A burger…master. Mayor McCheese, I presume?
As we’ve discussed many times before, milk bars are dinosaurs: fondly remembered, but when they turn up in the wild they’re completely fossilised. Is Canterbury Road, Canterbury’s Burgermaster any different?
No. A look inside shows the sad, decrepit remains of what was once a kitchen where dreams were made and hunger was satisfied. And it’s actively rotting. Take a look at the same view just five years ago.
But what’s most interesting about this place, particularly from a visual standpoint, are the cigarette ads plastered all over the shopfront. They built these things to last:
As a product, Borkum Riff first appeared in the 60s, and judging by the depiction of the guy here, so did this ad.
In 1992, the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act came into effect in Australia, by which point cigarette advertising on TV, radio and local print media had already been banned. By 1995, familiar phrases like “Fresh is Alpine”, “You’re laughing!” and the ubiquitous “…anyhow, have a Winfield” had been completely erased from the cultural landscape, and nobody ever smoked again.
Perhaps aware that the end was nigh, these tobacco companies invested in some heavy duty glue for their final bombardment.
In the case of Port Royal, a heavy duty moustache was also necessary to seal the deal. Doubtless this heroic mo has inspired thousands to roll their own in the years since.
…anyhow, the thought of the combined taste of burgers, milkshakes and Winnie greens is absolutely doing it for me, and since we won’t be getting any here, it’s time to head off. There’s gotta be something open along here somewhere…
The southern NSW town of Narrandera doesn’t get much attention these days. Sitting as it does just beyond the intersection of the Newell and Sturt highways, most motorists opt to drive on and avoid the town, just as the architects of the highways intended. If they stop at all, it’ll be for fuel at the giant roadhouses that dominate the intersection.
Just not at this one.
Down a little way from the truck-heavy bustle of the operating roadhouses sits today’s subject. Rotting, neglected, but still damn impressive, the former service station awaits its fate armed with infinite patience and signage of yesteryear.
In its prime, this was more than just a place to refuel. With so many services on offer, it was a destination. Looking for fresh fruit for the long journey ahead? They’ve got it covered! Feeling dirty after a long haul? The shower facilities are clean and ready for action! Sick of your rude passengers? Step inside for some friendly, courteous service! Want breakfast at 10pm?
Breakfast is served all day. The signage pretty much betrays any secret the station might have, from the nature of the meals on offer to the condition of the air in the restaurant. I do find myself wondering which major credit cards weren’t accepted, though. What a bullet to the head that would have been: you’re six hours out of Sydney on your way to Adelaide (and beyond…), and you pull up at this, the last bastion of fuel before the intimidating Hay Plains begin. The bill is hefty, but so’s your credit rating, you think, as you reach for your wallet. You nonchalantly flip your card onto the counter as in so many Amex commercials, only to hear those dreaded words: “Sorry, we don’t accept BarterCard.”
Alongside the shop section is what appears to be the former restaurant. In the day this would have served ‘home style cooked meals’ to hundreds of passers-by each day. You can’t help but wonder how the domination of NSW’s highways by McDonald’s and their fast food brethren have impacted the traditional roadhouse’s dining trade.
Narranderans looking to party could score ice here (heh), as could any motorist with the ability to keep that ice cold until they reached the party zone. And boy, don’t Milk Drinks sound delicious?
Based on the signage, and this sign in particular, we can start to get a feel for the age and identity of the station. It’s a safe bet that the redacted term on this sign is LEADED PETROL, which was phased out of use by the late 1990s. The shop pimps 90s Coke, and promises to accept Starcards, which are a Caltex initiative. I’d say we’re looking at a former Ampol.
Australian Motorists Petrol Company Limited was a NSW-based chain of service stations founded in 1936, allegedly to counter concerns about inequitable petrol pricing (as if that has ever happened). In 1995, Ampol was absorbed by Caltex and the brand was quietly retired. It’s not uncommon to see Ampols still in place in remote country NSW, but whether they’re in operation is another story.
As you read this, Narrandera’s Ampol sits in limbo awaiting its second life. Australia’s highways are littered with the forgotten corpses of service stations, the glory days of providing much needed fuel and friendly, courteous party ice long forgotten. For every one that falls, another two pop up in their place, superseding their predecessor in every possible way…except perhaps one.
Ladies, your convenience is no longer the object of these service stations’ affections as it once was. If we remember nothing else about this Ampol, treasure it as one of the last bastions of clean public showering for the women of NSW.
There exists in the collective unconscious a perception that in the 1950s and 60s, all men were DIY-handymen, and that Saturdays were a time to ‘do a bit of work around the house’. The proliferation of small town, independent hardware shops from that era seem to support this. Of course, this was long before the mega-chains rose to power, bought them all out, assimilated them into the brands and then closed them for not being as profitable as the superstores.
But because the Bunnings of the world are ruled by suits and not overalls, a sloppier job was done eradicating that old independent spirit. Ancient advertisements and signage, once lovingly applied by hand (on a Saturday) were left in place, seen by marketing gurus as a kind of ‘free advertising’. But they weren’t, man. They were a reminder.
Now we live in an age where the mega-chains that are buying out these strip shops aren’t even from the same industry. Since we can’t go five seconds without Gloria-Jonesing for an Oreo Bash Mocha Chiller, ‘little’ cafes like this one have supplanted more practical outlets in small shopping centres. What’s so little about Gloria Jean’s? And how is it that the Commonwealth Bank can’t support locations in Panania, Revesby and Padstow, yet Gloria Jean’s can pull it off without breaking a sweat?
But Gloria Jean’s, like so many mega-chains before them, didn’t do a good enough job in rebranding, and its Panania outlet retains its sun-kissed ‘Bell’s Hardware’ tattoo. We can be thankful that the next generation won’t have to endure a Gloria Jean’s one.
Or maybe it’s ‘Bill’s Hardware’. I can’t really tell. Bill Bell, if you’re reading this, get in touch. You know my name, look up the number.
Once upon a time, on the corner of Henson Street and Chetwynd Road, Merrylands, there existed a corner shop.All the locals would journey to the shop whenever they were out of the Big Three: bread, milk, cigarettes. For those who couldn’t make the trip, perhaps those too elderly to easily leave their houses, the shop provided free delivery.In the summertime, on their way to or from the local pool, or maybe just in the midst of riding around the streets on their BMX bikes, kids would stop in for ice cream, or drinks of the icy cold variety. In the 80s specifically, their choice would have been that of the new generation.None of that “Good on ya, Mum” nonsense here – strictly Buttercup Bread. Today, the name seems to have disappeared, but it lives on through the ‘Mighty Soft’ brand for those of you interested.Those shelves, once fully stocked to provide a community with the essentials, are now empty. If you imagine it as a metaphor for the emptiness of the concept of community in the modern age, you’ll probably wind up feeling pretty bummed out, so don’t do it.
This shop may be confined to Merrylands, but the underlying themes apply to just about every has-been corner shop in any suburb. They’re relics from another era, and one that can never be again.
Now, before any employees of Australian Plastic Fabricators read this and panic – this place is still in business. But for once we’re not interested in the business itself.
For those of you no longer in primary school, it may surprise you to learn that the SIDS and Kids organisation’s Red Nose Day event is still going. A major fundraising initiative to help the fight against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), Red Nose Day involves (at least, it did when I was in primary school) buying a plastic red clown-like nose to wear all day, with the money going to SIDS and Kids. Even as a kid, I had a hard time marrying up the concepts of SIDS research and wearing a red nose. I get the idea of being “silly for a serious cause”, but why a red nose? Wouldn’t a rainbow or comically oversized nose be even sillier? Personally, I was always disappointed that the noses didn’t honk. Maybe that was the deluxe model.
During my school years it became a phenomenon akin to the Starlight Christmas ornament scramble. On the last Friday of every June kids went wild for these red noses, and anyone who missed out was for the rest of the day shunned nearly as badly as the kids who dared to wear their red nose the following Monday. I don’t know that many of us actually understood that there was a charity behind the clowning – I suspect had they known they might not have been as enthusiastic.
But for the first ten years or so of its existence, Red Nose Day exploded into the national psyche. You’d see newsreaders, politicians, shopkeepers, anyone who wanted to be seen to be doing some good (or anyone who’d be laughed at anyway) would don the red nose…and always, always Red Symons.
It took off to the extent that SIDS and Kids started producing red noses for cars. For that one wacky day you could surrender your car’s dignity for a good cause, and many, many people did. So ubiquitous was Red Nose Day in my youth, yet so sudden was its disappearance once I reached high school that I was kind of amazed to learn it was still going. Certainly at this Silverwater factory, it’s been Red Nose Day every day for years.
At the height of Red Nose Day mania, SIDS and Kids took the bold step of producing red noses for buildings. This was a risky move: SIDS and Kids had to be sure that the recognition factor of the event was so high that people would know what the hell they were looking at when they saw a giant red dome on the side of any building zany enough to go with it. Maybe this was the case in 1996, but these days, the fading red growth attached to Australian Plastic Fabricators of Silverwater (a suburb no stranger to red noses) doesn’t even give cause for a double take.
That said, I’m sure there are some babies out there who owe their lives to AusPlasFab’s brave choice years ago to look the fool amongst the hardened plastic fabrication industry. By the aged look of this nose, those kids are probably old enough to work here now.
SIDS and Kids’ Red Nose Day will be held again this year (its 25th anniversary) on the last Friday in June. Do your bit and make sure that the only red noses attached to cars this year aren’t those obnoxious Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer ones.