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Friday, 28 November 2014

The Palais in its Heyday

This week's Sepia Saturday photograph was taken at the Grace Bros Ball, which was held at the Palais Royal in Sydney in 1933. I thought that instead of showing photos of other pageants or parades, it might be interesting to have a look at both Grace Bros and the Palais building itself.

 Grace Bros was an iconic department store, founded in Sydney in 1885 by two brothers, Joseph and Albert Grace. There is quite a bit of information about the store's history on Wikipedia, and a photo from of the flagship store in the suburb of Broadway. The Grace Bros chain was taken over by the Victorian Myer group in 1983, and all the stores were re-branded in 2004. There's quite a lot of rivalry between the States of New South Wales and Victoria, and the NSW residents were not too happy about the Myer takeover. The Grace brothers also started a removals business in 1911 and this still operates under the name Grace Removals.

I've also included several other photos from the Powerhouse Collection, showing more scenes from the 1933 pageant, plus a newspaper report of the event. The British sitcom "Are You Being Served" wasn't written with the Australian store in mind, but it could have been. We shopped in Grace Bros stores for many years, both in Canberra and Sydney, and the standard of service was never all that wonderful, and these days at the Myer stores it's practically non-existent.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Report on the Grace Bros Ball, in the Sydney Morning Herald , 25 October 1933. Trove web site.

The Ball had been an annual event for some years, and an earlier report from 1926 referred to the fancy sets representing various sections of the firm's activities, and that the firm would contribute pound for pound to the amount raised to benefit the Children's Hospital. Another report from the Sunday Times of 15 September 1929, snipped below, refers to what was expected to 'present a scene of scintillating gorgeousness' at that year's Grace Bros. Ball.

So what and where was the Palais Royale (or Royal)?  Otherwise known as the Royal Hall of Industries, it still exists as part of what were formerly the Sydney Showgrounds, where the annual Royal Easter Show was held up until 1996, when the show moved to a new location. You can read all about its history and see photos here on the Centennial Parklands web site, but in summary the building was opened in 1913 and at that time was the largest exhibition hall in the Southern Hemisphere. According to that site, it has had various uses, including as a morgue during the 1919 Influenza epidemic, but when not in use for the annual Show in the 1920s and 30s, it became known as the Palais Royale and was the venue for many dances and balls. Here's an extract from the above web site.

"During the Great Depression of the 1930s the building was used as a boxing venue.
In December 1937, James Charles Bendrodt, a Canadian-born roller-skater and restaurateur (among other famous and infamous roles), formed a company to transform thePalais Royal into the opulent Ice Skating Palais which featured Canadian figure-skating and ice-hockey stars. He renamed this business – the Ice Palais. However this was a relatively short-lived venture.
In 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, the army took it over and used the building as the AIF District Accounts Office.

Becoming a children’s favourite…

More recently, the Royal Hall of Industries has become the stuff of childhood memories in its role as the “Showbag Pavilion” at the annual Royal Easter Shows at Moore Park.

And now, returned to an event and exhibition extravaganza…

Currently the Royal Hall of Industries is managed by Playbill Venues, and plays host to many spectacular events such as The Marie Claire Awards, the annual Mardi Gras Party and several festivals such as MasterChef Live and Stereosonic."

Of these many different uses, the one that has the most significance for me is the Showbag Pavilion. We lived in Sydney for 25 years, and attended the Easter Show with the family on a number of occasions over that time. I don't have a lot of photos, but I certainly remember the melee inside the Showbag Pavilion, which sad to say was the primary destination for our children, despite our efforts to interest them in the many livestock exhibitions and displays. Here are some photos of our visits.

This was our first visit, pre-children, in 1977.  We were very impressed with the large produce exhibits shown here. The various State districts would compete to create the best display.

In April 1982 my mother came from Canberra to visit us over Easter, and we took her to the Show. I really can't imagine now why I thought this would be a good idea, considering that the arrival of our second child was imminent, but I survived, and here we are afterwards in what looks like Centennial Park, with our daughter Claire exhibiting a show bag on each arm.  I think back then they were reasonably good value. Our son was born one week later.

Elsewhere in the Showgrounds wood chopping competitions were always watched with great interest, at least by the adults in the crowd, as shown here in this set of photos, which come from a 1991 visit. You can see one of the other showground buildings in the back ground, although it is not the Royal Hall of Industries.

A 1991 photo of a section of the  district produce displays.

But show bags were what our children were really after, and here is our other daughter Laura aged 4 in 1991, proudly displaying her spoils, of a bag and a Strawberry Shortcake doll on a stick. I think we only allowed them to buy one bag and they only had a certain amount to spend, so they took forever to wander around the hall deciding what they would most like to have. When they compared the contents at home, regrets at having bought the wrong bag were often expressed!  The Showbag Pavilion, formerly the Palais Royal is behind Laura, although of course the exterior is totally hidden by luridly lit stalls, such as those laughing clowns shown here.

So that's my tenuous connection to the Palais Royale. No doubt you will find other more direct takes on this week's prompt photograph on display at Sepia Saturday # 256

ps. Here are a couple of advertisements for Grace Bros the department store in the 1980s , plus an amusing one for their cleaning company.

The cleaning advert even came with  the added enticement of  a chance to win a trip to the USA!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Let's rock!

This week's prompt was a bit tricky for me. I haven't come across any photos of silhouettes or silhouettists, so I've decided to focus instead on the little fellow on the left, who appears to be sitting on a toy horse of some kind. I've found quite a few photos in my albums, showing children of successive generations of family and friends enjoying  themselves on their rocking horses, with a few merry-go-round varieties for good measure.

I have featured this first photo before, but have cropped it here to show just this little late 19th century miss and her puppy on a rocking horse, c. 1898, and her brother Arnold standing beside her with his kitten. Her name was Charlotte Petrie and she was a daughter of my great grandfather Charles Cruickshank's sister Jessie. She became an artist when she grew up, but she was not a silhouettist as far as I am aware.  Her horse has only a tiny head, but it does have one. To see the full photo and read a little more about Charlotte and her family, click here.

The next photo is of my father Ian and must date back to about 1926 or 1927, when he would have been around two or three years old. I imagine Ian was rather a reserved child but he has a whimsical smile in this snap. Those double style horses for younger children to sit in rather than ride on seem to have been a popular choice.

The next photo is of my Uncle Derek riding on a merry-go-round and probably dates back to about 1931, as Derek was born in 1929. Not a rocking horse, but similar in style.  A  great deal of craftsmanship would be involved in making all the horses here, but particularly those on the merry-go-rounds.

Here I am with my mother Jean, posing on what looks to be a nice simple little model, c. 1955.

The son of a friend enjoying his ride on a spotted steed, around the same time.  Giddy-up, horsey!

 I don't know who owned this next horse, but my next-door neighbour John and I were obviously having fun together here and giving him a good workout.

Yours truly on another merry-go-round, c. 1957.

The following rocking horse is definitely ours ...

because I'm riding it above, c. 1957 and my sister is doing the same, a few years later, c. 1961, by which time both sides appear to be minus their manes. They must have been worn off by vigorous riding!

 Here's a big brother giving his little sister a helping hand to balance on her horse. They were the children of Jean's old college friend Colleen and the little girl's name was Robyn. 'Rockin' Robyn' perhaps, as the song goes!

Our first daughter Claire enjoying this simple sit-in version, c. 1980, which we rescued from the nature strip after it was thrown out in a council clean-up. We repaired, repainted and gave it a new lease of life. It probably ended up on the nature strip again a few years later,but may well have been rescued again.

Here we are on a couple of different merry-go-rounds in Sydney and Canberra I believe, c. 1988. Daughter Laura looks a little apprehensive and for that matter so do I, but her brother Strahan seems to be having a good time.  The horses in the second shot are all named after past Melbourne Cup winners, and Strahan is riding the great Phar Lap.

 Laura enjoying her grandmother Jean's little rocking horse, c. 1989. This sturdy little horse is no heirloom, but  he's now resting in our attic, ready to be brought down for Jean's great granddaughter and the rider's niece to try out on her upcoming visit. At nine months she'll probably still need a helping hand to hold on, and I'm sure Laura will be ready and willing to show her how.
 No doubt photos will be taken to add to the family collection.

The last couple of photos are of my aunt's cat Tussy, who was clearly accustomed to commandeering this lovely old steed, whether to survey the room or look out the window. I don't know whether or not Tussy could rock, but she must have had a good seat, as horse riders say. No hands needed! I took the photos in 1997, but this rocking horse was an antique model. Good horses are crafted to last for generations, and this one would have outlasted many of its young  riders. A granddaughter who arrived in 2007 would no doubt have competed with Tussy for prime position on that saddle.  My aunt also bred real miniature ponies, but I doubt Tussy could ride those.

A classic song to finish up with, appropriate to one of the photos above - well, sort of anyway! 

So now you're in the mood, rock on over to Sepia |Saturday #255
where you might actually find some silhouettes and lots more.

Postscript: here is a photo just received, of my little Canadian great niece Eloise, about to climb on the little pink pony that her Mum bought for $5. She's only just one but can get on and off by herself and loves to rock. Her great grandmother Jean would have been proud of her!


It reminded me of the rocking horse cake in the Australian Women's Weekly birthday cake book, which was my birthday cake 'bible' for many years. I don't think I ever made it, but here is the picture from the book:


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Two Happy People

My  post this week will be very brief. From the look of the terrain behind them, the couple standing in the river shallows might have been in some danger from a landslide, and neither of them look dressed for a planned river crossing. 

My photograph, in contrast, is of a young pair who look very happy, with no threats to be seen, although of course they would not want to have been standing anywhere near that huge tree trunk behind them whenever it came down. Their names were Joey and Win, probably short for Joseph and Winifred, and the photo comes from a little album lovingly put together by my late father-in-law Bob, beginning with the arrival in Melbourne on New Year's Day 1947 of Mary, his English bride-to-be, and her meeting his family, their wedding later that month, their honeymoon and several other holidays that year. The page on which the photo appears is very neatly captioned "Lorne 12 January". Lorne is a seaside town on the Victorian coast, about an hour away from Bob's family home in Geelong, close to the Great Otway National Park. Bob and Mary had obviously gone out with their friends for a relaxing day in the countryside, before they got too busy with pre-wedding preparations. It doesn't look as if there's any real danger of Joey and Win falling in, and they just look like they are enjoying being together. I don't think Joey was Bob's best man, and as far as I know, he and Bob weren't related. I could ask Mary if she remembers who they were and whether or not they remained a couple, but it doesn't really matter. They were happy at that moment in time.

Joey and Win

                   For more takes on this week's theme, just wade across to   Sepia Saturday #254

Post script:

For completeness, here is a photo of Mary, Bob the photographer's 22 year old bride to be on the day, newly arrived from England and showing off her culotte type shorts which I think Win was probably also wearing. That log she's walking across and the wire fence she's leaning against look a bit precarious to me!

Post post script (18.2.2015):

I am reliably informed by Mary that Joey, the young man with his girlfriend above, was not called Joseph, but was Alan Johanson, and that despite my not recognising him from the wedding photographs, he was in fact Mary and Bob's best man. Alan was a signwriter. The bad news is that Joey and Win did not remain a couple, but he did marry a girl called Helen a few years later and hopefully they enjoyed a happy life together. Here is another photograph of Joey in uniform, looking suitably charming.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Fishing for something

I've been fishing through photo albums for any photographs that I might have that could relate to the prompt this week, but without much success, which doesn't surprise me. I know my late father-in-law enjoyed fishing when staying at the simple beach house at Malua Bay on the NSW South Coast, which he built himself in the early 1960s, and which is still standing, now amongst a lot of much more recent and more permanent homes, but I don't have any photos of him fishing, and my own father was never a fisherman. Gardening was his recreational activity of choice, and the only fish we had were some goldfish in an ornamental rock pool in the back garden. I remember one unfortunate occasion when the pool had to be covered with netting after some large birds flew in and decimated the resident fish population.

This photograph in my mother's album was taken when Jean was about 10 and her mother Mona had taken her to visit Mona's sister Ruby and her family at Invercargill, down at the southern tip of the South Island of New Zealand.  A suited gentleman, who I think may have been Ruby's husband William Berry, appears to be using a line or rope, either to fish or to pull something out of the water, and the process is being keenly watched by half a dozen boys. No rod to be seen. The boy in the hat standing next to the gentleman looks like Will's son and Jean's cousin, Jack Berry.  This and the next two photographs appear on a page that Jean has captioned "Picnic at Invercargill".  In the background you can see what looks like a white tent, with possibly several more a little further away. Perhaps the boys were attending a camp or some similar event, especially as another boy is wearing what looks like a scout hat. My mother's older brother Ken might have been attending the camp, but but without the benefit of any further explanation from my late mother, I can really only guess at who is in the picture and what they were really doing. Taking the photograph from across the water enabled good reflections to be captured.

The next photograph shows Jean, Ruby (behind), Mona and Jack relaxing on the grass after their picnic. Will was probably the photographer.  Son Jack's full name was John Waldwyn Berry, He was aged 23 when he was killed when serving in Italy with the NZ forces in 1943. He and his older brother Doug were two of my mother's favourite cousins and I've previously written a little more about him here

In this photo Jack is surveying the rural scene, with the river and the tents or huts in the distance.  Another photo which I haven't included shows him attending to a boiling billy, no doubt so that the picnickers could enjoy a nice hot cuppa. Perhaps they had a bacon and egg pie for their lunch, as that was always one of Jean's favourites.

I remember taking out a fishing licence one summer when we were spending time at Hawks Nest NSW with the children, but our overall lack of success at catching anything did not encourage me to renew it the following year. Here in Victoria holders of Seniors Cards do not require licences, but despite hearing enthusiastic reports of where the fish are biting on the bay and elsewhere, every Saturday morning on my favourite radio station at around 6 a.m., I'm still not tempted!

Here is a collage of photos taken last evening near Dendy Beach, Port Phillip Bay. A lone fisherman had a couple of rods in place, but we didn't see him hauling in any fish.  We sat on the step of one of those bathing boxes to watch the sun set. I saw someone catch a sizable fish last Sunday over on the other side of the bay but didn't think to snap off a photo.

To see photos posted by others who have better lucking at fishing or perhaps entertaining tales of the ones that got away, just cast your line in at  Sepia Saturday #253