In 1939 when his father, a barrister, was appointed to the role of licencing magistrate, 14-year-old John Campton found himself moving to the ‘smart and exclusive’ address of Ardoch with his parents. The family lived in a flat facing Dandenong Road in buildings that, at that stage, had not been named.
John remembers many families and children living at Ardoch. The men predominantly worked in professions, banks or insurance companies, while most of the women were homemakers. Some families employed domestic servants and several of the flats contained a maid’s room.
It was a social community with frequent bridge and solo parties. The older children played tennis or billiards or snooker in the billiards room and, when the Kirk family created a putting green outside 6 Pilley Street (now Cottonwood), they sometimes practised putting.
John attended Melbourne Grammar School with four boys who also lived at Ardoch. They were all travelling home together from the annual cadet camp in September 1939 when war was declared.
The war changed life at Ardoch. Rationing was introduced, domestic servants were hard to find and most poignant of all, families were affected by the loss of loved ones. All five Melbourne Grammar boys went on to serve in the armed forces: four in the RAAF and one in the AIF. Two were killed (David Watson and John Cottman) and one (George Kirk) was taken prisoner. In 1942, when the threat of war seemed particularly close to Melbourne, air raid shelters were dug in the Green. Several rows of six-foot deep trenches with steps leading down at each end were dug by the residents and filled in once the war was over.
John and his family would have a long association with Ardoch. Even though he moved out in 1951, six years after the end of the war, John’s parents continued to live there for another twenty-six years, until 1977. A further twenty years would pass before one day, while driving along Dandenong Road, his wife and daughter saw a ‘For Sale’ sign. John remembers, ‘My wife had visited my parents [at Ardoch] and quite liked the place. [My wife and daughter] had a look at it and recommended it to me.’
After his return to Ardoch in 1997, John enjoyed the swimming pool and the sense of community engendered by the organisation of lots of community get togethers. ‘It’s much more all-embracing now. Or endeavours to be. There are always people who don’t want that to happen, but I quite like that … The surroundings are lovely and better than they were. I like to see all the small children that are here. I find it entirely agreeable.’