edwardes_park
Childhood in West Preston and Surrounds
by James Fogarty

I grew in West Preston,
a little wedge of Preston proper,
Melbourne’s best worst suburb.
Some called it Western DePreston
(Self-deprecation, I guess),
but it was always a special place.
J E Moore Park, with cricket nets sporting broken links,
and forgotten, sometimes broken balls resting on top,
which we’d take home anyway.
Sometimes we’d go the extra few minutes to Crispe Park –
when there was a game, or someone beat us to the Moore Park nets –
damped Merri soil there, my grandpa would tell me,
muddy in footy season.
Before that, Edwardes Park,
its black locomotive our gigantic playground,
worth six-hundred-forty in 1968 but
beyond price in my youth.
Nearby, we’d cut from Henty Street to the Wright Street Park,
between two leaning wooden fences,
when suddenly, a giant, rotating swing would appear,
a now-fading clown painted on top.
Once, an old lady across the road took us to W K Larkins Reserve,
where she told us: “There, a man died once”
and we believed her!
(The red paint on the rock a testimony to this day).
Back around the corner, through the laneway and up the hill –
back at home –
my newborn brother couldn’t have his name,
because that old lady’s dog already had it.
Throughout the years, with a new name settled,
the closest, J S Grey Reserve, proved favourite –
a bent tree our as goal posts,
later cut down and never replaced.
Later, I’d observe more from the bus,
and sometimes the car, like
that strip of yellow-green grass down Cheddar Road,
leading to those dustbowl ovals at J C Donath Reserve, or
H P Zwar Park, flashing between NMIT classrooms, or
G E Robinson Park, complete with spinning egg for play.
Still, the one I remember most
I’ve never visited:
Coburg Cemetery, on Bell Street.
“People are dying to get in there,” my grandpa would say,
without fail,
every time we passed.
I miss that joke,
and those parks,
but I don’t want to die in one,
like that man at Larkins Reserve.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Edwardes Park” (Preston, Victoria, Australia).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Fogarty is a teacher and writer from Melbourne, Australia. He was going to write a panegyric about his childhood suburb, in Melbourne’s north, but ended up writing about the parks he frequented and the memories associated with them.