A pawnbroker adds a a kind of uncertainty to an area. If you’re walking through a small shopping arcade and one of those shops is a second hand goods seller, it’s unsettling. You make the connotations in your mind – plenty of stolen goods in there, all sold by junkies, this neighbourhood mustn’t be safe, look at all the Playstations etc etc. Without casting aspersions, Rockdale has always had a pawnbroker on the main strip of the Princes Highway in one form or another; Cash Converters, colloquially known as ‘Crime Converters’ or perhaps more favourably to the company, ‘Cashies’, isn’t the first. In fact, it wasn’t even the first business at this location. Tear your eyes away for just a moment from the framed ‘signed’ pictures of pop singers and their CDs and have a look at what was once the welcome mat:
Gadzooks! This was once the front entrance to Rockdale Furnishers Pty Ltd, which has been around for the last 80 years. When this location become unfeasible for the sale of furnishings (and these things can happen) they moved down the road to West Botany Street, where they exist today, and the building itself became cash converted. Despite that, Rockdale Furnishers managed to leave their mark for all time in a most unusual way. Before we go, I’ve gotta share this old Cash Converters commercial. It’s from a more innocent time; Cash Converters had only been around for a decade, and were attempting to present themselves as a friendly, budget-minded alternative to the retailers of the day. Note the lack of Kappa pants and hoodies among the patrons. Also note the jingle, which has been stuck in my head while I wrote this article. Thank me later:
By remaining nameless, this relatively new Rockdale fruit market is presumably hoping to avoid the fates of its predecessors. First we have Coco Express, a women’s fashion outlet with a meaningless name. Seriously, does Coco Express evoke any thoughts of women’s clothing whatsoever? And if it does, what kind? Coconut bras and hula skirts?
Going back even further we can see this was once the domain of the Liquidators discount variety store, a Reject Shop reject. They’re all gone now so it’s safe to talk about them, and I’d like to say that for a business called the Liquidators, they left themselves open to a lot of ridicule by not completely covering their tracks and liquidating. I like that they got a ladder happening to paint over the higher instance of their logo, but ran out of liquidation for the awning. Budget indeed.
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.
Here we have the festering remains of the St. George Bowling Club. Like many of its members, the bowling club came into existence in 1900, when a meeting at the Rockdale Town Hall ended with a decision to form a bowling club. I wonder how many town hall meetings end like that these days? For that matter, I wonder how many town hall meetings actually start these days?
Feathers were ruffled in 1919 when the land the bowling club was built on was suddenly and urgently required by New South Wales Government Railways to enable quadruplication of the railway lines by that project’s estimated completion date of 2030. The club was moved, and seemed to land closer to the jack here on Harrow Road.
In an apparent passive-aggressive display of entrenchment, the little street beside the club is named Bowlers Avenue. Doesn’t it look silly today. Bowlers Avenue sounds more like a memorial garden in a cemetery.
While the building is a rare example of a Federation era bowling club, it’s also been abandoned for several years. Unfriendly signs threaten would-be bowlers to stay the hell out, and many of the building’s windows have been boarded up.
No one is picking up the sport of lawn bowls these days, and as the current superstars of the game fade away, there really is no need for these clubs. This one didn’t even have a TAB. And after all, it’s not like this is an isolated incident. Unless there’s some big recruitment drive for new members sometime soon, the game will end up with most of its players on that big Bowlers Ave in the sky.