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…
When I was a kid, growing up in a house that was developing rapidly from a tiny shag-carpeted fibre nightmare into a two-storey McMansion with cheese, the worst thing that could happen to you on a Saturday morning was being told “Get in the car, we’re going to HomeBase.” Suddenly, the Saturday that had held so much promise, that you’d worked all week at school to enjoy, was taken away from you, and replaced by a seemingly endless death march through IKEA.
Prospect’s HomeBase homemaker centre had been around since before 1982, when the IKEA opened. After that, the mindless rush to be a part of the Swedish furniture revolution put HomeBase on the map, and countless kids had their Saturday mornings ruined by the long drive out to the middle of nowhere just because the study would look better with a walnut bookshelf named ASCOT. The HomeBase centre’s other stores (yes, there were a few) surrounded IKEA, occasionally catching the eye of a customer as they left the furniture giant, but as a rule, IKEA was what you were there for. Clark Rubber wasn’t exactly a hot destination on weekends.
For the first few years, it wasn’t so bad. I was short enough to be allowed access to the ball room. Anyone who was a kid in the era of ball rooms will instantly know the thrills, the mayhem and the excitement of a ball room in a shopping centre. It was everywhere you wanted to be, because no matter how boring the prospect of a day traipsing around a shop looking for stuff you didn’t care about seemed, if there were facilities for kids you could instantly dump all your disappointment prep work from your internal cache and get stupid in the ball room.
Tragedy struck the Saturday I was suddenly too tall. The clown on the height restriction sign, my close friend for so many years, granting me private access to a wonderland, was instantly my enemy. His eyes, once alive with mischief at letting me into that private club, had turned cold and distant. “We don’t want you here,” his perma-smile seemed to say.
At this point I was faced with two options: brave the boredom of IKEA, or go to the entertainment room for older kids. It was a tough choice, but one easily made. I still wasn’t quite old enough to appreciate the challenge of a DIY entertainment unit, and as amusing as fake PROP brand computer screens were, they got old after the 1000000th bedroom mockup, so I was off to the big kids room. IKEA’s idea of entertainment for big kids involved a bunch of too-small stools stuffed into a tiny room. In the corner of the room was a mini-TV showing Superman: the Movie on a loop. Every single time I went to this room (and it was often – we had a lot of books to shelve), I was treated to either the Marlon Brando bit at the start, or the farm bit where Superman’s dad dies. Once, I even got to see the bit where Lex Luthor crushes the guy under the train – shockingly violent for a kid my height. Not once did I get to see Superman in action. This did nothing but affirm the film’s reputation as ‘a long one’ for me, because even though I knew how long a trip to IKEA could take, it was never as long as the buildup to Superman’s first appearance in the film. The movie and I have settled our differences since, but to this day I can’t watch it on a tiny TV.
The reason for this long anecdote is this: when it was deemed that our house contained enough IKEA furniture, the drive to Prospect suddenly seemed a bit too long, and further homemaker sorties were redirected to the much more local Christies Centre, on Canterbury Road at Bankstown. Long known as Dunlop Corner to locals (it was formerly the site of a Dunlop factory), the Christies homemaker centre had moved in sometime in the 80s or early 90s, and provided a bunch of lesser IKEA wannabes like Fantastic Furniture, a pottery barn, plenty of bedding shops, and my new enemy: Freedom Furniture. The Christies Centre became a new level of weekend hell, because unlike IKEA there was no kids play centre. No consideration for bored children was given anywhere on the grounds of the Christies Centre, and my attention was left to fall upon the dying, decrepit businesses that lined Canterbury Road.
Matters improved when the pottery barn was replaced by Hungry Jacks, but that can only hold one’s attention for so long. In 1996, Dick Smith Powerhouse made it to the Christies Centre. It was a breath of fresh air – suddenly there was a place that sold video games, computers, CDs, the first DVDs…even Superman: the Movie was available to buy here. Dick Smith had only recently moved away from being an electronic hobby shop to establishing a retail chain for consumer electronics, and the Powerhouse was a bold example. For many, it was the first place they were able to use the internet. The trial computers were all set up with dialup accounts, allowing customers to get a taste of the ‘information superhighway’ for the first time before making a purchase of a brand new Pentium. Suddenly, it didn’t matter how long the furniture pilgrimage was going to take, Dick Smith was the place to hang out and relieve that boredom. It was even better when I eventually had money.
These days, the Christies Centre name is long gone. It’s now Home Focus. Hungry Jacks is still enslaving teenagers, Freedom Furniture is still committing hate crimes against entertainment, bedding shops are still putting people to sleep for all the wrong reasons. There’s a new homemaker centre, Home Central, at the back of the place with a completely separate lineup of shops including a Toys R Us, which I’d’ve killed for on those initial endless Saturday mornings.
Dick Smith is gone. Only recently too, by the look of it. I went there yesterday hoping to buy a fuse, only to find the shop completely gone. When did this happen? I’d only gone there a few…months ago? Was it that long? The Dick Smith Powerhouse branding was apparently discontinued in 2009, immediately numbering the Bankstown store’s days. At the same time, Tandy electronic stores, acquired by Dick Smith, were phased out also. Remember Tandy? Everywhere when you weren’t looking for them, nowhere when you were. In January 2012, Dick Smith owner Woolworths closed 100 or so Dick Smith stores, apparently including the Bankstown Powerhouse, and announced that they were selling the chain. What a bunch of dicks.
So now, bored kids stuck at the Home Focus on an endless Saturday morning have only Hungry Jacks (or the distant Toys R Us) to entertain them. No wonder childhood obesity is such a problem. Of course, these days 4-year-olds have iPhones, so my heart isn’t exactly bleeding for them. It’s just a safe bet they didn’t get their iPhones or Nintendo DS from Dick Smith Powerhouse.
Your name is Bob Murphy, and the year is 1988.
You work an office job, you’re in sales. You do alright – enough to put food on the table for your wife and kids. And what delicious food it is, the wife’s always telling you. Especially your seafood. Let’s not be modest, Bob, you’ve had a way with prawns ever since your dad taught you how to peel a prawn by hand, even if it was just so he wouldn’t have to do it for you anymore. You picked it up straight away, and sure, you might get a cut or two every now and then, but they’re prickly little buggers at the best of times.
No one ever winds up spitting out bones when they eat your whiting, do they Bob? Not like that Mother’s Day at Doyles when your mum almost choked to death. Remember, you screamed for the manager, and your face went red! Your wife was a little bit scared that day, although she never told you. You have to learn to keep your temper in check, Bob. It’ll be the end of you.
Sales is a boring job when you’re the best. You’re so good that you wound up convincing HR to let you work from home, and your figures were too valuable to the company for them to say no. So you spend all your days fishing and cooking while occasionally stopping to rack up another few grand. How does it make you feel? Do you ever compare yourself to anyone bigger, or can’t you think of anyone? Remember that time you were bragging to your mates about it during that Saturday arvo barbecue, and Trev, the one who isn’t doing so well, went home sick? Did your wife ever tell you that Trev’s wife called to say he’d tried to top himself that night, or do you still think you gave him food poisoning? Not with your oysters, Bob. They’re too good.
You’ve always had that dream, though. You never let yourself really consider it until now, but every now and then you’d entertain the thought of running your own restaurant…just to see. Just to put the hard word on Doyles and the like, to say ‘we in the west can do it better than you’. Be a shame if you stuffed it up, though. You’d fall flat on your face. And they’re not as refined in the west, are they? Don’t appreciate a good lobster mornay as much as they do on the coast or down south? There are a lot of things to consider, Bob. If you’re gonna picture yourself in the chef’s hat, just make sure you take the time to think it all through.
Still got your eye on that spot on Canterbury Road? It’s not the most perfect location, is it? You drive past it whenever you’ve gotta go into the office or do a face to face with a client. It’s nice that you still give them a fish from time to time. Cute calling card. The Canterbury Road spot though…it’s risky. If you open too early, no one’ll be able to get a park because of all the trucks, and if you stay open too late you’ll attract the hookers and the tricks. Don’t you want it to be family friendly? Maybe if you do it up right, get the right colour…
Cute name, Bob: ‘Out of the Blue’ Seafood Restaurant. And ‘into the red’ not long after, I’ll bet? Sorry, Bob, couldn’t resist…you’re really serious about this, aren’t you? Oh no, you shouldn’t quit your day job. You really shouldn’t. But if you’re going to make a proper go of this cooking thing, you might need the time. It’s called work from home, not work from work. ‘Out of the Blue’…you’re going to paint it blue?That shade of blue? Christ, it’ll look like a theme restaurant! This location really isn’t very good, you know. I hope it was cheap enough. Oh…that much, huh? You might make that back…give it a few years. No restaurant makes megabucks from the start, Bob, you must have known that. Did you do any research? That burger place that sold dog food was just up the road there, people might think it’s your place. Mud sticks…
Wow, you really went the whole hog, didn’t you Bob? A total nautical theme! You know how silly that thing looks, right? Yeah, yeah, it’s all a part of the gimmick. Are you gonna be wearing a sailor’s hat and a peg leg while you cook, too? I’m guessing you anchored this thing deep, what if it blows over? Hurricane-proof, huh? Nice.
I’ll be honest, Bob: that paint looks way less garish now that it’s actually on. You want to make sure it’ll last a while too, nothing worse than a half-assed job. You’ve spent all this money so far, you have to make sure you leave your mark on this place. Get the most out of that paint too, put it everywhere. You bought too much! You’ll never be out of this blue, so go nuts and slap it on everywhere. Don’t let ’em forget where they are.
Well, good luck with it mate. I’m allergic, so I won’t be eating there, but I’m sure you’ll do fine. All the guys at work miss you, even though you were never in the office. They miss having that hard target to match. Dudley’s the top dog now, and he’s nowhere. This place…it’s a little rough isn’t it? Good thing you got so much of that paint left, this graffiti’ll be easy to cover over. You know, now that that Dunlop factory up the road’s gone you might have a harder time getting people in here… Okay, okay! No need to raise your voice! I’m sure you’ll be fine, once they hear about how good your food is, you’ll be fine. You open soon, right? What’s left to do? Just the licence? Okay Bob, all the best. Let me know how it goes.
Let’s go back to the early 1990s, when someone had a bright idea: ‘How about a series of 50s-style Americana-filled burger restaurants…in Sydney!’ If that sounds stupid, that’s because it is. Hungry Jacks had been trying for years to evoke thatHappy Days flavour, but it just wasn’t washing with the Whopper-eating public. HJ has quietly phased out the Americana over the last ten years, but it’s not uncommon to walk in and find pictures of Elvis and Marilyn adorning the walls, a jukebox in the corner and fries so stale they could only be from 1958. The mastermind behind Route 66 had clearly decided that HJ wasn’t going far enough, and launched the above restaurant at Revesby around 1994. It wasn’t some Mickey Mouse venture, either – there were TV ads imploring hungry viewers to ‘get their kicks’. Within the impressively chromed exterior, girls in miniskirts served up grilled burgers, fries and shakes to patrons amid 50s tunes and checkered floors, while outside the owners hoped to recreate the burger joint atmosphere by providing plenty of parking and a drive-thru service. By all accounts the burgers weren’t bad, but one of the many mistakes the owners made was setting up shop across the road from an infinitely more accessible McDonald’s. Route 66 sits along Canterbury Road, with customers forced to enter and exit via the busy thoroughfare. The customers didn’t take long to work out that it was easier to get into the McDonald’s, and by 2000 the Route 66 dream was over. There were a few Route 66 locations beside this one, but I’m not sure whether they were all part of the same franchise or not. Prestons featured a notorious Route 66 for many years, where hoons really did congregate en masse, much to residents’ discontent.
After Route 66 bit the dust, the site played host to a variety of Lebanese restaurants, all forced to wear the chrome. Today, the chrome is as shiny as ever outside Hadla Ice Confectionery. All of the post-Route 66 ventures to inhabit the place tried and failed to disguise the 50s decor (Hadla’s come the closest), but if you didn’t remember what it was, you probably wouldn’t question it. The only real evidence that Route 66 was ever here is the drive-thru…
…which is now closed off, and has been cleverly converted into an outdoorish seating area for Hadla customers. It’s still chromed up to the max, and gives you a clear idea of what Route 66’s drive-thru customers must have endured in the restaurant’s tireless efforts to send you back to 1955 (maybe they should have had an 88mph speed limit for the drive-thru?). Seeing places like this always makes me wonder about the people who would have worked there – young girls and guys paying their way through uni or getting some extra cash to save up for a car while in high school. I wonder if they look back on their days at Route 66 fondly, or whether those few months or years have been wiped from the resume. I wonder what the owners are doing now, how they must have felt when the writing was on the wall, and if they ever drive past and think about the happy days. The quest to inspire nostalgia in others has become nostalgia in itself.
If you have any stories to share about this place, I’d be fascinated to hear them.
Those two gents in the driveway look a bit hot and bothered about having their photo taken, don’t they?