Licorice Blocks Six a Penny by Don Hogg
Dedicated to all old Lakemba-ites who can remember the 1920’s.
- 1 Acknowledgements
- 2 Forward
- 3 Chapter 1 - Local & School Shops
- 4 Chapter 2 - Other Shops & Kids
- 5 Chapter 3 - Lakemba's Main Drag
- 6 Chapter Four More Shops & Their Owners
- 7 Chapter 5 - The Chamber of Commerce & the White Way
- 8 Chapter 6 - Music & Eisteddfods
- 9 Chapter 7 - Roselands & the Golf Club
- 10 Chapter 8 - Early Bowling in Lakemba
George West from Lakemba Bowling Club for photos and records of early Bowling Club history, and for interrupting his breakfast to dig them out for me and permitting me to use them. Our friend Daniel Wegrzyn for scanning all the photos and other material, as well as all his help in so many areas connected with putting it together.
When, in 1994, at the urging of family, I was talked into writing my memoirs, I did so with trepidation, feeling, at my age, I was already on an 8 year bonus, and maybe I was being a bit optimistic in thinking that time would see the distance out.
Now however, four years later, and fortified by the fact that I didn't kark it mid-memoirs, I realise that there were a few things I should have included, so I now make an effort, in this book, to "fill in a few gaps" as it were, with some memories of the old Lakemba town, and some of the characters and the businesses that it supported. It is as accurate as memory will permit, helped, here and there, with the assistance of micro-fiche records from the Canterbury City Library.
Chapter 1 - Local & School Shops
I will start with shops close to where we lived at 289 Lakemba Street, just down from Wiley’s Avenue, now known (inappropriately I think) as King Georges Road. I say inappropriately because John Valentine Wiley, after whom the road was named was a freeholder who had nominated in Canterbury Council Municipal elections in 1879. It seems to me that history should take precedence over somebody who has never set foot in the area. It will always be Wileys Avenue to me, from Punchbowl Road to Canterbury Road But back to these shops!
On the north corner of Lakemba Street and Wileys Avenue an Assyrian family, the Zyningers, ran a grocery store, which not long after our arrival in 1921, was sold to Mr & Mrs Dove, who carried it on for as long as we were around there, and for quite a while after that.
On the southern corner an identical business was run by the Freeland family, who I understand stayed there until the late forties, when John McCrea and his wife took it over. John was in my class at school, and was the elder son of a partner in a fruit business in Haldon Street - McCrea and Connor. John and his wife, not surprisingly, turned the old Freeland grocery into a fruit shop, which, although it gave Doves a greater share of the available grocery market, it certainly ate into an opposition fruit business just down the road called the Busy Bee. But more of that later. John and his wife stayed there until the sixties, when he joined the staff of J. S. Davidson's Hardware Store at 128 Haldon Street Lakemba, almost opposite his father's old business.
The last of the three local shops which we would have regarded as being "handy", was situated a few blocks to the south of Lakemba Street, in Wileys Avenue. It was a butchery with a residence attached, and displayed the usual signs to be found in butchers shops - "we love dogs but not in this shop", along with "cutlets sold by number not by weight". How well I remember Mr. Gibson, the owner, buying a new car, a Falcon Knight 6 cylinder sleeve valve sedan, which, compared with Mr. Everybody's Chevrolet or Overland 91, was almost beyond comprehension.
Up past Gibsons, and over the railway bridge, led us to, on the left, Hoffman's school shop, right next door to the Boys' School, while right after the school Bert Willson also ran a school shop followed by Samuel Lane, a thoroughfare to Alice Street, followed by yet another tiny shop, more often closed than open. Opposite this last shop Mr. & Mrs Sweet ran the oldest shop I had ever seen, so old in fact, that it had been built below the footpath level, meaning that, to enter it, two or three steps down, had to be negotiated. The Sweets were not young any more, and ran it with the assistance of their daughter, who lived there with her husband and young son, Keith. Their name was McCann, and I can remember their good-looking Dodge car.
One of their confections was called a "sherbet dip" and it consisted of a boiled sweet about the size of an average grape, on a stick like a toothpick, which was wrapped into a small parcel of sherbet. They were two a penny and the taste was out of this world. The idea was to suck the boiled sweet to make it wet and then "mop up" the sherbet with the wet lolly.
Hoffmans, over the road, seemed to cater more for lunches, and a Hoffman's hot pie and saveloy for the princely sum of threepence filled the average juvenile stomach rather comfortably. Arthur their son, attended the boys' school, and often just jumped the fence and was in the playground. Contrary to the widely held belief that boys whose parents owned lolly shops came to school loaded to the eyeballs with licorice blocks and jack bars, Arthur was a monumental failure in this department. Most of his friendships were cemented for reasons other than the largesse.
Bert Willson, on the other hand, loved kids, and was a very generous and popular man, and I would say that his was the best patronised of the three shops. He sold all manner of things and I can remember buying a cheap cigarette lighter from him the sign on which, in the window, declaimed that, "a teaspoon of petrol in these lasts one week". It took me many weeks to save the pittance it cost me. I had this lighter for years and I clearly remember Mr. Gillogley, our science teacher at Canterbury High School, taking charge of it because I lit it in the laboratory one day - "do you want to blow us all up". He was a pretty good bloke, old Giggs, and he did give it back to me later on.
Years later, and long after school days, when Mr & Mrs Sweet either retired or passed away, the young Keith McCann, I imagine, inherited the old shop and he, not about to carve out a future in the sherbet business decided to redevelop it as a motor cycle showroom and service centre.
Consequently, the old below street shop was demolished, and a really good development took its place on a pre-stressed concrete base at street level, with a spacious concrete apron at the front, awash with shining new motorbikes. Of course, Keith and his motorbikes have long since gone, but the property, still in first class condition, was now occupied by a a mobile phone retailer for a time, before which it enjoyed a long spell as a B.P.garage.
It is now a service station again. Travelling north from Canterbury Road, in Wileys Avenue, Keith's old shop is the last building before the old Infants' School, on the left hand side. Well, that's the way things were, and the few shops in this area, at that time, have been covered. Please remember that in 1922, Wiley Park railway station was 16 years away in the future - it opened in 1938 - and this area in the 90s, now alive with shops and a pub, then consisted of a few scattered houses and vacant allotments.
Some of the kids who lived on Wileys Avenue come to mind very clearly when my "thinking cap" is working well, and among them would be Jack Kingston, whose father had a farrier's business on the western corner, opposite Dove’s Grocery. In his late middle age Jack developed heart trouble and died before his time, but he had a cousin Marion, well into her 80s, who is still "as healthy as a trout". I spoke with her the other day at Roselands shops.
Down the hill a bit from Kingstons there was a family of McCallisters - Mr. & Mrs., eldest son Jack (the best straight left in Lakemba), Bessie and Ken. Ken and I used to do an Army bread run together when we were Chocos together at Wallgrove. When he married Glen at Lidcombe I was his best man.
Over the road from the McCallisters lived the McSkimming family - Mr. & Mrs., eldest son Bob, and Jack. Both boys were outstanding bike riders and performed at top level with the Lakemba Cycle Club. Jack was killed in the mid thirties on the road, and I recall one of our neighbours, Anne Bowen, being very upset about it, naturally enough. I was too. Jack was a good bloke.
Opposite Gibson’s butcher shop in Wileys Avenue, round about where the pub is now, there lived a family called English, whose small daughter Irene, when she grew up, married Gordon Smith. Together they built a nice cape cod house in Diana Avenue Roselands. When both the Smiths went to a retirement village in 1983, Val & I bought this house from them. Yes, I guess it is a small world.
With the coming of the Station in 1938 came an Estate Agency run by E.R.(Ted) McCormac, but owned by Stanley Parry, into whose family Ted had married. He married Doris Parry. The few early shops in this little cluster included Mac McDonald the gent's hairdresser, Geoff Brodie the chemist, Catlans the grocery, plus a butcher shop. Mac McDonald, always a most genial fellow, but obviously beset by some inner turmoil, went upstairs to his living quarters one day and put a revolver to his head, thereby ending it all there and then, leaving a wife and daughters to worry about it and wonder why.
Over the line on the Boulevarde corner stood The Stan-lea Service Station, an apparently very good business at that time, which nevertheless disappeared over time. Also, opposite the Station exit, two taxis appeared, both Ford sedans. These were started and run by school acquaintances of mine, Gordon Sims and his brother, and they too, although well patronised, seemed to taper off and finally disappear. Possibly it could have been a Main Roads Board decision to keep the road a clearway. I don't know.
Chapter 2 - Other Shops & Kids
Towards the end of the 20s, a Mr. Foord opened a fruit and lolly shop on the south side of Lakemba Street, opposite Hillard Street. The fact that he sold fruit and ice-cream, something that the two grocers didn’t sell, attracted a reasonable following after a time, so much so that, flushed with success he repainted the shop's awning and christened his shop "The Busy Bee", a name that stuck for many years. Mr. & Mrs. Foord were referred to by the types of people who always seem to know these things, as a couple who were "sitting on a little goldmine."
The Busy Bee was a name that stuck long after the Foords had sold out to another couple, Mr. & Mrs. Lill. Under their control it eventually became the "not all that busy Busy Bee". The fact that they appeared to carry on fairly well despite the obvious drop in patronage, was explained by the fact that they had been running an S.P. betting business as an adjunct to their other activities.
Moving along Lakemba Street past Hillard and McCourt Streets, we come to Fairmount Street on the left hand side. At the extreme end of this street, down near Punchbowl Road, a Danish man and his wife, the Simonsens, opened a general store.
They had two boys, Fred and Tom, neither of whom took the remotest interest in the shop. It was from Fred that I got a lot of motorbike know-how, and it was with him that I joined the Auburn Motorcycle Club. When old Mr. Simonsen died in the late 30s, the business was disposed of, after which Fred joined the Navy and we lost touch with each other. This business is still a going concern, but for some reason or other the front door has been bricked up and entry is from Fairmount Street.
On the opposite side of Fairmount Street, up a bit from Simonsens, a family named Green lived. They had two children Cora and Arthur. In addition to the tennis court built on their block, which would have brought in around three shillings a day, they had, at the front of the court, a tiny shop from which they sold lollies and drinks and a few groceries.
After some years I understand the Greens moved up north around Wyong and their Lakemba interests were taken over by another Green family, no relation to the other Greens. The new family consisted of Jack and Dorothy, she being formerly a music teacher under her maiden name of Ayres. Jack had a prominent nose, red and pointed, and carried the nickname of "Shrapnel Green". If the "Shrapnel" was any sort of a reference to his big bugle, then I'm afraid I don't get the connection.
While we're in Fairmount Street may be the best time to recall some of its kids, most of whom would have attended Lakemba Public School up in Wileys Avenue. Down on the Punchbowl Road end there was "Tudy" Jones, Kelvin and Len Holmes, Arthur and Cora Green, Evan (Blue) Long and his siblings Joyce, Laurel, Brian, Ray. About mid-street we had Ron (Worm) Holgate, Jack Coutts, Geoff Spears, Keith Beaumont, Violet & Dave (Scotchy) Robertson, while up near the Lakemba Street end one could encounter Jim (Titus) Oates, Cheval Warr, Don McIvor, Joyce. Audrey and Norma Adams and some others.
Many of these kids would play on the old "Rec", a pet name for the Recreation Ground, still there, and stretching from Wileys Avenue to Edwards Avenue. Standing in the centre of the "Rec" and looking north, in those days, all that the view revealed was tea-tree bush, tea-tree bush and more tea-tree bush, with the exception of one or two isolated houses, one of which, a handsome affair, was owned by a milk vendor, O.L.Edwards (Edwards Avenue). Mr. Edwards used to breed Angora goats, possibly for the milk. Besides O.L.Edwards, I remember Maurice (Hooky) Carrol, and the Pike kids, plus another bloke with a huge Harley Davidson motorbike known only to us kids as the Cherrypicker. Standing in the centre of the old "Rec" today, and looking north, and you're looking at the suburb of Greenacre.
Now, back to Fairmount Street and up to Lakemba Street again, where, a longish time later on a Mr. Emery had built a grocery shop on the south corner, but because this business was not there in the early days, we will make a bee-line along Lakemba Street where just past McDonald Street on the left, and exactly opposite the Band Hall, we find the tiniest little lolly shop, run, I think, by a Mrs. Endicott. I have very clear memories of attending functions at the Band Hall and those kids who may have had a few pence to spend would duck over the road to patronise Mrs. Endicott.
The Band Hall, which could be hired for fifteen bob ($1-50) a night, was generally fairly well patronised, so kids with money had to go to Mrs. Endicotts- there was no-where else.
There was another business in this area, which, although it wasn't built in the real early times, earns a mention because it had its roots in Haldon Street in the very early 20s, and that was the printing concern of C.C. Merrit, who built a substantial printing factory in Lakemba Street opposite McDonald Street. In or before the 20s this family ran its business at 121 Haldon Street, where a local paper, The Alert, first saw the light of day. Elsewhere in this book can be found an ageing photo, taken in 1927, of the members of the Lakemba Chamber of Commerce, in which Mr. Merrit appears on the right front of the photo. This photo is now 71 years old, and is not carrying its age too well!
In Lakemba Street, on the Croydon Street corner, Barnes the butcher seems to have been there forever, but now the Barnes shop and the Band Hall sites have both been swallowed up by new premises erected to house the Department of Social Security, latterly known as Centrelink. Incidentally, one of the houses in this part of Croydon Street was home to Benjamin Taylor, regarded as the "father" of Lakemba. The name of his house was "Lakemba" named after his father's property (out of Australia) so Ben gets the credit for supplying the name of the present town. As well as a photo of him in this book his signature also appears on an Eisteddfod Certificate, evidencing his involvement with things local and Lakemba.
Diagonally opposite Croydon Street, and up a bit from "Athlone", a house on the Hampden Street corner owned by the Banks family, there was a grocery store owned and run by Lowry & Penrose, who, like the bricks in their building, just "seemed to be there". They were always busy scuttling about the shop in their long white aprons with a wide fringe on the bottom almost touching their boots. I've always remembered how grocers' aprons were wrapped tightly around their waists, and secured by a shiny brass clasp with a heart shaped emblem on one end. I’m sure someone else must remember this -or am I the only odd-ball left, remembering such trivia.
Next door to Lowry & Penrose, Mr. Bronson had a shoe repair shop where he worked right up to his death. My father, who started his working life as a Bespoke bootmaker, and as a consequence had all the bootmaking machinery in his shop in Haldon Street, used to "fairstitch" Mr. Bronson's repairs, (I think the charge was sixpence a pair) thus doing away with the only other alternative- handsewing. Earlier this year, in the old Lakemba Bowling Club, I enjoyed a chat with Mrs Bronson, and re-kindled some Lakemba memories from older times.
The lolly and fruit shop next to Bronsons, used to change hands frequently and I can't remember ever going into it. I do however, have a vivid mind-picture of the day, in the twenties, when a driverless baker’s cart came careering down Haldon Street, the horse galloping madly, and finished up through the plate glass window in amongst the fruit with the cart on its side on the footpath, wheels still spinning. Between this shop and Wangee Road, there was a fenced off paddock, and on the corner another lolly, icecream and smallgoods shop known as Tickle's Corner, which was there for years. This shop is now an Estate Agency.
Sometime in the forties, I think it was, this empty fenced-in paddock was sold to the Amor family, who had conducted a children's clothing factory in Railway Parade opposite the Station steps, and on it they had a modern factory erected. This factory was to re-locate the Railway Parade one which was becoming too small for their expanding business.
The Amors stayed in these new premises for some years until they finally retired from business, when the property was acquired by Len and Pat Pearson, who owned tennis and squash courts on land behind the Lakemba Street shops.
Len and Pat then embarked on a modest expansion programme of the squash courts side of their business, and, so that they could provide off-street parking for their many clients, they had the old Amor factory demolished. Now, in 1998, that's the way things stand.
In Lakemba in the mid-twenties, opposite Tickle's Corner Shop, a Mr. Walker had opened a motor garage, with one kerb-side petrol pump. He was catering for the slowly increasing motor vehicle population in this area, whose owners, in most cases, knew very little about the mechanicals of their cars. Mr. Walker proved to be a very competent and popular figure with the motoring fraternity, and stayed there for many years.
We're almost ready, at this stage, to move into Haldon Street, but before we do we must mention Holland's Corner. This was another grocery business, and it was right opposite the Lowry & Penrose shop. It was run by the senior Mr, Holland and his two sons. They, too, always appeared to be as busy as one-armed painters, and they too, wore the regulation white aprons with the brass heart- shaped clasps.
People today may wonder how all the grocery shops and corner shops made a living then, but, regardless of the fact that there seemed to be a shop on every corner, their owners were not noted for their complaints. It would be very unlikely that any of these shopkeepers would hire labour, because Mum and Dad (or just Mum if Dad had another job) could always manage, and out of school hours their kids could always be relied upon to "mind the shop" if Mum had some chore to catch up on. The whole point was that they were family businesses and the family kept them going, thereby saving on overheads.
Another factor was also that yesterday's kids were nowhere near as avaricious as todays are, and broadly speaking, most families lived as a family unit and not as separate units living under the one roof, in a state of reasonable contentedness with one another and their neighbours. I can honestly say that I never ever knew any kids who wanted to leave home, nor did I know any kids of tender years claiming to "know their rights".
I, and most of the kids I knew too, felt that being a kid was pretty good in those years, although we were all penniless most of the time. Maybe it was because there were precious few career women and practically all the mothers stayed at home, looked after their kids, managed on Dad's wage and felt proud of being a good cook, a good mother and a good housewife. No worries in those times with burglars, drugs or child crime either- we only get them in the "good" times.
Chapter 3 - Lakemba's Main Drag
On the righthand side of Haldon Street up to Railway Parade and abutting the rear boundary of the Holland’s Corner property there was a huge paddock where from time to time, travelling carnivals pitched their tents and displayed their various attractions such as merry-go-rounds, hoopla stalls and shooting galleries. By today’s standards participation for the public was ridiculously cheap, rarely costing more than a few pence a time, but it was nevertheless commensurate with the low wages of the working class at that time.
The first shop and dwelling to be built here, at the Lakemba Street end, was a red brick building which enjoyed a variety of tenants through the years, starting off as Charles Thomas's butchery, and ending up as Ken Ward's ironmongery. Ken stayed at this site for quite a time before moving further up Haldon Street, around about No. 105, close to Pickerings Furniture Shop.
South of Ken’s old shop, we then got a flash milk bar, put there to service the new Royal Picture Theatre, which was erected next door. Our family had a permanent booking, dead centre of the dress circle, every Saturday night for years. And the cost - three shillings (30c) a seat, which at that time was not particularly cheap. The cheapest seats were only ninepence (9c).
Apart from a couple of tired looking confectionery shops, obviously getting a few bob from the overflow at the milk bar, the last business on that side of the street was a produce store, trading variously as G.C. Comerford, L.Chambers and Shore and Mazoudier, as well as some others.
Occupying the Railway Parade corner was a sturdy brick bungalow called Wyoming, serving as both a home and a Dental Surgery for Mr. A.A. Allen, one of three dentists in the town. Before Mr. Allen it was owned by Nurse B.M. Wright and used as a private hospital, after which she transferred her business to the Boulevarde into much more suitable premises between Quigg Street and Dennis Street.
Nurse Wright had a son Jack, who was in my class at school and who, for some obscure reason or other, had the nickname of "Itchy Wright". In all the time I spent close to Jack, he never struck me as being a "career scratcher". I last spoke with him at St. Johns Bowling Club in Lakemba in the late seventies.
From Lakemba Street, on the lefthand side, stood a row of War Service homes (still there) two of which were owned by the Coogan and Bennison families. I went to school with both Joe Coogan and Frank Bennison while they lived there. Frank's sister, I remember, used to cop the "glad eye" from the boys because she was a stunning blonde.
Up to Railway Parade there were four more shops before the Railway Line, J.Ryan grocer, J. Pritchett ironmonger, E. Bailey tobacconist, and W. Hardy baker, later to become Gambrill's Bakery. Naturally enough all these shops changed hands over the years, both A.R Wills and Gambrill's Bakery appearing and much later Harrison Bros.
On a floor over the street level of these shops, with the entrance in Railway Parade, there were one or two offices, one of which housed the business of Mr W.A.Dowe, a solicitor. He was a very businesslike and private person, always seeming to be very busy, and walking briskly about the town. He gave the impression that there was no time for back-slapping or ribaldry and was certainly not noted for his hearty laugh. At one stage he evinced an interest in the political teachings of Henry George, and a branch had been established here, called the Henry George League of Australia, and meetings were held around the town, but realistically nothing ever seemed to come of it. Henry George the man gets a mention in the World Biography, which states that he was born in 1839 and died in 1897, and was "an American economist and promotor of the single tax theory which was explained in Progress and Poverty (1879). He believed that increased production only increased land values without raising wages. He advocated a single once off tax and the abolition of all other land taxes". So there you have it. Make what you like of it!
The A.R. Wills Estate Agency was started by Arthur Wills who was a close neighbour of ours. He lived in McCourt Street, and he owned the first Series 2, 1926 Chevrolet in that street. It was a 2- tone model, and became a Series 2 because the throttle and spark levers were on the steering wheel rather than on the dashboard. That was the only difference.
He was a plumber and drainer who was becoming a bit fed-up with digging ditches, so he decided to become an estate agent. It seemed to be so easy in those days - no red tape and mucking about. If you wanted to do or be something, within reasonable parameters, you rented a shop and hung out your shingle - and you were it.
When Arthur Wills died, his son Henry who worked at J.S. Davidsons Ironmongery, immediately became an estate agent. He changed the business title to H.T. Wills & Co. It grew quickly, and then when Henry died, Graeme, Henry’s son, carried it on to build it up further, opening several branches in the St. George area.
There really is something to Mark Foy's little motto - "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow". All this started because old Arthur Wills had a backache. Crossing Haldon Street to Railway Parade at Allens the Dentist, the first shop on the right was R.C.Gordon’s Estate Agency. He was a very well thought of man, who my father regarded as the best in the town. Back in the early forties, Mr Gordon sold Val and me our first home, at 21 Hillard Street Wiley Park.
I think there was another Estate Agent named Rushworth somewhere around there as well as a grocery run by the Wolstenholme family, although I can't be real sure about these two. I do remember Jack Hoare the barber, where a good haircut could be got for ninepence. Jack did well there because he was near the station. When everyone else was knocking off Jack was getting busy. I lent him a boxing book - The Art of Boxing by Jimmy Wilde - but poor Jack died suddenly and I never saw my book again.
Next to Jack there was Allen's fruit shop, Amor's Clothing factory, Dignified Funerals and Wickens's Milk Bar, whose shop led into, via an archway, their fruit shop. It was a real good family business which was carried on by Mr. & Mrs. Wickens and their two sons Bert and Mervyn. Bert played first grade Rugby League for the Lakemba team.
Next door to the fruit shop another Wickens, obviously a relation, ran a ham & beef shop, and next door again was East's Butchery, where young Harry East delivered the orders on horseback. The corner shop, once a grocery, later became a second-hand shop, and right opposite on the other corner Dr.Harpur had his surgery.
The three remaining businesses in this cluster of shops were round the corner in Croydon Street, and consisted of Jack Toomey's boot repairs, Jack Buckeridge's Cycle Shop and Sammy Laws's cleaning, dyeing and pressing shop. I've never forgotten the hand printed advertisement, on a sheet of cardboard, that Sammy displayed in his tiny window.
- "I clean & press, & dye & press, whatever it may be,
- I don't care if its dirt or grease, its all the same to me,
- It will only cost you four and six,
- So bring that suit to me."
Hardly in Shakespeare's class, but what do you expect for forty- five cents.
Sammy was a good bloke, who used to live in Fairmount Street, and he was a fair bit older than I was, but a few years ago I had a good yam to him in Haldon Street. If he is alive today he'd have to be giving 90 plus one hell of a nudge.
Now crossing over the Railway Bridge, and making a right-hand turn into the Boulevarde leads us to another small group of shops, on the left side only, as over the road belongs to the railway. First port of call would be Mr. Dickson the dentist. He was an oldish man (or maybe that was my perception of him because he was very stooped) who, due to his gentle nature, was well patronised. One got the feeling that "old Dicko" was not about to hurt you with his dental procedures. Today's younger people with their near-perfect teeth, haven't the remotest idea how primitive dentistry was in those days compared with today. Mr. Dickson's drill was operated by a foot pedal, so obviously it was no rocket ship.Today's equivalent spins at unheard of speeds and without the coolant directed onto the work site the teeth would become unbearably hot.
When the old-time dentist was "filling" a tooth, the procedure called for a type of rubber float to be hooked up somehow in the mouth in order to trap the saliva. This was a dreadfully uncomfortable gadget, even though it was a necessary one. Whether your dentist hurt or not, nobody enjoyed a visit to him for dental work, but the comparative rarity of rotten teeth today, due no doubt to the fluoride factor, hands today's kids a real bonus mouthwise.
Much more emphasis seems to be placed on dental hygiene in these times if the amount of children (and adults) wearing teeth braces is any indication. I know this is an exaggeration, but every second child seems to have a mouthful of wire, and some even tend to flaunt the fact almost as if it is regarded as a desirable fashion accessory.
Our next stop after "Dicko's" was an Estate Agency, trading as Brown, Bayliss, and this business, down the track a bit, was bought out by "old" George Knapton, who remained in it for many years. Today, in 1998, it is still a Knapton business, being run, I understand, by second (and maybe third) generation Knaptons.
Haldon Lane comes next and after that an imposing house belonging to Dr. Kevin Byrne, used also as his consulting rooms. He was a tall, very distinguished looking man with silver hair, very popular in the community, and I remember him particularly for his Dodge cars.
I remember him also, for the day in 1928, when I was riding my bike down the Boulevarde, where, a split second before, he had rolled his car over onto its roof, at the Sproule Street intersection. The car was still spinning as I got to it, and in the back, unharmed, lay baby Kevin Byrne, who himself became a doctor, presently with a practise in Wiley’s Avenue opposite the station.
After Dr. Byrne's house the next shop was another Estate Agency, run by a man named Carlton Brown. We didn't know too much about him apart from the fact that he had a reputation as a "ladies man". I've heard it said that he had an eye for a well-turned calf. Today's younger set would call him "cool". One Saturday, after all the Banks had closed, he did the rounds of the more prominent business men and pitched them the tale that he'd "missed the bank" and could he impose on them for 20 pounds until Monday morning. Most of them accommodated him, to their sorrow, for that was the last time anyone clapped eyes on him. He had obviously leapt into his 1929 Dodge Fast Four, and sped off into the sunset.
The next block was fully occupied, as it still is, by the Post Office, but on the corner across Croydon Street, where the Canterbury City Library and the Senior Citizens' building stands, there used to be tennis courts, possibly owned or at least looked after by the Burridge family, who lived in an adjoining house. I remember Keith Burridge at our school. From this corner right up to Wiley's Avenue, there was only one shop, and it was on the corner of Ernest Street. There's no prize for guessing that it was another grocery. Its brick side wall facing Ernest Street, was completely painted and advertised Siren Soap, Goldenia Tea, or maybe it was Kinkara Tea and Sunlight Soap. This shop was run by H.R.Parrot, and he had a delivery cart and horse, the cart being custom painted and varnished like the flash bakers' carts were. Their horse was a well-groomed bay and its only speed was flat-out, so you can imagine the clatter it kicked up with its iron tyres on the unsealed roads around the town.
Still on the south side of the Railway Line we retrace our steps back up the Boulevarde (in earlier times known as Godfrey Street) crossing Haldon Street at the Methodist Church (now the Uniting Church) and walking down the hill past the Victory Hall, which was built after the 1914-18 war, and was used as a Church Hall, where the ladies Auxiliary could gather from time to time for tea and scones.
Next to the Victory Hall stood Nathan Ernest Ball's lolly and ice- cream shop which, in addition to holding an Agency for funeral directors Wood Coffill, also trebled as an Estate Agency, in which Mr.Ball dabbled in a desultory sort of fashion. One thing's for sure - you couldn't say he wasn't versatile. At any given time the next customer could want to buy a house, a coffin or an ice-cream. I imagine that, initially, the motivation for the ice-cream and lolly side of the business was probably to gain the pocket-money purchases of the children who attended the Victory Hall for church-related functions as well as the attendees at the Lakemba Eisteddfods when they were held there. Later on, when the Memorial Hall was built on the Quigg Street corner it too, maybe generated a modest turnover for the Ball shop. From memory, beside Ball's shop and residence there was a small house occupied by V. Watsford and then a couple of shops. Both of these shops have been made into one now, and the present tenant is running a hardware store. In the old days the top shop was occupied by a guy called Athol Ollerenshaw,
who opened it as a sports store, specialising in tennis equipment. Athol himself was, on a local level, a competent tennis player and I wouldn't be surprised if he played Blackwell Cup tennis for the old Sydenham- Bankstown Association, which, because of increasing settlement on the Bankstown line, eventually became the Canterbury- Bankstown Tennis Association. From his tennis connections its fairly obvious that he would have built up a solid connection for tennis gear, restrings etc, because he was there for a long time, and always appeared to be busy.
Chapter Four More Shops & Their Owners
Round about now, we must do an "about turn" and retrace our steps back up the Boulevarde past Ball's shop, the Victory Hall and the Church, into Haldon Street, where the very first shop on the left, built below Wood the dentist’s surgery on the first floor, was a bread and milk shop. That’s all they sold. It was looked after by a girl named Eadie Bird, whose parents were our neighbours up in Lakemba Street. There, bread was priced at 2 loaves for fivepence ha’penny (5.5 cents) and milk was twopence (2c) a pint.
This milk was neither bottled nor packaged - you took your own "billy" - neither was the bread sliced or pre-wrapped, but it was always fresh and wholesome. These prices were a little cheaper than you’d pay for delivery to your door by the baker or the milko.
With today’s bread anything up to two dollars a loaf (one pound in the old money) and todays milk at around eighty cents a pint (8 shillings) it means that what we got for eightpence (8c) then would cost us around four dollars now. Of course, I well realise that the comparison is ridiculous - the eras are 70 years apart - and those old days, when wives and mothers didn't go to work, and managed on the husband's wage, a weekly paypacket of 2 pounds four shillings ($4-40) was regarded as reasonable. And if the man of the house, on his way to work, bought the daily paper it cost him a penny (1c) not 8 shillings (80c) as it does today.
As I mentioned earlier Eadie Bird's shop formed part of Mr. Woods building, still there today, and under its now number of 81a still looks as substantial as it did in the old days. In Canterbury Council's book, Change and Challenge, published in 1979, can be found on page 165, a photo showing the side elevation of this building in 1918, the sign on the wall declaring the occupants to be Lewis R. Higgs, Estate Agent, and R. Wood Dentist. Back in those days the portion occupied by Eadie Bird was then occupied by Lewis Higgs, and his downstairs neighbour (there were two downstairs shops then) was The Government Savings Bank of N.S.W. This book was given to me on my 80th birthday by later generations of a family who settled in the town in the early 20s - the Tarantos, as good and gracious as they've always been. I can highly recommend a perusal of its pages by anybody interested in the old Lakemba, and it is readily available at our local library.
The shops I remember in my boyhood days on the left-hand side of Haldon Street, that is, up towards Canterbury Road, were, from Woods building, H.J. Harris the jeweller, S. Westacott the bootmaker, Mrs. Huckel's ham & beef, W Crawley the auctioneer, F J Sobb the dressmaker, Roxy Beckwith’s haberdashery, A.E. Odbert's mercery, Mrs. Joass the robe specialist, Jim Cranney grocer, C. Pickering furniture, J. Hogg bootmaker, H.R. Donnison butcher, C.J. McCloskey baker, Merrit and Son printers, McCrea & Connor greengrocers, A. Gooda confectionery, F.A. Begg wireless shop, T.C. Hockin ham & beef, Syl Shiel barber,
E.J.Cornish's Lakemba Music Parlour, Mrs. Stokes draper, Marshall Root tobacconist, Poole’s bike shop, Scott's Milk Bar and last but not least The Magnet Theatre. From the Magnet right up to Canterbury Road, with the exception of Mrs. Denning's library, number 199, all other buildings were private homes.
Coming down the western side from Canterbury Road I'll always remember King's Timber Yard, number 310, which was situated right behind Ryan's Corner, whose frontage faced Canterbury Road. Then came Haldon Furniture Co., Thurston the grocer, Ezzy's Produce and then 7 private homes down to George Brockway's Garage number 212. No. 208 took pride of place on the wall of the Lakemba Fire Station, which housed the OIC and his wife, Mr. & Mrs. Justice, and their 3 daughters, Dulcie, Ida, and another whose name escapes me. The Justice girls were famous in Lakemba for their wholesome good looks, and Ida, the youngest, married a Lakemba boy, young Mr. Cornish from the Lakemba Music Parlour, number 135.
After the Fire Station we get a look at McCloskey's stables, where they kept their horses and baker's carts, then over the lane, Knoke's boot repairs, Reid Bros. Hardware, Hueton's Milk Bar, Lakemba Library, J.A. Samioz confectioner, Arthur Padrotta who started off as a tailor and finished up a sports store, more or less, then Vic. Harcourt's milk bar before the pub, licensed by J.G.Mullins.
From the John Sands "Postindex" record files (courtesy of Chris King) the following list completes the west and east sides of the business houses in Haldon Street in the late twenties. The street numbers are bracketed, thereby pinpointing any vacant block of land.
H.Condie (144), A Hyatt (142) A. Imbruglia (140) P Laglin (138) P. Crellin (136) W. Blackwood (134) Moran & Cato (130) J.S.Davidson (128) J.Lawrence (126) Picton Jones (124) J & E. Gregor (122) D.K.Ross (120) F.L. Fraser (118) Mason & Clarke (114) W.J.Foster (108) Derrin Bros (104-106) A. Paino (102) A.F. Roper (98-100) W. Norris (96) O.J.Holland (94) Lakemba Seed Shop (92) T.J. Andrews (92) C. White (90) J. Moseley (88) H. Bates (86) J.Martin (84) S. Hill (82) R. Phillips (?) Bank of NSW (68) Government Savings Bank (70) V. Taranto (72) C.W.Knight (70) E.A.May (68) Commercial Banking Co. (66) Wal Hibberd (64) W.P.Shanahan (62) A.W. Fletcher (60) G. Palmer (58) A.A. Allen (54) G.C. Comerford (38) H. Thomas (12).
Now for the east side of the street, commencing at Lakemba Street. This list contains residents as well as businesses.
J. Pearce (3) G. Hopwood (5) C.Gillan (9) E. Macaness (11) F.Coogan (13) J. Doonan (15) T. Bennison (19) T. Quinn (21) L.Morgan (23) H.Pickett (25) A. Knevett (27) D. Steed (29) C Vincent (33) W.S.Clark (35) E. Lane (37) H.Wells (41) E. McGowan (43) E.Shore (45) R.Ryan (47) W.Hardy (51) E.M. Bailey (53) J. Pritchett (55) J. Ryan (57) F.Hawkes (61) McCrea & Connor (63) Roberts & Tarr (65-67) S. Hext (69) T.Eaton (77) R. Harkins (79) S.& B. Trading Co.(83) A.J. Farrar (85) J. Lauff (87) S. Westacott (89) A. Black (89) L. Huckel (91) W. Crawley (95) E. Hotchkiss (99) F. Sobb (99) A. Odbert (101) M. Joass (103) J. Cranney (107) C. Pickering (105-109) J. Hogg (111) W. Piggot (113) C. Stone (115) C.J. McCloskey (117) J. Coutts (119) Merrit & Son (121) McCrea & Connor (123) A. Gooda (125) E.A. Begg (127) T.C. Hockin (129) C. Jones (131) H.R. Donnison (133) E.J.Cornish (135) J Taylor (137) J. Flanaghan (139) A. M.Stokes (139) W. Crawley (141) S. Wallis (143) F. Goodall (145) A. Root (147) J.& R. Floyd (149) G. Poole (151) Scott & Stutchbury (153) The Magnet Theatre (157-161) E. Rimmer & E. Button (167) E. Piggot (169) J.D.Clement (171) T. Weame (179) E. Shaw (183) C. Mottram (185) J. Fleming (189) M. Hamblion (187) B. Gambrill (187) Hinds (191) J. Samuels (195) E. Denning (199) F. Caves (205) B. Freckleton (207) W. Rule 211) F. Arnold (217) E. Hampson (225) T. Brear (231) F. Williams (233) W.A.Goodwin (237) T. Malcolm (239) J. Sheffield (243) E. Ilsey (249) D. Martin (253) Grace Bros Depot (257) J. Ferguson (261) R.Hooper (285).
Maybe some of these names may ring a bell for somebody, like they did for me.
Chapter 5 - The Chamber of Commerce & the White Way
In the early 20s, say around 1923, a few of the more or less well established businessmen, such as, I imagine, J. S. Davidson, E. L.Fraser, A.F. Roper and others got together and tossed the idea of a Lakemba Chamber of Commerce into the ring. It was a good progressive thing to do, and it wasn't too long before it was up and running. One of its early moves was to publish a booklet with local businesses well advertised therein, as well as other relevant material such as timetables for train and bus services etc. Again with the good offices of Chris King I was able to photostat every page of this booklet, and they will be found in this book, although not in their original format. Also you will find a 1927 photo of the members of the Chamber of Commerce, some, unfortunately, not named. I'd think this photo may be the last one in existence, apart from a few copies that have been made of it down through the years. I know that a copy was made for the Library, and another for the last 1920s man, Peter Stokes, who served as the Chamber's President in the 60s and 70s. He was the son of Mrs B.M Stokes, who had a business in the town before we came here in 1921, so he really was a Lakemba man. Peter retired from business a few years ago, and sadly passed away not all that long ago.
The Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in the erection of the Lakemba White Way. Festoons of powerful white lights were erected right down the centre of the main street, making the street like daylight. They commenced outside Vic. Harcourt's Milk Bar and ended around the Broadway. On Friday nights shops stayed open until 9 pm, people were everywhere, the town was a blaze of light, and the Town Band played both up and down the street. A carnival spirit existed, and many people regarded Friday nights as their night out, and the town boomed.
Of course, the White Way didn't run for nothing and almost all the shopkeepers contributed to its upkeep. Mr Davidson, the Treasurer, worked out that if every shopkeeper paid 1/6 (15c) a week, then the White Way expense account would just about break even. This money was collected every Monday afternoon, and whether the fact that my father was the Chamber Secretary, had anything to do with it or not, I got the job as the collector. Armed with my notebook I called on every contributor, entering each transaction, after which I returned to Mr. Davidson's shop, where he would balance the cash, giving me 1/6 as my "wages".
When any shop changed hands, I was expected to introduce myself to the new owner and explain the "modus operandi" to him. If he agreed to become a contributor then his first week's contribution became my commission. The most I ever received in one week was 4/6 (45c), and that week I wouldn't have called the Queen my uncle - after all, 4/6 would buy 324 licorice blocks!
At the Annual General Meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in 1927, Office Bearers were presented with tokens of appreciation for their work through the year, and Dad received a gold Elgin pocket watch which had gold closing lids back and front. It was suitably inscribed inside its back cover, and was a most accurate timepiece. It is still in our possession, still as accurate as ever, and is relatively valuable because of its age and condition and suitability as a collectors' item. Also the Chamber, through Mr.Davidson, granted me a gift of the Chums Annual, plus books by Charles Dickens to the value of one guinea (21/-). For the little I did, it was a very generous gesture, and I was "over the moon" for being recognised as a "cog in the works", albeit a very small and insignificant one.
Chapter 6 - Music & Eisteddfods
Because we had a relation who was a child prodigy as a violinist, and who later went on to establish himself as Australia's best, both my sister and myself were bundled off to learn music. A piano was purchased and lessons began. Our first teacher was a Miss Chambers from McCourt Street, to whom we went for about 12 months. She taught us rudimentary scales and theory and seemed to place a great deal of importance on "knowing where middle C was located" on the keyboard. After Miss Chambers we moved on to Miss Dorothy Ayres (Shrapnel Green's wife in Chapter 1). My sister did well with her, passing a few grades in music exams, but for some reason or other I didn't seem to reach this higher standard. I was then taken away from Miss Ayres and sent to Jessie Nobbs, under whose tutelage I became a reasonable player at elementary level.
After a time Val left Miss Ayres and I left Miss Nobbs, and we were then enrolled with Mr. J.W. Worsley in Colin Street. His lessons were scheduled for early mornings and he was very strict. He had a cane and when a wrong note was struck he would hit the notes next to our fingers. We were sometimes in tears, but, give him his due, especially when we played duets together, he really got the best out of us, and we went on to win medals at various Eisteddfods.
I remember one day in the wintertime, when I had a heavy, chesty cold, I went to Mr. Worsley for my early morning lesson, which turned out to be a fairly stormy affair, with a fair amount of cane wielding, and me a bit teary, when I began to cough loosely, and suddenly I coughed up a bullet of phlegm which landed fairly and squarely on the back of Mr. Worsley's left hand.
What do you do in cases like that? You can hardly expect him to take out his hankerchief and mop up somebody else's phlegm, can you? So, ever so sheepishly, I wrestled this limpet off his hand (it wasn't easy), mumbling apologies through my tears. When I'd gone he probably went outside and boiled his hand thoroughly. At my next lesson, I recall, he asked me how my cold was. If I had said "no better", would he have put on a gardening glove? I wonder!
It might have been a good omen, that bullet that hit him on the hand, because that night we (my sister and I) went to the Dulwich Hill Eisteddfod and carried off the gold medal for our rendition of Marche Militaire.
My sister kept up her playing for some years, and when we got a bit older I had to choose between music and motorbikes and I'm afraid motorbikes won by a country mile.
Chapter 7 - Roselands & the Golf Club
Towards the end of the last war, in the early forties, Fenwick's Estate was sold - holus bolus. This estate reached from Payton Avenue and Violet Street, its northernmost boundaries, all the way down to Shorter Avenue. There was talk of Victory Gardens for the war effort, but realistically, it was never going to be anything else but Roselands Golf Course. And what a golf course it turned out to be. Eighteen holes, championship length and layout, great fairways and beautiful greens. Colin de Groot, a longtime President of the P.G.A., was the Professional. I remember the last round of the Ampol Tournament being played on the course, and the two leaders, Eric Cremin and Colin de Groot, due to slow play of the field ahead of them, looked like finishing in the dark. An SOS went out to members with cars, who rallied to the cause, lining the 118h fairway to offer "headlight" assistance.
Fenwick's Estate homestead, a big red building of two storeys, which, in the very early days was called, I think, Belmore House; became the Clubhouse, where you bought your beer, and a meal, and on whose very early poker machines you lost your money. I remember that from the corner of Wiley's Avenue and Canterbury Road (there was no King George's Road in the twenties) this homestead stood out starkly, being built on such a huge estate. It was surrounded by a brush fence, and was a wildlife haven for many species of birds. Most boys kept birds in an aviary at home, just as most boys also had bird traps, just as most boys knew where to get into Fenwick's Estate to trap diamond sparrows.
Approaching the 60s, changes began to evidence themselves in the golf club layout, and there were rumblings that the 8th and 9th holes may be moved onto the north side of the clubhouse. These were the last two holes of the first nine which were placed originally on the south side, and it appeared that the intention was to relocate them on the north side so as to create a condensed 9 hole course. The story was that the eleven holes on the south side were to be surrendered to a residential development. So as to make the golfers, most of whom would have been original members, feel less abandoned by this unfortunate eventuality, soothing balm was to be applied in the form of a bowling club, which would help to maintain some sort of club spirit among the members.
The rumours became fact and these moves eventually took place, but it really did signal, over time, the end of the golf club. Some sort of golf activity took place on the north side, but with the coming of Roselands Shopping Complex, not to mention the Swimming Pool, plus the creation of a "mini housing development" in Diana Avenue, Kent Avenue, Haigh Avenue and Fenwick Street, the golf club became a memory. Although we regard our present address in Diana Avenue as the best at which we have ever lived, sometimes we think fondly of the golf club days.
In the meantime, the local paper was very vocal on the fact that an aerial survey had revealed that Roselands was in fact the geographical centre of Sydney, and that a shopping complex would be good for the district. If this was a rumour, then it was a well- founded one, because Grace Bros eventually built the most revolutionary complex in Australia. There had never been anything like it up till that time. At the opening in 1965 the world and his wife were there, and the publicity was unprecedented. It became the flavour of the decade.
Big developers watched for it to fold up, and when they saw that it didn't and wasn’t going to fold up a spate of similar undertakings commenced in almost all areas, and today, following Grace Bros's example, 'business Australia' is turning over its millions day in day out.
Despite all the "knockers" forecasts that Roselands would go broke in 6 months, today, in the late 90s, it is bigger and busier than its ever been. Car parking spots are like gold every day, 7 days a week.
Of course, the knockers are conspicuous by their silence now, and the only "downside," if there is one, is the fact that the "little people" in their corner shops are working "around the clock" to get a quid.
Chapter 8 - Early Bowling in Lakemba
The Lakemba Bowling Club owes it’s origin to a small band of enthusiasts who, in 1924, gathered and formed it, and promptly had a green constructed on rented land in Croydon Street, Lakemba, near the site of the present Telephone Exchange. The green came into use early in 1925, and a small brick building, formerly part of stables premises, was converted into an attractive Club House.
The initial membership was approximately 40, with Mr. J. Nathan as first Club President. By 1928 the Club was in new premises at 69 Croydon Street with a new brick Club House costing approximately one thousand pounds and two new greens.
The Club prospered and consolidated and in 1946 was re-named "Lakemba District Bowling Club Limited", and incorporated as such under the Companies Act. In 1950 the Club conducted a Carnival Week, celebrating its 25th anniversary. In 1952, a third green was established and officially opened by Mr. N. Noss, then Vice-President of the NSW. Bowling Association. Extension and modernisation of the Club House followed in the next year and Mr. N. Noss, by then President of the N.S.W. Bowling Association again did the Club the honour of officiating at the opening ceremony on December 26th, 1953.
The membership had by then increased to 150, and looking ahead, the Club purchased land to the south of the Club property, and thus gained space for a fourth green.
In 1960, the four tennis courts at the rear of the Club were purchased with a view to again extending the Club House and to provide ample car parking space for members and their visitors.
A noteworthy event in 1961 was the acceptance of members of the Lakemba Women's Bowling Club into Associate Membership.
Extensions to the Club House were completed in 1962, and officially opened by Dr. Neil Benjamin (Deputy President of the N.S.W. Bowling Association) on 7th July 1962. The Memorandum and Articles of Association were brought up to date in 1963.
In 1964 negotiations were entered into to acquire at a substantial figure the tennis courts area adjacent to the northern boundary. This important step was necessary to prevent any building development of the area which could be ruinous to the greens and to the Club. In this year the maximum membership was advanced to 200 males and 100 females.
Also in 1964 No. 4 green was completed and available for play on the 10th October 1964. Mr. Abbey Cairns, President of the Royal N.S.W. Bowling Association, officially declared the new green open on Saturday 10th April 1965, some 40 years since play first started at the Club.
This historical progress of the Club is one which members can reflect upon with pride.
When this Club celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1975, Mr D. Isaacs, the President of the R.N.S.W.B.C. made the following observations in his speech:-
- "Youth is a challenge to the future, but age is a wonderful thing. It is a combination of maturity, wisdom and knowledge. And so with a Club, its age builds up a tradition. For a Club to be celebrating its :Golden Jubilee as Lakemba is today, we know that it is steeped in tradition- names of many wonderful people who may have passed on, and some who are living today; people who had the foresight to band together :and start the Club; people who carried on and lifted it to the grand height it holds today. And with a passing thought of the many enjoyable times spent within the Club and grounds, over the last fifty years, :we say thanks to that happy band of founders."
Well it seems that this book (booklet might be a better word) is in no way going to develop into any sort of a "magnum opus". Nor was it ever intended that it should. It was meant to "fill in" some of the gaps left in Prius Obliviscor.
But having started remembering, its sometimes really amazing the memories which come flooding back, and at the oddest times too. Even now, as I'm writing this conclusion, I've suddenly remembered that I have forgotten to mention "The Big Four".
The "Big Four" consisted of four businesses next door to each other - Lawrence's Menswear, McPherson's Shoe Shop, Gambles Millinery, and Picton Jones's Haberdashery. They took advertising space under the Big Four heading, and stuck together for years. As far as any further detail is concerned regarding the demise of this arrangement, or the businesses themselves, I know nothing, apart from the fact that Jean Sutton, who worked for years at Gambles Millinery, is still alive in her advanced 80s, and is living at Cronulla.
I am in my 80s also, so for obvious reasons, the main one being that I've just about exhausted my memory bank. In conclusion let me hope that you, the reader, may get something out of these memories; even if it's nothing more than remembering the middle Justice girl's Christian name, or the good quality legs of the daughter of the Blackwood's Boot Shop family. PS.. Licorice blocks are non-existent today, but if they were re- introduced we'd be looking to pay, as the very least, ten cents each. Think about it!
So long and good luck!
Don Hogg 1999.