Altona’s Maureen Lane is a descendant of the first white child born in Footscray. She speaks with Goya Dmytryshchak.
What’s your connection to Hobsons Bay?
I grew up in Yarraville, but lived in Altona for two years in the early 1970s when I had the Somers Parade milk bar. Later I became a teacher and my first teaching job was at Queen of Peace in Altona Meadows. Seven years ago, I returned to Altona to retire and be closer to my daughter and grandchildren.
What do you like about Altona?
When I moved back to Altona, I felt like I was on a permanent vacation – the proximity to the beach and the single street shopping precinct made me remember childhood holidays by the sea. I felt like I was where I belonged.
What don’t you like or what could be improved?
Parking can be an issue with the large developments in the area.
What’s your favourite cafe and/or restaurant?
So many lovely cafes! If I want cheap and cheerful – Salt n Pepa. If I want magnificent ricotta pancakes – Vince and Me. Candy Rock for a great salad or burger.
You’re a descendant of the first white child born in Footscray?
I often joke that I am part of Footscray’s aristocracy! My great-grandmother was the first white child born in Footscray – that was Saltwater River. She was Elizabeth Koch nee Pickett and the child of Margaret and William Pickett, who ran the punt across the river and the Ship Inn and then the Punt Hotel. Margaret and William had three children in a tent off little Bourke Street before moving to the Footscray area where Elizabeth was born – the first white child born in the area. The local indigenous people were not allowed in Melbourne after dark, so they made their way to Footscray gardens area to camp overnight and fish in the river. The Pickett family had a reciprocal arrangement with the locals and gave them flour and sugar while the son, Joe Pickett, learnt to fish and catch eels from his new indigenous friends. Elizabeth Pickett stayed in Footscray all her life, married Valentine Wilhelm Theodor Koch and had 13 surviving children.
What are you passionate about?
History and writing. When I moved to Altona, I became a member of the Altona-Laverton Historical Society and have contributed to two of their recent publications: Altona & Surrounds – a Patchwork of Memories and Altona Hospital – A Bush Hospital on the Bay.
What have been some of the recent projects you’ve been involved in?
At the moment I am researching and recording the history of Nostalgia Drag Racers Club and also writing a biography of a local lad who was a member of a motorbike club that was once part of Williamstown’s history.