Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Melbourne of the past

Poetry by Barry Humphries. I like the reminder of things past. I believe he penned this for the opening of the renovated Myer Mural Hall. I took a snap of the mural hall through glass before it was opened.

Tonight as we forgather
In the Myer Mural Hall
I take you to a far off time
Almost beyond recall

When the Paris end of Collins Street
Was elegant and pretty
Before Melbourne struggled to
Resemble parts of Kansas City

When Pioneer buses roamed
And Ansett flew the skies
And ladies all wore hats and gloves
And gentlemen wore ties

When records were played with needles
Before grown men gelled their hair
And before all those kerosene tins
Piled in Federation Square

Before fish was christened seafood
Before organic free range chooks
When Toorak matrons would have died
For tea with Dallas Brooks

When Delphine sold those lovely frocks
With the '50s frills and flounces
And the sexiest men in Melbourne
Were radio announcers

When the Manchester Unity
Was our solitary skyscraper
And sport was on the back page
And not the whole damn paper

When at 6pm the hotels closed
And you couldn't get a drink
When the trams were a subtle cream and green
And the yellow page pink

We used to sit here with our mothers
Sipping tea and lemonade
And watch that very new phenomenon
A mannequin parade

Beneath Napier Waller's frescoes
Of legend and of myth
We would watch June Dally Watkins
And, if we were lucky Bambi Shmith

Box Hill is now an inner suburb
Which once lay on the fringe
And in those days we had Prime Ministers
That didn't make us cringe

Who could have dreamt the Melbourne Club
Would have McDonalds as a neighbour
Or that the Australian Labor Party
Could possibly misspell 'Labour'

A lot of people ask me
If I'm going to retire
Just because I well remember Myer's
Before we learnt to call in Myer

But did Nellie Melba
Ever tire of giving voice
So long as there's a possum listening
I don't have any choice

For I love my life upon the stage
And I love being on the telly
And I only hope I'm going to have
More farewells than Nellie


  1. This sir is a real Dame! ;)

  2. Sometimes I'm arrogant enough to think of myself as a pretty competent wordsmith. Then I read something like this by someone REALLY clever - and despair!!

  3. Loved it. Thanks for making me smile.

  4. You would love to travel back in time to see our Bourke Street 1959,
    When mums wore hats and gloves to shop, instead of wearing jeans,
    and there was only Child and Adult - No-one had heard of Teens.

    Mr Humphries recent memoir My Life As Me, covering his Camberwell childhood, is a most excellent read I do urge you to find it and enjoy.

  5. Anonymous10:50 pm

    Oh how I love Dame Edna!

    I must say though that when I was a youngun, Myers was out of our league. We dined in the lovely Coles caf on Bourke Street. Raisin toast and a chocolate milkshake was my favourite! V.

  6. Beautiful, just beautiful! *sniff*

  7. Good work Peter.

    Red, he has had a lifetime of practice and the poem may well be something he has reworked.

    Misty memories Ozfemme.

    Ann, I did see it, from a pram and I can't remember. Humphries is very amusing at times.

    V, I like her better in her earlier days. Yes, we too went to Coles, except my grandmother took us to Myers. I was going to say something about bad food start in childhood, except that is what we would buy for Little Jo.

    Maybe a bit creepy Kath, but I thought of who lived in Melbourne and now does not. You came to mind. It wasn't all good though. Memories are very selective and in twenty years times when you are talking about when you lived in Geneva, I expect you will recall the good over the bad. Hmmm, that will be quite a place name drop...When we lived in Geneva...