Oct 03 2016
It’s wonderful to know that my previous post on this subject brought back so many great memories for a lot of people, many who have even gotten in touch, about growing up in and around Manly on the northern beaches in the seventies. The feedback has been 100% positive and rightly so…we kids of the pre-1980’s grew up in a place that was so very special. And, sadly, much changed today. Of course the sixties and into the eighties was also special but it was by the late-80’s that the region began to see the changes that impacted on the special magic Manly and the northern beaches had for us who were lucky to be kids growing up there before the 1980’s. That was the time when many of the suburbs had a working-class element to them; plain and practical fibro or weatherboard homes, there was brick too but fibro and weatherboard was more common, like the house pictured from Nenagh Street North Manly.
Homes and backyards were uncomplicated compared to the multi-million dollar split-level, mosaic-tiled, stainless-steeled kitchen examples of architecture you see today. In our driveways were cars like VW beetles, Minis, Datsuns, Falcons, Valiants, Kingswoods, Morris 1100’s – most families had only one car and a lot of them had venetian blinds in the back window. If you had older brothers who liked to surf you probably had a kombi van with curtained windows parked out the front too. Our lifestyles and family lives were simple; the family pet was most likely a blue cattle dog, a boxer or a kelpie, a tabby cat and some guinea pigs out the back – you rarely saw a rottweiler; greyhounds were only for racing and your auntie probably had a white maltese terrier. Pets were purely for the family to enjoy back then and not status symbols. Nobody drove 4X4’s either unless they owned an acreage or bought a mini moke when they were in trend.
Little corner shops dotted the suburbs and they were a treasure trove for lollies, icecreams, smokes and comic books. What would our childhood have been like without cobbers, milk bottles, caramel buds, musk sticks, Big Charlie bubblegum, Freddo’s, choo-choo bars that turned your tongue black, freckles, minties, sherbie cones…all crammed into a small white paper bag that filled to the brim would cost 20 cents at the most. If you were really well off and had 30 or 40 cents to spend the lady behind the counter might ask you if your mum said it was okay to spend all that on lollies because she knew your mum and she knew what your mum usually let you have. Milk came in glass bottles with silver foil caps that you peeled back to see the little blob of yellow cream on the top.
Loaves of bread came in greaseproof wrapping instead of plastic and the bread smelled nice and yeasty. If the shop had a deli section there would be a huge lethal looking slicing machine where mum would buy 50 cents worth of sliced devon for sandwiches to take to school or have for lunch on the weekend – 50 cents bought enough devon to last the week. The corner shop sold Peters and Streets ice-creams that today you buy with bank notes instead of coins; Paddle Pops for 3 cents, Golden Gaytimes for 12 cents, Peter’s Drumsticks and Streets Cornettos were the really dear ones at 15 cents, a clown-face ice-cream called a Beppo. There were Whammy’s which came in orange or cola and were on plastic sticks that you could collect and use like meccano pieces, Icy Poles were 3 cents and came in red, lemonade, orange or cola and melted down your arm really fast in the summer. And who didn’t buy a Sunnyboy for 2 cents?
The corner shops that remain vivid in my memory from all those years ago marked an age when buying your groceries was about simplicity and affordability. Those corner shops I remember; the little block of shops above on Corrie and Pittwater Rds North Manly (next to the BP station) across from Walkers Tennis Centre and the general store was run by Mr and Mrs Smith in the 60’s and early 70’s and then was taken over in the mid-70’s by the Croucher family. Beside it was built a garden centre which traded as the North Manly Garden Centre for some years. That little shop there in the image was the hairdressing salon. This site has now been desecrated and apartments are now being built to replace these shops that once served our community so well. Then there was the corner shop in Harbord (Freshwater) on the corner of Surfers Pde and Oliver Street run by two ladies, a mother and daughter, who provided years of loyal service to the community and especially to the children from St John the Baptist school who ordered their lunchtime pies and sausage rolls from them each morning. It was a big old-fashioned store with stone steps, high ceilings and a wooden floor that creaked when you walked on it. There was also the shop run by Mr and Mrs Armstrong in Alexander Street in Manly who were famous for their wonderful service and the huge range of lollies they stocked. We were faithful to the corner shops because the owners were our friends and walking or riding to the shop was a thing in itself when we were kids, because we only got to buy lollies when mum had some change, or when you returned a soda bottle for the deposit.
The corner shop was the family standby, so it was a real treat to go to a shopping centre to do the shopping – especially on Thursday night for ‘late night shopping’ when it was introduced and we all went to The Mall – Warringah Mall – and call me a stick-in-the-mud where progress is concerned but I preferred the Mall when it didn’t take a week to walk around it. When you could park on Condamine St and walk through the fence and across the little paddock where the pony rides were. There was a ski jump at the back of David Jones in the 60’s, a mini golf at the front on Pittwater Rd and the bus shelters were in the centre of the car park outside the front of David Jones. Every summer there would be a circus in the paddock where they eventually built the Hoyts cinema. There was DJ’s, Woolworths, Fletcher Jones and the Mall Music shop that had a poster of Carly Simon in the window for as long as I can remember. Then Grace Bros came along with the extensions in 1973. We’d also go to the Totem shopping centre in Balgowlah which had Franklins and Coles, if you lived near Frenchs Forest you’d go to Arndale shopping centre.
There was the Harbord Diggers Youth Club on Oliver Street Harbord (pictured) where you could do gymnastics, physical culture, tap dancing or even modelling. The Girl Guides Hall in the little yellow brick building on a block of land right beside it. In Manly on the cnr of Pittwater Rd and Alexander Street was a servo with Manly Cabs attached; the servo was a BP (if memory serves) run by the ‘Cop Shop’ actress Joanna Lockwood and her husband ‘Bip’.
The Manly Music Loft was run by Peggy and Enzo Toppano and was considered a classy night out for mum and dad back then.
The big ‘Gas Ball’ on Balgowlah Rd opposite Manly Golf Club was a landmark just about all of us remember and across the road, on the site where they built the Manly Swimming Leisure Centre, were tennis courts where Frank Herringe taught tennis on Saturdays.
If you went to Freshwater Beach in the 60’s and 70’s you’d see many kids there who’d been taught to swim by the legendary Pat Nichol at her swimming school in Kooloora Ave, just up from the beach. Pat was a no-nonsense teacher and I remember that year-round perma-bronze tan of hers. Teaching the kids to swim was what she did and she did it well, she took no nonsense from parents or the kids – you were there to learn to swim and that’s what you did. You could also learn to swim with Terry Gathercole at Killarney Heights swimming centre or at The Forum at Collaroy.
Swimming clubs were a feature of Saturday afternoons; there were clubs at the ocean pools at Freshwater, Manly, Curl Curl, Dee Why…I swam for Freshwater and then Dee Why club where a young Lisa Forrest was winning every backstroke race she entered. Saturday mornings boys played footy or cricket at District Park in North Manly and the girls played netball on the grass courts over by the river in the afternoon. Seaforth netball team wore a black and white checked tunic – all had box pleats of course – Freshwater wore a maroon tunic and white blouse, Allambie wore an orange tunic with a white blouse..and all tied round the waist with a cord belt with a tassle on the end. Didn’t Curl Curl wear green and yellow…? I always thought the Wakefield team had the nicest colours of pale blue and white.
I hope you have enjoyed this second trip down memory lane – if you have any more suggestions please let me know and I will include them!
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