Nostalgia alert: The things we bought for a penny 119



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Today marks the 50th anniversary of the transition to decimal currency and for many here that brings back some sensational memories.  We want to stir those memories up and have some fun with you.

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 goes the Shears” and the words worked perfectly.  Anyone with a TV during the era knew it off by heart.

We talked about the memories of spending our pennies this week, and everyone 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.”

Lollies were a large part of the memories of pennies amongst over 60s, particularly at the time when decimal conversion happened when an apparent disparity between the two currencies gave children the ability to arbitrage.

“A shilling was 12 pennies but the decimal equivalent was 10 cents. So we would go to the shop with 12 pennies, spend one at a time so we could get 12 lots of lollies instead of 10. A cobber was a penny in those days….. Better to get 12 than 10. Lol”

And the memories of a different time come flooding back with everyone in Starts at 60 contributing their stories of old.

Liz Deakin said “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 8 chocolate bullets for a penny or 4 licorice 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,” said Judith Morice.

Two a penny for licorice 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 ,I penny for a packet of P.K. chewing gum. Life was fun in those days if you had a penny”, said 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.”

“A penny worth of broken biscuits, or a choo choo bar, or 4 clinkers, 2 licorse straps, or if you didn’t want to share you would buy a marshmallow sandwich. Oh wow were they nice…” said Helen Blake.

And Sylvia Bunton had some other 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 way home.  What a treat mum and dad were useful but 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!!! We used to buy a packet of Fruit Tingles between us and share our favourite colours. Mine was yellow.”

And so today we want to reminisce the penny and pounds of yesterday.  How do you remember them?

Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. Oh I remember these as well – my mouth is watering at the crunchy outside and delicious insides… yum

  2. Mike here-but then again, after arriving in Aus in 1960, while waiting for his dream job (funeral director with Frank J. Siebert & Son it’s not advertising as I don’t think the company exists anymore) Dad got a job in the foundary at the British Tube Mills in Kilburn SA., earning £4.18s.6d a week.

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  3. Funny, I can remember paying to go to the toilet in Flinders st. Station. Spend a penny.
    There was always a lady in attendance. Cleaning and replacing toilet paper etc.

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    • Could never under stand why woman had to pay a penny and us blokes didn’t , imagine the out cry if it happened to day

    • I was going to say the same, Sharyn. At David Jones in Sydney. Yes, lady in attendance, spotlessly clean. All for a penny! And we still say “spend a penny” today, don’t we?

    • Phil Smith. The male toilets cost a penny as well in most city areas of Sydney. Glad that went by the wayside! Imagine paying by debit card today!

    • I agree Owen ,in my travels I have on occasions needed to go to the toilet , one night I found the men’s locked so went to woman’s , I was shocked at the state of it , toilets hadn’t been flushed , sanitary napkins all over the place and shit smeared on doors , could not believe it , told missus and she said it was a common occurrence in woman’s toilets

    • the toilets through Austria, Prague, and Belgium were all spotless and had attendants The toilets were cleaned between each person. Cost a very small amount and we were willing to pay Not like in Bangkok where they were stinking filthy holes!!

    • The system was reintroduced at the Ford Plaza in Alice Springs around 2005 (correct me if I’m wrong Owen), there were the normal bitches, 20c is too much etc. After the intro tge number of people sleeping it off in the toilets decreased & the toilets were always clean

    • Sharyn O’Brien Murfett Not this bloke..I am a Virgo and everything must be clean and straight. Can’t stand a mess no matter what it is. Perfectionist maybe, but cleanliness is paramount to me.

  4. Lollies were the best buy at the time. But I remember as a child, when my parents took me to Sydney for a trip on the steam train, alighting at Central Station. I needed to go to the toilet. Dad took me inside and there was a man in a uniform who sat on a stool who used to give change if one didn’t have a penny. Yes, it cost one penny to use the toilets back in the 60s! You had to insert the penny in a slot for the door to open.

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    • If they started charging again, it might stop some of the not so nice people messing up the toilets if they had to pay for it.

    • Helen Joan Harmon. You know, that would be a great idea. Back in the day, they were always spotless as a person was employed to provide the cleaning, replace the rolls and wiped down the wash bowls. The person stayed there all day doing just that and there were never any loiterers around.

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