Brighton can have its bathing boxes – Edithvale has its boat sheds

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Growing up in Edithvale in the 1960s and ’70s was a little like living in a small rural town. Bordered by Port Philip Bay, Rossdale Golf Course and The Edithvale Wetlands, back then, the area was nothing but market gardens and paddocks beyond.

Originally farmland with a scattering of beachside holiday shacks, the farms began to be subdivided, and young families moved into the ubiquitous brick veneer houses that sprang up in the ’50s and ’60s.

Similar to Brighton’s beach boxes, Edithvale is famous for its boat sheds.Credit: John Lamb

There was no agonising over the best school to send your offspring to in those days as there was only one option. Known as Edi Primary, all the local children went to the Edithvale school, conveniently situated in the heart of the suburb, which meant everyone walked there; no driving or kiss and go drop-offs.

Streets full of young families meant there was a friend to play with in nearly every house, you just had to knock on the door. And play we did, often on the street, riding bikes, roller skating and skateboarding, kicking the footy and using rubbish bins as makeshift wickets for cricket (which were hastily moved for approaching cars). If we weren’t on the street, we were at “Elephant Park”, named after the enormous iron structure in the shape of an elephant with a slide for a trunk. It was a scary climb to the top and many a child took a tumble onto the unforgiving ground below. There is still a playground there today, though it’s much more aesthetically pleasing, with timber play equipment, harmonious landscaping and safe rubberised ground.

Like a country town, sporting clubs were and still are a big part of the community – the Tennis Club, Golf Club, Bowls Club, Little Athletics and the strong local support for Edithvale Aspendale Football and Netball Club. Better known by the kids as Edi Ass, I had great fun playing footy in what must have been one of the earlier women’s teams in the 1970s, continuing the family tradition where my Dad has been ruckman in the 1960s. If sport was not your thing, there was Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, crochet classes at Mrs Mac’s wool shop, Miss Wendy’s Dance School at the Church Hall, or the Joyce School of Ballroom Dance, all of which I partook in with various levels of competence. I still have no rhythm, but I can crochet a mean granny square.

Elephant Park in Edithvale was a favourite place for kids to play.Credit: Kerrie von Menge

The best feature of Edithvale is the beautiful bayside beach with its fine white sand, where we would congregate all summer long. The recently removed Lifesaving Clubhouse was the oldest standing in Port Philip Bay, replaced with a more modern offering. The daunting swim out to “the poles”, a few hundred metres offshore, was a rite of passage for local kids either as a dare or to achieve your Bronze Certificate. Suffice to say, although I was a member of the Lifesaving Club, I was not a strong swimmer and that challenge eluded me.

Brighton may have its Bathing Boxes, but Edithvale has its Boat Sheds; same thing really.

The best things to do were done at the beach; skiffle boards, truck tyre inner tubes, yellow zippy boards and foam Coolite surfboards, the introductory board for young wannabe surfers before they progressed to larger waves further down the Peninsula.

When the time came for a real fibreglass surfboard, it was a trip across the road to Oke Surf Shop, now relocated, but still going strong over fifty years later.

The Main Street shops were on Nepean Highway and all wants and needs were catered for; there were butchers, greengrocers, haberdashery and hardware stores. You chose your allegiance to either Lady Jane’s or Crean’s Cakes; which was the superior bakery is still hotly debated today. We didn’t have much choice for takeaway, with only fish and chips until the much-loved Bayside Pizza appeared in the ’70s and only recently closing its doors. The nearest Asian food was Fook Hing Chinese in Aspendale, and didn’t we love saying, “let’s have Fook Hing Chinese!”

There was once a cinema, the Unity Theatre. Now long gone, its Art Deco facade can still be seen above the vacant shops beneath. Like many shopping centres, the strip lost some of its vibrancy over the years, including the colourful “Relax, You’re In Edithvale” mural.

Now those cream brick veneer houses are getting two-storey extensions or being pulled down to make way for townhouses as new families move in. I don’t see the kids playing in the street like we did, perhaps there are more attractive pursuits inside or in backyards.

Although I have long since moved closer to the inner-city, life has a way of coming full circle and now my daughter is a teacher in the same classroom that I once learned in at Edi Primary, educating the next generation of children lucky enough to be growing up in Edithvale.

This piece is part of The Age’s Life in the ’Burbs series.

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