Tuesday, 5 April 2011
My earliest memories of Chinatown would have to be when I was about six. My dad and his mates coming back to the house on a Saturday night. “Where’ve you been?” I’d say and a chorus of drunken verse would shout back in unison “Chinatown”. Wow, I’d think, evoking magical thoughts of this place that sounded thousands of miles away. A few years later I went for my first meal with my dad and his mate and my brother John. “Where are we goin’?” I asked, “Chinatown”, still sang in unison.Wow, I thought, at last. We went to a restaurant about two down from the Mabo, but the excitement soon turned to horror. My dad and his mate, two aging teddyboys feeding the exotic fish in the tank next to us bits of their banquet for two, me and my brother open mouthed, not knowing whether to laugh or grass them up. A memorable meal to say the least. Years later I had the pleasure and privilege to meet Bert Hardy, the famous war photographer who worked for Picture Post in the 40’s and 50’s. He was working on a project for the magazine about inner cities and came to Chinatown. His photographs of the area are legendary. He told me for some reason the locals took to him being an Eastend cockney and having a down to earth personality, he was allowed access into the mythical opium dens, brothels and gambling sessions and took some amazing shots. My daughter Alice went to school in Chinatown, so dropping her off or picking her up, I got to know the area quite well. Being an inquisitive little so and so as me Ma used to call me, I got books on the area to see what it was like a hundred years ago. With the stories pictures and tales in the books I wasn’t far off as a six year old growing up thousands of miles away in Everton imagining this magical romantic almost mythical place called Chinatown. Anyway, I could have written about the history of the place like when it was formed or the famous people who have visited, but you can go on line for that. Love Mick.