Back in Black: Helen Bannerman’s Reprieve

Little Black Sambo book - Illawarra Museum collection 2015 edit copy sml

Continuing on the theme of a random item from the collection every week, here is one I ran across snuggled in tissue paper a few weeks back.  This is a much loved nursery classic  which will be familiar to many. The book was published internationally for decades with many different versions of covers and  artwork; but this one, which seems to have been issued in the mid 1960s, is the one familiar to most of a certain age in Australasia.

However as popular as the dramatic yet whimsical story of ‘Little Black Sambo’ is– it fell out of favour for a time; amongst reasoning was because of the insistence that ‘sambo’ was a slur with racial overtones,  and the book was said to have contributed to this negative stereotyping.

The pertinent fact that the ‘Sambo’ character was neither African, nor a ‘golliwog’, negates most of the drama which has been created around the tome, including a Supreme Court case – but this has seemingly been considered irrelevant, and conveniently ignored.

It was regularly published until the early 1970s, when it became most unpopular for a period and eventually  an ‘alternative’ version was produced with the names of the proponent of the story, and his parents Mumbo and Jumbo, changed completely.
The text and pictures are said to have undergone a number of revisions since it was first published in 1899 as part of a series called ‘Dumpy Books’ for English publisher Grant Richards. In the U.S. in the fifties the ‘black’ part was replaced with ‘brave’ and in the 1990s it was completely re-illustrated to be more ’racially sensitive’ featuring implausibly lightened skin and the name changed from ‘Sambo’ to ‘Babaji’ or just the completely innocuous ‘Sam.’
What does this really tell you? No matter what they do – it just won’t go away. Maybe it’s better just to leave it be – which seems to be the case today.

Historically, the development  of the golliwog has a number of different theories; one is that the golly was in fact based on the sidekick of ‘Sinterklaas’, the Dutch version of that jolly Xmas figurehead; and his sidekick ‘Zwarte Piet’ (‘Black Peter’) was originally a child chimney sweep of Italian extraction (hence the ‘wog’ part). Darkened with coal dust, he was seemingly not a person of African descent at all (this is also possibly how the lump of coal punishment ties in to the traditional ‘naughty or nice’ scenario). To others there’s no two ways about it – Peter was a negro slave servant of Saint Nicholas, who inexplicably happened to carry his sack of gifts from Spain.

Rob Waide suggests “a theory of the origin of the name ‘golliwogg’ is that while British soldiers held Egypt in the second half of the 19th century, they had Egyptian labourers who  worked for them. Workers purportedly wore insignia ‘W.O.G.S.’ on their armbands which meant ‘working on government service.’ British troops spoke of them as ‘ghouls’ – which is an Arabic word for a desert ghost.
Egyptian children played with black dolls which they would sometimes give to British soldiers – or they would buy dolls from children. The dolls were called ‘ghuliwogs’ and later, ‘golliwoggs.’ In the end, taking into account the golliwog’s lengthy and multifarious history – the ‘real ‘ story is probably part of all of these.

However whatever the basis is, this isn’t just a ‘hot topic’ for a moment and then everyone quickly moves on like they seem to on social media these days; the targeting of the humble golliwog as culturally insensitive started as far back as the early 1920s, and Bannerman’s book was already copping it by the 1930s.

helen bannerman books x 4

Image credits, clockwise from top L:, ‘Little Black Bobtail‘ courtesy of Jenny Wren Books via Abe, ‘Little White Squibba’ courtesy of Aleph-Bet, ‘Little Black Quibba’ courtesy of  Snipwiew, ‘Little Black Mingo’ courtesy of Lorne Bair rare books.


This consistent onslaught by the ‘politically correct brigade’ as they are sometimes dubbed, has tainted the humble golly to the point that British company Robertson, famous for ‘Golden Shred’ marmalade which had featured a golliwog since 1910, dropped their mascot after 91 years (interesting to note a connection between their celebrated use of Sevilles, the golliwog character, Zwarte Piet’s sack of Spanish gifts, and the traditional Xmas present of an orange).
Starting In 1983, the tide turned as the company’s product was boycotted; by 1988 the character was let go from television advertising. Their popular, collectable promotional collections of badges and figurines were then withdrawn, and in 2001 use of the golly was ceased completely. Another victim in the early 1980s was the golly character in Enid Blyton’s ‘Noddy’ books which also quietly disappeared.

Scottish-born Helen Brodie Cowan Watson was far better known by her pen name ‘Helen Bannerman.’ After she attained a degree in literature in 1887, she married an officer an officer in the Indian Medical Service and they moved to Madras, India. So her characters, settings and story lines are not so much racially motivated but genuinely inspired by the environment of which she was imbued at that time – and the Tamil people that surrounded her.
It was a book written for her children and was principally, maybe now ironically, regarding ethics – and little to do with skin colour. Even though ‘Little Black Sambo’ is still sometimes referred to as ‘controversial’ this term is technically incorrect as a descriptive for her original motivations since there was no attempt to provoke at the time of the story’s creation; but it is undeniable it has had a controversial history.

Because ‘Sambo’ is so famous, and has completely eclipsed the rest of her oeuvre, it’s probably not so well-known that Bannerman wrote many other ‘Little’ books like ‘Little Black Mingo’ (1901), ‘Little Black Quasha’ (1908), ‘Little Black Quibba’(1902), ‘Little Black Bobtail‘(1909)’ and finally  ‘Little White Squibba’ – just to even the score out a bit. The latter was actually not published until around 1966 long after Bannerman’s death (in 1946, Edinburgh) and was essentially the ‘Sambo’ story rewritten as a white character.  There was also the story of ‘Little Kettlehead’ (1903/4), a cautionary tale of sorts for ‘badly behaved babas’ as the byline went; a strangely morbid and bizarre book about a white girl living in India  – who has her head burned off in a fire and has it replaced with a pot.

The diplomatically-obsessed brigade would have us believe something is still amiss here, but apart from the book’s longevity and popularity to this day – this positing is long past the point of much validity. Perhaps just due to the passing of time ‘Sambo’ has well and truly segued into ‘quaint curiosity’ territory.  It simply ‘is what it is’ now. The fact is, that to most they were very different times and it was really quite innocent in the moment; the flipside was that for a long time there were few books that had a successful, black hero – a positive role model – again something that was conveniently dismissed about the book.

For many it simply brings back wonderful childhood memories. Every posting I’ve made on social media over the last few years attests to this; comments one after the other are simply those of fond recollections of individuals’ early years that come flooding back.  There is still a lot of love for the humble golly character in any form.
As a child I too loved this story of angry tigers running faster and faster around the tree until they turned into melted butter and that fondness continues to this day.
Also – I still want a pair of plimsolls.




Long Island Book Collectors: Banned From American Bookshelves

Herald Scotland: Curtains for the jam jar Golly

‘Golliwogg’ history History Always Repeats

Wikipedia : The Story of Little Black Sambo 

SAADA: The Complicated Racial Politics of Little Black Sambo 


Snowed Under

Q BAN jelly babies by Snow Confectionery Pty Ltd POS box and sticker EDIT copy crop further sml

Box from the Illawarra Museum being used to store a donation of various photographs and glass negative plates.


Yes, I’m very busy but there’s always time to research for a blog post!
I’ve been interested in packaging since I was young; and I started collecting stuff when I was about eight years old. In fact I remember when I was just three; my father was very excited on Christmas day to present me with a pedal-powered toy police car. This enormous package was carried out – and I had help unwrapping as the toy was lifted out. ‘’I love this BOX!” I exclaimed gleefully. Much to his gross disappointment.

So when I’m looking for things in the Illawarra Museum collection, I tend to get distracted by actual boxes while I’m rooting around in cupboards. The way the collection has been amassed and catalogued over the years, by several different curators with different ways of doing things – means there’s all kinds of weird and wonderful containers that items are squirreled away in, from tobacco tins to hat boxes – to items like this bulk packing box for smaller packets of Q Ban jelly babies which would have been delivered in a shop order. Often I think things probably just stayed in whatever they were delivered in and accessioned to the museum!

I also keep a keen eye on vintage Australian confectionery ephemera and I had not heard of this one before. So curiosity got the better of me and before I knew I realized, this humble sticker on an old cardboard packing box, probably dating from the 1950s, became the blog’s object of the week.

The Snows Confectionery Pty Ltd business (it’s often quoted as Snow’s) was founded by a man named Harry Eli Walter James Hughes who was born 1892 in Elizabeth Street, Waratah, in the Newcastle area of NSW to Eli and Elizabeth Jane Hughes née Bacon. Harry’s father was also born in Waratah in the 1850s so there was quite a family history there.

Harry started off in the early 1920s making molded, hollow sugar animals in his inner-Sydney kitchen (a very similar story to Melbourne’s MacRobertson). I’ve no idea what his background was previous to going out on his own, or who he had worked for. Before long he moved to whipping up batches of toffee for the rapidly growing business in his back yard – and by 1929, the business was quickly becoming successful and a factory was opened at Alma Street in Darlington (the area between Redfern, Camperdown and upper Newtown) by 1930.

61-65 Johnson Street site of Snow or Snow's confectionery EDIT copy

Johnston Street, Annandale earlier this year showing the Snow building still standing; from left number 61, the Hughes’s factory at number 63, and at right, a one level house. Image courtesy of ‘1930s Annandale – A Short Walk’ by Marghanita da Cruz, 2015.


Sometime during this period he married Emily Florence (I was unable to find a marriage record) and they had their first child in 1927, Ralph John Hughes, who later succeeded his father as managing director. They also had one daughter Pamela Emily Hughes, but probably much later, towards the end of the 1930s. The Hughes family moved regularly during this time – from Coogee to Croydon, then to Bondi where they stayed for most of the 1930s.

With Harry’s slogan ‘I Cook With Glucose’ becoming well known, Snows made chocolates, nougats, fruit jellies, hand decorated and striped fudges, toffees, jelly babies, chocolate éclairs, butterscotch, caramels, liquorice, boiled lollies, and later on were proponents of sugar free confectionery. I wasn’t able to find any further references to the ‘Q Ban‘ brand and have no idea what inspired it, or what it means.

In the late 1940s the Hughes family had a spell in Kingsford before finally settling in Bellevue Hill through the 1950s and 1960s. It’s interesting that even though their factories were based in Western Sydney that the Hughes family lived in all the east/south-east beaches popular with Jewish people.

Generally it was common for people to live close to their place of work; but its likely that the Hughes family were well off and owned a motor car, which were becoming more accessible and popular at this time, rather than purely a luxury item, which was previously the domain of only the wealthy. Given Eli is also a Hebrew name it makes me wonder if there was a Jewish background. This is the same areas my relatives lived in, who all changed their names to quite Westernized, innocuous ones like Mann, Green, Meadows, Taylor and Morris.

After Darlington, Snows was based at 63 Johnson Street, Annandale by early 1934; council records of 1937 show renovations and expansions to premises. Subscribers of 1939 show the main shareholders were Harry, a Walter L. Wells, and another Hughes, Leslie M. I suspect this family member born in Gulgong just north of Mudgee, NSW, was a cousin. At this time they were also supplying sugar-milled and pastry products. They stayed at this location likely through to at least the early 1960s.

Life was fairly uneventful for Snows at their new location for the most part – except for an early 1940s court case, in which they were fined by the NSW Board of Health for “very neglected condition…floors thickly covered with black dirty material, sugar bins containing dirt, and boiling cans thickly covered with dirty wet material…an area covered with cobwebs.” Delectable!

Harry Hughes Managing Director of Snows Confectionery headlines copy

L: Hugheses in cars seems to be a theme; here’s a photo of Harry, still managing director of Snows at this time, from an unknown publication of the 1960s. R: Various headlines implicating the business over the years.


Harry’s son Ralph was the payroll clerk for Snows, when he became the subject of newspaper headlines Australia-wide in October 1954. Returning from the Parramatta Road branch of the Bank of NSW around 11 a.m. on that day, he pulled up outside the factory premises in Annandale with the cash to fill the weekly pay packets. As he alighted from the car he was confronted with a levelled pistol, when a grey sedan roared up beside him out of nowhere. He quickly threw the two leather satchels he was holding, in the back of his vehicle and locked it. However once he heard the click of the weapon being cocked, he decided not to stand in the robbers’ way. As one of the two thieves leaned in to retrieve the bags, Ralph threw a punch which didn’t connect – but knocked the hold-up man’s grey hat to the ground as he leaped in the getaway car. Within minutes, police radio had six patrol cars to the scene and had cordoned off the entire area, blocking escape routes. However the syndicate had employed an ingenious ruse of multiple getaway cars – the first was abandoned in Skelton Street, Leichardt, where they were joined by a third driver and changed to an old-model tourer. This was later swapped again for a high-powered American model car. Road blocks were established on all main exits from Sydney and there was a serious investigation with raids and many known criminals investigated. I’m not sure if the crime was ever actually solved, but the mysterious grey hat became the main clue in the investigation, and Ralph’s bravery was not unnoticed, to say the least.

Think you’ve never had Hughes in your gob? You probably have and you just didn’t know it. The bulk of their business in the last few decades was with Woolworths for the Home Brand, as well as for Franklins, Coles and Aldi. If you’ve ever nibbled on self brand products from any of those supermarket chains, you have indeed eaten a Snows product. They had also built up an international business in North and South America, Asia and New Zealand.

Harry passed away in 1970 and Ralph succeeded him as managing director. The company moved to Davis Road, Wetherill Park, NSW around 1990 and remained family owned; run by Harry’s grandson Colin L. Hughes and his great grandson Nathan Hughes. They acquired the 1958-established business of Kronos Fine Foods Pty Ltd  chocolates in 2004 and soon after were working on an entirely new environmentally efficient water system, so they were definitely making plans for the future.  Earlier in their history they had been the Australian instigator of the continuous vacuum cooker with the Baker Perkins Hi-Boil Depositor; so they were innovative and forward-thinking which accounted for their longevity in an industry that had seen many businesses come and go. Further to that they won the Alfred Stauder Award for Excellence in Confectionery Manufacturing in 2006; things seemed to be going exceedingly well.

So it was a surprise when everything suddenly fell apart.  It was one of Australia’s biggest confectionery manufacturers when the business collapsed at the end of 2010, due to cash flow problems leaving them unable to fulfil large orders. At the time Snows employed nearly 100 people and the annual turnover was more than 24 million dollars per annum. Snows was put into administration, and offered for sale. It was subsequently acquired by Sanchez Group Australia, owners of Pryde Confectionery Holdings.


‘1930s Annandale – A Short Walk’ by Marghanita da Cruz

Food Australia: The official journal of CAFTA and AIFST Council of Australian Food Technology Associations.

National Library of Australia’s Trove digitized newspapers  

Ancestry Australia 

Skulking and Sulking

CF356BDAZA iron hook - bullock team yoke hook

A strangely-shaped iron hook I picked up on Cordeaux Road, Mount Kembla, which started my adventure leading to the Benjamin sulky in the Illawarra Museum collection. It may possibly be part of a yoke system for hitching multiple bullocks into a team.


Not so long ago, while I was out walking, I found this odd iron item on the road after a heavy rain storm; I thought it was curious, so I picked it up and took it home for consideration. Someone eventually suggested that it may be off a sulky; so while I was at the museum this week – and knowing they have one on display – I decided to snoop around the agricultural, transport and industrial section housed in the courtyard (which could be thrown under the umbrella of ‘general farmy kind of stuff’)  to see if I could find a match. The answer was no, by the way – it doesn’t correlate with any part, so I’m none the wiser right now.

P13041 Mary Benjamin buggy edit

Mary Benjamin driving her sulky along what is now the Ring Track in South Kembla, 1922; the sulky was only a couple of years old then. Image courtesy of the Mount Kembla Mining Heritage collection, via WCC Local Studies’ Illawarra Images, ref P13/P13041.


Skulking around the various carts, cheese presses, and ploughs, I suddenly realised that this was the very sulky that Noel Murray, a well-known Wollongong identity, had described to me when I interviewed him a couple of years back as part of an oral history project. He is known to be incredibly passionate about his family history, with an amazing collection of photographs, and is quite a character with a trope of colloquial sayings, or, as he self-describes: “bush bunnyisms.”

Noel and his family lived on the south side of Mount Kembla for half a century. His grandparents moved there from Mount Kembla village in 1907, and starting off with a tiny slab hut, they eventually established a large, profitable farm and orchard. With the family housed in two homesteads on the side of the mountain, surrounded by lush landscaped gardens, it was well documented by his family’s various box brownies.

Murray- Benjamin Collection South Kembla 1975 old Sulky 1975 copy edit

L: Jack Carter gives Ivy Murray (née Benjamin) one last nostalgic ride, around the lawn of the Benjamin’s later home at Farmborough Road. Unanderra. R: Society member Fred Healy collects the sulky and tows it away to the museum with his station wagon. Both images taken 1975, courtesy of the Murray-Benjamin Collection.


Besides being known for their fruit and vegetables – Noel’s grandfather was John Benjamin – who is a renowned figure; well respected as part of South Coast mining history for his prospecting talents – which uncovered many local seams, and thus was founded a number of mines.  It was finally a landslide (which wasn’t entirely stopped by a plethora of Coral trees. planted particularly to prevent one) which was worrying enough to make them move on to Farmborough Heights in 1954. A few years on, the land was sold to BHP, razed, and eventually reverted to bush.

This sulky was purchased by the family in around 1920. It was already second-hand by that time and had already accrued some interesting history, having belonged to ‘Dad’ Commens (see Carol Herben’s article on him, ‘George Saw Fire and Rein’, for The Advertiser’s ‘Timeless Wollongong’ column, 21 Sept 2011).
Noel’s mother Ivy Murray and his grandmother Mary Benjamin drove to Wollongong from Mount Kembla and back, every Saturday morning, whatever the weather, for Ivy’s music lessons with a Miss Herd – who resided on the south-western corner of Kembla and Market Streets.

19-10-15 Illawarra Museum Murray-Benjamin sulky copy

The Benjamin sulky (collection item 200156) today, on display in the back courtyard of the Illawarra Museum; it’s coming up for a century old.


Can you imagine travelling down those incredibly steep roads in this, or even back up? The idea is terrifying.  Anyone who has driven to Kembla Heights knows that trip is daunting enough in a modern day car. The sulky looks delicate but it in reality it must have been made of very tough stuff.

It was donated to the Illawarra Historical Society for the museum collection by Ivy and her two siblings, under brother Albert Benjamin’s name. Ivy was an Illawarra Historical Society member at the time, and was a prolific story writer for their bulletin; and so was very connected to the organisation.

A photo above shows Fred Healy, another society member with the sulky hitched to his station wagon in order to take it to the Illawarra Museum in 1975. There’s also a picture of Ivy taking a last sentimental ride in it around the garden courtesy of her cousin Jack Carter, playing ‘horse.’

the Benjamin Family sulky in the Illawarra Museum 2001 with Grandson Mitchell Creagan edit

Noel Murray with his with grandson, Mitchell Creagan, sitting in the Benjamin sulky. during a school  excursion to the Illawarra Museum in 2001. Image courtesy Noel Murray collection. 


You can still visit the farm site which is almost exactly a half hour’s walk from the Windy Gully end into what’s now called the Ring Track; the spot is marked by the aforementioned Coral trees, which are still clustered there today (the turnstile marking the track down to the old historical site of the Southern Coal Tunnels is right there too).

It’s funny to think, as you walk along, of this very collection item traversing that rocky track through the various sclerophyll and gum forests that line it along the way.

Oh and by the way, if you have any idea what the metal object is that started this story, please leave a comment with your ideas!

Tickets Please: Regent Theatre Ephemera

Regent Theatre memorabilia tickets smaller edit copy

One day whilst perusing the myriad of assorted boxes haphazardly stacked to the ceiling in every nook and cranny of the Illawarra Historical Society’s offices, a strange recycled cardboard box, thoroughly enclosed with what looked like a couple of rolls of tape, and squished into a corner of some shelving, caught my eye.

I peeled some of the sticky off carefully, well – enough to get the box open – to find very densely packed printed ephemera including memorabilia from a movie house. The box also included items from the Crown Theatre, Wollongong R.S.L, and the Southern Cross Hall. Was it donated by a collector, or were they all venues that the same person, in a particular role, had been involved in somehow?

Most of it, as turns out, this was from the last days of the Regent.

Regent Theatre memorabilia edit for blog 1 copy sml

This well-known Art Deco building at 197 Keira St, Wollongong, by Reginald Magoffin, was originally designed in the mid-late 1930s although interestingly, it was not actually constructed until the 1950s. Reasons given for the delays were “industrial, financial and political conditions“ but WWII also played a major part. Building progress was incredibly slow and the theatre did not finally open until 1957, through 23 years of planning and negotiations to complete the project.

The building features interior design of state significance by Marion Hall Best (and also Janet Single); the former considered one of Australia’s leading modernists. The main auditorium has lower circle and mezzanine seating, and now has capacity of over 1200 seats.  It is one of the few intact grand cinemas with dress circle, original furnishings and equipment, and it retains its original Cinemascope screen and 70mm projection equipment (one of four remaining in NSW). The Regent showed its first Cinemascope movie in 1961.

Herbert Wyndham Jones was a local entertainment entrepreneur who pioneered film exhibition from around 1930, showing silent movies- and quickly segueing into ‘talkies’. Herbert had originally been a store keeper in Corrimal.

Regent Theatre memorabilia ticket rolls edit sml

It’s his son Maurice, however, that is remembered by most. He ran the ‘Civic Theatre’ in Wollongong, together with the ‘Princess Theatre’ in Corrimal. He also ran a picture show in Kembla Heights for a number of years.

Jack Miller recalls: “When I was at school the bloke that ran the movie shows in Kembla gave me a job working for him – I would switch the lights at beginning, end and intermission; then I would help in the projection room. Then on Saturday mornings I’d get the movies, put them on the bus, and send ’em back to Wollongong. I was hoping to get a job showing the movies in Wollongong but the bloke who was doing it told me it’s a dead-end job and not to take it. Maurice Jones was a nice bloke but drank too much. They’d come up here and get on the grog; he’d bring all his mates up.”

Herbert passed away in 1943, thus never got to see out his grand plans for the state-of-the-art venue he had envisaged.  His wife Emily Vaughan Jones, son Morry and daughter Rowena Milgrove carried on the business after he passed away and finally somehow got the theatre built through all kinds of trials and tribulations.

Regent Theatre memorabilia reserved sml

Who knows if the name it ended up with was the original plan of his father’s. For in an interview with John Martin (who was working as a journalist at the time, later News Editor WIN TV) Morry disclosed his concern that he’d made an error with his intention for the name, for in English Royal hierarchy, a Crown is superior to the Regent.

The Regent Theatre was developed to be the ‘fancier’ venue in the CBD,  and as such the name should perhaps have better reflected that hierarchy.  A number of people recall their other busy venue the Civic Theatre being “a bit lower class”  where you went “to meet…girls… canoodling in the front rows.” and it was even sometimes referred to as ‘The Flea Pit.”

Charley Slater, a projectionist for Morry, recalls “Mrs Emily Jones, Morry’s mother, invariably stationed…selling tickets and… keeping young riff-raff in order. Unlike many theatre managers, he liked to be involved in the technical side of the business so we got on well. “

Rowena Milgrove ran The  Regent until her passing in January 2004. As the last surviving picture theatre of that golden age in the city of Wollongong – the building is now heritage listed as of 2005. It was listed for sale by Gateway City Church in 2009 (I’m not sure if they did actually end up selling it), and is still open today, but as a religious organization, and entertainment venue;  renowned Australian musician and singer Paul Kelly was a recent performer.

Some excerpts courtesy of the WCC’s Town Hall Project archive.

Regent Theatre History, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Timeless Wollongong: Noting the history of dollars and cents

Wollongong has a fascinating history and each week the Advertiser brings you a story from Its rich past.

In 1965, then Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies, the most famous of all monarchists, chose to have the name of our currency changed to the “Royal”. Other names thrown into the hat ring were austral, the oz, the boomer, the roo, the kanga, the emu, the digger and even the slang variation of the pound – the “quid”.
Another shot at the Prime Minister was the “Ming”, Sir Robert’s nickname. The chosen name of the “royal” became very unpopular; common sense prevailed and the name of the new currency settled on was the dollar.
Gordon Andrews, born in 1914 in Sydney, was chosen to design the new currency notes. Andrews was the first Australian to become a Fellow of the UK Society of Industrial Artists and Designers in 1955. He had been awarded a membership of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry.

Above and below: Old currency: The 10 shillings note was replaced by the $1 note in Australia in 1966 while the £1 note was replaced by the Australian $2 note.

In his lifetime he designed, among many other items, furniture and cookware. During World War fi he worked in design at the DeHavilland company. During post war years he worked closely with many Government agencies.Who can forget the catchy jingle sung to the tune of Click Go the Shears:

“In come the dollars, in come the cents,
To replace the pounds and the shillings and the pence.
Be prepared for the changes when the coins begin to mix,
On the 14th February, 1966.”

This tune was constantly played on radio and television preparing Australians for the changeover from imperial currency to decimal currency. Gordon Andrews’ new brightly coloured decimal notes were not only printed on paper, they became the envy of many countries.
The notes only came in denominations of $1, $, $10 and $20. The Government held back the release of any new note until 1967 to prevent confusion as there was ‘no note to replace that value in the old currency.
The $5 note was released in 1967 and it was also an Andrews design. Other notes issued were the $50 note in 1973 and $100 note in 1984. It was in 1973 with the release of the $50 that the wording on top of tile note changed from ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ to ‘Australia’.

The inclusion of a metallic thread in the notes took place from 1974 on to make forging more difficult. The $10 note was the most popular to forge and it seems ironic that this note has the image of convicted forger Francis Greenway who also designed many of the early colonial buildings. The lower paper denominational notes had a short lifespan due to wear. The Government decided in 1984 to replace the $1 note with the $1 coin. This was followed in 1988 by the $2 note which was replaced by the $2 coin.
In 1988, a $10 note of polymer material was manufactured to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet.Between 1993 and 1996 all paper notes were replaced with polymer ones. When the paper notes were in circulation Australians only looked at the value of the currency, very seldom at the fine artwork of the artist Gordon Andrews.

Timeless Wollongong is published weekly by the Wollongong Advertiser and is written by Carol Herben , Historian, president of the Illawarra Historical Society, and manager of the Illawarra Museum.
Information: Visit the Illawarra Museum’s website

or Facebook page

Timeless Wollongong: Uncorking the bottle’s precious past

Wollongong has a fascinating history and each week the Advertiser brings you a story from Its rich past.

For centuries, people have enjoyed the contents of bottles.
Today, plastic bottles can be found littering streets, parks, waterways and many end up in the ocean. Not so long ago bottles were refundable and children enjoyed cashing them in at the corner store for pocket money to buy Jollies or ice blocks. Bottle-os walked the streets pushing carts collecting household bottles. Pharmacists dispensed medicines in brightly coloured bottles usually with raised lettering on the sides stating “poison” and the pharmacist’s name.
Then there were those with trademarked names stamped on the side of earthenware bottles from ginger beer, fine cordial or spirit producers. Three or more factories in Sydney manufactured bottles, in various sizes, shapes, with names and trademarks.

Old tipple: J. Parkinson earthenware ginger beer bottle circa 1910-1920.

The Illawarra Historical Society has collected bottles from early cordial manufacturers and dispensers in Illawarra such as Thomas Ball of Bulli who purchased the cordial factory of J. Pallier.
Mr Ball trademarked his cordial bottles with a side view of a bull’s head. He brewed ginger beer and initially sold them in earthenware “dump” bottles from around 1890. The glass “codd” bottle, with a marble in the neck, came into use around 1900.

T. Ball advertised in 1897 for a young lad as a bottle-washer for a wage of 12 shillings per week including board and lodgings. Around 1915, T. Ball handed over the business to his son Sydney Ball and from then on the bottles carried the same trademark bulls head but with the name of S. M. Ball.
In the early 1880s James Parkinson opened his cordial factory on the northern side of Bode’s Hotel (North Wollongong Hotel) before moving into Wollongong around 1898.
He sold ginger beer in a champagne style earthenware bottle. Parkinson’s trademark was the initials J. P. within a circle. The company produced cordials and sold them in bottles with a marble stopper in the neck.

Wheeldon & Marks champagne shape (right) with Crown Seal 1925-1930.

Another bottle in the collection is a Wheeldon and Marks cordial bottle. Edwin Richard Wheeldon was a late starter in Wollongong around the time of World War I. The firm operated from Keira Street, North Wollongong. The trade• mark was the initials W & M surrounded by a diamond shape. When E.R. Wheeldon died in 1932, he was still referred to as a cordial manufacturer of Keira Street. The bottles used by W & M were capped with the steel tops , with a cork lining and opened with a can opener.

Mario Borgo earthenware flagon with name on rim. Used from 1930.

Later, Italian immigrants established themselves in Wollongong and sold their wines in trademarked flagons. On the southern side of Crown Street, Wollongong, Lorenzo Filippi established his wine cellar selling wines in earthenware flagons. In the 1930s the business was sold to Mario Borgo who sold wine in the same style earthenware flagons before changing over to glass ones.
In 1903 the Crown Corporation introduced a new corking system.
Many bottlers attended a demonstration and were impressed with the simple method. A small metal cap, lined with a thin layer of cork, was positioned over the mouth of the bottle and when pressed either by a hand lever or machine pressure the cork would firmly seal the bottle. To open the bottle, one needed a metal-shaped hook known as a bottle opener. This system is still used today but over the past decade this style of lid has been phased out and replaced by a screw cap.

Timeless Wollongong is published weekly by the Wollongong Advertiser and is written by Carol Herben , Historian, president of the Illawarra Historical Society, and manager of the Illawarra Museum.
Information: Visit the Illawarra Museum’s website

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Timeless Wollongong: Flinders Street hospital dedicated to Prince

Wollongong has a fascinating history and each week the Advertiser brings you a story from Its rich past.

Prince Albert, Consort to Queen Victoria, died on December 14, 1861 , at Windsor Castle.
The cause of death was recorded as typhoid fever and congestion of the lungs. Movements around Australia discussed erecting statues in Prince Albert’s memory. Thomas Hale of Bulli Colliery advertised that a meeting was to be held at the Court House on Tuesday, April l 5, 1862. The Hale meeting seems to have fallen through and the Mayor of Wollongong called a meeting at the Queens Hotel, Market Street, on April 23 to consider the erection of a statue in Wollongong.
Dr George Prowd Lambert moved: “That it is the opinion of this meeting the best way of perpetuating the memory of the late Prince Consort would be the establishment of a hospital in Wollongong and naming it ‘The Albert Memorial Hospital.'”

Thanks: The wooden mallet is inscribed: Presented to Miss Jenkins of Berkeley on the occasion of her laying the foundation stone of The Albert Memorial Hospital on the 25th June 1863.

A committee was formed and almost immediately, the search for a site commenced. Charles Throsby Smith offered to donate half an acre of land on Fairy Meadow Road (Princes Highway) which was accepted. Negotiations for the land went nowhere with C. T. Smith. The financial records of the hospital showed that the purchase of land was £165. The committee approved the plans of Wollongong architect Mr J. Backhouse on November 14, 1862.
The site of the hospital is in present-day Flinders Street, where the Collegians Club carpark is now located. The Illawarra Express of November 19, 1862, gives the following description:
“The building is of brick, on a stone foundation . There are two wing facades decorated with cement cornices. The plan embraces a centre building and two wings, which as wards will suffice for the accommodation of about twenty patients. The front is to be erected first, and when the central building is completed, then the wings are to be added. Tenders will shortly be called for the erection of the first part. The portion of the building to be first erected will consist of waiting room, corridor, two six-bedded wards, store, pantry and linen closet, parlour, bed-room and kitchen . The future additions will consist of two extensive wards, external kitchen, deadhouse (morgue), etc. The area of the complete building will be 66 feet by 55 feet with total height of 22 feet. The style will be the modem Italian “.

Gone: The former Albert Memorial Hospital in Wollongong on Flinders Street. The building was demolished in the 1960s.

Miss Jenkins of Berkeley laid the foundation stone on June 25, 1863. She received a wooden mallet with an engraved silver disc inscribed• “Presented to Miss Jenkins of Berkeley on the occasion of her laying the foundation stone of The Albert Memorial Hospital on the 25th June 1863”. The gift cost £3.
Advertisements appeared for the position of matron and warder. From the five applications received, Mr and Mrs Weller were accepted. The salary per annum for the couple was then £40.
The hospital was officially opened on September 2?, 1864, without any formalities or fanfare. Just a month later on October 24, 1864, the first patient was admitted.
The hospital closed in 1908 and was demolished in the 1960s.

Timeless Wollongong is published weekly by the Wollongong Advertiser and is written by Carol Herben , Historian, president of the Illawarra Historical Society, and manager of the Illawarra Museum.

Information: Visit the Illawarra Museum’s website

or Facebook page


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