A Haunted House?

Around 1973

Barry & I loved pinball machines and even today with all our electronic wizardry, I still prefer playing an old style (analogue) pinball machine. King Pin is my all time favourite machine and I would like to have one more good game on one before I die.

Barry & I were introduced to pinball when briefly, an unlicensed amusement parlour opened up right next to our primary school in 1971. As we grew older and were allowed to range wider, we discovered hundreds of machines in dozens of locations, one we went to a lot although a fair ride on the pushbike, was near the corner of Malvern Rd & Burke Rd in Glen Iris.

Actually there were two near each other, one a fish & chip shop with a few machines, the other a ‘wog shop’ as everyone called them back then. Most greeks don’t even know any other name for them but they were once everywhere – barely decorated shops with a basic counter, sometimes basic food, lino floors, steel framed tables and chairs plus pinball machines with the odd Bingo pinball if you were lucky.

Older men sat around drinking strong coffee and playing Manilla, a card game. Often Barry & I would be among the few Aussie’s that went there. Any way I digress…as I usually do.

So we’re in one of the two ‘pinny shops’ one day and a local tells us about a really strange house in the next street, Scott Grove. Of course we had to explore, after all we had been told there was a body in there!

Well this place was strange from the first look. I’m not exaggerating when I say the grass was close to three feet high and the house was slanted, as if a demon had tried to drag it down to hell (imaginative weren’t we).

After creeping carefully around the front yard and crawling under windows so as not to¬† be seen, we got a little bolder. The front door had been partially boarded up so we thought that maybe it was empty and carefully went around the back. Here at least, we couldn’t be seen from the street.

Barry, being the bolder one, found that the back door was unlocked. He looked at me with a scared look on his face, questioning with his eyes, ‘did I think we should go in’? He opened the door as quietly as he could and propped it open in case we needed to escape fast. We walked through an area with old unpainted shelves like you might find in a shed.

It turns out that the first door had been added later and we now faced a real back door with a lead-light window in it. No light or movement could be seen through the mottled glass so in we crept. Now we were terrified.

Melbourne’s ‘Deadly Ernest’

In front of us was the kitchen and to us, a scene from Friday Night ‘Deadly Ernest’ horror shows. In the centre of the kitchen, it looked like something had punched up through the earth, a demon trying to get through.

This mound if you like was at least 1 metre tall and had dragged most of the floor up with it but somehow not breaking the lino floor. There was barely enough space between the cupboards and this ‘thing’ to edge around.

Remember that door propped open? Now you know why.

We ran, terrified if we’re being honest, back to the shop to get our bikes and headed full speed for home. I don’t recall much more of that day but I know we didn’t go near those pinny shops for weeks.

Eventually we got our courage up and enlisted the help of a couple of friends and headed back. This time we explored the kitchen briefly but our new recruits were spooked too and were itching to get out of there, although not admitting it. We explored the house some more and it appeared to be lived in. We carefully opened another door and we were pretty sure we saw a candle light approaching so we all took off.

Of all the places we ever explored this was the spookiest.

We never did go back to those pinball places.

First Mischief

Barry Beddome was the best friend I ever had, a friendship like no other. Even today although Barry has left this life and I had only seen him a handful of times since the early 80’s, my family, his family, school friends from back then, all still remark on the bond between Barry & I. I consider myself blessed to have been his friend.

Barry was inquisitive, a trait encouraged by his parents, Clive & Claire. I don’t remember for sure, it was too long ago, but I’m guessing that it was Barry that instilled that inquisitive streak into me. Barry was also a daredevil, even at age 10 he was more daring than I ever grew to be.

I was raised in East Malvern at 1 Downer Street, it’s gone now, swallowed by a freeway but it was a stone’s throw from the Glen Waverley end of the Darling Station platform, on the Glen Waverley rail line.

Red Arrow – My House. Blue Arrow – Barry’s House.

Barry lived at 36 Baird St Ashburton and to get to each other’s home we had to cross Gardiners Creek, near my home. That fact came to play a central role in our adventures over the years.

The bridge we mostly used could be seen from my front lawn, many times I would sit out there waiting to see Barry crossing the bridge on his Dragstar bicycle.

We were not always together, we both had other friends, but we were together more often than not.


 

Sometime around 1968.

The first real adventure that I can recall, started when Barry discovered a burnt out house in Nairn St, Ashburton, actually closer to my house than his. On the way to my house he’d had a quick look from the street and continued on to get me. So off we went on our bikes.

At this point I have to say that Barry was probably a little smarter than me, he was certainly far more knowledgeable due to the huge volume of books his parents bought him. He was also a very very quick thinker, something that would save a life but that is yet to come.

We explored the house and while exciting for a couple of young kids it was fairly uneventful, the house was semi gutted and would later be demolished however the adrenaline pumped as we explored while trying not to get caught. You have to understand that life was different back then, colour TV was not yet invented and Australia was not the land of over-protected punces* that it is today. Houses burnt, or even being built, had no barriers to keep people out, people were expected to show common sense. Kids were expected to be kids.

It must have made an impression on me as almost 50 years later I can still visualise small glimpses of that day. In my mind’s eye I see the burnt, faded green weatherboards, carefully stepping from one charred floor joist to the next, Barry collecting the old copper light fittings in case he could turn them into pocket money, above all the smell – the smell of damaged lives. I don’t mean death, just the heartache of losing so much.

I can’t do it anymore but when I was a volunteer firefighter, every time I wandered a burnt house, I recalled that day with Barry.

One thing is certain about that day, it set the scene for similar little explorations again and again.


*Most won’t believe this and I don’t care, but the word “punce” was created by Barry & I way back when we were young. I don’t recall which of us said it now but it was actually a mispronunciation of something else. We liked the word so we kept it and over the years we developed a definition of a punce.

If you want to see common use of punce you’ll find it in scattered urban dictionaries, today’s youth would say the same person was a loser. While that’s not entirely incorrect, it is not truly accurate either as a punce is so much more, it’s attitude and mentality too. the word punce should always be used without capitals to enforce its very nature.

  • The official definition as created by Barry and I – “A punce is someone who farts in the bath and tries to bite the bubbles“.