Almanac Life: Elizabeth South Shops 1966-1976

 

 

My formative years were spent in the satellite city of Elizabeth, 15 miles north of Adelaide.

 

Although it was not obvious to my young eyes, Elizabeth was then a meticulously planned social economy, carefully sub-divided into neighbourhoods. In rapid succession, Elizabeth South, then Grove, North, Centre, East, Vale, Park, Downs, West and Field sprung up to cater for the influx of migrants, both skilled or otherwise, and others who were attracted to the idea of plentiful housing plus a bountiful and vibrant economy as spruiked here.

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth’s landlord, the South Australian Housing Trust (SAHT), catered for the “housewife’s day-to-day needs” by providing each neighbourhood with its own small shopping centre, supplying a range of shops and services deliberately restricted to not be “sufficiently comprehensive to make it unnecessary for her to visit the Town Centre”. (Some, like the South, North and East had a secondary block of shops as well, a point that I’ve included to avoid responses from pedants such as myself.)

 

Elizabeth Town Centre (‘The Cenna’), the commercial hub of Elizabeth, was a Chadstone-like major shopping centre with large supermarkets, John Martin(s) department store, hardware store and even a ballroom. More importantly, it was the first sponsor to appear on the Centrals jumper when the SANFL allowed sponsors in 1978.

 

I spent my first 5 ½ years in Elizabeth East but was Elizabeth South where I spent the years 1966 to 1976. As they were adjacent the (you guessed it) Elizabeth South Primary (and Infants) School, I passed through the “South Shops” every day, on the way to be educated by some of the very best and outright worst that the SA Education system would lob us in front of.

 

The map below may give some idea of the layout and commercial nature of the South Shops, which was similar in composition to those of the other ‘hoods. For those requiring some geographical assistance, the top of the map points West.

 

 

Elizabeth South Shopping Centre circa 1957. Click to enlarge.

 

 

As the eldest child of four, I was regularly called upon by Mum to perform errands, generally of the “run down to the shops for me” type. I probably haven’t given this much thought for the best part of fifty years. Let’s see what I can dredge up.

 

 


 

Like the horses further up Main North Road at the Gawler Racecourse, I’ll go anti-clockwise, starting at the bottom right with the shop known as the Big Deli. A deli in South Australian parlance is what those in the convict states might have once called a Milk Bar, but are now called by their correct term, “the 7-Eleven at the servo”. The Big Deli was bigger than the Little Deli, and the two were placed about as far away from each other as geography would permit. The Big Deli was notable for its vast counter space devoted to the production of double-cut rolls. If you haven’t ever had a double-cut roll before, blame your greatx4 grandfather for pinching a hollowed-out loaf of bread before he was transported in the early 19th century. It was the go-to shop come Yo-Yo Season, which seemed to come about every second year. Little balding blokes with swarthy complexions from exotic climes such as Argentina, Japan and North Ryde would be granted free visits to whole school outdoor assemblies to demonstrate rocking the baby, walking the dog, poking the bear and choking the lizard, all sponsored by your local Coca-Cola Bottlers. They also sold smokes.

 

The grocer in question was Emery’s, owned by one of Elizabeth’s founding commercial types, Charles Emery. It was a grocer as in three of four aisles of packaged consumer goods such as Pink Camay, Imperial Camp Pie, Vim Triple Cleanser, Brockhoff Saladas, ETA Krunchi-Krisps, Parry’s Fresh Air Blocks and KY Tinned Fruits (which tasted a lot better than their Jelly). Emery’s ran a photo competition when I was in Grade 2 and the winning photo is below. I won a watch. They also sold smokes.

 

 

The author at 7, in his prize-winning pose for Emery’s

 

 

Sven Kallin’s electrical and hardware wasn’t somewhere that I was required to spend any time or my parent’s money. One family member remembers that Herbie Shearman (brother of Bob) was the store’s manager. Why the high-living Sven bothered to open a store here is anybody’s guess, but I guess he had to cover the overheads on the amphibious car that he imported into Australia in the early 1960s.

 

Even though Elizabeth was home to the proverbial ten pound Pom, it was the other New Australians that could be relied upon in the fresh produce department. The Vallelongas had the fruit and veg at the South and their stuff was top shelf as you would expect. One year our apricot tree at home in Underdown Road did so well, they took a case or two off our hands and sold them to the locals in the shop. Mum did the best apricot crumble outside the Riverland.

 

I only recall one bloke from the assorted blue and white striped offal-stained aprons in the butcher shop. Clem knew everybody and was a dab hand at bunging a slice or two of floor sweepings fritz at the local kids whilst simultaneously winking at their mothers as he removed his boner from its scabbard and slyly trimmed the green bits off last Tuesday’s tripe. After ceremoniously wrapping it in two layers of consultant’s paper and slapping it down with a satisfyingly moist splat on the formica counter-top, he totted up the bill without removing the Staedtler HB from his clenched jaw. Clem still said g’day to me in my post-adolescent years when watching his step-daughter Cherrie playing softball for the Bays at West Beach. Onya Clem.

 

The drapers, which was inevitably taken over by the Peoplestores conglomerate after we moved to the South, sold material (never ‘fabric’) by the yard which was just the go for our annual flannelette jarmies that Mum made for us each Easter. If a new Butterick pattern was required, you could find them in racks like those used in record stores to store the latest 45s. It is quite possible that the wool for the knitted school jumper worn by the cherub above in his watch winning portrait was also purchased here.

 

 

The Paris End of the South Shops

 

 

Continuing to the chemist, this of course was owned and operated by another of Elizabeth’s founding families, Norm and Pat Russell. As well as letting out the occasional spare bedroom to accommodate the likes of Centrals recruits Alan Hayes and Tom Grljusich, there wasn’t a skerrick of Elizabeth life that couldn’t be traced back to the Russell family, be it sport, church or commerce. I spent some time of my school life at ESPS sitting next to the youngest of the three Russell children, but I’m sure that Jane would rather not revisit my countless thoughtless attempts to unseat her from our shared bench seat. In Grade Four, Miss Shipway sent me across to the chemist to pick up a tin of Strepsils (they were 39c), which was only fair as her voice had probably been taken to the outermost boundaries of hoarseness by screaming at me yet again to stop being a smartarse. Chemist shops meant jelly beans, more jelly beans and the more than occasional packet of worm tablets. Oh, and that coconut flavoured penicillin medicine that went down a treat (not). They didn’t sell smokes.

 

Our fish shop was pretty good. A bag of chips cost 10c, but on a rare big night, the whole family could be fed for under 2 bucks. The regulation Chiko Roll poster was there, as were the glass jars full of pickled onions and mussels, but sadly I don’t remember a pinball machine. I also don’t remember mushy peas or battered Mars bars making it onto the menu, which must have been a disappointment for some of our new arrivals. I developed liking for both pineapple and banana fritters, but my later home experiments with deep fried fruit didn’t go so well. Who knew that watermelons were so fragile?

 

With no need for store bought cakes in our house, I don’t have much to say about the cake shop.

 

The Little Deli, on the south-west corner of the complex, was most famous for employing Hammo’s Aunty Des (nee Lindner), a rabid Centrals supporter, and for its radioactively multi-coloured array of milkshake flavourings. Usually the second choice of delis, unless you were approaching from the Blake Road side, its popularity soared when Centrals Captain Tony Casserly with his business partner (and team runner) Barry Mitchell took it over. “TC’s Deli” then became the first choice for all skinny young bandy legged Bulldog tragics. They must have sold a gross of Footy Colours each day, especially the Centrals ones with a thin coating of white chocolate atop the pink and pale blue ice confection that was the closest that Amscol’s battery of food technologists could come up with. They also sold smokes.

 

 

Tony ‘TC’ Casserly and his loyal offsider Barry Mitchell serving Centrals rugged back flanker Kevin Johns. As shown in Poms To Premiers (taken by Barry O’Brien)

 

 

Those with sharp eyes will have noticed that I have overlooked the butcher facing Philip Highway, next door to the Big Deli. In time, once the guts and gizzards were covered in wallpaper, it was to become the first home of Casserly and Mitchell Real Estate, when the blokes from TC’s Deli branched out and became the most trustworthy name in northern suburbs real estate.

 

Continuing our anti-clockwise journey, across the decorative concrete planter boxes, on the other corner was the first public library in Elizabeth. It was about the size of the typical Housing Trust front room, that is to say about 12’x10’ (in the pre-metric days), but each week or so I was able to find something to satisfy my inquiring mind. Apart from comics or our Colliers Encyclopaedias (which I had already finished), it was that tiny, cramped library that set me on a lifelong path of reading and writing. Blame them.

 

 

The vast Elizabeth South Library collection included a portrait of HRH Queen Elizabeth II

 

 

Our family had no use for banks, so the next two shops went unvisited.

 

The double glass frontage of the newsagent Paper Shop left ample room for the banners for The Advertiser, The News, Australasian Post, Pix, Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day, New Idea, Best Bets and the King’s Cross Whisper. I chose from a roster of British comics such as Beano, Wizzer and Chips but Fantastic, which featured such Marvel characters as Thor, Dr Strange, The Submariner, Fantastic Four and Captain America, was my ultimate favourite. As my tastes matured, it was Mad (but never Cracked) and even the occasional Go-Set. Once High School started, so did my collection of RAM (but never Juke). My calves and hamstrings used to get a real workout when I tried to reach the top shelf, out of sight of the man at the counter, to grab a peek at the latest copy of Witchcraft, a publication that somehow eluded the Whitlam-era censors, if you get my drift.  I used to buy the News there on the way home from school, using the 5c piece that I had knotted into the corner of my hanky. They also sold smokes.

 

I can thank the fellas in the barber shop for my Brylcreemed, laser parted short back and no sides ‘do which won me the Emery’s prize. I never did find out what a styptic pencil did, could never afford Californian poppy and had no use for port-scented Willem II cigars (although my father had a crack at pipe smoking for a couple of years). The copy of What Is Happening To Me? that was furtively slipped under my pillow around my tenth birthday made no sense until I rummaged through their waiting area table full of Pix, although my first nocturnal submission was still a few footy seasons away. They also sold smokes.

 

Dry cleaners weren’t needed either, our Simpson wringer-washer was adequate.

 

Our next-door neighbours, in the bigger version of the two asbestos clad house styles built by the Trust, were Frank and Kel Hooper. Kel worked in the Post Office, where I’d regularly buy the stamps that Mum would put on her weekly letter to her oldest sister Aunty Gwen from Towradgi, NSW. Very occasionally, I’d need to obtain a postal order (or was it a postal note?) if something needed to be mail ordered, or to cash the Mum’s child endowment cheque. There were two big glass ashtrays on the counter, one for Kel.

 

Kel would from time to time get me to scoot up to the shops for her (a couple of minutes if I ran), but I really blew it the time I spent the 5c tip on the latest gimmicky bubble-gum and cheap toy inducement, despite the Big Deli being out of her required PMU Tomato Soup. I really went down in everyone’s estimation and was never trusted by her again.

 

Tailor, schmailor, if Mum couldn’t make it, it wasn’t worth wearing.

 

The layette store was handily placed next to the Mothers and Babies Health Association nurse’s rooms. Despite the confines of the typical Trust home, four kid families were roughly the norm and hand-me-downs had their limits. The MBHA nurses provided a valuable service to the booming Elizabeth numbers.

 

If you took the flight of concrete stairs next to the public dunnies, you’d end up at the Ladies’ Hairdresser, which was operated by my grandparents Charles (‘CP’) and Elva in the late 50s and again during the mid-70s. They’d had great success with their salon at the Town Centre in the early 60s, before branching into the motel game at Whyalla and then Elizabeth’s first motel, both of which were members of the prestigious Flag Inns stable. The Elizabeth Motel catered for the many workers visiting the Weapons Research Establishment (WRE – later DSTO) and nearby Edinburgh Airport. At his salon, CP vainly tried to offload the pallet loads of Golden Products cleaning fluids to the unsuspecting housewives of 5112, victim of yet another pyramid marketing scam that some of my family seemed inevitably drawn to.

 

 

Premier Tom Playford and the SAHT’s Alex Ramsay (and some bloke called Menzies) suitably impressed by the Beauty Salon signage. (from Playford’s Past)

 

 

Of the two banks that flanked the Philip Highway frontage, the southernmost was the Savings Bank and I recall the Red MG driven by Graham Stagg’s big brother, a State Banker prior to the bodyshirt era. The public phone box was handy if I needed to check the time on my Emery’s watch by calling 1194, getting the English soccer results on a Sunday (1187) or to prank a neighbour (55 65 31, oh wait, that was us). I don’t have any idea what the other bank was, but I’m guessing it was the Get With The Strength one.

 

I’ve left the most important outlet to last. Remember Frank Hooper from next door – he ran the Trust Rent Office, one the north-west corner, opposite the Chivell Street gates into the school. Frank would have been placed in an invidious position, being fully aware of the finances (or lack of) of the Trust’s many local tenants. I can only imagine that he remained inscrutable throughout. As payments systems developed in the early 70s, the Rent Office became an anachronism and the building was taken over by the TAB, where, as long as you got to the window forty minutes before the race closed, you could be the proud owner of a hand-written ticket to riches (at 50c a unit).

 

Finally, the Rose and Crown Hotel. Although not technically part of the South Shops, it was the only business in the entire satellite city that was operated by a former Test Cricketer. Sure, Merv Waite only played the two Tests in 1938 (11 runs at 3.66, 1 wicket at 190.0), but he still let you know about about the 339 he scored for West Torrens (out of a total score of 492) in the 1936 District Final. He was a fair footy player too, racking up 343 goals from his 142 league games. But his work behind the bar on Holden’s paydays was the sternest Test he ever faced.

 

 

Merv Waite’s Rose and Crown Hotel

 

 


Looks like I’ve remembered something after all. I hope some of it was true.

Were we just lucky, or did everybody have local shops just as we did in Elizabeth? What were yours like?

 


 

 

I had some great help from the following sources:

 

Elizabeth – The Garden City (Galbreath and Pearson)

 

Good Times, Hard Times (Peel)

 

Poms To Premiers (Laidlaw and Mulholland)

 

Playford’s Past – playfordspast.recollect.net.au

 

Facebook page – Elizabeth That Was

 

Read more from Swish Schwerdt HERE

 

Read Swish’s brilliant memoir of the class of 1977 at Elizabeth High HERE.

 

 

To return to our Footy Almanac home page click HERE.

 

 

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About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right

Comments

  1. Nice reminiscence, Swishter.
    Most enjoyable read.

  2. Lee Harradine says

    Lovely read, thanks Swish.

    Lots of memories to identify with, not specifically Elizabeth, but the times.

  3. Didn’t used to go the South shops all that often but very much seems to be a carbon copy of the Downs shops (without the library – we had to go the Fields for that).
    Of course the shops we did go to in The South were on Goodman Road, home of Y-Jeans (also at Fields shops) for factory seconds Levi’s.
    Great detail in here. Almost felt like a day out going to the West shops or Vale shops for something different and this has bought much of those memories back.

  4. Colin Ritchie says

    Cracking read Swish! Occasionally with some old mates we try to remember all the shops that were part of main street shopping strip from the late 50s to the 60s during my formative years in Colac. Memories are at times vague and much debate occurs when these sessions take place but it does highlight the fact that everyday things you once took for granted can easily be forgotten. Now which shop was Gazzards, two from the corner, or three?

  5. Thanks Swish – the south sho[ps were an exotica to West lads like me. The East (both of ’em (pendant alert)) even more so – we all know that’s where the posh kids lived. I’m about to start a week of nights, so will try and pen something about the shops at the West (and the West Mob) a bit later.

  6. Shane Reid says

    A great, great read, thank you.

  7. Peter Fuller says

    Col,
    I reckon Gazzards became Donny Nich’s Sports Store (now apparently Sports Power). Blanes was where I spent most time because not only did they carry a range of newspapers and magazines, but they had some particularly inviting toys. My astonishingly generous mother arranged a subscription to Tiger Weekly from Blanes, and she faithfully made the trip into Colac each week to secure it for me.
    Of course as a Cororooke boy, the world of local commerce was much simpler. Boylans Bakery, Walkers Grocers (later Moorfoots) which succumbed to the irresistible tide of self-service initiated by Dickins in Colac. On the other side of the road was Mick Ryan’s milk bar and sub-news, so our paper shop (never mind this SA snobbery referring to delis) It doubled as the SP bookie where I laid my first bet; on the opposite corner a butcher shop gave way to an upgraded post office and telephone exchange, which moved a few doors down from its more modest earlier incarnation adjacent to the blacksmith.
    Thanks Swish, your riveting memories have offered inspiration for a few of us.

  8. Casserly & Mitchel “the most trustworthy name in northern suburbs real estate”. Now there’s an oxymoron for you!! What about the dimple on that Grade 2 kid winning the prize!!

    Jokes aside, excellent read, thanks.

  9. Grand memories Swish. Never visited Elizabeth South but did spend time in the Town Centre in the last half of 1982 where Neal Blewett had his Electoral Office. SAHT did a nice line in faded brutalism. I mainly remember the concrete and bitumen of a blazing summer. Not much greenery around. Neal lived in leafy North Adelaide outside his electorate. Remember spending election night March 1983 in the Elizabeth backyard of State MP Martyn Evans.
    When I first saw the shops layout I thought it was very progressive having a local knock shop. Who knew “layette” meant baby clothes?
    I was mad for English comics also. Remember getting “Eagle” (early premonition) and Beano. There would be none for a month then a batch would arrive off the boat. About 3 months after publication. Same with Cricketer and Playfair Cricket Monthly. The comics had strips like Legge’s Eleven where Ted Legge was the early Ted Lasso prototype moulding an unlikely collection into the perennial “win against the odds” football team. Ted was a beanpole who specialised in improbably late headers. And space hero Dan Dare with his nemesis the Mekon. A huge head with a tiny body (early Gideon Haigh prototype) that floated around on a jet surfboard shaped rocket.
    Hopefully back in SA in 2 weeks for Dad’s 90th birthday. Planning to go back to Yorketown and Kadina for the first time in 50 years. I remember where all the shops were. 3 bakeries for 1,000 people. 2 pubs. Barber (SP agent) with 3 billiard tables at the rear. Local weekly newspaper (“the minute’s science”). Doubt many still operate. I can still play the golf course where I learned the game in my mind. The turkey pen by the 3rd tee was a tricky hazard on the backswing.

  10. Kevin Densley says

    Good stuff, Swish – fine use of detail!

  11. Peter Crossing says

    An enjoyable read Swish. Thanks.

  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks for all of your positive comments. Unfortunately you can’t put your arms around a memory, this’ll have to do.

    Culls – I don’t think I ever set foot in the Downs, or the South Downs or even Craigmore (except for that fateful Wednesday afternoon in 1976). Praise to the fashion gods for giving us Y-Jeans.

    Col/Peter F – I think a combined article is in order

    Rabs – I hope that Doug and Danny Tallboy get a guernsey

    Bucko – never trust a kid with dimples

    PB – let me know how the pasties go

  13. Lovely work Swish. We Virginia folk were in awe of the big smoke. But we had our own speedway. Literally ours, over the back fence. Glory days.

  14. 6 per cent says

    Yo Swish. I really appreciated the illustrations. It would have been a lot of work to find those.
    Elizabeth was no so different to elsewhere in SA.
    My local shop at the corner of Sheoak Rd and Upper STURT road was an old country store. It had a petrol pump, an ice machine, mixed lollies, and grocieries. Mostly it was patronized by me for the mixes lollies.

    The people that ran the store lived in the back.
    Oh yes, it sold smokes!

  15. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Daddsy, I had no idea that you hailed from the Twin Towns. You must have grown up with the Lamonts, Seccafiens, etc.

    Smithy, I didn’t do enough justice to the 5c bags of mixed lollies that the delis specialised in. Cobbers were two for a cent when I started in the cavity caper. Re those illustrations, once I realised that they were in the back of the Elizabeth Garden City book, the rest just wrote itself.

  16. Bernard Whimpress says

    Great read, Swish
    I lived in Elizabeth Grove in 1967 but can’t say I experienced the town other than leaving the South railway station at 7.30am most mornings en route to Western Teachers College at Thebarton, and arriving home 12 hours later after late lectures at Adelaide Uni. On weekends I played golf at North Adelaide. Somehow I did know that Merv Waite ran the Rose and Crown. Greatest value for me was meeting Nigel Hart on the train one morning – his SACA tie was my conversation opener – an this led to a great friendship and fruitful writing partnership in the 1980s and 1990s.

  17. Bernard Whimpress says

    PS Since no one else mentioned it in comments, the figure on Tom Playford’s left is none other than Bob Menzies.

  18. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Bernard – yes, it was a bit rude of me to leave Ming out of the caption. I’ll include him for posterity’s sake.

  19. Enjoyed your article immensely. Laughed out loud a few times. Brought back great memories for me of the Elizabeth West shops. Thankyou

  20. Not wishing to be accused of pedantry, but I reckon Ming is actually on Playford’s right, Bernard. The bloke on his left is about half a Ming…

  21. Absolutely brilliant,Swish incredible detail ! Likewise I had no idea that Daddsy hailed from the North my
    1st encounter with,Daddsy – Norwood High v Magill Primary and a certain,M Dadds keeping,M Ashwood to donuts ( hardly,Daddsy greatest sporting achievement)

  22. Deborah Gale says

    Spot on! The Big Deli, the Small Deli, the Paper Shop gave me a laugh. I didn’t go to the South shops but the East Shops (the Big Shops) had the much same layout on a smaller scale.

    You should have mentioned the fish and ships being wrapped in newspaper, so you had something to read with your meal.

  23. Cherrie Dodd says

    So amazing, what a great job. When I read about the Butcher ( my step dad) who I called Cedidal. The whole process from start to finish is fantastic. Thank you so much for great me.
    Cherrie (Dodd) Nee Hart ?

  24. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    This seems to have grown some more legs.

    Keep your eyes peeled Julie, our Peachey Road correspondent may be reporting back soon.

    Bucko, Ming was always to the right of Playford.

    ‘Book – Daddsy’s filled me in, ask him next time you see him about the speedway track.

    Debra G – I have vague memories of going to the East shops when I was about four and buying a Amscol Hi-Top, banana I think.

    Cherrie – Glad you enjoyed this. I hope I wasn’t too hard on Clem, I’m sure there was never really any green bits on his tripe.

  25. Swish – Playford was to the left of Whitlam on economic & industry policy (socially very conservative). Sort of a kinder, gentler Joh Bjelke.
    Just goes to prove that the Nats/Country Party have always been the true socialists in Australian politics – as the Beetrooter will demonstrate next week. Your 8 cents a day.
    Great to see your Elizabeth South harem – 50 years too late.

  26. A labor of love there, Swish. Thanks for taking us down streets both strange and familiar.

  27. Great stuff Swish. Brylcreeme, Chicko Rolls, and draperies, but no mention of everyone’s favourite train station, Womma! A sensational evocation of time and place. I remember when there was only the tiny outpost of Smthfield between Gawler and Elizabeth and now, of course, it’s one sprawling suburb. Thanks very much for this.

  28. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    The town of my streets Vin. Thanks.

    Thanks Mickey – Nurlutta always had me intrigued.

  29. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderfully put together Swish. What a different time. Loved the description of the butcher.

    My hometown Pomborneit only had a general store (closed in 1991, they sold smokes) and a mart/antique store (still going) when I was a kid. But go back to the early 1900’s there was 3 general stores, 2 butchers, a bakery, 2 blacksmiths, 2 motor mechanics and railway station based around the Nestles creamery (which is now the mart). All part of the rural decline.

  30. Christopher Shannon says

    Thanks for the memory I grew up in the East,so long ago now

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