I remember shopping with my mum back in the 60’s. Remember when if you wanted meat, you went to a butcher shop. If your shoes were buggered, good old mum would take you to the shoe shop. Vegies came from the fruit shop, hammers from the hardware shop and musk sticks and cobbers were in a glass cabinet at the milk bar. Shopping back then was regimented. Mum didn’t drive. So a shopping expedition for us meant a trudge along the street pulling a shopping jeep. The supermarket was a place in American tv shows, our equivalent was the good old Self Service! I remember when the shops closed at five on weekdays, and twelve on Saturdays. Oh yes I remember. Pubs closed at six and didn’t open on Sundays. A big w, was just a capital letter. 7 and 11 were just numbers, and a hole in the wall, meant a job for dad and not something you got cash out of.

It’s hard to believe but somehow mum’s like my mum managed to keep her brood fed and heeled within the time restraints of those old shopping hours. There wasn’t much point in deciding at ten o’clock Sunday morning you needed a tin of paint to freshen up the windowsills. Because the hardware guy was probably having bacon and eggs prior to leaving for a drive up to the Dandenongs. Back then just as shopping was regimented , families had to plan what they needed for the weekend. Because at lunch time Saturday the shopping week did end.

My how times have changed. We’ve inherited the American supermarket. They sell meat and hammers and socks and beer . They’re open from six in the morning till twelve at night. But when I look around at the shoppers down at the local Woolworths, they all look short of time. I wonder how they’d cope if they had to buy thier whole grain organic microbiotic thingys by lunchtime Saturday. Just imagine Saturday arvos with empty streets. Shop assistants of riding bikes and milkbars being the only place where you could get a packet of fags.

A little while back my daughter Holly needed a few things for a uni assignment she was putting together. It was eight o’clock on a sunday night and she asked me would I take her down to Big W, to pick up the required supplies. When I told her that the said shopping barn closed at five on a sunday my young one couldn’t quite grasp why that could be. I’ve mused on it since and realised that shops being open all hours is to people these days just a given. We’ve got used to the convenience, the fact that we don’t have to think ahead and that if we fancy some Sarah lee ice-cream at ten pm, Coles have it covered.

A good mate of mine, ‘Big Baz,’ recently spent a Sunday cooking sausages outside our local Bunnings. The outdoor barbecue is a great way for local clubs and service groups to raise funds and it gives ravenous shoppers some fuel to propel them through the aisles of hardware heaven. In an eight-hour shift, big Baz and his mates cooked up 700 sausages in bread! I dips me lid to the fundraisers. And I must admit that I’m partial to a snag after buying a shifter, but I’m astounded to think that many people flock to a hardware shop on a Sunday!

I’m often told by my offspring not to keep rambling on about, ‘ The good old days.’ They laugh at me because I call an ATM an autoteller. When I talk about walking around Lygon street Carlton on a sunday and daydreaming in the windows of the closed shops, they really do think I’m from another planet.

Sometimes I miss those empty streets. Miss the Golden Fleece petrol station. Butcher shops with sawdust on the floor. And my old mum and her trusty jeep.

Thanks to all of you for reading each week. Your encouragement and comments have been a real gift. If you have the time click on the bubble at the top right and tell me your shopping memories. Till next week, Much Love, Baz


5 thoughts on “OPEN NEARLY ALL HOURS.

  1. Hi Barry, Thanks for this, it brought back many memories for me. My family owned a corner milk bar in Yarraville in the 1960s. We opened at 6am and closed at 11pm seven days a week. What a variety of characters we had in our customers. We were restricted from selling groceries after 6pm and never on a Sunday. That section of the shop had to be cordoned off under penalty of heavy fine. I worked in the milk bar from the age of eight until I was in my teens. I use ‘worked’ loosely because I was never paid in dollars just in experience. One of my enduring memories was riding to WD & HO Wills distribution centre (also in Yarraville) on a pushbike to pick up the cigarette stock for sale in the shop. I was around 10 years old! Try doing that these days. We were put out of business by supermarkets in the mid-70s. My family’s time in that shop has given me a wealth of stories. Thanks to the prompt! Cheers Lucia.

    • Dear Lucia, thank you so much for sharing your memories with me. Family milk bars were such a big part of communitys back then. They sold the milk and bread. Made kids like me feel like family and were a constant in a changing world. I had hoped this post would evoke memories for people and I thank you for responding so warmly. Take care, Warm regards, Barry.

  2. Hi Barry,
    Being a self-employed, procrastinating writer, the one luxury I have is time! So I actually do our food shopping every day as my “break” from the desk. I go around the corner to the little vege shop and buy small quantities of what we will have that night. I talk to the family who own it. They know that I love beetroot and fennel and remind me if they are particularly good. They warn me off from what is expensive. They suggest ways to cook things that are mysterious, and they offer tastes of interesting fruit. I feel so lucky to have that kind of relationship, and I don’t min one bit that they are not open after 1pm on Saturday. I can buy for two days at the weekend!
    I know that this, and other relationships like it, are mostly possible because I can choose my own work hours, but I’m so glad that there are still small shops where people can spend time together talking and educating customers in that way. And we have a boot maker around the corner too! He is always cross when I take in shoes to be mended – he makes me feel very guilty about my bad shoe habits, but I am determined to get a smile from him one day!
    As a kid, growing up in the bush, we had a store truck that came monthly – it was always interesting to see what Mum would make in the few days before it arrived!
    But that’s another story!
    Thanks for provoking such lovely thoughts. I will tell the vege man tomorrow!

    • Hi There fruit shop girl, Thanks so much for reading and then responding with your thoughts on all things fruity.Caz has recently stopped buying fruit at the supermarket and like you is enjoying the personal touch only a small shop can give. In Carlton where I grew up we had a wonderful fruiterer named Sammy. Back then everything he sold would be wrapped in newspaper,so I used to go round to houses, collect unwanted Sun news pictorials and sell then to Sammy for five cents a jeep load. Yes, even then I was an enerepeneur! I’d take my five cents, race around the corner to Matts milkbar and invest my wages in Musk sticks and cobbers.
      I’m really chuffed that my musings on shopping have sparked memories we can all share. Keep up the writing and say hi to the vege man. Warmesr regards, Barry.

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