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The Stroud Community Web is an online news and information source for Stroud and surrounding communities. An initiative and ongoing project of Stroud Lions Club.

Early shops in Stroud

A story by Beryl Bowden

My earliest memories of general stores in Stroud are Goochs’, Streets’ and Hitchins’ Bros. As a teenager in the 1940’s I worked at both Gooch’s and Hitchens’ Bros. A third partner in Hitchins’ Bros was a spinster, Ivy Gorton. Every day she drove a big Buick car to work.  She had an unfortunate habit of doing a U turn in front of the shop without indicating. The locals all knew this so kept their distance but one morning a stranger collided with her. Ivy was most irate … she stormed into the shop declaring that “she had been turning there for ten years and no-one had ever run into her before!!”  One other Stroud lady driver when asked how she had managed when driving to Newcastle for the first time, confessed that she found ”the hardest thing was keeping the front wheel on the middle line”!

These shops carried basic needs in grocery and hardware lines, men’s working clothes and children’s school clothes. Shoes and small items of haberdashery such as cottons and laces were also on offer. Customers were pampered, we had no need to go shopping, the shopping came to us. The grocery orders were taken each week by an employee coming to our homes and writing the items needed in a docket book. He then returned to the shop where the orders were packed in individual cartons and delivered next day. The customer would either pay the docket then, or run a monthly account. One order- man in particular was a great whistler; we could hear him coming for miles, whistling and riding his creamy horse.

Bread, meat and milk were also home-delivered. They were carried in a large wicker basket, which for some strange reason used to infuriate the town dogs. Perhaps they could smell the meat? It was only wrapped in white butcher’s paper and secured with durex tape or string and the bread had no wrapping at all.  Milk was not in bottles or cartons. We got it straight from the cow. When the cream settled on the top and Mum wasn’t looking, we often skimmed some off with a spoon. Yummy! The milkman obligingly poured milk into a receptacle, usually a billycan, placed near the front door and brought in when the housewife remembered to get it. I wonder what the Health and Safety people would think of all that today? However did we survive?

This order system was still operating in the1950’s, when I became a housewife. We were availing ourselves of this service right up until the advent of the super markets which meant the end for most general stores in small country towns. These three shops had operated quite effectively in Stroud, until Bi Lo and Woolworths opened in Raymond Terrace. Then two of the three were forced to close. Some families owned cars and drove to Raymond Terrace or Newcastle where a wider range of goods, including fashion clothing, was available for shoppers.  One could also visit a ladies hairdresser, renew your driver’s license or car registration at the R T A (Roads and Traffic Authority) and if you had no transport, the Bulahdelah bus was always an option.

One shop I almost forgot was Penfolds, situated opposite the Post Office on the corner of Erin and Cowper Street. The only time I patronized it was if I had a penny to spend for lollies on my way to school. I don’t remember when it was pulled down. A nice family home has now been erected on the site.

Gooch’s shop is now the hardware store, Hitchins’ Bros is the mini market and Street’s, which was situated near where the Country Club is now, has had the ‘shop front’ removed and is a private home. Colin Street attended school with us and frequently accompanied us on outings. He gave me a copy of an inspirational poem that was nailed to the back door of their shop.

Tomorrow (author unknown)

He was going to be all that a mortal could be – tomorrow;
No one could be kinder, more helpful than he – tomorrow;
It was too bad indeed, he was busy today;
And hadn’t a minute to stop on his way;
More time I will have to give others, he’d say – tomorrow. 

Each morning he’d stack up the letters he’d write – tomorrow;
And think of the folks he would fill with delight – tomorrow;
There were friends who were tired and weary, he knew;
They’d be glad of some help and they needed it too;
On them he would call, see what he could do – tomorrow.

The greatest of workers this man would have been — tomorrow;
The world would have known him if he’d ever seen- tomorrow;
But the fact is, he died and just faded from view;
And all that was left when his life here was through;
Was that mountain of things he intended to do – tomorrow.

These days I can’t remember where something is two minutes after I have put it down, but I can remember that the number of Mr. Street’s green International utility was EK636 and Mr. Gooch’s cream Chevrolet was DV459. Talk about useless information!!

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2 Comments on “Early shops in Stroud”

  1. Angela November 30, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Love it Beryl

  2. Wal Towells November 28, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    Thanks once again for a trip down memory lane. I remember well Streets shop at the northern end of Stroud just before the saleyards and almost opposite Barry Urqharts place. Lornie Hitchens and Mat Gooches shop w.ere well known. I remember the Isaac girls working at Gooches. Did not Ivy Gorton also open a shop in the late 40s south of Lamans Creek. I remember Mervyn Green driving a Studebaker up Mill Creek Road delivering meat orders. I went with him several times. The meat orders were set up by Noel Green or if he were not around by Clarrie Bowden the Blacksmith. The Hancock brothers had the Bakery on the corner of the street before you came to the Mill CrIeek bridge.

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