Shopping was very different when I was a kid. There were no large suburban shopping malls, no Friday night, all day Saturday nor Sunday Shopping. In fact it was even hard to find a petrol station open on a Sunday or a milk bar open after midday if they were open at all.
In the sixties much of the shopping was done at local strip shopping centres. For us that meant Bennettswood on the corner of Station Street and Burwood Road, well before it was divided and became Burwood Highway. Everything we needed was there, a Foodland grocery store, a green grocers, a butchers, a newsagent, a milk bar, a fish and chip shop and a Chinese food shop.
There were no supermarkets. Grocery stores were where you went to buy bottled, canned and packaged food and if Mum didn’t go to Bennettswood we’d go to Box Hill and go to what I think was Permewans in Station Street. The groceries were brought home either in string bags that Mum had taken with her or in a box collected from a pile inside the store.
It was usually a bit of a rush because the shops closed at 6 O’Clock. Friday nights were also Fish and Chip night which were always bought at Bennettswood in a store run by a Greek Family just as the Green Grocers was down the road a bit. Always there was a visit to the newsagent and Mum would buy herself Best Bets and Truth for the form guides so she could study them and before putting her bets on at the TAB on Saturdays and we three kids would get a comic. I loved going home and scoffing the fish and chips while we watched Zig and Zag on TV then curling up in bed and being allowed to read my comics before Mum would come down and tell us to turn off the light.
Sometimes we would buy Chinese (Chow) food usually just dim sims and spring rolls for me because that was in the days before I liked fried rice and other Chinese cuisine. But in those days you took your own saucepans into the store for the cooks to fill up.
In the days before Dad went to work at Uncle Ivan’s Stockade Hotel as a second job, Saturday mornings were haircut day. We’d drive down early park at the back of the shops near the Town Hall and then we’d have a footrace to the shops. Me and Dad, just the two of us, him striding out like the professional sprinter he had been and me scurrying along flat out keeping up but always managing to beat him. Thanks Dad for letting me win, but why did you insist I got the “college cut” haircut?
There was always a visit to the TAB in those early days too. Later on when one opened in East Burwood on the corner of Middleborough and Burwood Roads we would head up there late on Saturday mornings. Mum would usually also but Dad a dozen bottles of VB and herself a flagon of sherry in the bottle shop that opened near the TAB. And if we were very lucky we might end up with another comic for the weekend as well. As I got older and earnt some pocket money, or saved my lunch money from school [and that’s another story] I’d buy a few more myself, keeping in mind that they were only 15 to 20 cents back then.
I remember Dad getting very excited when the first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet opened in Station Street Box Hill and sometimes we’d head down there and buy a bucket – no fancy burgers or wraps in those days, in fact, if memory serves me well, I’m not even sure that you could get chips, so we’d also stop at the fish and chip shop and order a dollars worth there before coming home. Dad would always say it was finger looking good.
At some time in the 70’s Dad decided to change fish and chip shops after finding a Chinese owned store in Canterbury Road near the Middleborough Road corner. For some reason it seemed fresher, certainly the batter was different, fluffy and crunchy. I think Dad may have supplied the store with paper when has was a commercial traveller (or a salesman for those unfamiliar with that term). Even there though, whilst the food was encased in clean white butchers paper the outer wrapping was always yesterdays newspapers.
Butchers, were different in those days too. They were the only place you could get meat, none of it was pre-wrapped and the floors were always covered in saw dust. The cool stores inside the shops held whole sides of lamb, beef and pork. If you wanted chops or a leg of lamb it would be cut straight of the carcass in front of you. No hiding out the back, sliced or sawn off, wrapped in paper and carried out in a string bag.
Home deliveries were done. You could get your groceries delivered at little or no charge, the Loys man delivered lemonade, Mr Peowrie delivered our briquettes. At some stage in the 60’s, Mr Whippy appeared on our streets and we were often lucky enough to be given some money so we could rush out and get a choctop ice cream while the familiar tinny sound of Greensleeves was played over his loud speaker. The doctor even did home visits in those days and I can remember Mum being laid up with migraine headaches and needing Dr Hewitt to visit and give her an injection. On those days Aunty Hazel would sometimes look after us until Dad got home.
In October 1960 Chadstone Shopping Centre opened and it was at that time the first regional shopping centre in Melbourne and the largest in Australia. Myer was down one end and Coles New World Supermarket at the other end of an open aired double sided strip of shops. The thing I remember most about it was that it had escalators and they were the only ones outside the city. At the bottom of them, up the Coles end was Tim the Toyman’s, imagine a whole store dedicated to toys. Karen and I collected little ceramic Disney characters. I also got cowboys and indians, match box cars and lego on occasions and Karen got clothes for her Barbie dolls. As I got older I graduated to Airfix models, firstly model aeroplanes and later on plastic model soldiers which I would spend hours painting in my bedroom.