The things we bought for a penny

An Australian penny and half penny coin

On February 14 it was the 52nd anniversary of the transition to decimal currency and for many here that brings back some superb memories.  We want to stir those memories up and have some fun with you.

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My favourite is the old TV advertisement that ran in the lead-up to the change to decimal currency.  The song was tuned to the tune of ‘Click Go The Shears’ and the words worked perfectly.  Anyone with a TV during the era knew it off by heart.

People have talked about the memories of spending our pennies (in the shop, not the bathroom!) over years on Starts at 60, and everyone has chimed in. “Used to save 12 pennies so I could go to the pictures on Saturday afternoons and have thrupence left over for an ice cream in a cone. Earned the pennies doing odd jobs here and there,” one reader recalls.

Liz Deakin says that “with a penny I could buy one Cobber, one Freckle, four Rasberry Jubes, two Clinkers, one Gobstopper or if I had three pennies (thruppence!) I could buy a small ice cream. Sixpence or six pennies would get me into the Saturday movie matinee. It used to cost a penny to use the toilet at Central Railway station. And Mum used to give me a penny for the plate at Mass on Sunday!”

“You could get eight chocolate bullets for a penny or four liquorice blocks. You could also get a liquorice strap for a penny. They were flat and thin, and about 1 inch wide and 12 inches long. You could get the twisty ones but they were more expensive. I think I could also get a musk stick,” Judith Morice recalls.

“Two a penny for liquorice straps, two a penny for cinnamon bars. penny ice creams. tray picks were put on trays and each stick of candy were a penny each. If you had a shilling you would get 13 for a shilling, 1 penny for a packet of P.K. chewing gum. Life was fun in those days if you had a penny,” says Hazel McRae.

Judy Darby remembered the broken biscuits best.  “A penny’s worth of broken biscuits to munch on, on the way home from the pictures … always made sure that I had a spare penny.”

Helen Blake has similar memories. “A penny worth of broken biscuits, or a Choo Choo bar, or 4 clinkers, 2 liquorice straps, or if you didn’t want to share you would buy a marshmallow sandwich. Oh, wow were they nice…” she remembers.

And Sylvia Bunton has some other fun memories.  

“I used to get 1 shilling for afternoon matinee on Saturday: sixpence in, threepence for ice cream at interval and threepence worth of hot chips on the way home.  What a treat! Mum and Dad … always managed Saturdays for me.  Sixpence in school holidays bought threepence worth of broken biscuits and threepence worth of speck fruit back in early ’50s. Those where the days!”

The day the currency arrived was momentous. Everyone wanted to touch it.  

“I remember my friends and I buying a packet of Fruit Tingles on our way home from Maitland Girls High at the kiosk at East Maitland train station with the old money to get some change in decimal currency so we could see it for the first time. Exciting!!!” a reader remembers. “We used to buy a packet of Fruit Tingles between us and share our favourite colours. Mine was yellow.”

Remember the pennies and pounds of yesteryear? What did you buy? 

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