Then & Now – King Georges Road, Beverly Hills
Lots to see in this bold shot from 1981 – check out the Mobil on the corner; Granny crossing the street on the right (on her way back from shopping, by the look of it. Remember when you could do that?); the No Right Turn onto Stoney Creek Road (heaven forbid!); the wide, spacious King Georges Road trailing off into the M5-less distance; the boxy pedestrian buttons; that eerie church just above Granny. But does it really look all that different today?
These days, we can turn right from one busy road onto another; the ancient (although obviously post-1981) Chinese restaurant blocks the view of the eerie church; the Mobil has been replaced by Pancakes on the Rocks; the roads seem narrower and there are a hell of a lot more cars, and yet the air is allegedly cleaner. Must be all those extra trees. Oh, and NO PIZZA HUT.
Open Fires Pty. Ltd./INTERNETUNIXINTERNET/Residential – Bexley, NSW
How much is that Unix in the window?
I think this may be my favourite shopfront so far, and possibly ever. I love that they’ve used the world’s strongest paint (?) to craft their advertisement to the world; no flashy banners here. I love the single-minded devotion to the RSS feed-esque concept – the way the words are cut off and begin again haphazardly (unless they sold interns and nets as well, to be fair). I love the idea of the owner being struck by a vision of how his shop should present itself to the outside world, and either making it happen himself, or asking (forcing) someone else to do it. Someone crafted this by hand. You’ve gotta respect that vision. Then again, when this place was in its prime, all you needed was the word INTERNET to get people in your door. And speaking of…
Once upon a time, this tiny shop on Stoney Creek Road was on the bleeding edge of the information superhighway ultra-revolution. Alternately Computer Consulting Services and Systems Contractors, they sold internet by the pound here.
But it wasn’t just internet that these guys were hawking. Unix, a programmer-focused operating system designed to be easily ported to a variety of systems. It may sound like a foreign language to most these days, but it’s actually more common than you think. Apple’s OS X, found on any Mac or iPod or iPhone, is Unixian in nature.
Back before easy wifi connections and computers that did it all for us, if you were a small business or home office, you’d call places like this to set up your network so that your Joyce on the front desk could email Mr. Burroughs in his office right out back without having to get up. Barry from accounts could shoot through the latest BAS statements to the auditors at their temporary setup in the board room without anyone having to leave their seats. Suddenly, everyone was about to get fatter.
While Unix systems are still heavily used today, the name isn’t as prominent. Now it’s more a case of certain operating systems being certified as adhering to the Unix specification, such as OS X or Linux.
So this time, it’s not thanks to some ancient advert or antiquated phone number that we can place a date on this shop – it’s that they weren’t pushing Linux.
The “No More Junk” sticker on the front door is particularly apt: there’s barely any room for more. It’s safe to say that whoever resides here now isn’t interested in operating systems or multitasking beyond 4WD touring while listening to Shihad.
But as always, we must look to the past, and what the past reveals for us this time is simultaneously surprising and terrifying.
They sold open fires here. No wonder the building next door is gone.
Surgery/Residential – Kingsgrove, NSW
Beware: no in-depth, lengthy history lessons today, no no. Today, we’re talking about leftovers.
Kingsgrove: a short distance from the eternal struggle between gridlock and bustle that is Stoney Creek Road lies the Kingsway. Or is it just Kingsway?
Breathe that in and savour it for a moment. It’s the Kingsway, as if once upon a time the tiny street in the middle of suburban nowheresville was intended as a way for a king. Not too far away is the majestic King Georges Road itself, so it’s not a stretch.
Sometime prior to 1948, powers that be (though I’m assuming not a king) decided that the Kingsway was suitably epic to receive a strip of shops, with the prime side facing Stoney Creek Road. The occupants have varied over the years, but are invariably interesting: a dodgy pizza place, a spy shop, the mysterious Rassan Trading, that damn doll hospital. But around the back, along the Kingsway, the shops aren’t as commercial…although they’re just as interesting.
A place specialising in large print books. An antique glass shop. I’m gonna say that one more time: an antique glass shop. And further along, this.
When I was a kid, these surgery signs instilled a feeling of dread. Surgery happened at these places, I thought. Surgery, a word that to this five-year-old’s mind meant that seedy doctor’s surgery in Batman where Jack Nicholson asks for the mirror. In any of these otherwise nondescript buildings, bad dudes could be having bullets pulled from their faces by shady GPs.
But the reality was a lot less interesting. British English dictates that the workplace of a doctor is a surgery (or a practice, but if the streets were peppered with little red boxes bearing the word practice, society would never get anything done), and since British English also dictated what we Australians did for a long time, surgery it was.
Whoever the current tenants are, I’d like to thank you. Thank you for leaving this little sign up in what passes for your front yard, either through laziness or a twisted sense of style. As soon as you see it, you’re forced to imagine all the sick people who would have attended this place in its heyday, the relief and sorrow that came with each pronouncement from the GP. The lives that ended, and the foretelling of new life.
I personally wouldn’t want to live there (too creepy), but it’s nice to know that the experience is possible.