Helen lives in Princes Street, where her parents purchased their house in 1965 after arriving from Greece and marrying in Melbourne. The house was then bought for 6,000 pounds. Helen remembers her parents shopping in the department store on Racecourse Rd (where there is now Boccaccio Cellars), which sold clothes and haberdashery. She recalls the milk bar next to the laneway in Princes Street, run by a woman called Julie. As a small child, she played on the land that became Debney Meadows Primary School, which was just a hilly incline on which her father would collect daisies to make chains for her.
The Papadimitrious lived next door to Alice Arnold, an Australian-born widow, who had a brickette fire and a bucket of brickettes next to the stove. Helen called her “Nana”. Chain-smoking Mrs Harrison lived up the road. In those days, there were lots of other Greek families in the Flemington neighbourhood.
Helen attended Hopetoun Kinder and then Flemington Primary School from Prep to Grade 2, before moving to Debney Meadows in 1975, when the new school opened. Debney Meadows was a progressive school, with mixed grades and open plan. Helen spent summers at Flemington Swimming Pool down near the Community Centre, which was then in a different building. The school ran swimming lessons at the local pool.
A memorable school excursion was to the newly opened McDonalds on Racecourse Road, where the students had a tour of the facilities and were treated to a promotional film on the McDonalds Corporation.
Helen’s parents ran a delicatessen on Racecourse Road, where Macca’s Halal Butcher now operates. On one side they had fridges with feta and other Greek cheeses, and on the other giant sacks of beans and lentils. At the back, they sold ice cream and milk shakes in the old-fashioned way. Mixed lollies were on offer. There were hot nights when the Greek shopkeepers and their families would eat and play out in the nearby laneway.
Mr Acher, the Egyptian who established Acher Pharmacy next door, was a friendly face, as were the Greeks who ran the fish and chip shop. Another store sold Greek wares, blankets, christening clothes and other items.
Helen and other kids used to play chasey around the art deco toilet block that no longer stands at Debney Park. She learned Greek at a weekend school held in the back of the Former Wesleyan Church on Mount Alexander Road, also now gone.
Helen moved to Bryant Street in the late 1970s before moving back to Greece for a year. On her return to Australia, her family settled in St Albans. However, they held on to Princes Street, where she returned in 1997, now raising her own daughter, who also attends Flemington Primary School.