An Argus reader has recalled the days when she and her parents operated a corner store near the Narrandera District Hospital.
That store was Odewahns (now Cafe on Adams) and the reader was Val Oxley (nee Odewahn), who together with her parents Mr and Mrs Gordon Odewahn operated the store for many years.
There are many happy times involving the store, which was something of an icon – especially for the delicious home-made ice blocks it served.
“I can remember when there were boxes of rope licorice a yard long – so fresh it would break as it was folded to be placed in a paper bag. The cost was sixpence (five cents) a piece,” she said.
Snow balls were another favourite, together with boiled lollies and humbugs they were sold by the ounce. Licorice blocks were eight for a penny (one cent), cobbers, clinkers, freckles, gob stoppers and frogs were all a penny each. Val remembered a little boy who liked red and green frogs who would come in and ask for “raw frogs and cooked frogs”!
Redcoats, jelly babies, bullets and many more were three for a penny, a four ounce (125g) block of chocolate was two shillings and sixpence (25 cents) each and the brands were Nestle, Cadbury, Mastercraft and MacRobertsons.
“One morning at recess a fair haired little boy chose his lollies and handed over a five pound note ($10) to pay for them. When asked where he got the money he replied ‘Mummy’s purse’ so he was promptly told to give the money back to his Mum!” she said. “Another time a little boy paid for his lollies by dropping live lizards into my hand!”
Val recalled that in the early 1940s her father would freeze oranges and sell them for one penny or two pennies each.
Sugar came in 70 pound hessian bags while flour was in 25 pound white bags which were processed by Wise Bros flour mill at Narrandera. Salt sold for four pence a pound, pepper, cinnamon, mixed spices were bulk and sold for four ounces for three shillings (30 cents). Milk was bought by the gallon and customers brought their billies in for a pint or two of milk. Ice cream came in the shape of bricks – half pint and one pint. Gartrell White’s van would call each week with a great assortment of cakes, including three pound blocks of madeira and rainbow cake which would be cut to size for customers.
In the late 1950s early 1960s at recess time children would buy cream buns for sixpence each. Biscuits were sold in bulk and came in tins – there would be a certain amount of broken biscuits which were mixed together and put into lolly bags to sell for threepence and sixpence a bag and the kids just loved them. Fairy cakes and honey jumbles were a real treat and these sold for four shillings and sixpence a pound, which was expensive in those days.
In another nod to the vintage era the shop operated in, Odewahns sold canvas water bags that could be tied onto the front bumper of the family car or hung under a shady tree. The cost of these bags were 10 inch 15 shillings and 12 inch 18 shillings.
Bonfire night was a big night when kids stopped by the store to buy lollies, ice blocks, ice creams etc and spend their money on crackers, penny bungers, double happys, tom thumbs, double bungers and not to forget the threepenny bunger which when dropped into an empty
five gallon drum would lift the drum 10 feet into the air!
There were also fond memories of sky rockets, Roman candles, volcanoes, fountains of various sizes and colours, spinning wheels and sparklers to mention a few.
Bonfires of various sizes would be lit throughout the area and the Narrandera Golf Club always had a big bonfire which was an enjoyable night for all.
Not everything was mundane at the quiet little corner store and there have been some humorous experiences over the years, especially when it came to cracker night.
Val recalled some of the senior folk who at the time would have been still at school, may have been in the shop after school on a day when a young fair-headed lad opened the gauze door and called out “Catch Val!” – he had lit a penny bunger and threw it into the shop – kids scattered everywhere!
Then there was the time during the early 1960s around bonfire night when three or four local lads decided to throw some bungers into the foyer of the local Plaza Theatre while the movies were on.
Fishing licences were available at Odewahns store and often a fisherman would come and ask if Val could backdate a licence as the inspector had asked to see their licence.
Not just the scene of some ‘fishy’ tales, romance also blossomed at the store when Val introduced a friend to a new salesman – 40 odd years later they are still a happy couple!