MIXED GRILLS AND CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKES : TOOWOOMBA’S CENTRAL CITY MILK BARS & CAFES OF MANY YEARS AGO
I can relate to the milk bars of the 1940’s but not those of Toowoomba. My first memories of milk bars were very happy ones. Whilst very young, in a small Mallee town, I earned about 2 shillings for a few hours work pulling out weeds on a relative’s wheat property. I'd immediately go to the local Greek café. They had a huge glass case at the entrance to the shop where I carefully considered what to buy from the case. The café owner was a very patient man. He waited with a small white bag until I’d made my big decision. Usually I purchased all day suckers which lasted a lot longer than other lollies!
Later, when a teenager, I can vividly remember living at Mrs Mac’s boarding house in Rochester. We all nearly starved at this delightful establishment with usually a piece of cold meat, lettuce and tomato for our evening meal. We immediately adjourned to the local café, (again Greek), where we all ate a huge mixed grill which consisted of steak, sausages, eggs, bacon, tomatoes and chips. Other boarders usually put Worcestershire sauce on the meal. I normally preferred tomato sauce.
The shop also sold many other delights such as lime spiders; chocolate milkshakes in metal containers; malted milkshakes; and all types of ice cream, particularly the Peter's small block type ice cream and banana sundaes. The owners also made their own types of ice-blocks, with cordial and fruit pieces on the top. These were always very cheap. At that time, I was leading the local youth group and the café owner was the youth group president. After every night of activities at the hall, especially during the winter months, I was invited back to the café’s huge kitchen where we enjoyed cocoa whilst warming ourselves in front of the stoves. The building interior consisted of bays where different groups sat in private. Laminex was used everywhere. At the back of the counter were extensive mirrors which the ladies used to check on their hair and makeup.
If you were looking for some company, the place to go in those days was not the local pub but rather the local cafés which were always located in the middle of town.
FIRST MILK BAR IN AUSTRALIA
Reportedly, the first milk bar in Austrlian wa opened by stage and screen stars Cyril Ritchard and Madge Elliott. Madge was born in London on 12 May 1896 but grew up in Toowoomba where she learned to dance. In 1932 they were mobbed when they opened the nation’s first milk bar: "Mick Adams Black and White 4d Milk Bar" in Martin Place, Sydney.
Cyril and Madge Elliott
The above material was very kindly prepared by Mrs Irene Batzloff for which we are very grateful.
(Alan Dietz, a relative of a former owner of the Everest Milk Bar, says that his relatives were the only ones, not of Greek extraction, to own a milk bar in the area. He also added that pie carts used to operate outside the Town Hall and the RSL when events were held at these venues. Maurice French described the Everest as a meeting place for Bodgies and Widgies).
LIST OF CAFES, MILK BARS, TEA ROOMS, ETC.
- Existed in the 1950’s. No other information available.
ADAMS G. E. CAKE SHOP
ALFALFA HEALTH FOOD RESTAURANT
- Chronicle Arcade, Margaret Street.
- Operated at least in 1980 from 2 shops in the Arcade. Supplied salads, fruit juices, soya-burgers and sprouts. The owners were Guy Williams with Keith and Loretta Sommer. Keith and Loretta also owned a herb farm in South Toowoomba.
ALI BABA RESTAURANT
- 43a, 45, 47 Russell Street- at this address c. 1980’s. Now Mike Williams clothing store
ANDREWS FISH & CHIP SHOP
*see notes by Irene Batzloff
ANDRONICOS’ CLUB (also named the Club Café)
- In the 1920’s this was the best known Greek café in Quensland. It employed 25 staff. It was opened in 1912 in Ruthven Street near the Club Hotel and closed in 1956.
John Frawley, in his book Some Horses Have Purple Legs recalls the scene around the Andronicos’ Café in World War 2:
On Saturday evenings in the warm weather the main street was a busy, bustling place with hundreds of people swarming around, window shopping, meeting new friends, and watching the world go by. The cafes and hotels were full with patrons spilling out onto the footpath and American military police cruised around on their motorbikes keeping an eye on the hundreds of American soldiers promenading their girlfriends arm in arm for all to see. Andronicos’ café was an exciting place to be. The cubicles were always full of American soldiers and their girlfriends. The Americans usually offered us a seat when they saw my mother with a baby in the cream pram. We had ice-cream sundaes in a silver dish on a stem or strawberry ice cream sodas. Mr Andronicos walked up and down the central aisle caring for the needs of the Americans and ignoring everyone else. He was brown and fat and wore gold rings on both hands. The cafe had mirrored walls lined with glass shelves displaying all sorts of sweets, chocolates, rows of glasses, and silver dishes on stems. A row of cubicles stretched along the walls down each side of a central aisle. Sitting in the mirrored cubicles, our reflections could easily be seen. Sometimes Mr Andronicos gave the children sweets and made sure the Americans saw him do it. He looked very important. Mother called him old Andronicos but he didn’t look too old to me
APOLLO CAFE (John Roy and Gertrude Denny)
- 341 Ruthven Street
- Existed in the 1930’s as the Bell Café.
- A story is told that an owner, many years ago, used to boil his calamari in an old washing machine out the back of the café.
- Another name for the café was, " Denny’s Café."
- Renowned for its milkshakes. The dates of operation are not known.
- 34-36 Russell Street, at this address c.1960
BARKER ("The Misses")
- A caterers mentioned in Pugh’s Almanac of 1918
- 341 Ruthven Street
- Now known as the Apollo Café. Owned by Theo Samios during or just after 2nd World War
BLUE BAMBOO CAFÉ
- 330 Ruthven Street.
- Opened in June 1984 by a Vietnamese refugee. It closed in 1988.
BLUE BAMBOO CAFÉ
- 330 Ruthven Stree
- Opened in June 1984 by a Viet. Refugee at the site of the former Belle Café as well as Banjos and Le Baladin. The Blue Bamboo closed in 1988.
BLUE BAMBOO CAFÉ
- 330 Ruthven Stree
- Opened in June 1984 by a Viet. Refugee at the site of the former Belle Café as well as Banjos and Le Baladin. The Blue Bamboo closed in 1988.
BLUE BIRD CAFE (Andrew Fallon)
- Margaret Street. Opposite the Club Hotel.
- Operated from the 1920’s
BON SALON CAFE
- 538 Ruthven Street
- see T. K. Lamb & Co.
CAFÉ ARCADIA (T. K. Lamb)
- 371 Ruthven Street.
- Opened in 1935 near what is now the ANZ bank. (See T.K. Lamb & Co. for more details)
- 199 Margaret Street.
- Opened in 1928 by Strotegis family. Offered 3 course meals in 1931 for 1 shilling and 3 pence. Also promoted a new milk bar at same time.
CANBERRA MOTOR INN
- Margaret Street.
- Constructed in Toowoomba in 1938. The property contained a milk bar and tea rooms as well as accommodation. At one time the Stewarts (not relatives of Duncan Stewart who managed the Canberra,) looked after the milk bar
CAMELOT RESTAURANT ( Levonis family)
- 417 Ruthven Street. Located above Londy’s Café.
CAPITOL CAFÉ (Londy Bros)
- 415 Ruthven Street.
- Sundaes and parfaits were a specialitisz. It wa near what is now Fletcher Jones. In November 1931 they offered a fish and 3 course dinner. This was later the site of the Sundowner Restaurant.
CAREEDY & CO
- Ruthven Street.
- Mentioned in Pugh’s Almanac of 1918 as caterers, fruiterers, fishmongers as well as an oyster saloon. May have been owned by Bill Careedy who later owned a Toowoomba taxi service or he may have only worked in the business.
CATHAY CAFÉ AND NEW CHINESE CAFÉ
- 550 Ruthven Street
- The Cathay Café was opened in 1957 by Diamond Lum, son of local Chinese ‘ambassador’ and storekeeper named Kwong Sang. They advertised Chinese meals and English grills in: "a lively atmosphere" In 1977 the café moved to 544 Ruthven Street as the New Cathay Café.
(Much of this information about Chinese cafes, and other cafes, has been taken from Maurice French’s book on the history of Toowoomba). The present site of what was the New Cathay Café is on the corner of Ruthven and Union Streets. this is the former site of Cathay Chinese Café- later called Stephen House.
CENTRAL COFFEE PALACE
- 70 Russell Street
CITY LUNCHEON (G. S. Skerman)
- Margaret Street opposite the ‘Chronicle’ Arcade.
- Operated in in the 1920’s.
- 438 Ruthven Street
- Club existed from 1912 to 1956. Served fish to a mainly Catholic clientele in the 1920’s. Owned by H. Andronicos . Now the approximate site is where Radio Rentals has its business. Closed in February 1956. This was also Andronicos’ Café.
- 43a, 45, 47 Russell Street.
- Closed some years ago. At this address c.1980’s. Now the premises is occupied by Mike Williams clothing.
CON’S MILK BAR
- Corner of Russell and Schofield Streets
- Owned by Con. Aspromourgos for over 40 years. It is not known when the milk bar closed. Famous for its toasted ham and tomato sandwiches which were served after theatre and film nights.
- Margaret Street
- Its exact location is not known.
COPPER KETTLE COFFEE INN
- 172 Margaret Street
- Located there in the 1950’s. Operated by Herbert Potabo at the rear of what was the Darling Downs Travel Agency.
*521 Ruthven Street
COVINGTON(Misses L. & M. - Tea Rooms)
- 530 Ruthven Street
CREAM & GREEN MILK BAR (Miss Shehan)
- 212 Margaret Street
- This milk bar may have moved from Ruthven Street?
C.W.A. REST & TEA ROOMS
- Margaret Street
- This property was the site of the first cottage in Toowoomba. It still operates as tea rooms and must be one of the few remaining tea rooms in Toowoomba.
DAFFODIL TEA ROOMS
- 416 Ruthven Street
- Operated from the 1950’s …
DANCING BEAR CAFÉ
- Russell Street
- This café was burned down in September 1984. It was known as a café for cheap food and a gallery for local art. It later moved to Schofield Street.
DAVIDSON J. (Mrs) Tea Rooms
- 449 Ruthven Street
DENNY’S CAFÉ, MILK BAR & SMALL GOODS
- 345 Ruthven Street
- May have been owned by L. H. Aldis at some time. Owned also by John Roy Denny who died on 28 October 1946. His wife Gertrude Phoebe kept the cafe open for a short time after his death. (See also the Apollo Café.)
DO DROP INN
- Ruthven Street
- Located where "Burke and Wills" car park is now seen. (See Everest Milk Bar for more details.)
DUNSTER R. & Sons Store
- Ruthven Street
- Established in 1905 next to what is now the ‘Chronicle’ office. In the 1930’s popular items sold at the store included ice creams and glasses of cider for a penny each.
EMPIRE MILK BAR (Weis Family)
- Neil Street.
- Cyril Weis developed his own 'Weis fruit bar' in the 1930’s and sold it at his own corner store. Production ceased with the war. production. Cyril’s sons revived the fruit bar in the 1950’s and sold it from the Empire Theatre Café. The Café boomed and the Bar was sold to other outlets. In the 1960’s the Weiss Fruit Bar was,promoted throughout Queensland and it is now distributed nationally.
EVEREST MILK BAR
- 546 Ruthven Street
- Located in the current Toowoomba Central Plaza Apartment Hotel area.
The following information was provided by Alan Dietz
> ‘How did it (Everest Milk Bar) eventuate?. In the mid 1930’s George Dietz, a police officer stationed at Ipswich, begot the idea of a business investment. A partnership was formed between George and brother August, a police officer stationed in central western Queensland and Conrad. George and August provided the necessary finance and Conrad was the working manager. The premises were leased from the Hunt family. This family provides the Hunt Bursary. Brothers Herman and Bill built the wooden furnishing which serviced the shop for its full life. The furnishing was always austere in comparison to the Greek bars over the road. Bill Hunt and his wife Margaret, who was a cook by trade, opened a café a few doors up the street. Initially pies were baked and sold at the Everest. As trade increased the pies were discontinued as they were a cumbersome cost factor. There were 2 penny slot machines.
> The patronage was universal. Staff from the Telco who crossed the road to bypass bars on their side of the road, as well as customers from the Commonwealth Bank, Wyeth’s Hardware, Bowdler’s Produce, and the Foundry at the other end of Ruthven Street, also provided some customers. They walked past several Bars to reach the Everest. The Newtown Hockey Club held meetings in the shop. Rugby players came in after training. The major milkshake sale was Milo. The syrup was made on the premises as was the ice cream. Pauls wanted to buy the recipe. Soda water was made by pumping the gas into a cylinder of water and was piped to the fountain in the shop. Orange syrup was made from freshly squeezed fruit. Raw milk was bought from a dairy on the north side of Bridge Street over the west side of Holberton Street. This continued until legislation provided that all milk must be pasteurized.
The staff wore white which was considered a uniform. The award provided that all staff were to be off the premises by 11 p. m. and that a free taxi be provided to convey them home. A contract was obtained with a taxi firm who had their office a few doors down near the Gladstone Hotel. Saturday trade would continue well into Sunday morning. Customers were served by the owners. The front of the shop was closed by a wide concertina door with a small door in the middle. After 11 p.m., the door was closed. Customers were let out through the small door and as two would leave two would come in. Conrad had married one of the staff: Dulcie Emmerson. When he was called up to the Army, which is contrary to the belief that café owners were exempt, Dulcie managed the business with the help of Conrad’s brother, Walter. Walter returned to the family farm when his brother Jacob was also called up for military service. Jacob had been working the family farm.
During the War there was a small USA Signal Group on the Range and a R. & R. establishment for U. S. submariners at the Glennie School. Not enough personnel to swell the customer numbers which some seem to think was the case. In the early 1950’s, Conrad, who had bought out both George and August shares, possibly in 1946, sold the business to August. He in the early 1960’s sold the business to Healy, who was a milk vendor and was familiar with the magnitude of the business. With the advent of television, the drop of attendance at the picture theatre operating in the Town Hall as well as the dance at the Memorial Hall, the customers decreased at the milk bars. Healy tried to rectify the situation by installing a juke box. The customers that it attracted were not compatible with the established ones and numbers fell further.
Families who window shopped in the summer months also failed to be customers. Thus Healy was in financial difficulties and August repossessed the business. He continued until the business was sold to Fossa who also ran into financial difficulties. The area where the Everest was sited was known as the United Nations section of Ruthven Street. There were Germans, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Greek businesses which enjoyed a past era- milkshakes cost 11 pence, ( 9 cents).
Other informants have said that in the late 1950’s early 1960’s it was a favourite meeting spot for bikies who grouped there on their 500/650 cc Triumphs. The Fossa family, as mentioned by Alan Dietz, also owned Fossa’s Store on the corner of Campbell and Hume Streets.
FERROS CAFÉ & MILK BAR
- 24- 26 Russell Street about 1934.
- Also had a fruit shop and café at 34-6 Russell Street c. 1947.
FLANAGHANS CAFÉ & CONFECTIONERY
- 67-71 Russell Street (Site, some years ago, of Maie’s Book Exchange). Apparently Flanaghans was at this address circa 1931. In about the 1960’s it was Con’s Milk Bar.
FOSSA’S STORE ( Luigi and Carolina Fossa)
- Corner of Campbell and Hume Streets.
- The Fossa's were both of Italian descent. It is thought that the store was bought by the couple in the early 1960’s. The couple purchased the Everest Milk Bar in 1961, complete with juke box, milkshakes and egg flips. The Everest became known as a meeting place for Bodgies, Widgies and Bikies, who would leave their wallets with Carolina while they went out partying. The Everest was later named the Do Drop Inn.
- The pair returned to Fossa’s Store in 1967 but leased it out in 1972. Carolina was a real character. She apparently dressed like the Queen Mother when she went into town!. She returned to Fossa’s store in 1983 to work with her son there but died in 2002.
G.E. ADAMS CAKES
- 357 Ruthven Street
- Not a local firm. Present location used for an art display from the Kath Dickson Centre.
GIRDIS CAFÉ & CANDY STORE
- 523 Ruthven Street- now Sew
- Offered malted milks by February 1936. Later known as the Tourist Cafe.
- 532 Ruthven Street
GOLDEN DRAGON CAFÉ
- 250 Margaret Street
- Opened on 4 January 1979 by Sammy Lee. Demolished in 1997 to make way for Grand Central development.
GREAT WALL RESTAURANT
- 126 Margaret Street
- Opened in mid 1983. Located behind Copas Newnham but closed in the mid 1990’s.
- Confectioner in the 1890’s. Sold the business to the Lamb family.
- 540 Ruthven Street
KAUS V. A
- 475 Ruthven Street
LAMB T. K. & CO.
- There is no doubt that, for many years, T. K. Lamb took the lead in the food industry in Toowoomba. The firm not only owned and operated a number of cafes, but also established a large bakery and catering business in the city.
A family history, held by Council Archives, says in part: "The Lamb family home, at the corner of Hume and Gore Street, was called Hawarden after Castle Hawarden, near the Lamb family home town of Buckley in Wales."
Thomas Lamb had, since coming to Toowoomba in 1882, been employed with the firm of Fullarton, Rooke and Co. Subsequently he purchased the confectionery business of Mr W. C. Green with a new business premises being added in May 1895. It is understood that the new premises was formerly St Johns Presbyterian Church which was opened and closed in Bell Street in the mid 1880’s.
Bakery in Bell Street- formerly a church. Mr Lamb in suit.
Because Mrs Lamb had an extensive knowledge of the drapery business, Mr Lamb decided to expand his business into that area. So in 1889, he entered this business. He had also had extensive experience in the above area, working in some of the Lancashire houses whilst living in England. The drapery was originally located on the same site as the factory and tea rooms on the corner of Ruthven and Bell Streets, but later, in 1895, Mr Lamb leased 2 shops near the Club Hotel. One for a drapery and one for a large ladies dining room, confectionery shop, tea shop, gentleman’s private dining room upstairs, etc. It is also thought that at some stage another drapery business was opened in Pittsworth.
Sadly Edith died in 1901, leaving her husband with five young children.
The business was extended when in 1902 T. K. Lamb opened the Café Alexandra in Ruthven Street which was designed by Toowoomba architect H. J. Marks. The builder was James Renwick. The building was named in honour of Queen Alexandra wife of Edward V11 of Britain. Reputedly the Hall had a capacity to seat 900 persons.
It featured coloured gas lights and pressed metal ceilings. The Alexandra Café consisted of, as mentioned above, a large public Hall on the upper floor and the Cafe on the ground floor. According to the Department of Environment and Heritage, it illustrated the consolidation of Ruthven Street as the commercial and social hub of Toowoomba. The Alexandra Hall was one of the earliest large public assembly rooms built in Toowoomba. It was popular for a large variety of public activities besides the requirements of Lamb & Co. The business also catered for the large and very social race meetings held around the district in towns or on properties. These events involved quite complex arrangements.
Mr Lamb died on 4 November 1913. He was reported as a man of the utmost integrity. A man whose word was his bond. When he came to Toowoomba in the 1880’s he was a draper and continued in that business for some years whilst employed for another firm.
His business grew as they became caterers in a big way with the firm’s name becoming well known all over southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. He also added to the Lamb empire by buying the Arcadia Café in Ruthven Street. When Mr Lamb died, he was a past master in Freemasonry, a justice of the peace, a director of the Darling Downs Building Society and a foundation member of the Philharmonic Society. He was a successful bass soloist and was a member of the Congregational Church. He was survived by his second wife, 3 sons and 2 daughters. The eldest son, Mr A. K. Lamb, was a partner in the business.
A further addition to the Lamb empire was made later when they purchased Perrins Café at 173 Margaret Street- now Baraka Hair studio. ( See also Royal Café.)
The ‘Brisbane Courier’ records the death of Mrs Emma Perrins in early November 1932. She and her husband arrived in Toowoomba about 1911. They opened up refreshment rooms at the corner of Neil and James Streets. Later she moved to Margaret Street where the business of Perrins’ Café was built up. She was assisted in the Café by her son, Gilbert Perrins.
Perrins’ Café in Margaret Street became a social centre in Toowomba. Some of its activities, in the 1920’s included: Cookery displays called ‘Palmy Days’; tennis functions; art exhibition; weddings; farm auctions; house sales; many dances, including Kentucky dances (whatever they were); cinderella dance; polo club dances; fancy dress dance; bridge parties; weddings, (including a wedding of a daughter of famous architect Harry Marks); various meetings; bridge club; political meetings; rifle club; ladies literary society; rugby; farewells to staff; Caledonian Society; and Burns Club ‘Burns Anniversary’.
‘Brisbane Courier’ 14 October 1925- Café above is the Perrins City Café in Ruthven Street
As mentioned previously, the business known as Perrin’s Cafe, was sold to T.K. Lamb. The date was in 1928 sometime. Lamb then had 3 large up to date cafes in the leading streets of Toowoomba. The Lamb factory, situated In Bell Street, was well equipped with up to date machinery to enable the various lines of cakes, pastry and block cake to be turned out efficiently and expeditiously. The country order department was a special feature. It formed an important part of the company’s business. An advertisement in 1947 says that T. K. Lamb still owns the Café Alexandra, Café Arcadia and Perrins Café. It promises morning and afternoon teas, fruit and milk drinks, Ice cream and nut sundaes. The adverticement suggested that when customers go home they take a parcel of Lamb’s fresh made cakes, pastry, buns, scones, block cake or sponges.
LA MORADA TEA ROOMS (Mrs Davidson)
- 449 Ruthven Street Royal Insurance Buildings
- Advertised in May 1934 magazine. They supplied lunches, dinners, morning and afternoon teas as well as home made cakes. Mrs Davidson was proprietoress.
THE EUROPEAN FISH, OYSTER AND REFRESHMENT ROOMS (Les Cardun)
- Ruthven Street (opposite Gobbetts)
- Opened in April, 1910. He also sold fresh fruit and confectionery.
LIBERTY TEA HOUSE
- Chronicle Arcade, Margaret Street
- In the 80’s supplied morning and afternoon teas and light luncheons. Twinings was the tea supplied!
L.L’ARMOND FRUITERER & MILK BAR
- 209 Margaret Street
- Now Umami Sushi & Salads
LONDY’CAFE OR LONDY’S CAPITOL CAFÉ (Lexonis family)
- 417 Ruthven Street
- described in 1954 as ‘the most up to date Café in Queensland’. They advertised morning and afternoon teas, sundaes, ice cream, fruit salad, cool drinks, ice cream sodas, home made cakes made on the premises, cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, small goods and confectionery. The café was well known for its waffles and custard milkshakes. Owned by the Levonis family: George, Stan and Dennis.
LU SHAN RESTAURANT, Russell Street
The former restaurant being repainted in 1991
- 490 Ruthven Street
MUM’S CAKE SHOP
- 469 Ruthven Street
- Now the site of Wayne’s World Shop.
NEW CATHAY CAFE
- 544 Ruthven Street
- Opened in 1977. A continuation of the business that had been the CATHAY CAFE.
OLIVER TWIST’ CAFÉ ( May have been owned by Thorpe)
- 25 Bell Street
- Specialised in home cooked meals. Originally started in a caravan which sold pie floaters. Known amongst teenagers of the time as the ‘chew and spew’. Later moved into Karingal Chambers. Another address for this property was the eastern side of Hume Street.
PALACE RESTAURAN (T H. Andronicos)
- Opened this restaurant in December 1907 with a ladies Dining Room upstairs.
- 36 Russell Street
- From 1942 to 1976 the Greek Community Club operated above this Café.
- Margaret Street- (See also T. K. Lamb & Co.)
- Proprietor was J. S. Stiebel in 1947. He advertised the best 3 course meal for 1/6 and was manufacturer of the famous ‘Doris’ home made cakes. They advertised that they had the most modern equipped milk bar in the city and said, "If it’s eating- it must be Perrins"
**POBAR’S CAKE SHOP
- Margaret Street on the southern side of the old Chronicle Building.
- A 1961 photo shows the names of 2 Pobars on top of the building.They may have been relatives of the well known butchers in Toowoomba.
POBAR”S CAKE SHOP
- Southern side of the old Chronicle building in Margaret Street.
- They may have been related to the well known butchers in Toowoomba.
- These horse drawn vehicles were very much a part of the City scene in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The site of the cart below appears to be the old Margaret Street Post Office
Mrs M. Skipp, in an article done for me about her time at Toowoomba East State School, recalled the pie carts. She said:
The pie cart was a highlight of each day at lunch time, arriving as the bell went, at the Mary Street gate. A horse and cart early on, followed by a small ute with a heated oven on the back; both had a sauce bottle tomato or Holbrooks, and pies 6d each. They were admired from afar, 6d was a lot of money, and put to better use on an elocution lesson after school. The ‘lucky’ kids got to buy one each Thursday, as there was no fresh bread for lunches on ‘bakers holiday’. Also longed for were penny scoops of ice cream between wafers. The lucky ones had lime, strawberry and vanilla or chocolate all at once. Frozen oranges were a lunch time treat from the next door shop. I wondered why I bothered about another lunch time treat; swapping my sandwiches with a boy for his bread soaked in Holbrooks sauce!. Then it seemed the ultimate delight.
Mrs Skipp also recalled the corner store which reopened after the Second World War. She sometimes had a half penny to spend. This later increased to a penny, which meant even more agonizing over the choice of licorice straps, sherbets, conversation lollies, huge eucalyptus lollies which lasted for hours, or chocolate buddies, four a penny.
PRINCESS THEATRE ‘Eatery Bar’
- Little Russell Street
- Roy and Gertrude Denny, as well as owning Dennys Café, also sold drinks and sweets next to the Theatre.
- 68 Russell Street-eastern side of men’s toilet.
RAILWAY REFRESHMENT ROOMS
- The railway line opened on 1 May 1867 but the building was not completed until 1874. At first the refreshment room was located where the ticket office can now be seen. The dining room was an adjunct to the refreshment room. Also there were cellars which can be seen at the back of the bar. Tenders were called for the present refreshment rooms in 1879 and Mr R. Wilson was the first private lessee. Later the Railways own Refreshment Rooms branch took over and added the milk bar fronting the main platform.
*A lady who worked in the Refreshment Rooms during World War 1 recalled:
I will never forget those years. We set tables down the side platforms to accommodate the soldiers going to war and the poor wounded coming back. We would run right out from the kitchen, out through the front carrying our dinners. Everything was kept spic and span. All the silver basins, butter dishes and other table accessories and the cutlery were kept polished and sparkling, and the tables looked lovely with their spotless linen. We were on duty from 6 a.m. every morning, and our wages were fifteen shillings per week with no overtime.
(Toowoomba Historical Society Newsletter June 1990 extract)
Interior of the refreshment rooms taken in 1919
- The cost of a meal during or after World War 1 was one shilling which included a cup of tea.
The ‘Chronicle’ photo above was taken in World War 1.
- The back of the photo shows the very large staff employed at that time. At the right a sign says ‘Buffet 1/-‘ The Refreshment Rooms were also recalled as a refuge for rail employees who would pour out their woes to the Refreshment Room staff. The Refreshment Rooms have been described as a living museum which has been largely unchanged for over 100 years. The property was extensively renovated some years ago and is in first class condition.
R. DUNSTER & SONS
- 620 Ruthven Street-
- The business was established in 1905. They established a grocery and bakery store at that time. They sold ice creams and glasses of cider so must have fulfilled some of the functions of a milk bar. It closed in 1956.
RAILWAY CAFÉ (D R Theiss)
- 68 Russell Street
- Featured 3 course meals with home made cakes a speciality. The location was opposite the railway gates.
- The owner may have been related to the famous Drayton Thiess family.
RED ROSE CAFÉ
- 620 Ruthven Street
- In operation from about 1977. This was the site of baker R. Dunster many years ago.
REGAL MILK BAR (Poteri Bros)
- 412 Ruthven Street
- ‘Our Milk Bar Is Specialised’. Owned for a number of years in the 50’s and 60’s by Greek brothers Bill and Peter Cassimatis. The café was known for its morning and afternoon teas. One of their regular customers was a magistrate who gained fame for being the first in Australia to jail a drunk driver. Previously known as the Fresh Food Café.
*179 Margaret Street
- Vacant shop eastern side of Jillys
ROYAL CAFÉ (Karydis family)
- Located near the Empire Theatre from 1910 to 1915.
SNOW WHITE SANDWICH SALON
- 426 Ruthven Street
- Operated during the War
- 371 Ruthven Street
- They advertised themselves in 1954 as the makers of the renowned Velvet Cake. They promise ‘ perfect quality and utmost satisfaction’ to their clients.
STRAND THEATRE CAFÉ OR MILK BAR
- 165 Margaret Street
- Part of the Strand Theatre complex.
VICTORY CAFÉ (Inn) Thorpes Caterers (C.Sellars)
- 245 Margaret Street
- Now Mel Martins Kitchen & Gift Shop. Operated from March 1944
WEIS CATERING SERVICE ‘Laguna’
- 189 Hume Street.
- All bookings for ‘Laguna’ to be made from 55 Neil Street. The firm carried out wedding receptions, parties, banquets, etc.
WEBSTERS CAFÉ see photo below- location not known.
WESTERN DRINK BAR
- 25 Russell Street- formerly next to Princess Theatre- newspapers, refreshments, etc.
- 224 Margaret Street, near what is now Golders.
Y.W.C.A. CAFÉ & REST ROOM
- 213 Margaret Street- upstairs at Niddrie House
THANKS- Many people need to be thanked for their contributions to this booklet including Alan Dietz, Colin Lamb (who not only provided written family material but also numerous photos taken by another Lamb), Irene Batzloff, members of the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society and last but not least Nola Robinson who proof read this work on many occasions.
ADDITIONAL & ADDED INFORMATION RE CAFES
- There was probably a Chinese café in Little Street in the 1920’s. This area was a centre for Chinese occupation and employment at that time.
A Summary of the book: The Greeks in Queensland : A History from 1849 - 1945 written by Denis A. Conomos, who was born and grew up in Toowoomba.
One of the long term Greek businesses in Queensland, before 1946, was owned by Harry Kosma Andronicos in Toowoomba. In about 1901-2 he started business in Ruthven Street. He remained in business until 1945. During this time there was a brief change of ownership as well as a change of location. Harry had previously worked for another Greek in a café in Sydney. He later went to Brisbane briefly before commencing his business in Toowoomba. He was still under 21 years of age.
In about 1910, a second Greek café was opened in Toowoomba. It was named the Royal Café and was owned by
people from the same village as Harry Adronicos. The people were Theodore Nicholas Karidis and his cousin Kostas Karidis. One of a young employee’s jobs at the Royal was to hang around the Empire Theatre and race back to warn the Café when crowds were coming out at interval and at the end of a session.
Mr Adronicos was not happy with the opposition;; especially from his fellow villagers! Eventually after some time, harmonious relationships were restored. In the 1920’s, Andronicos café was firmly established and employed many young men from Andronicos’ home village. Andronicos's wife called the business ‘ the mother of the poor’ because these men were given an opportunity when none was available in Brisbane.
An employee, in 1913, described the Ruthven Street properties owned by Adrnonicos as three adjoining shops : a café serving light refreshments, another serving meals, and a wine shop. Seven men were employed in the shops. Upstairs was an infrequently used Ladies’ Dining Room. The 3 shops were called Andronicos Café & Wine Shop. The shops were a few doors down from the Club Café which was later also owned by Mr Adronicos. The Club Café became one of the best known cafes in Queensland. About 1923/4 he had 20 girls working there as well as 5 men. Mr Andronicos recalls cooking steak and eggs for 15-20 men at a time. On Thursday nights he had to fillet about 15 boxes of fish in readiness for the the Friday rush. Apparently staff came to work at 3.30 a.m on Fridays
to cook the fish.
Another Greek café as well as a fruit shop appeared in Toowoomba in1922. It was owned by Peter Dimitri Feros. He had wandered around many country towns for eight years before settling in Toowoomba; His last place of work was Oakey. His winter accommodation, with a fellow café worker, was 4 potato bags put inside one another to form a sleeping bag!
Bill Careedy had gone to Toowoomba at around 1910 to work at the Royal Café. He was determined however, to live a similar life to the average Australian, so went to see movies at the Empire Theatre. However, he did not like Charlie Chaplin who was very popular at that time. He did however, enjoy the concerts such as those by pianist Paderewski, the Sistine Choir and the Volga Boatmen. Bill delivered fruit and fish on his bicycle. Before 1914 he took up competitive cycling and became a champion long distance cyclist.
During World War 2, the Greeks were affected by rationing as well as the Australians. They were however, affected in other ways which did not affect other people. Because they were involved in the food industry, they were not conscripted as often as the average worker. Where servicemen were stationed, the café owners had huge increases in takings which they were not familiar with. Cafes were packed day and night, with doors closed when the cafes were full of diners and reopened when the diners had finished their meals. Because of staff shortages, many owners turned to their wives to act as cooks in their establishments. Sometimes, wives did not like what they had to do. In the case of Harry Adronicos’ wife, she was required to kill and gut 30-40 chooks for the next days meals. No other staff member would do the job.
In the areas where Americans were located, they tipped handsomely or told the owner to keep the change. Prices in the cafes were flexible depending whether the customers were Americans or Australians!. As could be expected, there was much resentment between the Australians and the Americans. Café owners separated the troops with Americans on one side and Australians on the other. Isolated incidents occurred where some drunken Australian troops called a café owner a ‘dago’- in spite of the fact that he had 3 sons serving in the Australian forces. The troops were very quickly bashed by other Australian troops who knew the true story.
A Toowomba coffee house, owned by Theo Sklavos, was heavily patronised by American troops in the War. They played dice every night. Café owners were working from 5 a.m to midnight to keep up with the demand.
Photo of a Brisbane milk bar attached to a picture theatre