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.
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.
In just a few short years, the inviting hallmarks of a milk bar have become warning signs that a building has fallen derelict. There was a time when you’d see that Streets logo, a giant hamburger mural or one of those giant Coke cans with the name of the milk bar wrapped around the lip and think to yourself that yes, you were actually quite hungry and a big burger with the lot really would go down well right about now. These days, it’s more common that you’d sigh and keep moving, because there’s a McDonalds or a Subway just up the road, and at least then you can drive through and not have to get out of the car because you’re making good time and the in-laws’ll be upset if they don’t get to see the grandkids today.
Inside: classic milk bar decor. I always wondered what the mirrored walls were for. Was it to make the place look bigger? Was it to further enhance the iconic scenario of sitting in a milk bar and sipping a shake by allowing you to see yourself? Or was it for Spiro to be able to make sure he’s always looking dapper between serving up fish ‘n chips?
I like that even though they were ‘take away food’ shops, nostalgia has us missing the eat-in experience. If this place was open today, you wouldn’t want to take it away – you’d want to bask in an ambiance of another time, one that back in the day seemed timeless itself, and one you thought would always be there.
The St. George County Council was established in 1920 to control the distribution of electricity within the Municipalities of Bexley, Hurstville, Kogarah and Rockdale, and was the first of its kind in Australia. In 1939, this building was constructed for the St. George County Council, presumably as a way of showing off just how fancy and powerful the Council was. During the early years of the SGCC, it was reported that St. George residents enjoyed the cheapest electricity in the country.
By 1963 it appears that most of the county’s electricity was being distributed right to this building, what with all the neon signs. Absolute power corrupts, so to speak. The St. George County Council enjoyed its name up in lights until 1980, when it was amalgamated with the Sydney City Council, itself rebranded in 1991 as Sydney Electricity and in 1996, EnergyAustralia. Now, St. George residents pay too much for electricity just like the rest of us.
Today the building has become a branch of the Bank of China, among other things, and doubtless many electricity bills are paid here. They’ve still got the neon happening there in the bottom right, perhaps just to prove that they can. It’s for a dental clinic, not a place you often associate with neon signage. The clock is a poor facsimile of its predecessors, too; also, it doesn’t work.
It’s gotta be a kick in the tablets when you can only get the ex-Minister for Works & Local Government to unveil your building. Spooner, a Conservative, had resigned as Minister a few months earlier after publicly describing that year’s State Budget as ‘faked’. He was also responsible for regulating the appropriate cut of mens bathing suits, insisting on the full-length one-piece. Sort of like the Tony Abbott of his day, in that way.
Believe it or not, this dump was once D.G.R. Sayburn, an agent of Beale & Co, ‘the largest piano manufacturers in the British Empire’. I guess that’s why the door is extra wide. If I had to speculate (and when don’t I), judging by the Victoria Bitter logo beneath the busted sign it looks to me like this was the bottle shop for the neighbouring Ritz Hotel (which itself has a rich history) sometime in the late 80s-early 90s.
After that, this was the Bead Company of Australia. That’s right – if you were in Broome or Launceston and you needed beads, you had to go through these mugs. These days it’s returned to its bottle shop state (Hurstville City Cellar – mustn’t they be proud), making you wonder if being a nation’s bead supplier was the apex of the building’s life, and will it now continue to regress until it’s once again a piano shop.