Monthly Archives: November, 2012

Commonwealth Bank/Beverly Chinese Restaurant – Beverly Hills, NSW

In an incredibly novel move, the old Commonwealth Bank along King Georges Road at Beverly Hills was transformed into a Chinese restaurant by true visionaries. They noticed B-Hills’ dearth of Chinese restaurants and were brave enough to step up and take a chance on something radical. Has it paid off? Well, they’re still standing today where so many other Beverly Hills restaurants have fallen by the wayside, so I’d say that’s a big yes.

As for the Commonwealth, there first existed a dark age between the branch’s closure and the 2005 installation of a Commonwealth ATM further up the road during which ‘Which Bank?’ became more of a valid question than a slogan. The ATM has since been removed. I’d like to imagine that the proprietors of the Beverly Chinese went to this specific Commonwealth branch in order to get their loan for the restaurant. Wouldn’t that be funny? Don’t answer that.

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Fat Pizza/For Sale – Chullora, NSW

Given the success of his new comedy series Housos (with a movie, Housos vs. Authority, released earlier this month), Sydney filmmaker Paul Fenech probably doesn’t spend much time thinking about this place anymore. In 2000, Fenech launched Pizza, a sitcom set in the world of pizza delivery in southwest Sydney.

The Pizza crew.

A big hit at a time when Australian television comedy was in dire straits, Pizza acted as a kind of modern Acropolis Now, and its unique approach of challenging ethnic stereotypes through very black comedy was able to sustain a five series run which ended in 2007, and its own movie, Fat Pizza, in 2003.

Located along the Hume Highway at Chullora, this low-key pizza restaurant provided the backdrop to the mayhem of the show. Since Pizza ended, the shop has sat dormant, although for much of the period between 2000 and about 2009 it operated as an actual pizzeria, reopening earlier this year after a long period of disuse…before closing again soon after. During its last era, the walls were adorned with Pizza memorabilia, making it a kind of Planet Hollywood for southwest Sydney. It’s likely it was an operating restaurant before Fenech and the Pizza crew made it their filming location – the row of shops it’s a part of is absolutely ancient.

The shop was recently purchased after having been on the market for some time. The interior’s been gutted, making the likelihood of any kind of Pizza revival here pretty unlikely. But who knows, perhaps it’s being prepared for a sixth series? It’s unknown whether Fenech’s team owned the restaurant during Pizza‘s run, but either way, they wouldn’t own it anymore. For a long time, it seemed that this little pizzeria in Chullora was as far west of Sydney Australian television was willing to go, but the success of Pizza made it possible for shows like Fenech’s Housos to further highlight the ‘inconvenient frontier’ that is western Sydney.

Ever get the feeling you’re being…watched?

Speaking of which, if you’re starting a security company, a surefire way to NOT intimidate anyone would be to name it the Australian Watching Co. The AWC protects the block Fat Pizza is located on (or it did a hundred years ago). Uh-oh…I think we’re being WATCHED! Here’s an interesting aside completely unrelated to Pizza: the Australian Watching Company was formed shortly after the First World War (I knew it), and in 1992 was acquired by Chubb. Now it goes under the name Southern Cross Protection – but clearly not South Western Cross Protection.

Oatley Radio Theatre/Oatley RSL Youth Club – Oatley, NSW

Oatley Radio screening The Wonders of Aladdin, 1961. Image courtesy reader Carmen and Mr W. Collins

Oatley Radio screening The Wonders of Aladdin, 1961. Image courtesy reader Carmen and Mr W. Collins

It may surprise you, especially if you’re an Oatley resident, to learn that the tiny suburb once enjoyed its own theatre! Designed by Sydney theatre architect extraordinaire Aaron Bolot in 1940, the Oatley Radio opened in 1942 to the delight of cinephiles everywhere (in Oatley).

Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, the Oatley Radio played host to popular films of the day, including Easter Parade (1948) and An American in Paris (1951). In fairness, it probably played host to some unpopular ones too.

The final curtain, 1961. Image courtesy Mr. W. Collins

The final curtain, 1961. Image courtesy Mr. W. Collins

It’s unclear exactly when the Oatley Radio closed (if you know, let me know), but I’m estimating it was sometime in the 1960s, an era when suburban cinemas were discouraged in favour of the big boys in the city. It’s claimed that the Radio became part of the Mecca family of cinemas (alongside Kogarah and Hurstville), but I haven’t been able to find much on this.

Oatley Theatre foyer, 1961. Image courtesy Mr. W Collins

Oatley Theatre foyer, 1961. Image courtesy Mr. W Collins

What is clear is that at some point, the Radio was bought by the Oatley RSL and turned into their Youth Club, which is how we find it today. It’s now named the Jack Fisher Hall, after the founding president of the Youth Club.

Behind the Radio, it’s all too clear that it was once a 460-seat cinema, despite the tiny, unassuming frontage.

The Radio survives as one of six picture theatres in the Kogarah/Hurstville area still around today (along with the South Hurstville Paramount, the Carlton Odeon, Nash’s Penshurst Theatre, Beverly Hills Cinema and the Kogarah Mecca), but it’s largely avoided the sad fates of renovation or dereliction that have befallen those others. In a strange way, a suburban cinema like this one was the video shop of its day…I doubt anyone’s ever streamed The Wonders of Aladdin (1961).

OK Restaurant/Master Kwon’s Pro Tae Kwon Do Academy – Enfield, NSW

The owners of Enfield’s OK Chinese Restaurant mustn’t have had much self confidence. C’mon guys, you could wine and dine there…surely it was better than just OK?

In a place like Enfield, where the competition ranges from good to great, being merely okay didn’t help the restaurant stay afloat. These days, all that remain are the neon signs which, in years gone by, would unintentionally act as the OK’s own private lighthouse, warning off hungry passers-by with the promise of an average eating experience.

There’s a silver lining, however: the businesses occupying OK’s space today have all learned the most important lesson of the OK saga. We have Mr. Viscontini Fine Italian Food, Master Kwon’s Pro Tae Kwon Do Academy and Big Clean cleaning supplies, all of which sound unusually empowered and boastful. If not for the OK’s sacrifice, we might today be looking at Viscontini Not Bad Italian Food, Master Kwon’s Intermediate Tae Kwon Do Academy and the Moderate Clean Supplies outlet.

L.J. Hooker/Mortdale Massage Clinic – Mortdale, NSW

The sign says massage clinic, but the subtle (and deliberate) placement of the previous tenant’s extant signage quietly confesses “massage clinic”…