Monday, November 05, 2007

Revisiting a death

Here is a clip from a post I wrote not so long ago.

Many years ago R had a stint between jobs when he first arrived in Australia as a tram conductor. The chap who trained him as a tram conductor lived in an Albert Park boarding house. He was of Latvian extraction I think. For at least a decade, probably longer, he has caught the same trams from Albert Park every night to the Balaclava Hotel for his evening meal. He always sat at the same reserved table and either read his newspaper or chatted to his latest lady companion. Tonight there were flowers on the table and a funeral service card. No drawn out malingering for him. Quick and clean.

I wonder if R regrets not going up to him and saying, 'Hi, Charlie, remember me?'

I have learnt a bit more about this chap, Charlie Farrago, who died. (name spelling may not be correct) He did not live in Albert Park. He lived in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. He lived at the Gatwick Private Hotel, a boarding house. He lived there for forty one years and retired from the tramways in the nineteen eighties.

Living in boarding houses in the sixties and seventies was quite respectable. Many people did it. I know one woman who lived in a boarding house while she owned an apartment on Beaconsfield Parade in the same block where, tragically, the marvellous Mary Hardy ended her life. She is very old now but she still lives in her large house in Lempriere Avenue in East St Kilda, the short street off Balaclava Road with fancy street lights at its entrance.

I am not sure how Charlie coped with the changes at the Gatwick Private Hotel. There was a murder there not so long ago. Many of the residents are drug addicts and often drunken black fellahs. It would certainly not be the place it once was.

Charlie's room was small but it would seem he was quite content there. During his employment with the tramways, he was a money lender. He charged interest of course, but often waived and it would seem he was very generous with money.

The chap who gave me this information told me he borrowed fifty dollars from Charlie once. He visited him to repay the money, but Charlie said, don't worry A, spend it on your family.

When he died his estate was worth over one million dollars, in very liquid assets. The bulk of it went to those at the Gatwick who looked after him well in his final years.

Charlie was physically and mentally able right up to when he died at the age of over eighty. He was admired and respected.

Oh that all of us should be so fortunate.


  1. The Gatwick Private Hotel in the seventies and eighties was always a fleabag rooming house full of thieves and prostitutes, plus a few lonely invalids (as is always the case). I'm surprised to hear it hasn't been gentrified, not yet. Maybe the latte set like having it there, for a thrill in their bloomers. The idiot bastards.

  2. This wouldn't happen to be the bloke who had the funny beret type hat on all the time, would it?

  3. i'm curious about this boarding house now, as both you and r.h. have differing opinions.

  4. although, as it's location suggests, i'm leaning toward r.h.
    st kilda was never a trendy suburb until recently.
    it was always a slummy drug and sex den

  5. ** charged interest of course, but often waived and it would seem he was very generous with money.

    sounds like a good soul then.


  6. That is my limited experience too RH.

    No, don't think so Andy.

    I'd go with RH Kiki. The have seen a steady decline over a long period. There was a time when they were genteel though.

    I reckon so Keshi.

  7. That's true, before the mid-seventies places like the Gatwick would have been totally genteel, and even later the Gatwick seemed more genteel than other dumps. But inside there was the usual stink, everything rotting away. So what a laugh to imagine it surrounded by all that splendour now, the bums cowering inside. Just how do they manage with their cheap cafes gone? Pubs too. It must be like living on the moon.
    The old StKilda was a good hideout. You could arrive from nowhere, pay a week's rent, and take a room, no questions. False name? Who cares? And if you didn't like the old dump there were plenty more. The caretakers were drunks, the tenants were drunks too, and prostitutes, and mental patients, unemployables, and plain old buggers ending their days up shit creek. Well there has to be somewhere for your last little lie down, and it's nice to be among your own mob I guess. Losing it all to the professionals would have been catastrophe. But what would they care.

  8. Nothing changes darlings. Nothing new.

    There'll always be the lower orders.

  9. I think there is a council and state government policy to try to keep the remaining boarding houses going.

  10. What for? Would you live in Sunshine? Or St Albans?
    The nearest latte is Yarraville.
    The nearest dive in St Kilda where deadbeats can hang out doesn't exist anymore.

    And I'm sorry, but these places were Rooming Houses -not boarding houses, which suggest meals and some sort of scrutiny. St Kilda rooming houses were totally unmanaged, lights burned day and night, no one cared. Front doors were wide open, anyone could walk in and did. Everywhere there were old signs on upper verandas and fronts of buildings: "Rooms To Let".
    These were big houses, old mansions crumbling away, where deadbeats could live among timber panelling, ornate ceilings, and boarded-up marble fireplaces.
    My favourite was 79 Grey Street where the back stairway crashed into the yard one night.

  11. St Kilda was a place where you could be anything and other things wouldn't care. I picked up three drag queens at St Kilda junction one night and didn't know they were drag queens, cross my heart, it was only as they were climbing out of my car in Fitzroy Street someone told me.

  12. One can only seriously speculate as to when and at what point they climbed out of your car. Ever hear of a blog RH? Maybe you should start one.

  13. Well how far is it from the junction to where Monroes is now? That's how far I took them. They were dark ladies, and when I asked one of them what she was doing later she said meet me at Theos (hamburger emporium) at ten and we'll go to the Polynesian club, that's when I got the tip off.

  14. A blog is no use to me.

  15. Anonymous4:37 pm

    I knew Karoly Farago, he did stay at the Gatwick for over 40 years. He refused to leave when his fiances father refused him permission to marry his daughter unless he left. He refused to leave even after a fall in the street left him unable to live independantly. I don't know where the story about his wealth came from, He did not leave anything to the people who looked after him at Gatwick except memories and a few photos. He was a proud independant man who thought of Gatwick as his home.

  16. Interesting Anon. Thanks for the more accurate information