They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Once upon a time, just after the Second World War, Herne Bay was a suburb notorious for violence and poverty. During the war the United States Army had established a hospital barracks in the area (which is why many local street names have a distinctly American flavour), but once the war was over the hospital buildings were converted to public housing by our old friends the Housing Commission.
Within a decade of the advent of commissioned housing, Herne Bay had become a no-go zone. Overcrowding begat poverty, poverty begat crime, and crime begat Riverwood. In 1957, in an effort to repair the suburb’s reputation, Herne Bay was newly christened Riverwood. That’ll do the trick. Don’t think to try and combat any of the aforementioned problems or anything, just change the suburb’s name. Maybe all those no-goodniks will think to themselves “But I live in Herne Bay, not Riverwood!” and move away!
But the rebranding effort didn’t stop there. Private development sprang up, and the small shopping village made a concerted effort to present a friendlier face and reforge the suburb into a place you’d want to live.
One of these was likely the Riverwood Pantry. 1960s by name, 1960s by nature, the Pantry would have provided cakes and treats to both the working class Riverwegians and the undesirable leftover Herne Bayers. The woman behind the counter would have called everyone ‘love’ and ‘pet’ even though she knew all their names. They would have had the same cake in the window for so long that it became fused to the paper doily it was sitting on.
As we move today towards all-in-one shopping experiences and self-service supermarkets, there’s no room for this kind of shop anymore. No one cares what your name is, and cakes no longer need doilies. At some point, having failed its mission, the Pantry went the way of all things, leaving behind a Riverwood with a reputation for crime, poverty and general unpleasantness. Maybe it’s time for another name change.
In its heyday, the Liberty budget-priced service station chain offered freedom from the high prices gouged by the big boys of the industry. Today, this Liberty offers freedom from any prices.
Liberty came from the old-school of servos, where workshops were par for the course. They were service stations after all, and not just because they used to fill your car up for you.
Liberty service stations are actually the modern day incarnation of the Solo service stations of the 1970s and 80s. Liberty began life as Solo in 1974, and became the largest independent servo brand in Australia. The Solo chain was part of the ACTU’s efforts in the 70s to bring about a discount retail revolution. In 1975, Solo teamed up with the ACTU to bring prices down in Victoria, leading to a 17c per litre difference in fuel prices between Victoria and NSW (imagine the fury in Albury-Wodonga). Solo’s discount revolution didn’t hit NSW until 1977, due to staunch opposition from a terrified Transport Workers Union, which feared that discount petrol would lead to mass sackings of fuel tanker drivers. Servo owners also rallied against the introduction of the discount chain, but to no avail. The first NSW Solo opened in 1977 in the then-still recovering Bold Street, Granville. Just think, all that effort and struggle to regulate and cut fuel prices, only to end up in the situation we’re in today. It’s pretty sad.
Solo was bought out by Ampol in 1989 (and didn’t that end well), and in 1995, Solo’s creators started Liberty ‘in the spirit of’ Solo. It’s alleged that they’re still going today, although from this mess you wouldn’t know it. You’d hope that Liberty head office had more confidence in the other locations than they had in this one.