Where Was Your Local Corner Shop or Deli?

If you’re a baby boomer who grew up in an Australian city or country town,  just the mere mention of the words ‘local corner shop’ or ‘corner deli’ will instantly bring back a flood of wonderful memories!

There was a local shop (in some states referred to as the corner deli) on almost every second corner in every suburb and they stocked everything from milk and bread to shoe polish and sewing needles. This little shop was the beating heart of many communities, as well as a source of local gossip and an income for the families who ran them.

In the 1950s and 1960s we were a less mobile community and most of the shopping was done close to home. There was a local butcher shop with sawdust on the floor and a kindly butcher who always had a slice of devon (or fritz) for all the kids who might be out shopping with mum. There was the local hardware store, a hairdresser and greengrocer and most other perishables were delivered daily by the milkman, baker and iceman.

Kenny Peplow shared this photo; “Dad’s FJ taxi outside the local deli around 1958-1959.” The taxi was parked outside the corner shop at the time”.

But the corner shop was where you could find most of the essentials of daily living and ‘extra’ grocery items and they continued to play a role as an important fixture in our communities until the mid 60s.

Many little shops were built onto the front of a premises, which also acted as the family home, and as they lived on site, the owners and their families would stay open until 9pm during the week and all weekend, even after church on Sunday.

Corner shops were magical places full of strange aromas and wonderful surprises! Cheeses came in wheels and were cut by slicing with a cheese wire. Fresh ham came on the bone and was sliced by a meat saw. Most of the fresh produce was sold in small quantities, as needed. Sugar and flour came in sacks and was carefully measured out into brown paper bags. Fresh milk came in bottles and cream was ladelled out from a milk urn into your own bottle or container, which you took to the shop.

You could also buy tuppence worth of lollies, choosing from the range behind the faded glass display case, which included conversation lollies, red and green umbrella toffees on a stick, liquorice blocks or a packet of sherbet fizz. There was Peters ice cream in either single or double scoop cones, or a square raspberry ice block in a square cone (they were also tuppence).

Many corner shops also had a jukebox installed and served ice cold milk shakes and became a regular hangout for teenagers after school or work.

The motor car and the spread of the supermarket chains saw the gradual demise of the little corner shop. Many continued to trade on into the 70s and even the 80s but with the arrival of the big suburban shopping malls, the final nail was hammered into the coffin.

Roger Ray shared this photo of a derelict corner shop boarded up and probably awaiting demolition

Driving around our suburbs and towns today, there are still reminders of the days when the corner shops reigned supreme. They are mostly boarded up now, some are still used as family homes, but they stand as a reminder to a fascinating part of our lives, growing up in what I believe was a very special era.

The local corner shop is a special part of our childhood memories and an important part of our history as a community.

If you love nostalgia join me on a trip down memory lane with a copy of my best-selling book Australia Remember When. Almost 250 pages, crammed with photos, memories and stories of growing up in the baby boomer years from the 40s to the 80s and beyond. Join me as we celebrate growing up in what was a very different era, when kids roamed free, parents and teachers were obeyed, discipline was an accepted part of life and the world seemed a simpler place. RRP of the book is $34.99 (plus postage) and can be purchased from Shopify, just to the right of this story.

The Shaggin’ Wagon – Cars From Our Youth

The ‘Urban Dictionary’ defines the shaggin’ wagon as a “pimped out 60’s – 80’s van usually comes with a couch, waterbed, strobe lights, lava lamps. Used for the specific purpose of getting laid and/or high”

Shaggin’ wagons were basically panel vans, painted in bright colours, fully decked out with a carpeted cargo bay (some had a mattress), a sound system and a built in fridge with murals along the sides, sometimes painted with intricate details. They had other nicknames too such as “sin bins,” “mobile virgin conversion units”, “screw canoes, “Scooby-Doo mobiles”, and “f**k trucks” (you get the drift)! This kind of activity was frequently carried out at the local drive-in. The panel vans would back into the parking bay and everybody knew that “when the wagon’s a-rockin’ don’t come knockin’!

Along with the Volkswagon Kombi, panel vans were also very popular with surfers as it was convenient to sleep in the cargo bay during surfing safaris, as well as carry boards and other equipment.

Shaggin’ Wagons were decorated with murals along the sides, sometimes painted with intricate details. They had other nicknames too such as sin bins and mobile virgin conversion units.

Panel vans were first released in the 60s but it wasn’t until the 70s that they became Australian cultural icons. The Holden Sandman is probably the best-remembered of these: for example, one of the vehicles driven by Mel Gibson in the 1979 movie Mad Max was thought to be either a Holden Sandman or a customised Holden panel van (apparently a 1975 HJ model in both cases).

Ford also had a panel van, known as the Sundowner, which was popular to a lesser degree. Chrysler, the third car manufacturer also came to the party in 1976, offering a CL model Valiant panel van dubbed the Drifter, but these could not compete with the popularity of Ford and particularly Holden, and were axed in 1978.

Geoff Burrell, writing in Car News earlier this year, on the occasion of the Holden Sandman’s 40th anniversary, recalls that “if ever a car has penetrated the psyche of the young Australian male, then the Holden Sandman panel van ranks right at the top.

Combining youth, freedom, power, sun, surf and sex, the Sandman had it all. There was nothing subtle about a Sandman when it hit the streets in 1974. Its bright primary colours and Sandman decals screamed out a warning to fathers that their daughters might not be safe. It was a sales success right from the get-go. Years later it was immortalised in a postage stamp.

The original designers also wanted to have a mattress as an official Holden option. The then CEO said “NO” to that idea

Shaggin’ wagons were painted in bright colours, fully decked out with a carpeted cargo bay (some had a mattress), a sound system and a built in fridge

The advertising folks did not hold back either. “Suddenly your car becomes your personal pleasure machine” said the brochure. “Lean, lithe and ready to go” shouted the print advertisements. It was a toss-up if they were describing the car or the occupants because none of the advertisements seemed to contain a fully clothed person over the age of 21.

The 80s saw the end of the shaggin’ wagon. When the Holden HZ ceased production, so too the production of the Sandman was stopped. These days though a Sandman from the 1970s is a prized classic. Original and tidy V8 manuals can go for upwards of $25,000.

If you love nostalgia join me on a trip down memory lane with a copy of my best-selling book Australia Remember When. Almost 250 pages, crammed with photos, memories and stories of growing up in the baby boomer years from the 40s to the 80s and beyond. Join me as we celebrate growing up in what was a very different era, when kids roamed free, parents and teachers were obeyed, discipline was an accepted part of life and the world seemed a simpler place. RRP of the book is $34.99 (plus postage) and can be purchased from Shopify, just to the right of this story.

When the Bread Came by Horse and Cart

I remember before supermarkets and sliced bread in plastic bags, hot, fresh bread was delivered, unsliced of course, by the baker in his horse and cart.

It may be a trick of nature, but it doesn’t seem all that long ago that the baker’s horse, a large, gentle creature that needed no guidance and was loved by all the neighbourhood children, would slowly clip-clop up and down the street, following the baker on his daily round.

I may be remembering the scene through a child’s eyes but life seemed so much more innocent, simpler and slower back then.

The delivery man’s only tool of trade (aside from his knowledge of the round) was the large wicker basket filled with warm bread and covered with a clean white linen cloth.

The baker’s cart was always brightly painted, with the name of the bakery painted on the side while the interior was lined with wooden shelving on which sat perhaps hundreds of loaves of crusty bread, all baked fresh that morning. The delivery man’s only tool of trade (aside from his knowledge of the round) was the large wicker basket, into which he would place the still warm bread and cover with a clean white linen cloth. Each morning the aroma of fresh bread would fill the street along with the smell of the horse and occasionally the odour of a large steaming heap of horse dung, an extra bonus for dad’s vegie patch.

The horse seemed to know exactly when to stop so the baker could refill his basket as he ran from house to house, delivering a loaf or loaves into a bread tin, left on the front veranda. During school holidays all the kids in the neighbourhood would wait at the end of the street and a lucky one or two would be chosen to hold the reins of the old horse as he slowly meandered along the road. Sometimes too there would be a fresh yeast bun from the basket for the children waiting patiently for their turn.

It’s sad to think that in this day and age the baker would probably be under suspicion for some crime for touching a child as he lifted him/her into the seat behind the horse, plus there would be the possibility of litigation should a child happen to fall or be in any way injured.

From memory the bread man came every day as bread back then had no preservatives and after just a day or so would be stale. That’s when mum

Equal opportunity employer. Sometimes the baker was a lady, but the bread was always fresh and crusty

would make her bread and butter pudding with raisins, served with hot custard, I can almost taste it now!

As far as I’m aware, bread delivery by horse and cart continued on in some Adelaide suburbs until the 1970s. Gradually though the horses were replaced by bread vans which also eventually disappeared from our roads and now most people simply purchase their bread from a supermarket.

Do you remember the baker delivering bread in his horse and cart?

If you love nostalgia join me on a trip down memory lane with a copy of my best-selling book Australia Remember When. Almost 250 pages, crammed with photos, memories and stories of growing up in the baby boomer years from the 40s to the 80s and beyond. Join me as we celebrate growing up in what was a very different era, when kids roamed free, parents and teachers were obeyed, discipline was an accepted part of life and the world seemed a simpler place. RRP of the book is $34.99 (plus postage) and can be purchased from Shopify, just to the right of this story.

Remember Free Milk at School

Back in the 1950s the Australian Government introduced a scheme for school children to receive free milk. I think the idea was that it would ensure that all Australian children would be getting fresh milk and a good dose of calcium each day.

The idea might have been fine but in practice there were a few problems. The truck delivering the crates of milk to our school would normally drop it off at about 9.30am and recess wasn’t until 10.45 (from memory). So on a hot Australian summer’s day, the milk would go off. No refrigeration was available and yet the teachers made you drink the milk, off or not. Put my wife off milk for years.

I’ve posted on this topic on the Australian Remember When Facebook page in the past and its created great debate with lots of comments from readers.

Primary school children drinking milk made available free by the school milk programme in the early 60s.

Darryl Barreau wrote “After being spotted by a milk monitor tipping out the “off” milk in the drain, a teacher paraded me before her class (not my own) each morning and whacked the back of my legs with a ruler. That went on for 4 or 5 days trying to get me to apologise, until I told my parents and Dad had a little chat with the Headmaster. Ahh, not so fond memories of milk in the late 50s/early 60s.”

Some of our posters recalled the scheme had also been introduced in England; “I recall the rich(ish) kids at our school bringing chocolate powder to mix with their milk. I was promoted to milk monitor but was sacked after one day for locking the other monitor in the milk shed. And Maggie Thatcher axed the milk scheme for the over 7 year olds in England in ’71 to save money. The press at the time labeled her ˜Maggie Thatcher the Milk Snatcher”

Another remembered; “lining up to accept the sunny boy type contained milk!! I often still remember that smell, I would run to the back of the line continuously until they were all gone!!!”

One poster had happy memories; “I remember this, but our milk was frozen and was always fresh and we had to supply our own cups. On a hot day our milk thawed out and was still fresh. During winter our milk was put in a fridge that some parents donated to the school so our milk was just right for drinking. In the end we used the fridge during summer time as well and didn’t have frozen milk anymore”!

And to prove it wasn’t all bad, yet another person remembered; “I have some very fond memories of the free milk for me at Cairns in the early 70s. Couldn’t wait till little lunch. Always participated in risky

Not everyone hated free milk at school.

sports and never broken a bone in my life. They should reintroduce this at schools. Might help the dairy farmers as well. Win-win”.

I must admit I was never a big fan during those school years but fortunately it never put me off milk as an adult. My wife gags at the sight of me skulling a big glass of milk, she was put off milk forever by the “Free Milk for Schools Program”

The free school milk scheme lasted until the early 70’s and was scrapped.

Interesting thought by our last poster suggesting it should be re-introduced today. It would certainly be a big help to the local dairy farmers and I believe there are a lot of kids who don’t t get much of a breakfast, might be a way of improving school kids general health.

What are your memories of school milk?

Share the memories of your own childhood with our other readers by recording your comments in the “Comments” area below. Comments may take up to 24 hours to appear.

If you love nostalgia join me on a trip down memory lane with a copy of my best-selling book Australia Remember When. Almost 250 pages, crammed with photos, memories and stories of growing up in the baby boomer years from the 40s to the 80s and beyond. Join me as we celebrate growing up in what was a very different era, when kids roamed free, parents and teachers were obeyed, discipline was an accepted part of life and the world seemed a simpler place. RRP of the book is $34.99 (plus postage) and can be purchased from Shopify, just to the right of this story.

Going to the Drive-In Pictures.

Ahhh…..those nights at the local drive-in!

Remember how, as teenagers, there would be 6 of us crammed in the FJ or the Zephyr and one hiding in the boot, as we’d head off to the drive-in for some innocent fun and some hi-jinx and to watch a movie of course.

Later, and a little older, it was the ideal place to take the new girlfriend for some serious pashing and as much as you could get away with! (Mind you, that was never very much)!

Drive-in pictures theatres were a phenomenon of the latter half of last century and many baby boomers I’m sure will remember nights of their lost youth spent in a crowded car with good friends at the local drive-in.

Australia’s first drive-in was the Skyline which opened in the Melbourne suburb of Burwood on 18 February 1954 showing the musical comedy On The Riviera starring Danny Kaye. On the first night there was traffic chaos as 2,000 cars competed for the 600 spaces. After paying at the entrance you drove into the parking area and pulled up next to one of the many posts in rows all over the site. This post housed a pair of speakers with volume control which you’d attach to the inside of your car window.

Metro-Twin drive-in Chullora in 1956. It was not unusual for patrons to get dressed up for the night. MAAS Collection 2007/191/1-2/7/1

Drive-in theatres began popping up all over Sydney throughout the 50s. Two Skyline drive-ins opened at the suburbs of Frenchs Forest and Dundas. The El Rancho drive-in at Fairfield opened a year later in 1957 with a Wild West theme complete with a chuck wagon for quick service meals, a ‘kiddies korral’ and brightly-costumed cowboys and cowgirls directing cars and providing service to patrons. By the mid-1960s Sydney also had Skylines at Bass Hill, Caringbah and North Ryde, a Metro-Twin at Chullora and the Star at Matraville.

Queensland had at one stage over fifty drive-ins. Brisbane’s first drive-in was the Capalaba which opened in 1955 and now all of the suburban Brisbane drive-in theatres have closed leaving the Tivoli Drive-In in Ipswich, and the Gold Coast’s Yatala as the closest drive-in theatres to Brisbane. In rural Queensland however, there are still a number of drive-in theatres operating.

The first conventional drive-in located in Western Australia was the Highway which opened in the Perth suburb of Bentley in October 1955

The Blue-Line drive-in located in West Beach Adelaide was the first drive-in located in South Australia, and the first to be constructed outside of Melbourne. It was opened on 28 December 1954,

Drive-ins were especially popular with courting couples and those on first dates, providing much more privacy than the picture theatre. For families it was a fairly inexpensive night out. The kids would come out in their pyjamas and would pile into the back seat on a mountain of pillows and blankets while parents didn’t have to go to the effort of dressing up. And of course cars full of teenagers would smuggle in a few extra friends for free by hiding them in the boot.

In those early years there were two nightly sessions, the first starting at 8pm, and the late show at 10pm. Visibility of the screen from the road created a problem for both drive-ins and local councils as many

How many times did you drive off leaving the speaker still attached to the car window?

cars parked in the streets and roads outside the drive-in hoping to watch the screen without paying. Many local council decided to take action against motorists parking on the roads and introduced fines and parking restrictions.

It’s great fun to think back to that era and remember those cold wintery nights when all the windows would fog up and you were continually wiping the windscreen to watch the film, or the nights when it rained and some cars had to run their engines to get their windscreen wipers working.

Remember too, driving off with the speaker still attached to the rear window or trying to smuggle extra kids in by having one or two hiding in the boot?

There were flat batteries and flat tyres, fun times and very romantic moments as well.

The drive-in picture theatre is now pretty much just a memory but they were great times and you know the scary thing is, it doesn’t seem all that long ago!

Share the memories of your own childhood with our other readers by recording your comments in the “Comments” area below. Comments may take up to 24 hours to appear.

If you love nostalgia join me on a trip down memory lane with a copy of my best-selling book Australia Remember When. Almost 250 pages, crammed with photos, memories and stories of growing up in the baby boomer years from the 40s to the 80s and beyond. Join me as we celebrate growing up in what was a very different era, when kids roamed free, parents and teachers were obeyed, discipline was an accepted part of life and the world seemed a simpler place. RRP of the book is $34.99 (plus postage) and can be purchased from Shopify, just to the right of this story.