Shelter from the Storm: Bryan Brown, Samoan Chieftains and the Little Matter of a Roof over Our Heads

By Siobhán McHugh | Go to book overview

7

A Ghetto it Wasn't

John Alexander

Publisher, editor and celebrated bon vivant, John Alexander seems an unlikely graduate of public housing. It's hard to imagine this suave, successful media mogul as a snot-nosed kid running wild around the vast raw housing estates that ringed Sydney in the 1950s. That image might have fitted any number of kids of his generation and circumstances, but John Alexander's ability to land on his feet started early. His 'houso' days were spent in the salubrious suburb of Turramurra, in Sydney's northern reaches.

I don't know the full details of how my parents got on what was then the Housing Commission list, but I was born in North Sydney, grew up in a house in Willoughby and at about five years of age, moved to a Housing Commission house in North Turramurra, which was a bit like moving to the worst street in the best suburb those days ... It was actually a rarity to have a Housing Commission estate in the midst of this very wealthy area—Bobbin Head Road—and some of the wealthiest homes in the city were on that same route. It was a very small estate ... only fifteen houses

... built on part of an old orchard. How they got allocated that outcome I don't know—I think that's part of the lottery of life.

John was the second of six children, an unusually large family at the time, particularly, he points out, for a Protestant one. His parents 'learned tough', growing up in the Depression, then both enlisting in the armed services on the outbreak of the Second World War. By 1957, married with

-77-

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Shelter from the Storm: Bryan Brown, Samoan Chieftains and the Little Matter of a Roof over Our Heads
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Shelter from the Storm - Bryan Brown, Samoan Chieftains and the Little Matter of a Roof Over Our Heads *
  • Contents v
  • Preface vi
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Shelter from the Storm viii
  • 1 - A Samoan Symphony the People of Proctor Way, Claymore 1
  • 2 - Pretend Mum 22
  • 3 - A 'House' in Hollywood 29
  • 4 - Hate Street Cooremah Housing Company 39
  • 5 - Poor Little Princess 47
  • 6 - Artists, Ratbags and Lower Grade Yuppies 64
  • 7 - A Ghetto It Wasn't 77
  • 8 - I'D Rather Live in a Caravan 87
  • 9 - Goodbye Saddam 99
  • 10 - Daceyville Days 107
  • 11 - Sarajevo to City West 120
  • 12 - A Hard Nut to Crack 127
  • 13 - High Hopes in a High-Rise 139
  • 14 - Family Matters 146
  • 15 - Kidney and Car Wanted 153
  • 16 - How Green Was My Valley 161
  • 17 - Elderly Rebels 171
  • 18 - Rainbow's End 182
  • 19 - Running from the Rent Man 191
  • 20 - A Place to Belong 201
  • Notes 211
  • Index 212
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