Someone emailed in and suggested I chat to Robin for Humans of Hampton and thankfully he agreed! Robin’s stories of his teenage years at Brighton Beach Baths and his time at the no-longer standing Hampton High were a lot of fun. So without further ado, meet Robin…
For me Hampton started in 1970 when I started high school at Hampton High and did my 6 years of high school there. I met a lot of life-long friends who I still keep in contact with to this day. It was a fabulous time then because it was the 70s; the world was just a fantastic exploding place for a young teenager. I got into surfing back then because we used to surf ‘the bay’ as we called it then, next to Brighton Beach Baths which used to be at the end of South Road. The Baths were the place to go – jumping off the baths, swimming, snorkelling. There were a few spots where you could sneak in, you never paid. There was a café and a restaurant on top of it called Captain Cooks.
It was an iconic place for young teenagers to hang after school every day. When the south-westerly wind blew up in the summer time there’d be a bay wave which was shoulder height. It was much more common back then than what it is now. Everyone would grab their boards and it’d be packed – there’d be 50/60 people out and some people even used to surf inside the Baths. Mr Webb, who used to run the baths, and Mr Lucas before him would have a stack of coolites in the storeroom inside the Baths so as little groms when we were 7 or 8, before we had surfboards, we’d ride the coolites and you progressed through the times to owning your first surfboard.
The Baths were wrecked in a big storm and the Brighton City Council at the time thought it was too expensive to fix up so they were demolished in 1979. Captain Cooks had been destroyed by fire and the Baths were pretty rickety. It’s way more exposed there than where Middle Brighton Baths are. It used to get hammered by the south westerlies. There was no beach between South Road and Hampton Life Saving Club. Jeff Kennett built that beach in the early 90s. It was just rocks, there was a sea wall and that was it. There was a tiny bit of beach between the Baths and Green Point, not much of a beach but a beach nonetheless. So everyone used to hang in the Baths because there was a bit of sand in there and north of the Baths. There were gangs, there were the sharpies, there was us, there was always turmoil and conflict and you’d have older guys look after the young guys.
Mum and dad let us go from about 10. I remember getting my big bike when I was 8 and we rode our bikes enormous distances when we were kids. Bin day was the best day of the week because you’d kick everyone’s bins over.
Back in the 70s kids would ride a long distance to get to Hampton High. It was a bloody good school too. The main building was a ripper; it was a triple brick, double story building. We had this fantastic hall. The oval was where the units are in Ludstone Street. Where the houses stop and those units start was where the buildings and quadrangles were. Around in Passchendaele there was the home eco and woodwork building and the bike shed where there were a few fights. When we were in year 10 a mate of mine, David Dooley, and I used to run an SP book in the locker room. He and I used to work for Curley Gilbert, a bookmaker at Caulfield and Flemington, on Saturdays doing errands for him at the track so we thought “we should do this at school, we’ll make dollars out of this”. And we did. We used to have the transistor in the boys’ locker room at morning recess, lunchtime and afternoon recess and all of our ‘clients’ were the year 11 and 12 kids and they’d be laying bets on the horses during the day. One disenfranchised ‘client’ dobbed us in to the deputy head and we were busted. Because we were both pretty bright at maths, our maths teacher stuck up for us, said we were using our acumen with our maths so we weren’t expelled. The school was closed by the Kennett government in 1988. At that time there were hardly any young families in Hampton. There was that real transition between older people and the next wave of new people.
I stayed really close to a couple of friends: Rohan “Skeg” Thompson and Rory Shannon. I left home as soon as I left school and moved up to Tathra and lived up there for a couple of years. Skeg and Rory came and rescued me and said “you’ve got to get out of here, come back to Victoria”.
I came back and Rohan was working for Rip Curl Surf Shops which was a subsidiary of Rip Curl at the time. There was a surf shop in Hampton Village; that was a full hang out, everyone hung out at the surf shop. Rip Curl Surf Shops were expanding their business and Rohan gets me and Rory a job. I worked at Frankston store for a couple of years and then it all imploded. They went broke because the guy who was running it just didn’t have a clue. Basically all we sold were t-shirts, wetsuits, boards and wax. And maybe a few Golden Breed windcheaters.
When I was 21, myself and five of my mates went to live in Noosa and I was never coming back. We all started off surfing every day but I soon got pretty bored. I got a job out at Tewantin building the Forestry School. I met a girl who was a uni student from Brighton up there on holidays with a few of her friends. We sort of knew them a bit because they’d been at the same parties when we were a bit younger. So I met this girl, we got chatting and she goes back to Melbourne and we kept in contact by writing letters to each other…they were the days when you wrote letters. I think she’s still got them. We’re writing letters to each other and I’ve got this really good job in Gympie and it’s like “what am I going to do, this girl’s on my mind?”
So I came back to Melbourne and hooked up with Geraldine and we started going out together. A couple of years later 1980 comes along and she announces to me that she’s going to Europe. And it’s like “well, what am I doing?” So I said “oh well, if you’re going to Europe, I’m going to Western Australia”. A couple of mates had been talking about going to work on the boats in Geraldton because we heard you can make a fortune working on the cray boats. Geraldine went to Europe in December and I headed off to Geraldton in September – so I got the jump on her.
Within a couple of weeks I got a job on one of the boats. Geraldine came to visit me before she left and I stayed there for a couple of years while she was over in Europe. We kept in contact, again with letters. When she told me she was coming back to Melbourne it was the same old story, back to Melbourne I went. We hooked up again and things got a bit more serious and we started living together. Next thing you know we’ve bought our first house in Thomas Street, Hampton. We lived there for a couple of years and then decided to do an around the world trip. We planned to go to the States, Europe, Middle East. Anyway it’s going along fine, having a great time and…she’s pregnant. We missed out on going to the States.
We came back and before we know it we had three sons in pretty quick succession. The house was way too small for the five of us so we bought an old wreck of a house in May Street and I did an owner builder job on it, fixed it up and we’ve been there ever since.
The boys went to Hampton Primary then two of the boys went to St Leonards and one went to Brighton High. Tom’s 29, Andy’s 27 and Matt’s 25 now. Andy was really lucky, he got into the accelerated learning program at Brighton High. He did his pilot’s license at Essendon Airport whilst he was studying there. He’s an engineer now and lives in the UK.
I’d always had mates who were builders and I worked as a landscape gardener when I came back from Queensland. I then went out on my own with another mate of mine, Johnny Abbott. Then I started the Hampton Woodyard and Garden Supplies behind Hampton Station where the apartments are now. Whilst I was running that business I had a really bad accident and was diagnosed with a severe spinal injury which needed treatment and was told by the orthopaedic surgeon that’d I’d be in a wheelchair by the time I was 50. The accident happened while I was working; ruptured a disc and caused all this damage to the nerves down the back of my spine and left leg. I’d limped along for about 18 months seeing chiropractors, acupuncturists, trying alternative medicine. Finally saw an orthopaedic surgeon who told me about a new method they were trialling from the United States where they inject a cortisone drug into your epidural cavity. I didn’t even know I had an epidural cavity but that’s what I opted for and it worked.
I sold the landscaping business and the wood yard and Skeg, who was in real estate said “you should be in real estate, you’d love it” and I said “mate, why would I want to be in real estate? Seriously, you’ve got to be kidding me”. That was 17 years ago. I worked for him until about five years ago. And then Marshall White approached me and wanted me as part of the start up team for the Brighton office. I thought about it, consulted with Rohan and here we are.
I specialise in Hampton. Most of my work is in Hampton, Sandy, Beaui, Black Rock. There’s 17 agents working out of this office. We’re the biggest sales team in Bayside. It’s a really good fun organisation.
I always thought Hampton would be a great place to live right through teenage years. It’s been through an enormous change. The group of shops in Ludstone Street where the Cornerstone Café is had a very different vibe. There was a much stronger Ministry of Housing population then. Kingston, Prince, Bateman Streets, Earlsfield Road, Ivy, Barnett, Smith, Kendell and Olive Streets were pretty much all commission homes. Some of them were being purchased by the owners but a lot of them were still commission rental homes. That part of Hampton was a war service area from the Second World War. The Castlefield estate behind Haileybury: Imbros, Passchendaele, Amiens, Avelin, that’s called the Castlefield Heritage Estate. They’re all cal bungalows built post the First World War for the war service vets coming home from war.
The second half of Hampton was just market gardens. Castlefield Oval on Ludstone Street was a swamp. My neighbour Fred, who’s now passed away, can remember cows grazing along there and there would be a guy with a little dingy that used to travel across the swamp. 99% of ovals in Bayside used to be swamps. They reclaimed them and turned them into ovals. So 99% of the properties that are adjacent to ovals are usually flood prone. The one in one hundred year flood plain overlay which runs all through Bayside is predominantly around footy grounds and sports ovals because it was marginal land. It wasn’t any good for housing because it was a swamp.
Hampton has rapidly gentrified particularly over the last 20 years and accelerates almost every year. I can still remember people walking into the office where I used to work on the corner of Hampton Street and South Road and saying “oh Hampton really? What’s that like Robin?” I’d say “it’s actually pretty good” and they’d say “oh okay, we’d prefer to be in Brighton”. And now I meet people all the time that say “no we don’t want Brighton, we actually want to stay in Hampton”. Hampton’s such a village suburb compared to Brighton.
The gentrification of Hampton has had its pluses and it’s had its negatives too. It’s unaffordable. One of my sons lives in Wales in the UK. One lives in Torquay and one lives in Preston. If you want your kids to live in Hampton you’re going to have to give them a million bucks and they’re going to have to take out a pretty big mortgage.
I travel every year. I have a deal with my wife that every second year my mates and I go on a surfing trip. Last year we went to the Maldives for 14 days, just a gem of a trip. There’s a core of about eight or ten of us that are all old good mates.
I’ve been camping down the Prom every Christmas since I was 8. Geraldine coincidentally was going down there as a young child with her family. We bought our first caravan and went camping there when Tom was 6 weeks old – bought an old 12 foot Bonwood caravan for $1,000. Sold it for a slab of beer. Then when the boys were old enough we just got rid of the caravan and went back to tents. Geraldine and I still go down there every summer.
I miss the boys not being around; they were fantastic times teaching them all to surf, they’re all surfers. They were just gems of times to look back on. We’re lucky because Geraldine’s got two older brothers and two younger sisters. Between us we have 13 boys and 1 girl – the girl is the youngest – and we’d all go down to the Prom and the cousins would be on their bikes, surfing every day, just great fun.
I played for Hampton Meths (Methodists) and then for Rovers. Back then Rovers only had under 19s. The Hampton Meths and East Sandy were the feeders for the Rovers then. Hampton Meths club rooms were at Hampton United’s ground.
I used to do my paper round from the Castlefield Newsagency on the corner of Bluff and South Roads. That was all revamped a number of years ago. It used to be this old 1950s shopping centre and in there was Russell’s Newsagency. I got a paper round with Mr Russell and there was a friendly rivalry between my friends who had paper rounds at other paper shops and if your round intersected your mate’s round and there was mud around, you’d take his paper out and coat it in mud and went along your way. I remember when I started my paper round I was pretty happy because I was earning $3.80 a week. You could buy a pair of Levi jeans around then for $10.
I’m still married to Geraldine. Our 3 boys live all over the planet and we still live in May Street. We try and do as much travel as we can. Geraldine’s a keen traveller; she went to Kathmandu and got up to base camp a couple of years ago on her own. We’re going to Central Australia this year where I haven’t been since I went on an excursion with Hampton High in 1972.
I say to the young guys in this office “go and do something else for a couple of years you’re only 24”. I’ve always said to younger people “travel, enjoy, see, you’ll be a better person for it and as you get older you’ll be a better person for it”.
In case you were interested in early pics of the Brighton Beach Baths, there’s a few below. The first four are from the 70s which were supplied by Robin. The next two are from the Brighton Historical Society and the final 4 are from Brent Fletcher – how’s the tram on Beach Road! I can’t help but think how much fun our teenagers would find it now.
Obviously Robin knows Hampton inside out so if you’re looking to sell or buy, contact him at Marshall White.
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