ASSOCIATIONS WITH PARRAMATTA
As I sit at Parramatta Railway Station after a day’s shopping, I look around me. I survey the huge complex superseding the existing structure. It is an attempt to create a modern station and bring it into the 21st Century. This glass and steel construction, which is so popular with planners nowadays, does nothing for me, though it does probably serve its purpose; but I find it ugly, sterile and without character.
How fortunate that the powers that be saw fit to retain the original building on platform 2/3 and the signal box. I don’t know, whether it is still in use, but it pleases me to see it still standing. These buildings had character. They could tell a story or two about the history and importance of Parramatta. I remember seeing a plaque years ago, documenting the building of the station to mark the construction of the railway line from Sydney to Parramatta. Is it still somewhere?
I remember the jacaranda trees outside platform 1. How delightful were their blue bells, and how pretty were the spent blooms as they lay in a thick pale blue carpet underneath.
This station is filled with memories: the train, which brought us from our migrant ship into a new, unknown country stopped there that first night. I clearly remember the sign: PARRAMATTA. Dad worked in Parramatta for most of his working life here. In the early years he drove a funny little three wheeled motorbike, one wheel at the front, and a box on an axle behind the driver. He used to do the shopping in his lunch hour, and carry it home in this motorized wheelbarrow. At the flour mill, which was at the end of platform 4 he would buy 25 pound sacks of white and wholemeal flour, so that mum should never run out.
Blacktown was only a small village at the time, so all major shopping was done in Parramatta. At Christmas time the Santa at Nock and Kirby’s was very popular and we always enjoyed the Christmas displays at Grace Brothers’ and David Jones.
As a teenager I often travelled to Parramatta whenever we needed something from the continental delicatessen; it used to be right across the station in Argyle Street.
Parramatta also became the place of a first celebration for the family. Our parents had bought 10 acres in eastern Creek in 1950 and after they had signed the papers making the property ours, they went into a milk bar for the first time since coming to Australia, and treated themselves to an ice cream sundae.
My first teaching position was at Parramatta Evening College in the School in Smith Street, just around the corner from the station. I will never forget the song they played on the station night after night for weeks on end as I waited for my connection home “My achy breaky Heart”. It was played louder than loud and it sounded hideous, and it followed me about night and day.
Parramatta was the station, from where for many years the steam trains continued into the west. Not until 1956 was the electric line extended to Blacktown. While still at Villawood Migrant Centre we would travel to our property at Eastern Creek on weekends. That meant taking the red rattlers as far as Parramatta, then change to a steam train. We always enjoyed the journey. I remember one such time, when a little old lady joined us in our compartment at Parramatta. She proceeded to unwrap a packet of date pillow biscuits and offered them to us. Suddenly little brother became quite agitated, and possibly recalling a combination of warnings of stranger danger and stories of Hansel and Gretel, whispered fearfully: “Don’t take them; don’t eat them, perhaps she’s a witch, they might be poisoned!” We older children were happy and gladly took what was offered, but he wouldn’t touch one.
Parramatta remains part of our family’s life. The name no longer sounds strange or foreign to our ears; we have become quite accustomed to its ring. Yet whenever I pass Parramatta station I recall that first meeting and hear dad’s story.
Yes, my association with this city is a long one, and now, when I sit on the platform, waiting for my train home, I remember.
Lisel Herrmann first published this story in ZineWest 2021.
Jacarandas before the upgrade of Lennox Bridge; Cranes in 2015 – a skyline changing.