Robin banks on a winner
by Bill McAuley
12th December 2014
“Who’d want to live at Warrandyte?”
The young couple weren’t deterred by his cynical remark and replied enthusiastically: “We do, we want to live at Warrandyte.”
They bought their block of land in Webb Street back in the days of pounds, shillings and pence for only £1250. (It seemed like a fortune then.)
Their house was finished just before they were married in 1968 and they have lived there happily for the past 46 years raising a brood of three children along the way, Bruce now 41, Erin 39 and Jeffrey 35.
“Although the kids live in different parts of Australia, we are still in weekly contact and are very close,” Lainey said proudly.
“And the kids are close with each other as well, our six-year-old granddaughter Myah lives in Queensland but she rings us every week with lots of questions for Grandpa.”
When Robin came to live in Warrandyte in 1953 he was only 12.
“It was rather an eye opener coming from a big city school in Auburn South,” Robin remembers. “We had four grades in one classroom and a playground that stretched from the pine plantation to Fourth Hill Tunnel.
At lunchtime we used to fish for yabbies in the dam next to Lil Whitehead’s house opposite the school.
“My classmates were Bruce McAuley, Barry Able, Darryl Pike, (the policeman’s son) Irene Hendry, Lorraine Norman and Barbara Schneider.
“Things were different back then,” he continues. “To get a milk delivery you’d leave a billycan with your order and some money in it hanging off a tree in Mitchell Ave. Along came the milkman Tiger Flowers with his horse and cart and he’d bail out the milk from a churn into your billycan and take the money.”
Robin says with a smile “the place was dominated by artists and potters in those days”. “They were a bohemian crowd, but you couldn’t hold that against them,” Robin said.
“I worked a couple of seasons at the butchers when I was still at school. My job was to link the sausages but the interesting part was the deliveries. We used to deliver as far as Christmas Hills in the van and I had to run in with the meat and collect the orders. Some of the customers used to invite us in for a cup of tea or something to eat.
“I remember one big bearded fella who wore shearer’s pants and a flannel top. He must have been a trooper back in the day because he told us that he was on duty the day they brought the Kellys in.”
Robin was the first registered scout of the newly formed Warrandyte Scout Troop.
“Our first meetings were held on the riverbank behind Ken Gedge’s chemist shop,” Robin said.
“On dark nights we met under a Tilly lamp fastened to a tree. Eventually we all bucked in and built the scout hall in the early ’50s.”
Later, Robin was able to give something back and worked as a cub leader for 20 years.
On school days Robin had a foolproof way of knowing if he was running late for school or not.
“If I heard Barry Able riding his horse across the old wooden bridge, I’d know it was 8.30am,” Robin said.
“He was as regular as clockwork and the horse’s hooves made such a racket on the wooden roadway.
Warrandyte was so quiet in those days. At night you could hear the old waterwheel on the river squeaking as the wheel turned with the current.”
Unfortunately the picturesque waterwheel that was situated above the swimming hole opposite the pub is long gone now.
Robin smiles as he talks about the old days and tells the Diary a story about Bill McCulloch who was the last mounted postman in Victoria.
“When the new postie took over Bill’s route he asked us if the previous postman was 10 feet tall because local residents had placed their letterboxes in a high position to accommodate Bill who was sitting up on his horse Silver. We replied, ‘No mate, he rode a horse!’
Things changed for Robin in 1959 when he was involved in a serious motor accident.
He was a passenger in a car that hit a tree alongside the Ringwood-Warrandyte Road. The accident affected Robin’s ability to concentrate and he changed his employment as a result of it.
Robin said: “I never really remembered anything about the accident.
No memory of it at all.”
Robin worked for 40 years at the Board of Works and then spent the last 10 years of his working life at Warrandyte Cemetery as a general hand and gravedigger.
Lainey worked as a nurse and also at a Ringwood doctor’s surgery early in the marriage but later worked in childcare.
Rob at 73 and Lainey, 68, are both retired now but keep themselves busy. Rob is still very fit and takes his dog Indie on long walks every morning right up to Eagles Nest at the top of Webb Street.
“And there’s always wood to split and grass to cut,” he says.
Lainey is heavily involved as a volunteer with Mainly Music at St Stephen’s hall and does patchwork on Thursdays.
Robin fondly reflects on his life in Webb Street.
“Everything’s been good here. There’s something about Warrandyte that gets into you and you can’t get it out of your system,” he said.
“Where else can you walk five minutes up the road and see wallabies, kangaroos and echidnas. Also parrots, wrens, kookaburras and currawongs.
“I think that bank manager got it wrong back in 1967. Warrandyte is a great place to live,” said Robin with a triumphant grin.