Robert McEntyre grew up on the rooftop of a Sydney office block in the 1950s, courtesy of his grandfather’s role as building caretaker. In this interview Robert recalls the pleasures of a childhood lived on top of Wingello House in Angel Place, neighbours, family and entertainment. In the excerpt below he remembers the house, play areas and the thrills of Cracker Night in the CBD.
We lived there, until February 1961, so I was nine when we left. I’d say it was a small suburban house equivalent. The bedroom my sister and I shared was probably a medium size bedroom and our outlook was out looking over the AWA tower which is still in Sydney … play area was the actual rooftop about the size of three or four tennis courts, and I learned to ride a bike, we used to play cricket, we used to play tennis and my father built a cubby house for us and it had communication equipment from disposals of the Second World War that linked the cubby house with the kitchen. So if my mother wanted us to come in for lunch or dinner we’d get a message in the cubby house. On our rooftop we had an elaborate garden that my grandfather and mother set up, made out of forty four gallon drums cut in half, there was a frangipani tree in one of them. On Cracker Night, in November, we’d invite all the other caretaker families over and some other friends that my parents had, and my father would set up the fireworks, particularly, say, skyrockets, the Catherine wheels, he’d set them up in the half forty four gallon drums of soil, for safety. But he always took great delight in pointing skyrockets over the top of Challis House [nearby office block] so they either ended up on the roof of Challis House or in Martin Place.