Another sad tale from the coast today, this time down south. In 1923, mechanic and motorcycle enthusiast Jim Shipp started a sales and repair business in Wollongong, and in 1949, his son Noel took over as owner. In these early days, dealerships were a huge part of the Shipp motorcycle empire, and Noel sponsored all sorts of club motorbike events and competitions. At some point there was probably a local TV ad featuring the man himself.
But as the years wore on, Shipp’s motorcyclery went the way of all enthusiast business ventures in the modern age. The customers dried up, the big dealers moved in, the internet made sourcing parts easier than ever. What was once a cutting edge mecca for all things motorbikes became that crusty, decaying hulk on Keira Street, itself reforged as a cul-de-sac to prevent noisy motorcycle traffic. Enthusiasm becomes eccentricity. Much like Gould’s or Comic Kingdom, when a business reaches the brink of obsolescence, all it can rely on as a drawcard is the individual experience and know-how of its staff. In Noel Shipp’s case, this was a pretty major asset.
Even after a spell of ill health and admittance to a nursing home later in life, Noel would still make his way into the shop to tinker around with the bikes brought in solely by enthusiasts. A much-loved and well regarded member of the community, Shipp passed away last September, and the shop has been boarded up ever since. Once the name finally rots away and the motorcycle signs are claimed by souvenir hunters, Noel Shipp will join Jim in the annals of the forgotten, and the shop will just be another brick box in the warehouse that Wollongong has become.
UPDATE: Or worse. The old Shipp place has met its end, making way for a new attempt to breathe life into this end of the ‘gong.
You know how it can be.
You work hard all your life, bringing your strong, old-world work ethic to whatever task you’re assigned. Sometimes you sell produce, sometimes you sell furniture. It doesn’t matter to you, you were built for this. You can sell anything, it’s your purpose. It makes you feel good. You shack up, maybe you get an idea that you’re going to settle. ‘This could work,’ you think to yourself. ‘I could see myself here in five years, just cruising.’
You hit that point where you’re salivating at the thought of retirement, a handsome payoff for all the hard work you’ve ever done. Sure enough, the day comes. There’s a small celebration, a cake. Gary from next door has a bit too much champagne and ruins your carpet. You laugh and shrug; you’ll have nothing but time to clean it up.
But then the unthinkable happens. Something so commonplace you kick yourself for not having seen it coming, but you never thought it would happen to you. One of your dependents passes away.
Suddenly, things aren’t looking so simple. Easy Street has taken a sharp left onto Struggle Street…which is now a five lane highway. You’ve got to go back to work if you want to make ends meet.
The first day back on the job, and everything has changed. New owners, new workers. New work ethic. As the new upstarts proceed to do all the things you never could, the taste of that cake comes back to you, suddenly very bitter. The owner can see the way things are going, and decides to get out. Just like that. Here one day, gone the next, and not even a goodbye. You know in the back of your mind it’s all your fault. How did that make you feel?
Another decade, another set of owners. The rent won’t pay itself, after all. These hip new owners watch you work, barely masking the disappointment. They paid how much for this? You’re from another time; you just can’t cut it. So out comes the new coat of paint, the new accoutrements designed to help a dinosaur compete in a modern world. It works…for awhile.
And then the 80s. You cut a break – suddenly it doesn’t matter who you are, only what you’re selling. And you’ve lucked out, my friend. Fully stocked with the latest in washers, colour TVs and video recorders. Inwardly, you can’t even begin to understand how it all works. You’re of a bricks-and-mortar mindset, these newfangled electronics baffle you. But you were built to sell, and sell you do. The money – you’ve never seen so much money! – comes thick and fast, and suddenly you find yourself with a hefty bonus here and there. It goes to your head. You’ve forgotten that no one is bigger than the business.
Which brings us to today. Colour TVs lost their novelty. VHS is barely a memory in the mind of the public. ‘People still have to wash,’ you argue. True. But there are laundromats for that. Massive department stores just up the road. While you were sitting here, the world changed, and if you ever left your comfort zone, you’d know that.
These days, you’re a sight. You cling embarrassingly to your heyday, desperate to remind prospective owners what you can do.
But no one’s buying what you’re selling. You were never the best salesperson, merely capable. Today, even that’s negligible. All you do is remind people of a past they’re happy to forget. Despite your best efforts, you’ve landed yourself a beauty salon gig, the kind that’s all too common in these strips. Well done. The saddest part is, you think it’s going to last forever.
I pity you.
Never one to let anything vintage go to waste, Marrickville’s hipster cred has earned the suburb its fair share of op shops and vintage recyclers. That doesn’t always extend to clothing and furniture, though.
U-Turn Recycled Fashion is definitely one of the hippest (does saying that make me painfully unhip? Be honest, I’ve been prepared for that outcome for awhile now.) outlets for vintage clothing Marrickville has to offer, and in a stroke of luck for me, it’s either not shy about or too lazy to disguise the retailer it recycled.
Given the ultra-70s font, there’s a good chance that some fashion that was sold new at Harvey’s Fashion House is now being sold second hand by U-Turn. The very presumptuous Harvey sported this slogan: “The Best Shop For You!” How would you know, Harvey? Do you know me? How do you know I’m not an alcoholic, and the LiquorLand isn’t the best shop for me? Then again, if I were an alcoholic, Harvey recommending his own shop to me is just him lending a helping hand to someone clearly in need and keeping me on the wagon. Thanks, Harvey, I guess I had you all wrong.
If we dig even deeper…
…we can deduce that at some point after 1938, this place finally grew into a full shop. I wonder if U-Turn’s got any 30s hosiery?
First of all, dear readers, Happy New Year and all that. For Past/Lives, all this means is that the glory days of our subjects are buried under yet another year. There’s plenty coming up, including something fun for the blog’s first anniversary in March (where did the time go?), but for now…
Byers beware! At least, anyone with the intention of buying meat from this long-defunct butchery along Darling Street, Rozelle. What started life as a bootmaker’s shop came into possession of butcher Hugh Byers in 1918, who hawked dead animals from this location while leasing out the shop next door, which he also owned. This tradition carried on for the next 87 years, until the Byers family sold up to Balmain Leagues in 2005. Balmain Leagues…doesn’t that ring a bell?
Anyone familiar with the surrounding area and an interest in this sort of thing (all three of you) would have noticed the decaying Balmain Leagues Club on Victoria Road. If you don’t know it, don’t worry – we’ll take a closer look soon. The impending development of that site will include the Byers building as well as a fair few others along Darling Street when they finally get around to it. Unless of course it turns into another CBD Metro debacle, which left Rozelle with some mighty blue balls.