Monthly Archives: November, 2013

Butcher/Residential – Auburn, NSW

Even the most quiet and unassuming of streets or buildings could have been the site of scandal and intrigue at some point in the past. A little research goes a long way: a quick check of Trove revealed that a street I grew up on was the scene of an inter-war triple murder and several gruesome accidents! It’s the kind of thing that makes for great reading on a cold, rainy afternoon.

So if you live on Melton Street, Auburn, I hope it’s raining right now.

SMH, April 6 1950

SMH, April 6 1950

While I’m not going to bother getting into the nitty-gritty of 1950s meat price regulations, the space allotted by the newspaper to the above article should tell you all you need to know about just how important this apparent non-event was.

For this one day, butcher Neil Johnson had his moment in the sun, having been accused of overcharging for meat. In his defence, he claimed that his meat was primo quality, so why shouldn’t he overcharge? The justice system wasn’t convinced, slapping a fine on Johnson that, according to the article, could have forced him out of business. Something certainly did.

 

The only thing butchered these days is the facade.

The only thing butchered these days is the facade.

Now that you know the story, here’s where it happened. Pastel colours aside, Johnson’s butchery today is completely unassuming. It’s just another ex-corner shop no one gives a damn about. I’m not saying everyone should, but I never cease to find fascination in these little stories that make Sydney’s suburbia more than just a network of streets.

You can still read it if you squint, believe me.

You can still read it if you squint, believe me.

And that’s just what we can see from the outside. Would the interior still be recognisable as a butchery? Does it still carry the stench of Johnson’s failure? Given the current state of Sydney housing prices, they’re questions that for the majority of us will never be answered. Talk about overcharging…

Orion Cafe/H&R Block – Gosford, NSW

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Gosford. It’s unfair to liken the city to a brain-dead coma patient, but I’m going to do it anyway. The body functions, but there’s no drive, no spirit, no passion. One might even go so far as to call Gosford the zombie of the Central Coast.

If I’m being too harsh, it’s only because it’s so heartbreaking to see that main strip and what it’s become, and all the promise that lies underneath. Even something as simple as a cold drink on a hot day is too much for Gosford to provide, so depleted are its refreshment options.

One might look up and spy the Orion Cafe, only to return to thirsty disappointment when the shop underneath hosts a tattoo parlour, a beauty salon, or more likely, nothing at all. It’s the way of Gosford’s Mann Street.

The problem is you’re 87 years too late. In 1926, the Diacopoulos family – renowned in Gosford for their cafes – opened another success story at this address. The Orion quickly became “Gosford’s leading sundae shop and refreshment rooms”. Imagine such a thing today. You can’t.

The Orion was just one of many cafes and eateries maintained by the Diacopouloses (Diacopouli?), brothers Peter, Nick and Angelo. The brothers themselves have long since passed away, with Angelo, the last surviving sibling, passing away in Sydney in 1995 aged 94.

These days, all that remains of the Orion Cafe is the sign atop the shell that once housed Rotary meetings, dispensed hand-dipped chocolates and served up delicious milkshakes and sundaes. Tax accountants, ever a fun vacuum, have taken up in the neighbouring shop, condemning the Orion to a lifetime as just another old relic on Mann Street.

Riverwood Pantry/Hing Loong Dressmaking & Alteration – Riverwood, NSW

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They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Once upon a time, just after the Second World War, Herne Bay was a suburb notorious for violence and poverty. During the war the United States Army had established a hospital barracks in the area (which is why many local street names have a distinctly American flavour), but once the war was over the hospital buildings were converted to public housing by our old friends the Housing Commission.

Within a decade of the advent of commissioned housing, Herne Bay had become a no-go zone. Overcrowding begat poverty, poverty begat crime, and crime begat Riverwood. In 1957, in an effort to repair the suburb’s reputation, Herne Bay was newly christened Riverwood. That’ll do the trick. Don’t think to try and combat any of the aforementioned problems or anything, just change the suburb’s name. Maybe all those no-goodniks will think to themselves “But I live in Herne Bay, not Riverwood!” and move away!

But the rebranding effort didn’t stop there. Private development sprang up, and the small shopping village made a concerted effort to present a friendlier face and reforge the suburb into a place you’d want to live.

One of these was likely the Riverwood Pantry. 1960s by name, 1960s by nature, the Pantry would have provided cakes and treats to both the working class Riverwegians and the undesirable leftover Herne Bayers. The woman behind the counter would have called everyone ‘love’ and ‘pet’ even though she knew all their names. They would have had the same cake in the window for so long that it became fused to the paper doily it was sitting on.

As we move today towards all-in-one shopping experiences and self-service supermarkets, there’s no room for this kind of shop anymore. No one cares what your name is, and cakes no longer need doilies. At some point, having failed its mission, the Pantry went the way of all things, leaving behind a Riverwood with a reputation for crime, poverty and general unpleasantness. Maybe it’s time for another name change.

Helens Pavlova Pantry/A Helen’s Pavlova Palace – Yagoona, NSW

To many, Yagoona is just that ugly place you never stop at as you head along the Hume, but to some, it’s home. To Helen, it’s the site of her magnificent Pavlova Palace. Oh, sorry, pavalova.

I reckon Tuesdays would be the quietest of the seven.

I wonder if this makes it harder to find her in the Yellow Pages?

Not the Helen, mind: A Helen, and one could safely speculate, one of the many Helens who ran the preceding Pav(a)lova Pantry. What am I talking about, you ask as you’ve asked so many times before? Look again:

Yes, from the sign it’s clear that a cabal of Helens ran this secret, masonic (Hellenic?) society that provided a pantry-full of pavlova to the people of Yagoona. What caused the Pantry’s perestroika is unknown, but after the purge only one Helen was left standing. Perhaps her designation as a Helen is her way of paying tribute to those whose blood, sweat and tears went into building not just a pantry…but a palace. Or maybe she just loves using the letter ‘a’. In fact thinking about it now, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was supposed to be called Pavlova Place, and her name’s actually Helena.