Growing Up in Collingwood 1934-1955; A Memoir by John Ventura

On Monday I was frustrated again when I headed down to Babka for lunch. It was closed too.  Still hungry, I was diverted by Grub St Bookstore, where the genial bookseller looked very pleased when I asked him if he had any books on the history of Collingwood. He went out the back and returned with Growing Up in Collingwood, an A4 paperback self-published by John Ventura last year. It looks like a bloody brilliant social history. It is so unedited, so full of graphic design faux-pas, that it positively vomits authenticity. It has many photos, and the most classic hand-drawn diagrams of the author’s favourite childhood haunts, his family’s residence above the family fishmonger at 262 Jhonston St, and the like.

Ventura was schooled at St Euphrasia in the Abbotsford Convent:

“Sometimes we ordered our lunch via a brown paper bag with lunch money enclosed and our order and name written on teh bag. These were sent to the milk bar around the corner opposite the Yarra Falls knitting mill. At 12 o’clock, the bell would ring and we would all stand up to say the Angelus prayer. After dismissal, we all raced down to the milk bar to collect our lunch.”

He used to go to the first Coles Store, and to Foy & Gibson’s on Smith St:

“G.J. Coles’ first variety store opened in 1914 and in 1919 they advertised nothing over 2/6. I remember the glass tops over the goods displayed, probably stop us kids pinching things. Mum bought my stationery here and I also scored a metal frog that made a clicking noise. Remember those?

I think next door to Coles was the large retailer ‘Foy & Gibson’s’ a quality trader who begain in 1891. They made goods in a factory and mill complex between Wellington and Smit Streets. They had a variety of goods, Manchester, clothing, furniture, leather goods, soft furnishings, hardware, books, toys and sweets.

It was just magic for a 6-year-old to wander through the store. I well remember the systems of overhead cables in Foy and Gibson’s when you bought something, the sales assistant would place the money and docket into a brass container. This was then fitted into a bracket hanging from the cable. A quick flick and the container was propelled along the carrier to the upstairs office where the money was removed, checked, and the change and receipt returned by the same process. Meanwhile your purchase was wrapped neatly with string and your change refunded.”

66 Replies to “Growing Up in Collingwood 1934-1955; A Memoir by John Ventura”

  1. I am trying (completely unsuccessfully) to trace some family history of my father in law. On his army records he said that he lived with an aunt (Mary Alexander) on 33 Langridge Street Collingwood. she later tried to trace him through the army, still at the same address in the 1960’s. Is there still a house there now? Any idea how I can find out about the occupants of a house from the 1940’s to 60’s ? I know this is a strange request. Thanks for any help you can give.

  2. Michele
    You can find out the householders of 33 Langridge St Collingwood by searching the Sands & McDougall directories which were published annually and listed householders. Microfiche versions of these directories for early periods are available in most public libraries, but for this later period you would probably need to go to a library that has them in hard copy, namely the State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne. For what it is worth in 1947, a Miss Mary Alexander was the householder in 1947. No. 33 was on the south side of Langridge on the western corner of Cambridge St. The only way of discovering whether there is still a house there is to go and look, I am afraid.

    You can also search the Collingwood rate books and this will give you more information about the property you are talking about. These are available at Fitzroy Library which is located in the former Fitzroy Town Hall.

    You could also try making an enquiry via the Collingwood Historical Society website at

  3. Michele. My mother grew up during the 1950’s-60’s at number 29 Langridge Street, Collingwood. I am trying to find a pic of the house but have not had success, I assume it is no longer there. Your Father In Law would have lived 2 houses from my mother, if he was there, my mother would have known him. Please leave details on this website if you have his full name and I can ask my mother. Regards. Sally

  4. Hi Michele and Sally
    I just wanted to let you both know that I finally went around to Langridge Street to check out whether these houses (29 and 33) still exist. Unfortunately neither of them exist – the whole block has been demolished and replaced with 1970s structures.

    You might also be interested that that the Collingwood Historical Society blog is now up and running on the Society’s website. Follow the link below to access the blog page.

    We look forward to your comments! If there are any topics you would like raised in the blog just write a comment there after one of the posts. I am monitoring the blog so I’ll get to see your comment.

  5. Damn its amazing how small the world can be! Researching my great grandfather and he lived at 33 Langridge St. As was mentioned, the house is no more, I went there 23/3/08.
    Still working on the movements of his wife and children after his death in 1926. Cheers, Paul.

    1. My book, Growing up in Collingwood a Memoir 1934-1955, ,is available from the author John Ventura by ringing [03] 94605354 or mob.0429341934.

  6. I lived in Yarra St Abbotsford for all of my young life from 1941 – 1965. I am trying to find a photo or information on the old flour mill that was built opposite the railway yard at Victoria Park. The freeway is now built over the site of the mill I believe. I remember that to get the rail wagons across the road into the mill there was a little turntable at the end of the yards and then a horse pulled them across into the mill. I cannot find any record of this at all. This is testing my memory.

  7. Yours is a valuable memory… but you will find some information on the Aussie Heritage site on Dight’s Falls and Park, at the Aussie Heritage website.

    The land adjacent to Victoria Park Station was bought by john Dight for 481 pounds – at auction in February 1839. He and his brother, Charles Dight later built a flour mill at the river just up from Yarra Falls – now called Dight’s Falls. Their land, 26 acres in all streched across to Victoria Park. There are a number of pictures of Dight’s mill and surrounds in the State Library. Over the decades the mill was used variously as a paper mill, powder mill – but was,most of the time a flour mill.

  8. I was wondering where I could get a copy of Growing up in Collingwood? Are there any bookstores that still sell it?


  9. I think that Grub Street Bookshop in Brunswick St Fitzroy has copies. They did last time I was there. Otherwise you could try the Information Victoria bookshop in the city as they specialize in local histories.

    1. Hello John,

      I lived at 71 Yarra Street, Abbotsford for nine years as a child. Went to St Euph. Convent school. There were a family named Ventura living opposite us. Me and my sister used to swing on their iron bar fence. Wonder if they were relatives of yours.


  10. hallo john, how can i buy your book ‘growing up in collingwood’? i live in malta. is there an agent in malta where i can obtain this book. i too grew up in collingwood in the 60’s. what lovely memories. the shop in smith street that used to send the money and docket in a brass container was called “Hortans”. my mum used to buy her petticoats etc. from there. i attended st.euphrasia’s too and lunch was bought at the corner shop just like john explained it. coles and woolworths were my favourite stores. that’s where i bought my stationery too. regards theresa

  11. Hi John,

    Reading your notes brings back many happy memories of growing up in Collingwood in the 50's and 60' through to 1970 when we moved to Ringwood North. Hortons was an amazing place. I used to work there for extra money on school holidays. I remember one time, I would have been may be 15 and I was asked to type a letter for the proprietor on an old manual typewriter that must have dated back to the 1920's. Everyone in the store could hear me tap tap tapping away until the letter was done. Just as well we were taught how to set letters out at St. Euphrasia's. Does anyone remember the gents store on the corner of Wellington and Johnson Streets opposite the paint shop? Used to be owned by two gentlemen. They and the owner of the paint shop were always on the look out for me when I was going or returning from school, so they could ensure I crossed the road safely. As I said many happy memories. regards Luisa

  12. hi luisa, i do remember the gents store very well. that’s where i bought my stamps for my stamp collection and into my stamp album. they also sold st.joseph’s summer school uniforms as that’s where my mum bought my uniform for when i attended st.joseph’s. i remember Hortans very well. once you were inside, it seemed so dark. mum used to by her underwear from there. but coles and woolworths were my favourite. always bought something once we went in.
    regards theresa

  13. I was wondering if you could tell me where I could buy a copy of the book by John Ventura “Growing Up In Collingwood?

  14. Hi Francis, if you do ever find out where you could buy John Ventura’s book “Growing up in Collingwood” please let us know. your friend Theresa.Attard Nee Mamo.

  15. Hi Frances & Theresa,
    The book you are looking for can be purchased from John Ventura for $25.00 plus postage. He can be contacted on 03 94605354. Theresa I did mention that to you in one of my emails. If you want I can purchase it for you and then mail it to you. Contact me on my email if you want me to do that. Otherwise ring John direct, he is very helpful.Regards Luisa

  16. Les Cooper emailed me about the book wkich I must get a copy of. I remember we used to get whatever change we had after the pictures on saturday afternoon at the austral or bughouse, in chips and then we would go to vic park footie ground and get let in for free to watch the last quarter. All my family, mum dad and their brothers and sisters went to st Euphrasia's too. Maureen Compton email

    1. Dear Maureen, are you the daughter, sister oor niece of Ivan Compton with whom I went to St.Euphrasias. He lived in Nicholson Street, just down from Johnson Street.

  17. Hi all,

    I am trying to get information about my great grandfather, Cnr. M Nugent, who was the mayor of Collingwood in 1934. Does anyone know how I can do this? I'm not having much luck on the web.

  18. Hi Melanie
    What sort of information were you wanting to find out about him? Have you searched for information in births, deaths and marriages and in the Sands and McDougall directories? If he was a Councillor and mayor it is probably worth your while doing a scan of the local newspapers which are held in microform at Yarra Libraries at the Fitzroy branch which is located in the old Fitzroy Town Hall.

    You can contact the Collingwood Historical Society at the Collingwood Historical Society website at

  19. Hi Maureen.
    Wow, what memories can be encapsulated in one paragraph. Les Cooper is a friend of mine, we both lived in Abbotsford. I well remember the many Saturday afternoons at the Austral Theatre watching cartoons and often two films. Yes it was called the Bughouse and it was always an ice cream (dixie) at interval.
    The building is still there, but finds other uses. For me it was a walk from home to the pictures. I went to Cromwell Street primary school followed by Collingwood Tech. Riding around Collingwood and Abbotsford as an early morning paper delivery boy for years still has many fond memories.

  20. Can anyone remember the following I would be pleased to hear from some one who can
    I was very young when I lived at 39 Vere St, there were 4 shops in a row all being two story buildings, an Ice cream shop on the Cnr of Campbell St and Vere St, a bootmaker, then we had the Fruit shop at No 39 Vere St then there was a fish and chip shop.
    I recall there used to be horses for riding at either Campbell or Palmer Sts up near the Johnston St end.
    I went to the Collingwood State School which was in Vere & Cromwell Sts, I didn't spend much time at this address before my parents dumped me in the Box Hill Boys Home for which I stayed for some 7 years.
    I read with a lot of sadness what the poor girls went through at the convent of the Good Shepherd at Abbottsford, we went through the same hell at Box Hill.
    Please reply to me I would love to hear from some one in regard to this part of my life in Collingwood. Terry

    1. I am wondering when you lived in Vere Street (What period) My parents migrated from England Ireland and we lived in 195 Vere Street (Next to the milk bar) across from the pub. I went to St Euphrasia Primary school and we used to go down to the childrens farm at lunchtime. I was taught by nuns.
      My parents sold up and we left in 1966.

      1. Hi Jane
        just replying to your post did you have a sister named Moya please and parents Pat and Joyce? If so I have been trying to track her down for years. My name is Cathy and I used to reside in Yarra Street and also attended St Euphrasia's school.

      2. Jane you lived down at the Collingwood baths end of Vere st, I was only 5yrs and I was not allowed past Campbell St on my three wheeler trycycle, I lived there in 1948/9
        regards Terry

    2. Hello Terry,
      My name is Bill, I also went to Cromwell Street State school just for 1 year from 1948. In those days we started school at 5 years old. I lived at 21 Palmer Street Collingwood, which in those days was just a small narrow fronted weather board house. Those old houses no longer exist and many years ago were replaced with brick public houses. There was also a "lolly shop" as they were called then on the corner of Vere Street & Palmer street. Terry, you didn't say what year (s) you went to Cromwell Street State School, but I would really like to hear from you or anyone else who went to CSSS at around the time I did.

    3. G’day Terry,

      It’s your nephew Tony here, I’d Love to get back in touch – It’s been to long.

      Kind regards


  21. I am trying to trace the occupation over the years of 38-40 Smith Street collingwood, I know Wignells occupied the buildings for a long time, I am trying to find out an ealier period, from documents found during renovations, it may have been a fruit shop in early 1900. any comment would be appreciated

  22. I lived in 398 Johnston st Abbotsford I also went to St Euphrasia's School I do remember Antonietta Ventura ." John are you her brother I don't remember a lot as
    I got married and moved to NSW but I am very much interested in my past.
    Our house was demolished a long time ago. My maiden name was Piccirilli and I also know that Tony Bianco (shoes) also went to St Euphrasia's.

  23. I lived in collingwood from 1950 to 1965 i went to cromwell st school and collingwood girls school i lived at 249 hoddle st they pulled our house down for those terrible flats there was a hotel across the road it was called the morning star i have a lot of good memorys from there i would love to see pictures of there before it was all pulled down

    1. Hi Carol. I was born in 1949 and my sister Noreen was born in 1947. We both went to Cromwell Street State School and then onto the all girls school across the road . Main entrance was in Vere Street. We lived at 102 Vere Street Collingwood which was a two story house not far from Hoddle Street. We had to move from this house so those Housing Commision units could be built. We have great memories of growing up in Collingwood. We spent many an afternoon in the lovely library with those wonderful old stairs.

  24. I lived in Gipps St from 1948 until 1960 and went to Cromwell St State School. They have put factories now but i still remember going to Mr Staceys shop on th corner of Gipps and Cromwell St. Buying fruit from Monroes on the corner of hoddle and Gipps, and playing down the boulavarde in Abbotsford, what a childhood.

    1. Hi Lynette

      We must have lived close, as I lived in Gipps st near Mr Stacy’s shop. There were houses oppostie us and they were pulled down leaving a vacant block for a long time until Knights shoes were built on the site. There was also the methodist church near us, alas that got pulled down also to make way for Kingsley radio factory. Do you remember the fire in Gipps st at the abandoned tannery down near Cambell st and beside the Glasshouse hotel ?

      Regards Terry

      1. Did you live on the same side a Stacys shop as opposite on the corner were the Wells and Broncorto's on the same side of the shop at No 90 was the Cesaris's and and Stark, I lived in Number 81 which was next to Mrs Knights and then a few doors down were the Brownleys. I used to hang around with them and Johnny gadsdon. I can't remembr the fire

        1. omg Lynette Payne
          Mary Cesaris here Your family were fantastic neighbours I was so very little but I remember you. Please reply I would love to chat You were close to my sister Helen

  25. my father-in-law was supposed to have a fruit shop in collingwood but during the war he had to give it up as he was regarded as an alien and have to give it up does anyone remember Angelo Martino about 1935

  26. My ggrandfather James White worked at the Collingwood post office. He had a large family. Any one come across that family.Also my other ggrandfather was Frederick James Pritchard was a cabinet maker. Any recall anyone? His two sons were bother teachers at Vic Park school before 1900.

  27. My great grand father built McAplin’s flour in abbotsford and my mum now turning 80 is only really telling us about her dad who took over the business and then sold it. My mum and her sister were the end of that line of the family and I am trying to find information about the mill, the bakery and have started gather some great photos of the time. My son carries the McAlpin name in his middle name but we don’t know a lot about what went on at that time. Would love to hear more or see photos of the mill and the area as I am researching the family tree.


    1. Hi Michael,

      did you have any luck with your enquire ? I am also looking into the McAlpin story. I know one or two bits and that is all. (You probably know more ) I once found a picture of the place in Charles Street Abbotsford. Am frantically trying to ‘re-find’ it on the web. Your photos sound very interesting.



  28. I grew up in the Collingwood area in the 1920’s & 30’s and have fond memories of many of these comments. I would like to know more about publications of the area during these years

  29. Re Mc Alpines in Charles Street it became Home Pride Bakeries I worked as a receptionist with them for just over 2 years before they re –

    located to Oak Park and Clayton. That was 69-71

  30. Great nostalga

    I was born in Gipps st in 1950, went to Cromwell st state, and Coll Tech. I was there Carol to witness those houses being pulled down to make way for the high rise flats, and wondered if you knew a school freind from near you named Alex Taranto and his sister Maria ( I think )

    What I remember with fondness, was chasing the ice cart to get ice, listening to the tinker of the horse drawn drays, or even riding the clydesdales bareback at Yarra bend and richmond, and of couse swimming in the yarra river.

  31. I am interested in contacting any one who attended Cromwell Street Primary School between 1964 and 1970 and what was the name of the Headmaster at that time

  32. My maiden name was susan O'Leary I attended the convent as a day student from 1959 until 1963 .My Parents had the milk bar in Abbotsford street near the convent.I have so many memories of my time living there.I always thought that the nuns were so nice,unfortunately having read on other sites about the terrible way the girls who live there were treated ,I feel ashamed that I was so unaware or this yet went to class with them every day.I also remember the Dutch family that lived in the house on the grounds.The daughter was a friend of mine,I use to go to the house quite often,her mum use to give us a drink made out of liquorice,I still remember the taste.

    1. Hi Susan, I am the admin. of the St Euphrasia's School Abbotsford Victoria face book group. You are most welcome to join us on there. We share our school photo's and memories of our days attending the school. You never know, you might see old school friends on there too. We recently held our Inaugural school reunion at the Convent

  33. I am wondering how l could find some photos of my dad. Or any information at all would be great. His name was Reginald Morrison. l dont know what primary school he went to while living in Collingwood but l do know that he learnt a carpentery trad at Collingwood Tech. He was born in 1928 and l am not sure what years he attended that school. Any information would be great.

  34. Hi! I grew up in Collimgwood and attended Cromwell Street Primary until the end of grade 5 when we moved to Reservoir. My name then was Meryl Gregson and I lived at 17 Emerald Street. There are those horrible highrise flats there now. I attended primary school from 1951 to 1956 and then grade 6 at Reservoir. I would love to reconnect with anybody who remembers me from those days.I have been trying to find any groups to join , such as who grew up in Collingwood in the 50's and 60's, or just Cromwell Primary where people could place,old school photos and any other nostalgia.

  35. Hi! I grew up in Abbotsford, Collingwood, Cliftonhill and then Richmond. I went to Abbotsford Primary School in the 60's and then Fitzroy High School I remember the great times swimming in the Yarra River at Deep rock. My Grandfather worked at Yarra Falls Suiting Mill in Trennery Crescent Abbotsford, he worked there for 51 years starting when he was 14 yrs old as lunch boy and ended as Manager of the warping room. I believe it's a bit of a yuppy area now not the same old as years ago

  36. Abbotsford in the 1970s.I think about it most days.I'm 42 now.I miss Vic Park state and our old family home at 13 Trennery crescent.I adored match day at Vic park and I was always happy to tag along with Mum at the local supermarket in Johnston street.
    The Ballroom at Collingwood Town hall was magical on a Saturday night.

  37. Hi
    I am trying to find out any info at all about terrace row 354 to 360 wellington street Collingwood . Why they were built and what were they used for

  38. I am looking for information on my cousin Valerie Burns She was in
    Geelong and Abbotsford Convents from December 1939 till about 1956-58.
    Valerie got married had 2 children a boy and a girl but seperated from
    her husband when they were quiet young Valerie also had a sister Eileen
    and Brother Malcolm both dec and a younger brother about 2 or 3 years
    old in 1939 name possibly Ernest,Cannot confirm his name under privacy
    act His elder Brother could not remember his name as suffered dimentia
    in his final years but thought it was Ernest I will be 102 in another
    22 yearstill info is available.Have applied to freedom of information on
    several different occasions but rejected each time.Have requested there
    full names & dob if possible.Any Information greatly appreciated


    William E Harris

    108 Bamford Ln

    Kirwan 4817

    Ph 0747734087

    mob 0419 429 411

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