Merv Allen Remembers (Pt 2)

School Days

I’ll just talk a little bit now about my recollections of my school days.

The only school was the Henley Primary School. There was no kindergarten and so we stayed at home until we could start school. And from where I lived on midway between Henley Beach Road and Gilmore Road, it was only a short walk. The school we had a trench there for the end of the Second World War. In those days, we had 1 hour for lunch from 12:30 to 1:30.

In the middle of summer I can remember coming on a hot day. We’d come home from school and it was nice down the beach so we’d duck down the beach, have a swim at lunchtime, then go back to school.

I remember coming up Gilmore Road and we killed a three foot (1 m) brown snake there.

We used to be able to kick the football on Seaview Road after school. There were very few cars on Seaview Road and gradually over the years we had to kick the football on the Esplanade after school.

My recollection of Seaview Road was a strip of metal down the middle and rocks on either side and Norfolk Island pines along the side there. There were a couple of private hospitals with one on the corner of Hazel Terrace and Seaview Road.

(Video recorded on April 24, 2023).

Note: The transcript above was created using AssemblyAI to convert the video into text then manually corrected. 

West Beach and Sand Dunes


I’ll just talk a little bit more about the sand dunes because if you visit the area from Grange or you can go back further down to Tennyson, you actually see the old sand dunes are still there. They’ve now heritage listed and the ups and downs of the sand dunes can be seen. And there are areas where the sand is blown back to what they call blowouts.

But if you go through the Grange area on Seaview Road, Seaview Road has got undulating, and that undulation ceased at where the Star of the Sea Convent is present because that’s the point where they finished the tram line. The tram line from the city went all the way down Henley Beach Road onto Seaview Road and then on this flat area down as far as the Star of the Sea Convent.

Now I’ll leave the Henley south area and go down to West Beach beyond the River Torrens outlet.

There were only three or four houses immediately south of the Torrens and then proper sand dunes existed. They were ups and down big sand hills, box thorn bushes, and on the seaside, right on the foreshore, there were a continuous row of shacks. The shacks went virtually from the Torrens Outlet all the way through to where the caravan park is and beyond almost to Glenelg North.

There were two or three houses in West Beach, in Rockingham Street there were two well built houses with a tennis court in between, owned by Hills and Lodges. They were prominent people at the time, had property in the city, but other than that, there was the landowner, Old Man Gray, we used to call him.

Now Gray was a famous name right through that all the West Beach area, right back as far as Tapley’s Hill Road. And they had property. I think its name was ‘Frogmore’ on the corner of Tapley’s Hill Road and where, Sir Donald Bradman Drive now exists.

Right at that corner that was Frogmore was an old house built there, but Gray’s owned all the land through there. Old Man Gray lived on top of the sand dunes. You had this house and if you were trespassed to go trapping rabbits, you’d hear this voice.

Get off of my property“. He’d yell out the top of his voice. So off we’d go and hide behind the bushes. But it was a great area for trapping rabbits.

In about 1955, I guess around that time, West Beach became development as a new suburb. And to develop that, they smashed all that, took all the sand away. Part of the sand was taken by ACI for glass manufacturer, and I believe a lot of this sand was also taken to fill in the hot or damp spots from the Adelaide airport. The Adelaide airport was all flood land and was not suitable for building.

That’s why the western suburbs were very fortunate because all the golf courses of Adelaide were built on the so called red sand dunes. Red sand dunes extended from Glenelg Golf Course through Kooyonga Golf Course and then actually around Kooyonga on the Henley Beach Road. The Henley Beach Road takes a big S bend through there. And that S bend is to get the road around the sand dunes. So, there’s the Kooyonga, built on the sand dunes, then going further to the north, there’s Royal Adelaide Golf Course and then the Grange Golf Course. All built on land, which is no good for anything. No good for farming with swamp land, boxthorn bush, snakes and rabbits.

(Video recorded on Monday April 24, 2023)

Note: The transcript above was created using AssemblyAI to convert the video into text then manually corrected. 

Military Road, Henley South and Prominent People


After the the Second World War there was no building material available and the houses were all old bungalow houses built around the 1910 the Henley South area was not wanted very much. In fact, I’ve got an advertisement from ‘The Advertiser’ in 1918 advertising land for sale on the Esplanade to Henley Beach South for five guineas to live on the Esplanade but land there on Military Road was four pound five shillings per block.

Military Road is not a flat road. It’s the ups and downs deviation. It’s really what I’d describe as tortuous pathway and that tortuous pathway can be seen very clearly between from Grange Road through to the Torrens Outlet. Military Road bends and twists around where the Congregational Church is present, and the Church of England.

The owners of the houses from the Henley Beach Road through to the Torrens Outlet were in fact quite prominent. People mainly lived in the city and this is their beachside summer residence. There’s some names that spring to mind as Sir Walter Duncan, who was president of Legislative Council of South Australia. There was Carl Laubman of Laubman and Pank. They owned a house that’s still in existence just between Lexington Road and Military Road.

H.C.(Slinger) Nitschke was a state cricketer whose family owned a lot of property six or seven houses from the Henley Beach Road in the southerly direction for probably seven or eight blocks of land. In fact they owned the block of land on the corner of Henley Beach Road, Seaview Road and the Esplanade and that block of land was compulsory acquired by the state government. It was going to be left open to car parking for the future but was sold off for money.

(Video recorded on April 24, 2023)

Note: The transcript above was created using AssemblyAI to convert the video into text then manually corrected. 

Jerusalem and the Viaduct


I’ll talk a little bit more about the man-made creek. The man-made creek was created so the dairy farm cattle always had drinking water. The level of the existing water table was only about 3 feet (1m) down.

And now this leads back to why Captain White was able to build this bird sanctuary. Jerusalem didn’t require a tremendous amount of excavation because the water table was not very far down. And so by excavating, say, 4 or 5 feet (1.5 m) of sand, he then had 2 or 3 feet (0.75m) of water in this big ponding basin. And there were reeds and snakes and everything that kids loved, a couple of little islands. All the local kids that were around all had a little fort on the Jerusalem area.

Getting back to the Housing Trust development, which occurred around 1957, the vacant land extended from Hazel Terrace all the way to Tapley’s Hill Road. Now, because this man made creek was existing right through this middle of this area, the Housing Trust in their wisdom and their engineers, thought it was not wise to build too close to an old waterway, so they created great big open spaces. And the open spaces still exist. The area where the tennis courts at Henley South are, that’s where Jerusalem was.

And the dairy was there. And then the roads that they built through there were named after battleships of the Second World War – Lexington, Hobart, Halsey to name a few. So the interesting thing is behind the Henley South Tennis Club, there’s an open space which is probably 70 or 80 meters wide, which really runs between Fletcher Road and Kinkaid Road. But that area is that’s where the creek ran, and that can be traced all the way back to Fulham. And so there is this big open space all the way to Fulham, and it’s just a beautiful area now.

The viaduct was the way the tram could get from the city through Lockleys down to the beach, and it had to go through this floodplain. So, they built this viaduct. The viaduct was a man-made wooden structure, probably half to three quarters of a mile long, that’s say, 600 meters long and in the middle, it was probably six or 8ft off the ground. That’s 2 meters off the ground. And there were boxthorn bushes around there and lots of rabbits around the bend in the viaduct. The viaduct closely follows the pathway of HMAS Australia Road.

(Video recorded on April 24, 2023)

Note: The transcript above was created using AssemblyAI to convert the video into text then manually corrected. 

Market Gardens


I’ll go back to the Henley Primary School days. There were very few children in Henley Primary school, in fact I think only we had about ten boys and perhaps nine girls in my class.

But they weren’t locals, they were from the market gardens. There were the Maranoffs, the Minifs, the Manchesters, the Vladkoffs, a few others, all Bulgarians. But the Bulgarians, they were market gardeners and the market gardens extended from east of the Burnley Street intersection where the S bend is into Henley Beach – it was the start of the viaduct.

I used to go up to Mickey Maranoff’s place after school occasionally.  My mother would say, if you’re going up to Mickey Maranoffs to play, take a string bag with you Merv, she’d say. So, I’d take the string bag and get out to the Maranoffs there and there’d be glass houses full of tomatoes and watermelons everywhere.

Jimmy Maranoff, would say, “Would you like a watermelon, Merv”? I’ve got I’ve got a string bag here. So, I put the watermelon in the string bag got it filled up with tomatoes and Mother would be very happy with you when I came home.

(Video recorded on April 24, 2023)


  1. The transcript above was created using AssemblyAI to convert the video into text then manually corrected. 
  2. Spelling of Bulgarian surnames above may be incorrect (editor)

1 Comment

  1. Jim Rutherford

    Have to ask Merv if he remembers our early morning job along with his brother Doug working on Ray Burtons milk round, Merv was the only one apart from Ray to drive the Tempo Madador Van. I also have fond memories of Henley Primary and the creek and what from my recollection was called the swamp.


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