Friday, November 25, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Detritus: Secret Tunnel Part III

Is this the secret tunnel that we have been searching for? 
Perhaps my detective skills failed and I gave up too early on the hunt for the secret tunnels, which a young Stephen Hickmott and other boys from the old Marist Brothers College used to explore in the 1960s. 
But that hasn't stopped other history detectives from going on the hunt for the mysterious tunnel that led from Ye Olde Darlinghurst Gaol, beneath Burton and Liverpool streets to the Alexandra Flats on the corner of Darley Street. 
Yesterday I received these sensational and intriguing photographs, which show a tunnel beneath the former jail site, now a technical college.

If you are late on the hunt for the tunnels, see the stories here and here and then come back to this post.

The student who sent me the photographs said there was an excavation contractor working at the technical college this week fixing a sewer main about 5m underground, close to the entrance on Forbes Street . . .

"As they got about 3m down they apparently started to hit the side of some very large lime and sandstone boulders,'' she writes.
"The excavation man said he noticed that they had been carved and wondered why they were so far down.
"It wasn't until later when one of the plumbers was standing in the 5m deep hole that he noticed a gap in the sandstone blocks that were now at his eye level, just big enough to fit your fist threw (above).
"The contractors must have moved one out of place with their digging machine, which then revealed a long tunnel.
"From where I was standing I could see in and I saw exactly what you described about the tunnels: 3 foot-wide limestone walls as far as the torch would shine, going off in to parts which could be those cells you were also talking about."

It certainly looks like the tunnel that Stephen Hickmott described. But until someone crawls inside them and follows them all the way, we might never know where they go.
The student has invited me to go and have a sticky beak TODAY from behind the work-fence, but I am stuck in the office and would never be able to get there. 
Is there anyone who can go and have a look? Perhaps you could distract the workers somehow and then slip into the tunnel when they are not looking and just crawl for dear life.
But just imagine if they filled in the hole while you were inside and you became trapped in there forever, until you died of thirst and starvation.
I could not in good conscience encourage this kind of dangerous behaviour, but if you can go for a sticky from behind the safety of the work-fence, please do and report back with details. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Street of the Week: Thomson Street North

I'm starting a new occasional series today called Street of the Week. Nominate your favourite now! 
I came up with the idea after a ramble through the Darlinghurst flatlands one muggy day last week when all the colours of the neighbourhood seemed to have intensified in the heat. 

I was dawdling along Bourke Street when I noticed this vibrant Jacaranda (above left), like a violet firecracker bursting with flowers. I followed its branches up the Liverpool Street hill and along a paved area until I arrived at the northern end of Thomson Street. 
Houses ran along the east side of the street, to my right, while a fence ran down the western side protecting pedestrians from falling down a sheer sandstone-brick wall, that dropped down to a dunny lane at the back of homes on Bourke Street. The view across the city was amazing. Go and see for yourself.

And the row of houses were among the sweetest - and most enormous - I have seen. 
It seemed all the residents took great pride in their homes and street.

That neighbourhood pride was most evident right at the end of the street where one resident has set up an urban garden idyll with benches, planter boxes, hanging baskets and mirrors.

They had even built this lattice screen to create their garden enclave:

There were so many lovely things to see:

And even as I left the street and slipped up Shorter Lane to Forbes Street, there was this last lovely glimpse at the backs of homes down the gated Thomson Lane:

What's your favourite street?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Food: Boca Argentinian Grill

My friend Sapphire Tenzing and I always seem to eat at the same cafes and restaurants and go to the same pubs. 
It's not that we are completely unadventurous. It just seems easier to meet up at the usual haunts because if we have a craving for a particular dish, we know where to find it. 
Or if we are running short of cash, we know where to eat on the cheap. And it's always best to play it safe when we're broke. 
That's why it's always the Darlo Bar ($12 Pad Thai for two), the Kings Cross Hotel ($12 steaks) or the Fountain Cafe (longest happy hour in the district). 
But after a recent trip to the cinema to see Woody Allen's latest, Midnight in Paris, we began musing on life, dreams and romanticism and decided that we should have dinner somewhere we had never eaten before.
And that's how we ended up at Boca Argentinian Grill.

Boca opened about 18 months ago at 310 Liverpool Street, on the corner of Victoria Street, and it was hard not to notice its arrival at this bustling intersection. 
The building was once home to a Pasta Pantry eat-in/take-out place and was looking a little faded. 
The owners of Boca completely revamped the building, painting the exterior in a pale pink, with punchy yellow window frames and woodwork, as well as bright blue veranda railings. 
Colourful lights were hung from the awnings, footpath chairs and tables were added and the building suddenly had a new, lively and more welcoming presence on the street. 
From the outside, passersby could also look through the large windows into the barbecue or parilla style kitchen and see large chunks of meat hanging from hooks and all kinds of cuts being seared on the grill.  

Prior to the Pasta Pantry and long before Boca, the building - which I can trace back to the 1880s - was home to another foodie joint owned by a Maltese family, the Abelas. 

Joseph and Phyllis Abela lived in the upstairs of the building in the late 1940s and 50s and on the ground floor operated a corner shop delicatessen.
In March, 1950, Phyllis died at the Royal Women's Hospital in Paddington, leaving Joseph as sole carer of their six children - Deirdre, Carmen, Lena, Victor, Josie and Mary.
Two years later, in September 1952, the Abela's shop was robbed by an armed man who threatened young Deirdre with a pistol.

A man early last night held up a young Maltese girl at pistol point in her father's mixed goods shop at the corner of Liverpool Street and Victoria Road, Darlinghurst, and stole 15 Pounds from the till.
The man threatened to shoot the girl, Deirdre Abela, 17, if she screamed.
He then snatched the money, ran out to the street and apparently escaped in a car.
Miss Abela said she was alone in the shop about 8 o'clock when the man walked in.
He asked for a drink and paid for it.
''He seemed very nervous," Miss Abela said.
''He had the drink and asked for a packet of cigarettes.
"I put the cigarettes on the counter and asked him for the money.
''He pulled a grey looking pistol from his pocket and said, 'Don't you scream or I'll shoot you'.''
''I started to say, 'You . . . ' and he said 'You shut up', waving the pistol at me.
''I didn't scream because I didn't want to get shot.
''He reached over the counter, snatched two Five Pound notes and five One Pound notes and then ran out the door.
''I ran around the counter and into the street and saw a car pulling away at high speed.''
Miss Abela rang her father, Mr Joe Abela, who was visiting some relatives.
Mr Abela rang the police.
Police in wireless cars searched the area but found no trace of the man or a possible accomplice.
Miss Abela told the police the man spoke with a foreign accent and was of foreign appearance.
She said he was about 26 years, 5ft 5in tall and appeared to have one black eye.

I can find no record of whether the police ever caught the pistol-packing, thieving foreigner and I don't know what happened to the Abelas. I hope Deirdre wasn't too disturbed by the experience. She seemed fine enough to speak to the Sydney Morning Herald's crime reporter, so I imagine she wasn't too scarred. The counter where she was robbed would have been where there is a long eating bar at Boca (above).

The interior of Boca is even more colourful than the outside, with rich red walls on the ground floor, while the collection of rooms on the first floor are covered in hyper-coloured blue and yellow stripes. 

There's also an excellent open air area on the first floor, which would be a great place for a work party or large group of friends, because you could take over the whole space.

A lot of care has gone into the look and feel of the restaurant and that same thoughtfulness comes across from the waitstaff too. We had about four staff waiting on our table and they were really friendly and super efficient. 

Saph and I grabbed a table outside so we could watch the passing parade of people in Halloween costumes and within minutes a waiter was pouring us glasses of the house-wine from a penguin-shaped carafe, called a pinguino ($23). 

The pinguino was the cutest thing we had seen all day and had us in stitches as I would never think to associate penguins with Argentina. We asked the waiter what on earth the penguin meant, but he just shrugged and laughed and had no explanation. 
The only clue I could find while googling was that serving wine from penguin-shaped jugs was popular with working class Argentinians in the 1930s and that most elderly Argentinian still have them in their cupboards.
Then I also learned that the Argentinian coastline is a breeding ground for the migratory Magellanic Penguin and six other species of the water bird, including the Macaroni, Chinstrap and Rockhopper penguins. 
I didn't know there was such a thing as a Macaroni Penguin either. 
But now I know that the Macaroni Penguin - which has a rather extravagant yellow crest - takes its name from the 18th century British term macaroni, used to describe a flamboyant fashion style such as that worn by the character, Yankee Doodle. 
"Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni."
Anyway, there's no macaroni on the menu at Boca, just loads and loads of meat.

Saph and I skipped the entrades, such as the empanadas (two for $11), South American pastries with savoury fillings; the torta frita, an Argentinian cheese bread ($3); and the picada, a sharing plate of cured meats, pickled veal tongue and rolled flank steak stuffed with vegetables, olives and pickled yellow peppers ($23). 
Instead we went straight for the parrillada pampa main meat platter (above, $60), which featured lamb leg, rump steak and chicken thigh, all marinated and sizzling away on a mini table-top barbecue with sides of chimichurri sauce and salsa criolla
The platter came with our salad of choice, ensalada del berro, which was the tiniest bowl of watercress, spanish onions and capers in lemon dressing. 
We also ordered another side, papas estralladas ($10), or crushed potatoes pan fried with garlic and olive oil, which was also rather small for the price.
We didn't mind too much though, because by then we were already on to our second pinguino and were so full that we were struggling to get through the large selection of meat on the grill. There was enough meat for four people and only enough salad for one.
When we could eat no more, the waiter vanished with our leftover meat and returned with it in two fashion boutique-style paper bags - no one would have any idea we were carrying home large quantities of meat.

You would think by now we would have been wise to call it quits, but then some sweet treats arrived on the neighbouring table and we couldn't help but be envious. 
We had already spent most of the night watching the endless array of food being brought to the table of three men who seemed to know the Boca owner. The final dish they were served was a rectangular plate carrying three 1cm-thick chocolate coated circles and they looked delicious. 
A waiter told us they were a traditional layered sweet pastry called alfajores, and that each Argentinian province had their own unique varieties, which come with different pastries, fillings or coatings.
The Boca plate of three alfajores, which variously include jam or caramel fillings, costs $29, or they are $12 each. 
We decided against an alfajor as we had already eaten too much, but then the waiter returned with an alfajor on a plate and said it was complimentary. He was so sweet.
We chopped it into four and realised we could manage to squeeze a bit more food in after all. 
It was the most amazing thing, kind of like a gourmet wagon wheel, with biscuit and caramel covered in crisp chocolate.

As we walked home we reflected on how friendly the waitstaff were, especially the young man who brought us the alfajor. Then while we were discussing how inexpensive all that food was, we realised they hadn't charged us for the second pinguino either.
This hospitality wasn't wasted, as both of us can't wait to return for a rooftop night with endless pinguinos and alfajors - and it could become one of our regular haunts.

Boca Argentinian Grill
310 Liverpool Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9332 3373

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Detritus: Paper Ghosts

Halloween was two weeks ago but these little white paper ghosts were still hanging from a tree outside Novar on Darley Street when I went by the other day. They looked really sweet, swaying in the breeze.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Detritus: New Nest

I've built myself a new little online nest and I'd really like to know what you think of it.**
Blogger, which hosts my blog, has been rolling out a series of new designs and updates in a bid to improve the "blogger experience", and I like to think of myself as one of those people that embraces the new, so I thought I'd try one out. 
Of the eight new designs, this "Flipcard" version seems to work the best with the My Darling Darlinghurst blog style. You can try the others using the drop-down menu at the top left of the home page, but the Flipcard is my home style.
I have also returned to a pink colour scheme, because I just can't resist a good shade of that colour and this one is not too bad. 
Unfortunately, they haven't yet updated certain blogger gadgets, which means for the time being there is no chapter section, with easy links to my posts on Heritage Items, Plant Life, Animal Life, Across the Border, Past and Present, Detritus, Retailers, Street Art et al.
Which is a shame as I kind of built this blog around the notion of chapters. I am hoping Blogger adds the gadget functions soon, so I can reinstate that and the A-Z too.
There are a few other areas that Blogger still needs to add and update, but if you haven't already noticed, I won't bore you with those details.

Anyway, last weekend my eagle-eyed friend in the Darlinghurst flatlands, Ruby Molteno, dragged me three blocks along Bourke Street with the promise of seeing "the most amazing little nest" that some street artist had created.
"I'm not going to show you where it is,'' she said.
''All I will say is that it is not too high up and it's really cute."
Well, it didn't take me long to spot it:

"Are you sure that is a piece of art,'' I said to Ruby.
"Or is it just some basket that someone's thrown out the window and it's landed in the tree."

"No,'' Ruby assured me.
''Look, it's all intricately woven into the branches; someone has spent a lot of time making this."

Well, whatever the case, it is kind of cute, don't you think?

And what do you think of the new blog look? Please let me know.
If you hate it, I do hope Blogger lets me revert back to my old style.

**UPDATE: I have reverted back to my old template because there are too many glitches with the new dynamic templates designed by Blogger. Things went missing and then they also removed my links to Twitter, Facebook and the Subscriber form. So until they sort it out I'm sticking with my original design.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Plant Life: Bourke Street Cactus

Back in December last year when the City of Sydney council was building its Bourke Street Cycleway, there was a story in the Wentworth Courier about this large cactus, which was planted in a garden bed next to the footpath. 
The Wentworth Courier spoke to an appropriately named resident, Clare Verngreen, who with her green thumb had kept the cactus alive for over a decade. 
But because of the new cycleway garden beds, the City of Sydney council's landscapers had decided the cactus had to go because it posed a risk to passersby. 
At the time, my friend Ruby Molteno took a photograph of the plant and a copy of the Wenty article that had been taped up nearby:

"A large cactus in a Bourke Street garden bed is facing the chop because it does not fit into council planting plans,'' the Wentworth Courier reported. 
"Clare Verngreen, who has been tending the garden outside her Bourke Street home for more than 10 years said she was notified by a project manager on the Sydney Council bicycle path project that her cactus had to go.''
A council spokesperson told the local magazine that the cactus ''posed a safety hazard to people passing by" and had to be removed because the cactus is ''of a large size and protrudes outside the garden bed and unfortunately, replanting is not an option due to the size and the dangerous 20-30mm needles.''

Well, it seems that the council and Gardener Verngreen reached a solution to the problem, because when I was passing by on sunny Sunday, I couldn't help but notice the blooming marvellous cactus, which was weighted down with bright yellow flowers:

The cactus is thriving and is even surrounded by other flowering succulents so that it has actually become a little desert-style garden.

The flowers also look so healthy, as if they are really happy to have been able to remain at their home of 10 years. 
The council has since developed a draft Greening Sydney plan that means we will see more street-side plants being encouraged and also planted, which I think is the most marvellous thing.

If you want to pay a visit to the cactus while it's in bloom, the plant is located just outside 221 Bourke Street. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Reader Story: Sussan's Family Search

Bayswater Road, Kings Cross, 1929 - From the City of Sydney Archives
My Darling Darlinghurst reader, Sussan, wrote this story in the hope that any readers might help her learn more about the circumstances surrounding her mother's birth and adoption. If you have any clues, please email me:
''Was the Kings Cross Hotel in William St a boarding house in 1924? Does anyone recognise any of the people in this story?,'' Sussan writes.
"I am really after any leads that may help in trying to find out who my mum’s real father might be."


It was the roaring twenties in Darlinghurst: the Kings Cross Hotel, William Street, September, 1924, to be exact. My mum first entered the world in one of the rented rooms there.
She was born to a young, single, 22-year-old, named Elizabeth Florence Hainer, also known as Flory, I’m told.
In the year she gave birth, Elizabeth was living at the hotel with her mother, Alice Maud Hainer and her younger sister, Rose Lily Hainer.
The sisters were born in Forbes, in central west NSW, where their parents, Alice (nee Halliday) and Jacob William Hainer, had married in 1900.
Jacob was 37 at the time and his new bride just 17. The couple also had two sons: George Frederick (born 1907) and Thomas Joseph (born 1909).

It appears from family stories that Alice and Jacob separated prior to 1924 (Jacob died in Granville in 1940). This is possibly why the three Hainer females lived by themselves in the Kings Cross Hotel at the time my mum was born. There are no records of George or Thomas being there.
Elizabeth’s new daughter - my mother - was given the name Eunice Joan Hainer and we believe she was adopted out shortly after her birth.
Alice and her two daughters appear to have stayed on at the hotel for some time after mum’s birth.
However in 1926, Elizabeth, then 23, married John Guthrie, a 37-year-old tram conductor who lived at 28 Edgeware Road, Enmore.
They married at the Sacred Heart Church, in Darlinghurst, and Elizabeth’s “usual residence” was listed as the Kings Cross Hotel on their marriage certificate.
In 1930, six years after my mother was born, the electoral roll shows that Alice and Rose still lived at the hotel.
But by 1936, the electoral roll for “East Sydney Darlinghurst” shows that Alice, son George, daughters Rose and Elizabeth and her husband, John, were now living at 191 Brougham Street (below), just a couple of streets away from the hotel.
Alice remained in the Darlinghurst area until her death in 1952.
Rose married in 1941 and moved with her new husband to Annandale. She died in 1971 at Newtown, in Sydney's inner-west.

So the years moved by since my mother was adopted out by Elizabeth in 1924, but in 1948 unimaginable tragedy was about to hit her real family.
Based on the electoral rolls it appears that Elizabeth and John Guthrie separated sometime prior to 1943. During this year he was living in Wollongong, south of Sydney, while Elizabeth was in an apartment at 138 Brougham Street (below) with the couple’s three sons (Kevin, Colin and Christopher; my mother, who she adopted out, was her only daughter).

On September 14, 1948, newspapers across the country reported the tragic death of Elizabeth’s husband, John, who was crossing the railways tracks at Wollongong on his 50th birthday when he was hit by a train.

But the year of 1948 became even worse. 
A mere three months after John's horrible death another tragedy occurred.
Elizabeth was back living at 191 Brougham St, with her mother Alice, brother Thomas, his wife Edith and her children.
Elizabeth returned home from work one day and heard someone being violently ill in one of the bedrooms. She rushed to the room and found her 19-year-old son Kevin sitting on the bed in a very bad way. On the dressing table was a soup bowl and a tablespoon that contained Weedicide.
“Why did you take this Kevin?” Elizabeth asked.
He replied: “I am sorry mum, I don’t want to live."
Kevin was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital, but died a short time later. 
He had been suffering from depression since his father’s death, according to the coroner’s report.
One wonders how Elizabeth went on, but she probably did so for the sake of her remaining two boys. She lived until 1971 and died in Liverpool Hospital age 69.

As for my mum, Eunice Joan Hainer (above), she had been adopted by an older couple, Henry William Hines and his second wife Edith (nee Robinson), who had married in 1915.
By the time they adopted my mum they had been married for nine years and Edith was 53 and Henry, 57. Henry had been previously married and four of his eight children had survived to become adults.
They were very old to be adopting a new baby, which is why I sometimes wonder if they were related to the child. My mother was given the new name of Lois Edith Hines.
In 1937, when Lois was just 12, Edith died from a bad heart, and my mother and her adopted father moved into her step-sister’s house at Hurlstone Park, in Sydney's inner-west.

My mum: Eunice Joan Hainer/Lois Edith Hines

In 1941, when mum was 17, her biological mother, Elizabeth, approached her at the knitting mills where she worked.
Elizabeth gave Lois her contact details but my mother became hysterical as she didn’t know she was adopted. She ran home distressed and her family finally told her the truth.
I wonder how Elizabeth found her after 17 years – did she know who her child had been given to?
By that time Lois’s adoptive father, Henry, was suffering from dementia and died on Christmas Day, 1944, in a psychiatric hospital at Rydalmere, in Sydney's northwest.
Mum was only 20 at the time and continued to live at Hurlstone Park with her much older step-sister and her family.

At the end of 2006 I started my search for the truth of mum’s real beginnings and uncovered most of what has been told here with my cousin’s help.
Our breakthrough was getting her birth certificate and by chance it confirmed that the child Eunice Joan Hainer had become Lois Edith Hines. No father was listed on her birth certificate.
With these new leads we searched high and low for any remaining family members and through the Ryerson Index  - a database of funeral notices – we found her sole surviving half-brother, Colin. He died in 2006, which was such a shame as mum died in 2007.

Mum (1924 - 2007)

We also found other distant relatives, through ancestry searches, who helped put some of the missing pieces together for us, however, many of them didn’t even know that my mum existed.
I wrote to the funeral home that had conducted Colin’s funeral and they kindly agreed to pass on my contact details to his last known address. Colin’s daughter’s contacted me just before Christmas, 2010, and to my astonishment, said she knew about mum and that Colin had actually met her.
My cousin and I were in total shock.
Apparently, some time in the 1970’s a policeman friend of Colin’s helped track mum down. They found out where we lived and even drove past our home in Fairfield, in Sydney's west, a few times.
On one of these occasions mum was going out the gate and Colin followed her. He had one of his daughters in the car with him as they followed mum to a shop.
Inside the shop, Colin watched mum purchase a little gold vase and when she wasn’t looking he also grabbed one and bought it as well.
He then got mum into a conversation, small talk I think, and offered her a lift home, just down the street. Things were different in those days so mum accepted - he did have his teenage daughter with him at the time.
However, during this encounter, Colin never revealed to mum that he was her half-brother.
This was apparently because mum had reacted so badly that day in 1941 when Elizabeth had approached her.
She was only 17 then and had either not kept, or had lost, her real mother’s contact details in the confusion of that day.
As the years went by and mum’s real family never heard from her, they presumed she wanted nothing to do with them.
Such a shame as mum was a widow from 1977. She was left with two children to raise, my brother, 13, and me, 10.
For many years we struggled, and to think her one surviving brother was so close and yet they never reunited properly is so tragic.
Colin kept the same little gold vase that he and mum had bought separately on that day in the shop. Apparently it was a prized possession until his death in 2006.