In 1991, the Commonwealth Bank had a brainwave: “Everyone hates big business, so let’s sound less like one.” And so ended over 30 years of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, which gave way to the kinder, warmer Commonwealth Bank we know today.
The reality is that in 1959, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia split into two entities; one good (Reserve Bank of Australia), and one pure evil (the Commonwealth Banking Corporation). And no, changing your name back hasn’t fooled anyone, CBA.
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.
I love it when they do my job for me.
Of course, what the sign doesn’t say is that between being the old bank and a surveyor with a strong track record of customer satisfaction, it was a video shop. A video shop filled with Street Fighter II Champion Edition arcade machines. Are you telling me there wasn’t room in the above space to paint that bit of history in too?
MANIC UPDATE: Reader Robbo insists that the video shop was a Videomania, whose ilk we’ve encountered before.
Sometimes it can be fun to take a look at the evolution of a shop over time. It reveals a lot about the changing face of the suburb, shoppers’ tastes and the sensibilities of the time, among many other things. In this case, we’re looking at 274 Forest Road, Hurstville. In 1951, it was Food Fair, an extremely 50s looking fruit and vegetable shop. Now, take a good look at this picture. You’d never get away with parking a car on Forest Road like that these days, and you certainly wouldn’t ever see your bike again if you just left it unattended and unchained like that. Before the advent of the Westfield, or the Super Centre above the Hurstville train station, these shops were the lifeblood of the suburb that coursed through the vein that is Forest Road.
This one’s a stretch, but use your enthusiasm to zero in on the barely visible ANZ logo next to the Lowes, which is still there 30 years later. It makes sense that by the 80s, the banks had staked out territory amongst the little shops along the street. Food Fair would have had nowhere else to go but bust even if it had survived the 1978 opening of Westfield (which I’m guessing it didn’t).
Here we are again, in the new millennium. Now the shop is home to The Base Store, a $2 shop/party goods outlet. How shops like these were able to flourish in the 90s/00s is beyond me, but think back – they were everywhere. It all started with the novelty of the Reject Shop, and then things got out of hand. We only have ourselves to blame. By this point the bank is long gone, a victim of the online revolution and branch closures. Firing workers is the best way to save money, you know.
Which brings us to today. Oh, how things have changed (except Lowes, which appears to be the foundation Hurstville was built around). The former Knapps Butchery has become a Chemist Warehouse, and the party’s over for the Base Store. It’s now Butchery No. 1, or No1 Butchery as Google likes to call it, and fittingly too – it’s anonymous as hell. There’s the Rav 4 parked in the same place as the car in 1951, and they both have the spare tyre on the back. The custom facade of the Food Fair has long since been covered up by the dirty venetian look of ANZ, which itself has left an ugly stain (what a visual metaphor). The ubiquitous-yet-defunct Anata Awning has ensured that Food Fair’s legacy is lost to the world, but I can’t help but think if you tore that facade down, the Food Fair shopfront would be waiting patiently behind it for one more day in the sun. It sounds fair to me.
UPDATE: One year later, No. 1 Butchery is #10 in the Past/Lives Flashback series. Check it out.
This building features an interesting double-shot of 19th century enterprise.
First we have the Bank of New South Wales, established in 1817, making it Australia’s oldest operating company. “But wait,” I hear you saying. “It’s not around today. How could it possibly be Australia’s oldest company?” I’m glad you asked. Between 1850 and 1910, the bank established branches around the country, and also in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (despite Bank of NSW meaning jack to people over there). From 1927 the bank went on a mad spree of acquisitions, buying out the Western Australian Bank and the Australian Bank of Commerce and culminating in a merger with the Commercial Bank of Australia in 1982 giving rise to Westpac. And thus…evil is born.
On the other side, we have Allans Music, which I was surprised to learn was established in Melbourne in 1850. Allans by the turn of the 20th century was the biggest music retailer in the southern hemisphere (but where was the competition?). In the 70s, Brashs decided it wanted a piece of the Allans action and acquired the company. When Brashs went under in the late 90s, Allans emerged unscathed and under new ownership. It merged with Billy Hyde Music in 2010 to become a kind of super music conglomerate, the sort that’ll be feeding us through tubes and stealing our vitality 200 years from now. Incidentally, the building to the right of Allans was the Greater Union Pitt Centre, and beside that lived a Brashs for many years. Even the Greater Union became a cut-price CD shop for a time after its closure, and the Galeries Victoria’s JB Hifi sits across the street. This section of Pitt Street has never managed to shake its musical heritage.