Past/Lives Flashback #5: The Hartee’s Saga, Part V: Hartee’s Revenge – Manly Vale, NSW

Original articles: The Hartee’s Saga Parts I, II, III and IV 

hartee

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a good burger down. For those who haven’t followed the long, sad story of the Hartee’s hamburger franchise, here’s a quick recap.

Hartee's Earlwood

Hartee’s Earlwood

With the advent of American fast food franchises in Australia in the late 60s and early 70s, Kelloggs teamed with the US-based Hardees burger chain to start Hartee’s, the first Australian fast food restaurant (despite its very red white and blue beginnings).

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Hartee’s Canterbury.

It was a near-instant success. Whether it was down to underlying xenophobia towards overseas brand names, smart management or just plain delicious burgers, by 1973 Hartee’s was king of the fast food hill in Australia.

Hartee's Punchbowl.

Hartee’s Punchbowl.

Complacency became the daily special from then on, with a series of extravagant HQ upgrades and new outlets sprouting like weeds all over Sydney. Despite this, the chain was beginning to haemorrhage cash at a pretty severe rate, and McDonald’s was aggressively making major headway into the Australian scene. Something had to give.

Hartee's Bankstown.

Hartee’s Bankstown. Not pictured: the Pal delivery truck.

And give it did, here at the Bankstown Hartee’s in 1975, when a current affairs program, acting on a tip-off, exposed the outlet as having served dog food in burgers. Overnight, Hartee’s packed up and disappeared, leaving only husks behind, and that’s where the story seems to end.

Except thanks to reader Phil, there’s a final piece of the puzzle to be put in place. I’d previously written that only the four former Hartee’s above still existed in any form around Sydney… Well, we all make mistakes. Just ask Bankstown Hartee’s.

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Behold, the Manly Vale Hartee’s still stands. It’s currently Gilmour’s Comfort Shoes, but it pretty obviously fits in with the Hartee design.

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In fact, this may be the most well-preserved Hartee’s still in existence. The Gilmour’s sign appears to be stuck on over the red roof, so it’s possible the Hartee’s logo remains underneath.

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The original lights are still in place, designed to illuminate the Hartee’s name. Also still in place, as per Phil’s advice…

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The original outdoor seating area! Now it’s presumably the shoe shop manager’s car park (c’mon, look at the prestige offered by that strange piece of land). Inside are just shoes, but really, they’ve served worse and called it burgers.

It’s not really a happy ending, or an ending at all, but it is (I’m guessing) the final footnote on what by now must be the most definitive account of the Hartee’s affair out there. There are still many mysteries surrounding the story (truly, more questions are raised than answered), but maybe one day one of those faceless, guilt-ridden Hartee’s executives will come out of hiding and reveal more. Hell, I’d even settle for the guy who served the dog food. As ever, if you know more, please let Past/Lives know. And RIP Hartee’s – we hartlee knew ye.

In the meantime, let’s take a minute to remember those four powerful words that watered more mouths than Mount Franklin, that were a city’s guilty pleasure in a time before Big Macs and Whoppers…in a time when a nation could feed itself.

Hartee's Kogarah, November 1973. Image courtesy State Library of NSW.

Hartee’s Kogarah, November 1973. Image courtesy State Library of NSW.

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26 responses

  1. We had Hartees here in Melbourne too ! I remember wagon wheel shaped chips, and other wheel themes, and Im sure there was one in Geelong that was shaped like an American barn. Was very perplexed how they just disappeared (well i was only 10), now I know !

    1. I think the place you’re thinking of that looked like a barn was in fact Red Barn.

    2. There was indeed at least one Hartee’s – in Hartwell (making me think as a child, it was a play on the suburb name). Little did I know it was a chain, or that it served dogfood. Hey but don’t diss the minimum wage workers for this: it would have been an ultra-greedy owner trying to scam customers in the second most vile way possible. The workers were just the (horse) meat in the sandwich.

  2. im sure that if u take a better look the punchbowl store was a pizza hut not hartee’s

    1. That’s right . The Punchbowl Hardee’s was on Canterbury Road and is now a McDonalds

  3. An SMH reference to the closure – Page 16/25, July 4 1975

  4. The Mayfield branch of Hartee’s mentioned in the article sort of still lives on as a Quix convenience store, the frontage with the red roof is still there but the rest of the building has been completely changed.

    I wonder too where the two Wollongong Hartee’s were located and if they are still there in some shape or form!

    1. One old store Cnr Princes Hwy and Forence St, Fairy Meadow. Still there. Do not know of other location.

  5. that place used to be a video store, and then dominos and finally a shoe store

    1. Was it a Homestead Chicken at one stage, say c1979

  6. I remember going there once as a little kid to the Kogarah store – 25 years ago. To me it was the alternative to McDonalds and when your little, sometimes curious to eat somewhere else. My older brother used to go there a little more.

  7. Use to frequent Hartee’s in Riverwood, when a teen, I never had any problem with it and it tasted bloody beautiful. I do remember the story on telly, but can’t remember when Riverwood closed down.
    Maybe I’m a conspiracist but after they left our shores, Macca’s had really no competition. Look where they are now.

  8. Hartee’s in Wollongong. Building still there in Fairy Meadow, Princes Hwy cnr Florence St. Do not know of another location in the Gong.

  9. Hartee’s operated a store in Belmont,Geelong. After Hartee’s closed, Wendy’s Hamburgers moved in. Wendy’s closed after a couple of years. Pizza Hut bought the building, demolished it & built their own style of building.Today, Nando’s & Cold Rock ice-creamery operate out of the re-modelled Pizza Hut building.

  10. Hi can someone please let me know why you are referring to the Manly Vale store as Hartee’s..This was never called by this name..This was named HENRY’S!It had arcade and pinball machines within and was frequented by the local kids every day..From the name HENRY’S it changed to TACO TIME and then Taffy’s seafood..It was then Gary Stafford used cars..It was Video Ezy for a long time prior to what it is today..

    1. Simon, I believe it was a Hartees before Henry got his mitts on it. Check out the flyer at the top of the article, which lists Manly Vale as a location. Still, interesting to know Henry’s had locations aside from Kogarah… We’ll get there eventually.

  11. Yes your right Michael..I cant dispute that it’s original name was called Hartee’s looking at that flyer.My memory spans from around 1978 onwards where Henry’s was a hub for all us local kids who were not old enough to get into The Manly Vale Hotel..Each Night we would be down there playing the 2 Space Invaders machines it had along with The Kiss, Flash, & Playboy Pinnies..As i mentioned above it then changed to Taco Time for a few years & then Taffy’s Seafood Restaurant. Im not sure how well you know Manly Vale as it only has a short stretch of shops but would you believe from the Community centre on one end to KFC on the other Manly Vale was dominated by 6 Petrol stations! Now thats something not to manly people would believe..

    1. I’d believe it, since getting to Manly Vale from anywhere in Sydney takes at least half a tank.

    2. Love it Simon, you have it to a tee! We use to live in Burchmore road and the kids loved Henry’s and then Taco’s on the way home from school!

  12. Yes the manly vale site was Hartee’s before Henry’s – “hurry on down to Hartee’s where the burgers are barbecued !”

    1. Re the Manly Vale store. Was it ever a Homestead Chicken store ? Seem to remember stopping near there in about 1979…

  13. Simon, your history of the Manly Vale store is very good from Henry’s onwards! But yes, Henry’s took over straight after Hartee’s closed down. My parents used to take us to Hartee’s at Manly Vale for dinner occasionally and it was a huge treat! I still remember when McDonalds opened at Fairlight & I tried a Big Mac for the first time, what a disappointment it was compared with Hartee’s! (They were both open at the same time for a while). Btw, a Hungry Jack’s Whopper burger is the closest to what I remember the Hartee’s hamburger tasting like.

  14. Mike, there was a Homestead Chicken at Mona Vale on the left on Pittwater Rd (or maybe Barrenjoey Rd), and also one at Chatswood. But I don’t remember one in any other part of the northern beaches. For a while they gave away free mini foam eskys with each purchase of Homestead!

  15. There was ‘Hero Burgers’ in Dee Why on some kind of traffic island at or near Pittwater Rd. But I was so young I can barely remember any details.

  16. HEY!!! Was just watching the latest volume of “Division 4” (available from http://www.crawfordsdvd.com.au), and one episoe starts with a guy attempting to chat up a young spunk by taking her to… Hartee’s!

    Can’t tell which one, and only features for about thirty seconds, but still pretty nifty.

    Will post screen-caps when I get a chance…

  17. I think I just asked the same question I did a year ago. Woops!

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