You were once a pizza restaurant and a cocktail bar…
…now you’re Kuo Fu.
Yes, you know you’re looking into the past when you’re dealing with cocktail bars, lurid green lettering and a perceived difference between a booking and an advance reservation. What is it about those old signs that were built to last so long? Do you think that 40 years from now someone will be writing about that charging station in Burwood that used to be Kuo Fu?
There’s no telling just how old the Super Pizza restaurant is, but judging by the font and presentation it’d have to have started in the early 80s, if not late 70s – perhaps named off the back of 1978’s hit film Superman. If we go back to the 1920s, 232 Burwood Road was home to Mellor Bros Electrical and Radio Supplies.
It probably took up the whole building. Today, aside from being the home of Burwood’s funniest spoonerism, the upstairs section that was once the scene of so many smoky Saturday nights at the cocktail bar set to the then-ubiquitous warble of the Bee Gees is now…a mortgage broker.
It may be extremely subtle, but at least their signage doesn’t force you to crane your neck. I’d like to think they still offer ‘super fast home delivery to your door’.
Sometimes it’s hard to keep a good burger down. For those who haven’t followed the long, sad story of the Hartee’s hamburger franchise, here’s a quick recap.
With the advent of American fast food franchises in Australia in the late 60s and early 70s, Kelloggs teamed with the US-based Hardees burger chain to start Hartee’s, the first Australian fast food restaurant (despite its very red white and blue beginnings).
It was a near-instant success. Whether it was down to underlying xenophobia towards overseas brand names, smart management or just plain delicious burgers, by 1973 Hartee’s was king of the fast food hill in Australia.
Complacency became the daily special from then on, with a series of extravagant HQ upgrades and new outlets sprouting like weeds all over Sydney. Despite this, the chain was beginning to haemorrhage cash at a pretty severe rate, and McDonald’s was aggressively making major headway into the Australian scene. Something had to give.
And give it did, here at the Bankstown Hartee’s in 1975, when a current affairs program, acting on a tip-off, exposed the outlet as having served dog food in burgers. Overnight, Hartee’s packed up and disappeared, leaving only husks behind, and that’s where the story seems to end.
Except thanks to reader Phil, there’s a final piece of the puzzle to be put in place. I’d previously written that only the four former Hartee’s above still existed in any form around Sydney… Well, we all make mistakes. Just ask Bankstown Hartee’s.
Behold, the Manly Vale Hartee’s still stands. It’s currently Gilmour’s Comfort Shoes, but it pretty obviously fits in with the Hartee design.
In fact, this may be the most well-preserved Hartee’s still in existence. The Gilmour’s sign appears to be stuck on over the red roof, so it’s possible the Hartee’s logo remains underneath.
The original lights are still in place, designed to illuminate the Hartee’s name. Also still in place, as per Phil’s advice…
The original outdoor seating area! Now it’s presumably the shoe shop manager’s car park (c’mon, look at the prestige offered by that strange piece of land). Inside are just shoes, but really, they’ve served worse and called it burgers.
It’s not really a happy ending, or an ending at all, but it is (I’m guessing) the final footnote on what by now must be the most definitive account of the Hartee’s affair out there. There are still many mysteries surrounding the story (truly, more questions are raised than answered), but maybe one day one of those faceless, guilt-ridden Hartee’s executives will come out of hiding and reveal more. Hell, I’d even settle for the guy who served the dog food. As ever, if you know more, please let Past/Lives know. And RIP Hartee’s – we hartlee knew ye.
In the meantime, let’s take a minute to remember those four powerful words that watered more mouths than Mount Franklin, that were a city’s guilty pleasure in a time before Big Macs and Whoppers…in a time when a nation could feed itself.
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.
The owners of Enfield’s OK Chinese Restaurant mustn’t have had much self confidence. C’mon guys, you could wine and dine there…surely it was better than just OK?
In a place like Enfield, where the competition ranges from good to great, being merely okay didn’t help the restaurant stay afloat. These days, all that remain are the neon signs which, in years gone by, would unintentionally act as the OK’s own private lighthouse, warning off hungry passers-by with the promise of an average eating experience.
There’s a silver lining, however: the businesses occupying OK’s space today have all learned the most important lesson of the OK saga. We have Mr. Viscontini Fine Italian Food, Master Kwon’s Pro Tae Kwon Do Academy and Big Clean cleaning supplies, all of which sound unusually empowered and boastful. If not for the OK’s sacrifice, we might today be looking at Viscontini Not Bad Italian Food, Master Kwon’s Intermediate Tae Kwon Do Academy and the Moderate Clean Supplies outlet.
Proudly presented by Coca-Cola is the Good Fortune takeaway. Over the years, I have never, ever seen this place open. Coke’s absolutely saturated it with signage, and there’s faded evidence that there was once even more. I’m guessing this wasn’t a place you headed to when you felt like a Pepsi.
If I were conspiracy minded, I might argue that Coke has paid (or threatened) the current owners to keep the signs up for the free advertising. Does this work as advertising? Is anyone looking at the dead husk of a Chinese restaurant and getting thirsty? The small, weathered sign on the side informs us that the advertising space (not a shop, an advertising space) is under exclusive contract to Coca-Cola. Can I ask why? It’s not like this is the Centerpoint Tower, or a place with amazing exposure. It is across the road from a school, however…the conspiracy deepens.
As old as the place is already (six digit phone number), the peeling paint on the awning suggests there’s an even older entity waiting to expose itself to the world. The shop appears to be part of the residential complex behind it, so it’s likely that someone bought the house and closed the shop. Good fortune for the homeowner, bad luck for the Good Fortune.