There comes a time in the life of every history blog when one must write about tea rooms.
Up in the Blue Mountains, anyone with a thirst for high tea is spoiled for choice; between the Hydro Majestic’s Afternoon High Tea, the Lilianfels High Tea and the Katoomba Carrington’s Grand High Tea, it’s no wonder the Mountains are a place tea leaves and scones fear to tread.
And it’s also no wonder that the tea rooms of Springwood, a picturesque town sadly bypassed by most on their way up the Mountains, threw in the tea towel in the face of such stiff competition. That said, it’s not like you can’t get tea in Springwood – cake shops and cafes pepper the main street, and I’m pretty sure even the public toilets provide a cuppa while you spend a penny.
These days (and for the last few years), the former tea rooms have made way for one of Springwood’s two Thai restaurants, the Springwood Thai Kitchen. According to reviews, this place and the Thai Square are locked in an evenly matched reviewel to the death (yeah, that’s a word now). I’ve only eaten at this one and that was years ago, so I won’t dare to compare in this instance (although, you could take that as a review in itself).
It’s a tiny building – a skinny Thai, if you will (you’re fired – ed) – to try and cram all the requisite Thai accoutrements into, but it certainly conjures up images of how it would have been back in the day: refined folk coming in with a thirst only tea could quench, hanging up their bowler hats and settling down for an earl grey and lamingtons while chatting about their English country gardens. Today, all that remains of that era is the faint lettering above the shop and whatever hot beverages are on the menu. Perhaps a Thai latte.
Bottom line, I think naming the restaurant ‘Thai Rooms’ was a missed opportunity.
Beneath the relentlessly harsh Taree sun, Taffy’s Buffet & Pizza bakes both inside and out. Across the spacious grounds, the scruffy, receding grass is beginning to brown as another long, hot summer approaches.
As the prominent ‘For Sale’ sign says, the ground covered by Taffy’s is huge – too huge for just a pizza buffet. At the same time, the building seems a little…ornate for such a place, doesn’t it?
As I approached, I was sure the place was abandoned, long since closed. Despite all the signs to the contrary, the wide open spaces and peculiar, yet familiar architectural style weren’t immediately inviting to potential all-you-can-eaters.
But I wasn’t hungry.
The gates weren’t closed, so I strolled right on in. The garden was enormous, and contained a number of exotic features that seemed to have beamed in from another dimension. From this stagnant fountain…
…to this baked path leading down to…
…this sterile Flower Power gazebo, there was an air of pretension about the setup. Did Taffy expect enamoured couples to wind up their evenings strolling through her garden after a buffet pizza dinner, culminating in a romantic rendezvous in the gazebo? And then years later reminisce about that unforgettable evening in Taffy’s gazebo?
And I don’t even know what this is meant to represent. If there’s an opposite to the Pearly Gates, it would look like this.
But it was from that…whatever it is that the true nature of Taffy’s became evident; the dark secret Taffy was trying so hard to divert our attention from with her strange assortment of ornaments. Yes, this was looking very familiar indeed…
From 1954 to the early 2000s, this site served as Taree City Bowling Club, providing the Manning’s elderly with a place to form rinks and chuck balls around. Whatever keeps them off the streets, I guess.
We can laugh now, but once upon a time lawn bowls were considered an important sport, with opinions ranging from “whatever keeps them off the streets” to this hyperbolic article from 1952. Methinks Mr. Dent was trying just a bit too hard to justify his title.
And excuse me for sounding cynical, but does anyone really believe that lawn bowls is a game free from “sullen anger and distrust”? When I hear those words, white-suited old folks targeting jacks is the first image that comes to mind.
For having gone to such lengths to sculpt the front garden into something atmospheric, it was surprising that no such care had been extended to the former bowls greens. A 1990 heritage study of the then-active club recommended that future tenants “maintain greens, lawns and gardens”. Whoops.
Overgrown and neglected, only the bare bones remain of what would once have been a vibrant, active sporting field.
Think of all the whistles that would have been wet by this over the years.
Back at Taffy’s, all the bowls club hallmarks started to become apparent. The handrails for frail skippers was evidence enough, but I know my readers – always demanding more.
The placement of this tasteless statue seemed a bit too…deliberate. Let’s go in for the closer look I know you’re gagging to get!
“THIS CLUB WAS OFFICIALLY OPENED BY NORMAN NOSS, PRESIDENT OF NEW SOUTH WALES BOWLING ASSOCIATION ON 3RD JULY 1954”
I’ve gotta congratulate Norman Noss; he’d gone from vice-president in 1948 to president in just six years. Big deal, I hear you say, but cut the man some slack – that competition would be cutthroat, full of sullen anger and distrust. And if you think being president of NSW Bowling Association was a cushy job, all smokos and club openings, think again:
If I were police, I’d be looking closely at Tom Shakespeare and Bill Kay’s movements leading up to that car trip. Wouldn’t it have been convenient had both the president and senior vice-president not survived that crash?
Before we leave Taffy’s, I’d just like to take a moment to direct the limelight away from the bigwigs of the bowls world and highlight someone to whom the Taree City Bowling Club meant everything. It’s only short, so have a read of the story of Bert Kroon, avid bowler and Tareean (Tareek? Tareealist?), and then stop and think about the Bert Kroons out there right now who rely on this rapidly dwindling sport.
Certainly the most freakish element of my visit was the discovery I made out the back. Where the club backs onto the uh…scenic and aptly named Browns Creek, someone had decided to position this Westpac rescue helicopter.
Why? How did this happen? Who insisted upon it? Was it Taffy, or did Taffy just slap her own name on the tail when she took over? Who went to the effort of sticking the dummy behind the controls? Why is it so small?
Once again, a Past/Lives entry has left us with more questions than answers…
If there’s one goal that’s proven consistently hard to achieve, it’s covering up an eat-in Pizza Hut. There seem to be two typical approaches: the first is to make a genuine effort to alter the building and hope no one recognises. It doesn’t always work. The second is to just embrace the hallmarks of the former tenant wholeheartedly, and who better to breathe new life into someone’s sloppy seconds than the Salvos?
Inside, if you can look past the piles of instructional golf videos and copious amounts of Fifty Shades of Grey, it isn’t hard to spot the former Hut infrastructure that hasn’t already been sold off. Heck, someone probably walked away with the original oven for a bargain price, and I’m kicking myself right now that it wasn’t me.
Even the toilets have been put to a more hygienic use (but not by much) as change rooms. And no, I would not count among the highlights of my blogging career standing in the middle of a Salvation Army and taking a photo of its change rooms. It’s all for you, Damien.
When my generation returns to the earth and Pizza Hut’s eat-in legacy is forgotten, will people wonder why these buildings look so odd? Probably not.
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.