Saturday, May 03, 2014

Happy in St Kilda

While I don't live in St Kilda now, I have in the past and I feel a strong connection to the seaside suburb.

How can one describe St Kilda to those who don't know it? It began as isolated town in the 1800s about five kilometres from Melbourne city where the wealthy visited and had grand homes. Its the early to mid 1900s it became a place of mostly new and stylish flats and grand houses converted to apartments and boarding houses. Taking a room in a St Kilda boarding house was quite respectable then. Large estates were subdivided and in the mid 1900s many more flats were built, and these offered freedom to those who did not quite fit into society, when the norm was for a child to stay at home until they became an adult and wed and moved to their own place in the suburbs. Many did not fit this mould and St Kilda with its flats was the place to be.

As we strode into the latter half of 1900s, St Kilda post war filled with European immigrants, many of them Jewish and perhaps attracted to the density of the population and a place where you could sit at a cafe and meet your friends. By the sixties St Kilda was on a downhill slide, with rampant prostitution, drug use but also an extraordinary music scene. By the seventies punk music dominated the scene, drugs were omnipresent, both inside homes and on the streets, and prostitution very much in your face.  Indigenous people claimed the suburb as theirs, along with the other stake holders. The eighties became a decade where you were a quite brave soul to live in St Kilda proper. St Kilda Baths closed and St Moritz ice skating rink in a prime position burnt down under suspicious circumstances.

The 1990s saw the gentrification of the suburb, driving out some of the more interesting but troublesome characters. In the early 2000s it became a mecca for any visitor to Melbourne and now every second accent to be heard on the streets and serving you in the cafes will be from a young European or British backpacker.

What is St Kilda in 2014? It is a place for tourists, overseas tourists and people from the outer suburbs who think they are walking on the wild side when visiting. It is overcrowded by cars and the St Kilda train was taken away, replaced by many trams that barely cope with the number of passengers. A couple of square kilometres is the mostly densely populated area in Australia.

It still has its artist community, its gays and dykes, its social misfits, its wealthy, its poor and homeless, its drug addicts, its prostitution, its somewhat reduced music scene, its Sunday market, its wonderful beachside and pier, its street of European cakes and cafes and even some local shops for local people remaining, its also much reduced Jewish population, replaced perhaps by Indian immigrants........actually no, Indians don't seem to like St Kilda much, nor do Asians.

St Kilda has become a place to visit and a place to stay for overseas visitors. But the essences of the old St Kilda are still there. I have felt seriously threatened three times in my life. Once on a train to western suburbs, but the remaining two times were in St Kilda. Yet, I adore St Kilda. I wouldn't be a member of the St Kilda Historical Society if I didn't. I find it hard to find a parallel in other Australian cities, Bondi in Sydney is close, but not quite the same. Glenelg in Adelaide is a very tame version.

How many Happy clips have you watched? Shame on you if you have watched none. I found a St Kilda one. Apart from the interior shots, I know everywhere you will see in the clip. I know many of the people in the clip by sight (or reputation), and I am sure there are some who I should know but don't. Good to see our Mayor getting into the spirit. It is a terrific clip and it is my St Kilda.




30 comments:

  1. Andrew, it is very interesting and nice clip. Definitely it is a place worth visiting so varied and multicultural. Beaches are amazing and I hope so the sea is also clean and no so much polluted.

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    1. Gosia, the water is reasonably clean, but Prince Charles once swam in the water in the 1970s and said it was like diluted sewerage.

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  2. Need to google map it right now

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    1. John, rather different to the St Kilda it was named after.

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  3. As a Sydney boy I can reveal I was once happy in St Kilda too. It was the place where I first entered a sex on premises club.

    Oh and Ron Barassi is a St Kilda boy or like me an interloper?

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    1. Victor, I have been quite happy in St Kilda, rather a lot of times, but not at varied locations. Barass is a local St Kilda boy, but I am not sure how long he has lived there.

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  4. I am suitably shamed. I hadn't heard of the Happy clips - much less seen one before this gem.

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    1. EC, apparently there are a thousand of them. Under the rotating globe on the left is a link to some of them.

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  5. I love the Happy song and have posted it before ~ but had not realised it had gone viral. I am now off to see if there is a Happy song for Cairns.

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    1. Hi Carol. So is there a Happy in Cairns?

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  6. Great film clip, this place remind me of The Cross, Redfern and Bondi all mixed up.
    Merle..............

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    1. Merle, that is a perfect description of St Kilda.

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  7. I love St Kilda, used to visit every weekend until I am weighted down by a ball and chain.... Would live there if the train were still running.

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    1. MM, the light rail is reasonably quick. It is certainly an interesting place.

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  8. Melbourne Fresh Daily has some wonderful photos of St Kilda.. see http://melbournedaily.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/st-kilda-promenade.html

    When Joe and I first returned to Melbourne in Jan 1976, we bought a beautiful bluestone Victorian home with L shaped veranda in StKilda. Loved it!

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    1. Great photos Hels. Do you wish you could be back in the same house?

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  9. I think St Kilda is totally overrated. I know I'm in a minority.

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    1. Fen, I wax and wane about it. There is a lot of interest there, but weekdays are better without the hoards.

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    2. True, I used to spend a lot of time there with clients. I still think it's pretty divey.

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    3. Yeah Fen, it is divey. Have you gone all middle class on me? I just like to remember how it was.

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  10. I lived in St Kilda very briefly, but I'm not sure when. I think perhaps it was the first place we lived after the immigration camp at Bonegilla, before we came to SA.
    We visited the beachside markets and pier one Sunday in 1981 when we moved to Melbourne from Sydney, in the hubby's Army days.

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    1. River, I guess as you don't remember it very well, you weren't there for very long.

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  11. I'm ashamed to say I haven't watched a Happy clip before but I really enjoyed this one just like I have enjoyed all my visits to St Kilda . Its coloured history was interesting.

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    1. Diane, as we describe some as 'colourful racing identities', coloured and colourful is very apt for St Kilda.

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  12. I loved walking there on a dull, cloudy day- the beach path was a little bit on the wild side...

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    1. KN, wild in what way? Characters?

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  13. Yup definitely one of the best I've seen Andrew..

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    1. Thanks Grace. It looks to me that a lot of work goes into these clips.

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  14. I love these clips - I think Pharrell [spell check just suggested Harelip?] has written THE definitive interNational anthem.
    A great ad for St Kilda, though I still cringe when I have to go near the place. Tacky, tacky, tacky, Accy...

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  15. FC, very clever, tacky, tacky Accy. I am surprised media has never mentioned the world wide sensation of Happy clips.

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