Curator of the Faces of Greythorn project shares vignettes of the journey through history
Ann Carew, a North Balwyn resident, whose local shopping strip is Greythorn Central. She has worked in a variety of settings including universities, regional galleries and local government as an art curator, cultural heritage officer, and arts administrator.
Faces of Greythorn curator Ann Carew told the gathered crowd at the launch of the Faces of Greythorn Statues of her pleasure and privilege to be invited to contribute to her local community, and help bring this project to life.
The Faces of Greythorn statues were launched on 21 May at the Trentwood Park car park picnic area by Boroondara Mayor Jane Addis and Maranoa Ward Councillor Cynthia Watson. The launch unveiled the work of Project Manager and Vision Yolanda Torrisi, Sculptor Shlomit Moria and researcher Ann Carew. The project was 90% funded by the Greythorn Traders Association through the contributions of all businesses at Greythorn and a community strengthening grant.
In Ann’s address at the launch she said:
“Initially I was surprised to discover how little had been published on the history of Greythorn, and so my research is based on accounts in the papers of the day, postal directories, historical records such as maps, and photographs, and conversations with residents, traders, and those with memories of Greythorn’s early days.
One of the first residents I came across was the delightfully named Ferdinand Finger, who initially purchased land (130 acres) in Greythorn in 1901, at the age of 31. He planted fruit trees of all varieties. Ferdinand Avenue is named after him, and Agnes Avenue, Ellse and Robert Streets after his children, with streets such as Citron Avenue and Lemon Road recording his orchards, which were some of the largest in the district. Ferdi, the sculpture is standing on the corner of Doncaster Road, and Sylvander Streets.
Another great resource for the project was the Outer Circle Mirror, circulated in the City of Boroondara in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s a treasure trove of articles on the local community, and paints a vivid picture of life in Greythorn, and North Balwyn through the 1950s and 1960s.
My main task was to chart the history of the strip, and the Sands & MacDougall postal directories proved to be invaluable. They are a simple listing of residences and businesses organised by street name. For example, in the 1950s there were just five residents listed on Doncaster Road between Balwyn Road and the Koonung Creek (now the Eastern Freeway), by 1955 there were seven shops between Sylvander and Tannock Street, with more being built on both sides of the road. Using the directories, I was able to chart the development of the strip from 1950 until 1974.
One of the first businesses established was the Post Office, at 286 Doncaster Road, its naming caused a bit of controversy. In 1954, The Age reported that North Balwyn’s residents’ hackles rose when the PMG seeking a name for the post office settled on Greythorn. It was controversial with many homeowners fearing a drop in property values, and social prestige. One resident of North Balwyn wrote at the time, ‘Fancy those people in Greythorn wanting to call themselves North Balwyn, there’s hardly a made road, most of its un-sewered, and they can’t even see Mt Macedon.’ (30 December 1954). Today we have the best of both worlds, being known as the locality of Greythorn, in the suburb of North Balwyn.
With a skeleton list of names and businesses, I then began to research some of the personal stories of the shopkeepers. In the early days the European ancestry of the locals is striking, families such as the Blacks, Conways, Lustigs, Polites, and Di Petrio’s all established businesses in Greythorn. There was also smattering of those with English heritage, the Woods, the Guests, and the Goodisons. The first Chinese restaurant was recorded in 1970, operated by Mr and Mrs Sun. There are many stories on the Facebook site of ‘We Grew Up in North Balwyn’, of locals taking their pots and pans to be filled with delicious Chinese food by the Suns on ‘takeaway nights’.
The Facebook site, ‘We Grew Up in North Balwyn’ has also been a terrific resource, and through this site I’ve got in touch with former residents, and relatives of shopkeepers. I thank all of those kind people who responded to my messages.
My local optometrist Paula Monaco, and hairdresser Madelin Jorgensen have been a great help, sharing their knowledge of the strip, pointing me in the direction of people who might know more. I also thank Rita and Nancy, of Viva La Fruit, who put me in touch with Philip and Diana Di Petrio. The Di Petrio’s have been involved with the shopping strip from its earliest days. They sent me a copy of the story published in the Greythorn Gazette about the young Philip. (Anyone with copies of the Greythorn Gazette please send a message through the Greythorn Central website contact form – It is as rare as hen’s teeth. It was edited by the first president of the Greythorn Traders Association.)
It was wonderful to work with Shlomit, whose creativity, and sense of humour was a delight through the project. In terms of the sculptures, we’ve aimed to pinpoint some of these stories of the local community. Our approach was light-hearted, and personal. We aimed to create characters that are imaginative recreations of traders and visitors to the shopping centre. None are strictly portraits, but Shlomit has given all of them an authentic presence, perhaps partly because she used models of friends and family to bring the characters to life.
The launch was conducted at the site where the Albert and Maddie statue stand – the site of A V Jennings’ Trentwood Estate.
Sir Albert Jenning first purchased land here in 1955. He recalled the open paddocks being covered in blackberries, while other locals recall the stands of quince trees, along the nearby creek beds. Some old timers recalled a dam near this site. Jennings incorporated a kindergarten and baby health centre, shops, and off street parking, and negotiated with the former City of Camberwell to construct a hall for the local branch of the RSL. Jennings also made the roads, incorporated a sewerage system, and installed the power (electric). At this time many new home-owners managed to afford a land and house, but they were often stymied by levies for roads, sewage and other services.
Here at the Trentwood shops, innovations included ‘a drive-in’ shopping centre and modern shop premises, designed by the architects Perrot Lyon Timlock. It was called Centreway and was a one-stop spot for all shopping needs, a supermarket, fishmonger, butcher, delicatessens, hairdresser, home and garden shop, petrol station, and toys. Many of the shops duplicated the businesses up the hill.
We’ve incorporated little clues to the areas’ local history on the sculptures. Albert’s T-shirt features the former City of Camberwell crest. His daughter’s pants feature the Yam daisy indigenous to the area, and her koala backpack is a reference to the former Wildlife Reserve, near the current site of Greythorn Park. Meanhile, Maria who is standing at the bus stop, has a red poppy on her coat, a reference to the RSL Hall. The character of Maria is inspired by the volunteers at Yours Now Mine, op shop and all the community volunteers who have contributed to the development of the strip.
Our approach was light-hearted, humorous, and personal. Each sculpture reflects the history of the shopping centre and the locals. We hope we enjoy them. Many thanks again to Yolanda and Shlomit for involving me in this project.
21 May, 2022