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.

5 responses

  1. Samantha Hamilton | Reply

    Please look closer. This is a 1980’s build. I cannot remember the shop before the pantry but the solicitors or are they accountants to the right in the glass front building could help you. The bakery on the dark side might have been in operation since the 60’s and still looks very original.

  2. Agree Samantha, that development was done in the late 70’s. As I grew up in Riverwood I can attest to the safety in the area from the 60’s to the 80’s at least. I grew up in the Housing Commission units which, at the time, had a definite community feel about them, this was back when to live in Housing Commission was supposed to be a short term accommodation until people could save enough money for a deposit on their own homes. The reason the US army hospital was set up here was because there were 2 Herne Bays, this one and one in the N.T. which is where the hospital was supposed to go!. The Housing Commission estate is the only area where US names are used as this is where the hospital was situated. So many good shops there growing up, Amalfi’s fruit shop a chemist now (went to school with their daughter at St.Joseph’s) used to play “pinnies” there and you used be able to buy 2 lollies for a cent and could trade in your glass bottles for money!, there was the 2nd hand shop (that used to be a theatre), the conco dor lounge, then second one on the other side of the railway line, the newsagency which is still a newsagency but a mere shell of it’s former self, Shorty’s drcleaners the milk bar next to the 2nd shop and the other milk bar near Shorty’s, the Police box (my father in law was based there at one stage), the other fruit shop where we would by our fire crackers and the laundromat across from the new shopping complex where we would play pinnies again and next door to a great little sports and toy store

    1. Totally agree Paul. The building in this photo is definitely early ‘80s. I remember my mother shopping at the Riverwood Pantry in the 80’s and it was nothing like Michael Wayne’s patronising and derogatory post. I guess he was not a Riverwegian! I grew up in Coorabin Place, off Hannans Road half way between Belmore Rd and Hannans Rd Public School, and my family lived there from Christmas Day 1964 until my mother’s death in 2005. The housing commission area we lived in consisted of houses built for purchase by young families looking to buy their first home. Like you, I have fond memories of growing up in the area although I may be a touch older than you as I remember buying 1 lolly for a halfpenny, 2 for a penny and a Polaboy ice block for threepence. Sixpence or a shilling was absolute wealth! I went to school at St Joseph’s (followed by high school at De La Salle Kingsgrove) and remember the old remaining WWII army huts behind our street, on land which is now the motorway, one of which was still used as a day care centre when I was young. Riverwood was never a wealthy area but nor was it the violent slum Michael imagines. Just a part of Sydney populated in the main by hard working people striving to build a future for their kids. FYI, the first Conco D’oro Lounge was a Flemings Supermarket in my time and had been an old picture theatre prior to that in the Herne Bay days. I spent many an hour in the couple of music shops on the south side of the railway line and bought most of my sheet music as well as a few guitars there.

  3. Both Samantha & Paul are correct. The corner land where the building is, was previously a Golden Fleece service station. Also, Half way up that block was a produce shop .

  4. Charmian Pearson | Reply

    I lived in the huts in the early 50’s and was in kindergarten at Herne bay school. My brother who was 3 died of Diptheria there. We later moved to a brand new Housing Comission house in Hannans Rd.

    I remember a girl called Myee Shepherd and a boy Donald McKenzie. If they read this please ring me,to catch up. It’s been over 60 years 0405180334.

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