert made the windows and external door jambs and also did the brickwork himself to bring the house to lock-up stage. An electrician did the electrical rough-in and a plumber the plumbing rough-in. Bert ordered the plaster sheeting required and did all the plaster work himself. He did all the internal door jambs and the architraves and skirting. He also built the kitchen at his house in Leopold and transported it to Oakleigh. He did all the work with my help to bring the house to Fixing Stage. At Bennet Court, Leopold
I maintained the lawns at our flat and the garden and used the small area at the rear of the property that was approached through a laneway, to park our car whenever it had to be cleaned or washed. The laundry at the rear was used to do our washing.
Each week-end was busy as we tried our hardest to meet the deadline of trying to finish building by the end of September. Bert laid the floor and wall tiles in the wet areas. I did all the painting of the walls and ceiling and stained the woodwork. We bought carpet squares from Myers and had a different coloured carpet in each room. I laid cork tiles in the passage and the kitchen and dining room. A carpet was laid in the lounge.
Jacqueline in her cot on the “Balcony”
As much as we tried, the house was not complete when our first child Jacqueline Michelle Rowlands was born in 1st October 1968. When mother and daughter came back home to Mary Street, Jacqueline spent the first few weeks sleeping in her cot in the room that was my office. It only took a few more weeks and we had our “Occupany Certificate”. We arranged for a Furniture Removalist to move our furniture and we took ourselves to 10 Gillon Court, Oakleigh.
The patio at the rear of the house had not been finished, so I temporarily covered the area with boards, so that Jacqueline’s pram could be brought out into the sunshine. When I realised the danger that lurked in this arrangement, with no balustrade, I soon had a concrete floor and balustrades with steps installed.
The Freer Hardware Store at Leopold
Bert had decided to give up working as a builder and started an hardware shop in Leopold. While the shop was initially successful, the profits were not sufficient to maintain their lifestyle and Gertrude Freer went back to work at the Grace Mckellar Hospital in Geelong and was appointed as Matron. The Matron was entitled to an apartment at the hospital and when Gertrude was on duty she stayed at the hospital and returned home during her time off.
Gertrude and Bert Freer at the Grace Mckellar Hospital in GeelongBert would stay with her at the hospital during the time she was on duty. I recall that one a week-end when we took the children to see their grand-parents we heard about the hurricane that destroyed Darwin on the television at Gertrude’s apartment.