There’s nothing interesting about Reservoir, mate. That’s what the guy at number 47 Miranda Street said when he caught me taking a photograph of his neighbour’s letterbox. But it wasn’t just any old letterbox – it was a koala letterbox. And it wasn’t just any old koala letterbox – it was an albino koala letterbox with a very sad facial expression. I conveyed all of this to Mr 47 as part of my argument that there were indeed plenty of interesting things in Reservoir – you just needed to look for them – but he wasn’t having any of it. He said he couldn’t wait to move out.
I’d spent the morning strolling around the neighbourhood and getting giddy over the amount of koala letterboxes I’d found. It’s out of control! There were three in the same street! Check out this guy (note the No Junk Mail sign on his neck):
And how about this guy in his little tropical oasis?
Or this guy with some mail ready for collection:
Or this guy on his cement podium surrounded by succulents:
I don’t know what was going on when people were building their houses in Reservoir back in the late 50s/early 60s, but I love it. I love the fact that they still exist and I love that anyone dared to buy them in the first place.
As I rounded the block to head home, I spotted the owner of the albino koala pulling into the driveway. I went over for a chat. She told me she’d lived there for 50 years and that she and her husband had put the koala in for something different. She’d been forced to paint it last year when hoons grafittied it – not once, but twice. They knocked it over a couple of times, too. She considered putting in a ‘normal’ letterbox after all the drama, but couldn’t bring herself to do it because the children in the neighbourhood would be sad. Not as sad as the face she’d painted on the koala this time around, but pretty sad nonetheless.
As a new koala letterbox owner myself, I know what she means. I live near a playground, so children are always walking past. They gasp and giggle when they discover him for the first time. Some of them have to be dragged away by their parents. It’s hilarious.
When I was a child I was fascinated by Australiana garden ornaments. My family never owned anything like it, but on weekends when we’d visit our grandparents we’d drive through suburbs where every garden seemed to have a koala, a couple of tyre swans and a concrete Aborigine holding a spear. It was the early 1980’s. People hadn’t got into landscaping yet. If you had a concrete ornament, white pebbles and a nicely manicured lawn you had it going on.
Fast forward to 2015 when I was describing the koala letterbox to a friend. He’d never heard of them. He didn’t know what they looked like. I jumped on google and did an image search. The image I brought up was from an eBay listing. When I investigated further, I noticed it was an ACTIVE eBay listing in Victoria. I couldn’t believe my luck!
I sweated over the auction for the next six days. Luckily my maximum bid was outrageous and I became the proud owner of an original, very rare, koala letterbox. All I needed to do was to persuade my husband to drive down to the Mornington peninsula to pick it up. Thank heavens he’s a good sport!
After the koala was cemented in place, I thought back to Mr 47’s comments about Reservoir not being interesting. I wondered what else I could plonk in the garden to spice things up a bit. Once again, I turned to eBay for inspiration and I wasn’t disappointed. I found this:
Yes – it’s a koala sprinkler. Sadly I didn’t win it, but it looks pretty shoddy and homemade, so I’m tempted to get out my potters wheel to see what I come up with. One of these days I just might. It’ll be my unique way of making Reservoir even more fascinating….one chunk of clay at a time.