Tandy Electronics/Hair of Istanblue – Gladesville, NSW
Before we launch ourselves into the top three flashbacks, here’s one that’s sure to make the top ten next year.
If you allow your mind to drift back to the heyday of American-style consumerism this country indulged in between 1970 and 1999, you’ll no doubt remember Tandy Electronics. Born in 1973 as a local subsidiary of an American parent company of the same name, Tandy’s cutting edge product line and futuristic promise found a niche market that didn’t even know it was there. By 1980, Tandy had expanded past its modest Rydalmere headquarters, sprouting up in shopping plazas, arcades and strip malls like this one all around the country.
As a 90s kid, there were no words fit to print with which to express the disappointment of entering a Tandy and expecting video games. It was an electronics shop, wasn’t it? I didn’t want to have to build my own IBM compatible (or CB radio, more likely given Tandy’s field of expertise). They were still kid-friendlier than Radio Shack, but hell, even Dick Smith at least had a SNES game or two.
The paradigm shifted with the arrival of Electronics Boutique in 1997 – an ‘electronics’ shop without the transistors, bulbs and sockets we found so off-putting. At the same time, the limits of home-made technology were becoming apparent as the advances of the tech world left Tandy choking on its dust. In 2001, Woolworths added Tandy to its family, which by then also included Dick Smith.
Sadly for Tandy, it was far too niche to receive a generic relaunching as a consumer electronics and electrical giant as did Dick Smith. By 2009, the Tandy brand was put out to pasture, suddenly the perfect example of an “Oh, where’s that shop gone? I’m sure it was over in this corner…oh well.” moment. The final nail in the coffin was the closure of the tandy.com.au website (it redirects to the Dick Smith site). It’s almost biblical: the final betrayal for Tandy came from the realm of technology itself.
All that remains today are examples like the above. Hair of Istanblue can probably thank Tandy for its awesome homemade security system, or its radio that competes with the permanent-part time apprentice hairdresser for the coveted title of ‘loudest in the room’ on any given business day…but it’s likely these technological legacies go unnoticed.
Not so the old sign outside, the 80s ‘hi tech’ font of which catches the eye much better than the weirdly-incomplete Istanblue awning. But beware its siren call, tech-heads – you won’t find DIY lie detector kits and oscilloscopes here. C’mon, even the defunct Tandy website had to have been better than Hair of Istanblue’s spartan effort.
Also worth mentioning is the integral part Tandy Electronics played in the early 90s Australian childrens TV series Finders Keepers.
In the show, based on Emily Rodda’s books, a Tandy outlet in Prospect (a northern suburb of Adelaide) acts as a gateway to another world, one separated from ours by a ‘time barrier’. As the Gladesville Tandy has shown us, it wouldn’t be the last time Tandy would act as a time warp.
Pizza Hut/Dominos & Subway – Gladesville, NSW
First of all, yes, I know there’s been a long delay in posting lately. Present life suddenly took priority over past ones, but I haven’t gone anywhere, and by no means has Sydney run out of material for Past/Lives. There’s plenty to come! For instance…
Here’s a massive insult if ever there was one, and in light of my repeated monologues about Pizza Hut’s former dine-in dynasty, this feels like a particularly personal one. If it wasn’t bad enough that yet another Pizza Hut restaurant had to close, to add insult to injury it was replaced by not one but two inferior wannabes.
When I was younger, taking sides in corporate wars wasn’t uncommon. If you had a Billabong backpack, you were instantly the enemy of anyone carrying their stuff around in a Quiksilver one. Overheard bragging about getting KFC for dinner by the McDonalds clique? You’d be ostracised for the rest of the term, or until you could produce a Happy Meal toy of Ronald riding a tricycle to cement your allegiance. Let me tell you, playgrounds are vicious.
Never were these feuds more cutthroat than the endless battle between Pizza Hut and Domino’s. At the time, Pizza Haven and Arnold’s weren’t really entities, Eagle Boys had yet to develop sentience after that toxic spill, and fat guilt hadn’t gotten strong enough to usher in the rise of Crust. In the mid 90s, you had two choices. Pizza Hut had been established in Australia for 13 years when Domino’s made its play for a Down Under takeover in 1983. In those early years, Domino’s might have seemed preferable; they were new, offered a completely different menu, and were the first major pizza chain in Australia to do home delivery. To immobile pizza maniacs everywhere, this was a good deal. Pizza Hut couldn’t take that lying down, so they started their own delivery service, complete with iconic jingle. Sadly, this meant the beginning of the end for their dine-in service, which to the fast-food pizza connoisseur was the one clear advantage they had over Domino’s. Could you eat ALL YOU COULD at Domino’s?
Domino’s got an early popularity boost in that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie featured the brand as the Turtles’ pizza of choice, but smart kids knew better. First of all, the Domino’s pizza Leonardo and company chow down on in the film looks repulsive, and second, the Nintendo TMNT game featured Pizza Hut branding throughout. The game featured the real, actual Ninja Turtles, and not just guys in suits. Kids know the difference.
Above all, Pizza Hut was just better than Domino’s. To put things in perspective, Domino’s was like the Channel 7 to Pizza Hut’s 9, the Woolworths to the Hut’s Coles, the Pepsi to Pizza Hut’s Coke. The perception was there that Domino’s just wasn’t as good, and one trip to ALL YOU CAN EAT was enough to sway the doubters. Things have obviously changed in the last 13 years, which is what makes the above scene that much more of an abomination.
And as far as Subway goes, take all the negative energy towards Domino’s imbued in the above passage and quadruple it. More like NOway.
Bedlam Point Wharf/Scrub – Gladesville NSW
Hewn into the shores of the Parramatta River by teams of felons and convict, this scrubby tract of Great Northern Road is a relic revisited by an overgrown walking path. Nestled between the restored 19th century cottage of Banjo Patterson (itself becoming the churning engine room of a 1950’s industrial site – but that’s another story) and the haunted grounds of the Gladesville Asylum (another long story) this rocky outcrop has since been as forgotten as the aboriginal campsite it was built upon.
The first mention of a Wharf at Bedlam Point was around 1834. The ferry was operated by convict labour and could carry one horse and cart with a few passengers. It was at Bedlam that the Parramatta River is at its narrowest – which lead surveyors chart the Great North Road through this point.
Engineering at the time dictated a chain be fastened at either side to wind the punt across by hand. Today’s Rivercat is known to be – generally – more dependable. Unless you want it to stop here. Which it won’t.
The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser
Saturday 27 February 1841
“The ferryman is not to be depended upon, for no later than Thursday last he lay dead drunk on the South Shore of the River,
within less than his own length of the water’s edge, in consequence of which several person lost their package to Sydney, and two of them, a lady and gentleman, were, we believe, compelled to remain all night at the “Red House” public house of Bedlam Point.”