‘Journey to the corner: What’s happened to our iconic Australian corner store?’

May 21, 2020
Remember going to the corner store to get your groceries? Source: Getty Images

Let me take you on a journey to our corner stores, at the end of our gravel road. This is many moons ago, in the land before supermarkets were flourishing in Australia.

Hot and dusty, Mum pushed the pram with the littlest Baby Boomer, while my other sister and I trailed off to the shops at the corner. First, we entered the grocery store, which later became a genuine milk bar.

Here Mum bought Robur Tea leaves, no teabags then. Then some Western Star butter, maybe the paper, some tins of Heinz baby food, maybe a Barney Banana icy-pole. We were all greeted by name by the grocer and his wife. We had to speak up and show good manners, saying, “Good morning, Mr … and Mrs …” (I have forgotten their names).

Really good girls were rewarded with a bag of mixed lollies, or a Freddo Frog. This was back in the days when frogs and chocolate stood for something. They were not like these puny minuscule amphibians we can buy now, chasing our past.

After the grocer’s, we were off to the butcher’s shop next door. We entered through a veil of flies on our journey to the corner shops at the end of our street. Here vast slabs of animal carcasses were hanging on large metal hooks.

If Mum ordered chump chops for our tea, one of the cheery boys would measure up the cuts of meat, slicing and chopping through the bones. The chops, or the sausages made in the shop, were wrapped in paper. There was no plastic here.

Mum knew what she was buying, as we stood there in the sawdust sprinkled on the floor. Now we buy unidentifiable tiny, but expensive, portions of meat in the supermarkets. Everything on a plastic tray, wrapped in more plastic.

In our butcher’s store, there was also an impressive display of offal, barely refrigerated. Such things are regarded as delicacies in restaurants in modern times.

The last shop was the greengrocer’s, owned by another married couple, making a living in the Great Australian Dream of our childhood. My parents had fruit trees and a vegetable patch. Some of my family were orchardists, so we would regularly wake up to discover a case of apples or peaches on our back step.

Mum still bought fruit, like fresh pineapples or bananas. We looked forward to that, as for lunch we could have sliced banana and creamed honey sandwiches. Yes, we are old enough to recall creamed honey, and Tarax soft drinks, all purchased on our journey to the corner shops at the end of the street in our little corner of the world.

Home we would all walk, a journey into our past, hot and dusty, and a veil of flies.

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Do you remember your visits to the corner store as a child?

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