Bankstown. Oh where oh where do I begin. I grew up in Bankstown. Mostly. Actually I grew in Concord West initially, up the road from Concord Hospital – dad had been the minister at the local Baptist church. Parents split up when I was young, 6ish I think, then lived with mum elsewhere in Concord West, before moving into mum’s old house in Bankstown when her mum (my granny) died. Mum’s parents had bought the then weatherboard house in the late 30s, converted to fibro around the 50s/60s.
We moved to Bankstown when I was 14 and had completed two years at Meadowbank Boys’ high (now a TAFE). I was very shy and hated the move. I had a love/hate relationship with Bankstown for a long time and my feelings are still occasionally mixed. Growing up, my tastes were very western, meat and veg for dinner and a roast on the weekend. I used to hang out at Bankstown Square (these days I think it’s Bankstown Central and was Bankstown Centro at some point) playing on the gaming consoles in DJs, skating at Rollarena Bankstown on the weekends.
Later on post uni (still somewhat shocked that I have a post-uni life) I became a librarian and joined the reference team at Bankstown Library, in what is now the old building. We walked past the new building today though as it’s a public holiday it was shut. I worked there for a few years before heading off to my first stint at the State Library.
My partner had mentioned visiting last year, pre lockdown I think and liking the little shops in the plaza. Today we went for a proper wander, down through the old town plaza and what is now Saigon Plaza though the entry statue didn’t exist in my day. Sadly the corner restaurant next to it is long gone though it used to be one of the best places to get phở in Sydney. Not that I had any growing up. I was too shy to ask and wasn’t game to try foods from other cultures…my loss really and thankfully I’m not like that now. The area seemed busier than I remember, greater vibrancy, a mix of ages and generations.
Today walking through the streets, it was one fascinating outlet after another, full of interesting foods, some I know, some I don’t know. Full of interesting corridors, nooks and crannies. At times I felt like a tourist, at times a local. We eventually stopped for lunch at a vietnamese place and the guy at the next table started chatting and suggesting food. At his suggestion, I tried what sounded like a tasty soup, Bún bò Huế, and asked for the spicy version. The spice was mild but just enough to integrate with the other flavours. It was a massive bowl and the vermicelli noodles were divine.