My Mother’s Back Yard

Our theme this week for Sepia Saturday is back yards and hence this small and indistinct photo of my mother (1899-1990) in the back yard of her home at 96 Ryrie St, Geelong  A little girl of three or four posed with a man’s bike in a backyard which matches our theme photo with its outside wash-house and rope clothes lines.

From this back yard we can radiate outwards to some of  the distinctive sights seen by this girl from 1899 to 1908

Vera back yard ryrie stThere wasn’t much room to play in the back yard so their mother would sometimes sit  Vera Tansey and her younger sister on the front step   The other side of the street was much more impressive. to look at.

ryrie st geelong 1900As seen in 1900 opposite them in Ryrie St,  to the right was the Post Office with its prominent clock tower. To the left of the Post Office was the Telegraph Station – see the Time Ball resting on the roof.  Just before 1pm each day the ball was raised  to  alert citizens and ships on the bay that 1 pm was imminent.  On an electric signal from Melbourne  the ball was dropped to indicate 1 pm.  I don’t know when it last operated but i wasn’t operating in  1900.

The vehicle is possibly a Walker’s Omnibus which serviced the suburbs of Geelong.

Then came the solidly built  Mechanics’ Institute where the family used to attend concerts.  Originally it was this  single storey structure  but by 1900 was two storeys high. You can just get a glimpse of the :Presbyterian Steeple Church beside it.

MECHANICS INSTITUTE GEELONG RYRIE STIn 1913 the steeple was transferred to another church,

steeple church geelong ryrie st Both the Mechanics’ Institute and the Steeple  Church were later incorporated into our Geelong Performing Arts Centre where a couple of weeks ago I saw a brilliant local performance of My Fair Lady.  The body of the Steeple Church is still there  housing a Dance Studio with  a stage, sprung floor and mirrors,.Theoretically the facade of the Mechanics’ Insiitute was preserved but apart from the name for me it bears little resemblance to the beautifully ornate original. But upstairs the facade now hides a  dance studio

As the girls grew so their freedom increased..  They attended the nearly Flinders State School

Flinders state school 1906And in their spare time were able to visit the zoo at Kardinia Park, now home of the Mightly Cats. (That’s a football team !)

As Vera said      “When I was big enough to be trusted to look after Hilda, Mum would let me go to Kardinia Park to feed the numerous animals. She kept two brown paper bags on the copper wall and bread scraps went into them for us to take on a Saturday for the monkeys etc. We would call at Podbury’s coming home for a loaf of bread and Mrs Podbury would give us a bun each. One Saturday we called in and she gave me one look and said “Go home and tell your mother you have measles”. The warm sun had brought spots out all over me.”
The Zoo, Kardinia Park, Geelong, 1910This is the Kardinia Park Zoo in 1910, a modest zoo with monkeys, ducks, swans, guinea fowls, an emu, kangaroos, wallabies and deer.  Bur everyone was upset when the emu died in 1907 and even the newspapers in New Zealand reported the fact.   The Zoo gradually suffered from lack of proper upkeep and was closed.

Emu 1907 Kardinia Park zooWelcome to Old Geelong.

In 1908 the family left Geelong and shifted to Murtoa,


17 thoughts on “My Mother’s Back Yard

  1. Jo Featherston

    Thanks for posting those old photos of Geelong. I never knew that that ‘ the Cattery’ had previously been a zoo. My husband’s Featherston grandparents moved there from Ballarat and Blwarrah in 1917, but that was after your family had left. They lived in Little Myer St.


  2. La Nightingail

    A nice forecasting of what you mother saw as she grew up. Sad about the Emu, but people do the darndest things to get animals’ attention, sometimes – like tossing rocks & pennies & such to see if they’ll eat them. Had the owners/managers of the little zoo kept a watchful eye out, that might not have happened, but as you said, the zoo was closed due to improper upkeep. What a shame.


  3. Wendy

    Oh, I’m going to have to remember this clever strategy of turning the view around. I wish I could do some time traveling to see those interesting buildings on Ryrie St. That measles story must have caused a fright — I’ve read of children dying from measles.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sharon

    Lovely to see these photos.

    My Great Great Great Grandparents were married at the Church of Scotland, Geelong 16 Dec 1852. I thought it was so fitting that they were married by Reverend Love.


  5. Bob Scotney

    Neat trick to go from the back to the front. The fence in the yard looks as though it might have been made from corrugated sheets. I have some shots of Geelong from when my son-in-laws parents lived there – if I could only find them.


  6. MandyJenae

    Nice way to tour Geelong. One of my personal delights is having the opportunity to view places that I probably will never get to see — and my tour guides actually live there and bring new meaning to the photos. Thanks.


  7. kristin

    You post just initiated a discussion between my daughter and me about your mother being 3 or 4 in 1902 or so. She pointed out my father was born in 1911 and that there wasn’t that much difference. Anyway, I enjoyed the trip through a neighborhood I’m sure I’ll never see.


  8. Little Nell

    That was a clever twist – looking at the view from the yard, instead of into it. Once again I have learned something new as well. A time ball has been added to my store of little-known gems of information.


  9. luvviealex

    I love the way you have responded to the theme this week…so imaginative. Great stuff. They were some imposing monuments on that street. Sad about the poor old emu.



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