First of all, dear readers, Happy New Year and all that. For Past/Lives, all this means is that the glory days of our subjects are buried under yet another year. There’s plenty coming up, including something fun for the blog’s first anniversary in March (where did the time go?), but for now…
Byers beware! At least, anyone with the intention of buying meat from this long-defunct butchery along Darling Street, Rozelle. What started life as a bootmaker’s shop came into possession of butcher Hugh Byers in 1918, who hawked dead animals from this location while leasing out the shop next door, which he also owned. This tradition carried on for the next 87 years, until the Byers family sold up to Balmain Leagues in 2005. Balmain Leagues…doesn’t that ring a bell?
Anyone familiar with the surrounding area and an interest in this sort of thing (all three of you) would have noticed the decaying Balmain Leagues Club on Victoria Road. If you don’t know it, don’t worry – we’ll take a closer look soon. The impending development of that site will include the Byers building as well as a fair few others along Darling Street when they finally get around to it. Unless of course it turns into another CBD Metro debacle, which left Rozelle with some mighty blue balls.
Underneath the rust and soot of this building lies a dinosaur: a. it existed years and years ago, and could not exist today. b. it died out around the same time as its brethren in some kind of mass extinction. and c. there’s plenty of evidence left behind for us to use in piecing together what happened. Spoiler: the discs weren’t so unlimited after all.
Unlimited Discs, in north Beverly Hills, sold cool stuff – vinyl, CDs, comics – and I’d wager it was both first and second hand. I never went here BITD, but if I’d been able to, I would have. While all of the shop’s touted inventory have either become obsolete or are on their way out, back in the heyday, you could get any of them easily, be it from music shops like Brashs, or in the case of comics, your local newsagent. Things have changed, obviously. Shops like Unlimited Discs existed for people wanting to buy then-prohibitively expensive CDs on the cheap, or those enthusiasts who couldn’t get what they needed (back issues, rarities etc) from mainstream outlets like newsagents or record shops. Unfortunately, as the mainstream outlets dried up and the internet rose to prominence as a shopping medium, the Unlimited Discs of the world died out.
Not helping the situation of this particular record shop is its extremely close proximity to the Beverly Hills entrance/exit of the M5 Motorway, which opened in 1992 and would have impacted upon Unlimited Discs’ business. Suddenly, in their rush to hit the motorway (presumably to go to the ‘better’ record shops in the city) no one wanted to shop local anymore. Also a factor: the shopfront appears to have been set on fire at some point, which isn’t good even if you don’t stock a tonne of vinyl. We can’t know exactly what happened here (unless YOU do, in which case let me know) but we can get an approximate date as to when it happened. The shop looks as if it’s been abandoned for years, with this Visa sticker in the window providing insight into the time when business was good:
Good luck, team.
I’d love to be able to get inside Unlimited Discs and see what’s still in there. I imagine stacks of unsold stock lying around waiting to be rediscovered and introduced to the 21st century. I imagine someone living there with hundreds of stories to tell about the golden years, when the discs really did seem unlimited. I also imagine I’m completely wrong, but I can dream, can’t I?
Bonus: around the back of this shop is Moondani Lane. Some of the locals have had some fun with it (perhaps they got the record at UD):
In its heyday, the Liberty budget-priced service station chain offered freedom from the high prices gouged by the big boys of the industry. Today, this Liberty offers freedom from any prices.
Liberty came from the old-school of servos, where workshops were par for the course. They were service stations after all, and not just because they used to fill your car up for you.
Liberty service stations are actually the modern day incarnation of the Solo service stations of the 1970s and 80s. Liberty began life as Solo in 1974, and became the largest independent servo brand in Australia. The Solo chain was part of the ACTU’s efforts in the 70s to bring about a discount retail revolution. In 1975, Solo teamed up with the ACTU to bring prices down in Victoria, leading to a 17c per litre difference in fuel prices between Victoria and NSW (imagine the fury in Albury-Wodonga). Solo’s discount revolution didn’t hit NSW until 1977, due to staunch opposition from a terrified Transport Workers Union, which feared that discount petrol would lead to mass sackings of fuel tanker drivers. Servo owners also rallied against the introduction of the discount chain, but to no avail. The first NSW Solo opened in 1977 in the then-still recovering Bold Street, Granville. Just think, all that effort and struggle to regulate and cut fuel prices, only to end up in the situation we’re in today. It’s pretty sad.
Solo was bought out by Ampol in 1989 (and didn’t that end well), and in 1995, Solo’s creators started Liberty ‘in the spirit of’ Solo. It’s alleged that they’re still going today, although from this mess you wouldn’t know it. You’d hope that Liberty head office had more confidence in the other locations than they had in this one.
In Beverly Hills, these sad, wide, expressive eyes stare out at the busy King Georges Road rushing by, just like they have every day for the last 40 years. They don’t blink, even when the tears well up. They don’t close, even when all they want to do is sleep. Ever vigilant, they’re waiting for that sight that was once so familiar, so welcome – the happy family walking over the little bridge across the canal, looking forward to a special treat for dinner. Where else could we be talking about?
Back when it was still possible, it was a special treat. Home delivery was only introduced around 1985, so prior to that if you wanted Pizza Hut, you had to either pick it up yourself (effort) or eat in. Today, Pizza Hut is purely a pickup/delivery racket operating out of tiny, charmless shopfronts, but back then, Pizza Huts announced themselves with bold red roofs and hut-like restaurants. Why do you think they called it Pizza Hut?
Picture it – it’s a Friday night, your parents have just come home from work and they can’t be assed cooking. You know what you want, but you don’t want to nag them for it. And then suddenly…it happens. The TV captures everyone’s attention and says the unspoken:
The low-rent, completely not-fancy atmosphere of a Pizza Hut dining experience has yet to be replicated in this modern age. If regular restaurants are Dendy, Pizza Hut was Greater Union. For starters, the walls were all brick, and the chairs were all red. The first Pizza Hut in Australia was established in 1970, and all subsequent restaurants followed the design template laid down at Belfield. It showed; as late as 1999 you could still travel back in time to the 70s when dining at Pizza Hut. Don’t forget the restaurant-exclusive menu item, gingerbread man Pizza Pete, either. No other gingerbread man tastes like Pizza Pete.
In the 90s, with the advent of delivery and all-you-can-eat restaurants like Sizzler, Pizza Hut knew they had to step things up a notch. After all, they’d created delivery. They could destroy it. Unfortunately, by creating possibly the catchiest jingle in the history of advertising, they hadn’t made it easy for themselves:
So they introduced the Works, which was their attempt at all you can eat. Honestly, I think this is where Pizza Hut’s dine-in experience started to go wrong. Now, I know you’re thinking ‘hey, I remember all you can eat at Pizza Hut, and it was awesome’, and I’m not disagreeing. But before the advent of the Works, you’d just rock up, get a table, order a pizza and they’d bring it to your table. The Works required you to grab a plate and go up to the pizza bar, which was adorned with a variety of ‘popular toppings’. If you were a vegetarian, for instance, you had to put up with either plain cheese or thin crust vegetarian, and that’s IF someone hadn’t spilled meat on them, and IF wussy kids who couldn’t handle pineapple or other adventurous toppings had left any of the plainer varieties for you. And I won’t even get started on the obscene advertising for the Kids Works, which wouldn’t be allowed on TV these days:
Then you’d start wondering how often people coughed on these public pizzas. How often they were sneezed on. How long they’d been sitting there. They didn’t seem as hot anymore because they’d been sitting there so long. It didn’t take long for the whole experience, as well intentioned as it may have been, to become completely unpalatable. Add to that some kid having a noisy, messy birthday party in there every time you’d visit, and you were suddenly a delivery convert. Pizza Hut was Greater Union.
In 1999, Pizza Hut boasted 230 restaurants across Australia and NZ compared to just 185 delivery units. By 2002, there were less than 100 restaurants. Today, there’s the one on George Street in the city, and that’s about it. What happened? Pizza Hut claim that rising costs and diminished returns forced the closure of the restaurant arm of the company, and maybe that’s true. What happened to this particular Pizza Hut, though? Located right beside the ancient Beverly Hills Cinema, the two provided a wildly entertaining and impossibly well-matched double team for anyone wanting a night out in Beverly Hills (I’m sure those people are out there). But once the Pizza Hut closed, it was subjected to a variety of indignities, including being painted completely green, being used as a political headquarters for NSW MP Kevin Greene (groan [thanks, reader Catherine!]), and finally, being cut in half when the cinema expanded to include the former bank that sat between them.
The cinema had owned the bank for a while, filling it with arcade games and such, but when it took the opportunity to renovate and incorporate the building completely, Pizza Hut paid the price. The cinema’s power generator now occupies the southeastern corner of the restaurant, and the insides are exposed to the elements. Why not just get rid of it completely? Instead of putting the space to good use, the corpse of the Beverly Hills family dining experience is left to fester, acting as a reminder to us all of a time when $5 would get you all you could eat, and when home delivery was seen as the anti-social option. It still is.
Get yourself down to Go Low Fuel at Yagoona, where the prices are so low we’ve erected a fence to keep the hordes out! Brunker down while we tell you about our exclusive features that set us apart!
As you can see, we’re smashing our already rock bottom prices on fuel! Are we crazy? WE JUST MIGHT BE!
Our state of the art facilities come equipped with everything you need to burn rubber. The unique open air design is a conscious choice – no more feeling claustrophobic stuck in a tiny shop with the thousands of other customers waiting to throw money at us! NEW: multiple exits!
We never tyre of delivering quality service and with plenty of parking, we’re confident you’ll be happy to spend your money at an independent servo instead of the big boys. Support your local servo!
Remember the name! Go Low Yagoona, where the fuel is dirt cheap!