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…
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.
Once upon a time, this shop would have served the hamburger and hot chip needs of as many residents of Eastwood as could be bothered walking to it. These days, it’s easier to just go to the Macquarie Centre.
Situated along Balaclava Road (bal-A-KLAAAAR-VA, or buh-LACK-luvuh for our SA readers), it’s clear that this was one of those corner shops of yore, the kind that would require a visit every few days to stock up on such olden days essentials like sugar, lard and chicken feed. But as times changed, so did the shop’s offerings.
Above the roller-door of the former loading dock is a telltale sign boasting of hamburgers and hot chips, cunningly repurposed as…some kind of reverse sign. You can bet that when it opened, hamburgers and hot chips were probably just gleams in Fred Hamburger and Glenn ‘Hot’ Chipps’ eyes, but to stay alive in the corner shop game, you’ve gotta diversify.
By what looks like the late 90s or, at a stretch, early 2000s, the place was even supplementing its bread-and-butter milk supply with Ski yoghurt. With a Woolworths within 5km in every direction by this point, it was a desperate time calling for desperate measures. But even the combined deliciousness of Fruits of the Forest weren’t enough to reverse the fortunes of this store.
In the end, the big boys won, and this dangerous threat to their dominance and manhood was eliminated. Do you think Coles and Woolworths shared a beer over this death? Do you think they even noticed? Undeniably aware of the building’s deep-fried past, the current owners have decided to take it in a different direction – residential. Won’t Coles and Woolworths be pleased?
The changing face of take-away in Strathfield. If you look closely, you can see the fading sign advertising hamburgers and BBQ chicken above the A/Cs. If you look even closer, you can see that this new shop sells ‘Mr. Dduckbocki and Miss Kkochi’. It’s not really all that different: dduckbocki is a kind of hot and spicy rice cake, while kkochi is skewered chicken. Whether or not you can get dduckbocki ‘with the lot’ is unknown, but what is clear is that Mr. Dduckbocki and Miss Kkochi clearly qualify as suicide food.
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.