Testament to the growing importance of global brands, the Coca Cola advertising agency, McCann –Erickson opened an Australian office in 1959. Coke’s ad agency quickly won local brands and adopted the local vernacular, creating campaigns such as ‘Louie the Fly’ and the ‘It’s time’ campaign that propelled Gough Whitlam’s Labor Party into office. It also created the giant ‘Coke’ sign that is a landmark in Sydney’s Kings Cross. More
According to the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, until the late 1950s chicken meat in Australia was mainly a by-product of the egg industry. The chickens that graced tables on special occasions were either spent laying hens or cockerels. Chickens were raised by family firms and “backyard operations”. Commercial operations gathered pace with the release of the first specially bred meat chicken variety in 1959. More
The first Streets Gaytime was not golden. It was a combination of icecream, chocolate and strawberry shortcake. The famous Golden version, with a biscuit coating surrounding toffee and vanilla ice cream, did not arrive until 1970. There have been a variety of flavours, but the Golden Gaytime is the one that has become an Australian food icon. More
Frank Lowy and John Saunders were two post-war immigrants who initially set up a delicatessen business together in Blacktown in the 1950s. They catered primarily for European immigrants like themselves . They moved on to property development and opened their first ‘American-style’ shopping centre, Westfield Place, with two department stores, a supermarket and 12 shops built around a courtyard. It provided 50 free on-site parking spaces.>Westfield timeline
The first Boema espresso machine was made by two Italian immigrants, Signori Bordignon and Emer, hence Bo-ema. Their company became an agent for the Italian manufacturer, Gaggia in 1956 but by 1959 they had begun to manufacture their own lever espresso machine. More
The first beer cans in Australia were made of steel and had to be opened with a ‘church key’ – an implement that punched a triangular hole in each side of the lid. Cans initially had opening instructions printed on the lids. VB (Victoria Bitter) claims to be the first Australian beer to be released in a can. In 2011, VB launched a replica of its 1958 can using the original artwork. More
Peters Barney Banana, a banana icecream on a stick, was launched in 1958. It was promoted as containing real bananas. The product was discontinued by Nestlé Peters in 2003, owing to slow sales. A social media campaign by disgruntled fans resulted in the reinstatement of the product in 2009, marketed through supermarkets in multi-packs under the Billabong sub-brand. More
Vittoria Coffee has its origins in a company started by the Cantarella brothers, Orazio and Carmelo, who began importing European foods in 1947. In 1958 they began roasting coffee, initially supplying Sydney’s early Italian cafés. The current CEO, Les Schirato, married Orazio’s daughter and was the force behind the brand’s expansion in supermarkets from the early 1980s. Vittoria is now a best-selling coffee brand in Australia and is exported to more than 15 countries. More
The Cuckoo restaurant opened in 1958 in Olinda, a hamlet in the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne. It was run by Willi and Karin Koeppen and was Australia’s first all-you-can-eat smorgasbord restaurant. The entertainment involved lots of lederhosen, bum and thigh slapping, accordion playing and yodelling, and was good for group occasions like birthdays, as its fixed price made it easy to split the bill. The Cuckoo now seats more than 400 and welcomes coach tours, where Chinese people visiting Australia eat a Swedish-style meal in a Bavarian-style restaurant. More
The Darwin Stubby, available only in the Northern Territory, was introduced by Carlton & United in April 1958 with an 80 fluid ounce (2,270 ml) capacity. Its aims were to minimise the high handling costs associated with bottling and to cater to big Territory thirsts. There are legends about a beer-drinking Brahman bull named Norman, who supposedly was a regular Darwin Stubby drinker at the Humpty Doo hotel. Norman reputedly once sculled a 2.25 litre stubby in 47 seconds. More
The first Japanese restaurant in Australia wasn’t a separate restaurant at all, but an annexe to the Dungowan restaurant in Martin Place, Sydney. Operated by Madam Yamasaki, it was advertised as the Japanese Sukiyaki Room and opened around the end of June in 1957. Later that same year, the Dungowan re-invented itself as the Quo Vadis continental restaurant and nightclub, but the Japanese annexe continued . More
By this time, there were 1700 self-service grocers in Australia. Although only about 7% of them were supermarkets, these accounted for 20% of sales. The image, from the State Library of New South Wales, shows the interior of the Broadhead & Barcham self-service grocers, Balmain , in 1957. See alsoTimeline of Retail Grocery Trends.
Australia’s first TV chef was Willi Koeppen. His program, The Chef Presents was one of Australia’s earliest TV cooking programs. It aired on Melbourne’s HSV-7 from 1957 to 1959. The five-minute segment was later expanded to 15 minutes and broadcast in various time slots. Koeppen went on to open The Cuckoo restaurant in the Dandenong Ranges. More
Chermside Drive-In Shopping Centre in Brisbane was the first mall-style shopping centre in Australia. It was opened on 31 May 1957 by the then Premier of Queensland, Vince Gair. Chermside initially contained an Allan & Stark department store (later bought by Myer), a BCC supermarket and 24 specialty stores. It had its own car park with space for 650 cars and covered 28 acres. The centre was bought by Westfield in 1996.
Certainly a stayer on the Sydney restaurant scene, Beppi’s opened on 10 June 1956 and is still (as of 2016) operating at the same address. This, they claim, makes it “the longest running restaurant under the same ownership in Sydney and we believe in Melbourne and possibly the whole of Australia”. More
Barossa Pearl, however scornfully it’s referred to these days, changed the Australian wine industry. It was based on a German style known as Perlwein and brought to the market by Colin Gramp of Orlando, who believed it would appeal to young people. It did. While the rest of the industry watched with some skepticism, Barossa Pearl became a huge success. Competitors eventually followed with more sparkling, sweetish wines: Sparkling Rinegolde, Starwine, Gala Spumante and Porphyry Pearl.
Inspired by overseas retail trends, Thomas Wardle opened Australia’s first discount grocery store in North Perth. As Tom the Cheap, he slashed grocery mark-ups to 10 per cent instead of the more usual 25 per cent. Despite resistance from suppliers, he eventually built a highly profitable national chain of more than 200 stores. More
Birds Eye Fish Fingers, produced by the quick freezing process developed by the eponymous Clarence Birdseye, were introduced in 1956 and touted as an ideal way to encourage Australian children to eat more fish. Evidently it worked. According to the manufacturer, the number of Birds Eye Fish Fingers now sold in Australia each year would cover an area twice the size of Tasmania. As if that statistic isn’t mind-boggling enough, they also claim that laid end to end, these fish fingers would be twice the length of the Great Wall of China. More
This famous coffee lounge, in the popular seaside resort on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road was opened by brothers Graham, Alistair, and Robin Smith. The Arab was modelled on European coffee bars and its espresso machine was only the third in Victoria. It was popular with bohemian types who thought they were sooooooo cool.
Although there had been experimental television broadcasts since the 1920s, public television broadcasting began on 17 October 1956 in Sydney and 4 November 1956 in Melbourne. Five stations were operating in time to televise the opening ceremony of the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne on 22 November. Television advertising was to present new opportunities for advertisers, including food manufacturers.>Television in Australia
The 1956 Olympic Games changed the restaurant scene in Melbourne. Despite an initial suggestion that shearers’ cooks should introduce visiting athletes to true Aussie tucker, (see Charmaine O’Brien’s Flavours of Melbourne ), the Olympic Committee recruited international chefs to work at the Olympic Village. Many stayed to open restaurants. Perhaps the most renowned was Hermann Schneider, who went on to open Melbourne’s Two Faces restaurant.
The first time Australian milk was distributed in cartons was in the Beverley Hills area of Sydney in 1955, when Mr. V. C. Halfpenny, a Lakemba milkman, served 1000 customers per week with milk in waxed paper containers. This trial of milk cartons was soon followed by wider distribution in the Sydney area. The cartons were made in Sydney by Hygienic Containers Pty Ltd. More
In 1955, Sunbeam Australia launched their pop-up’ toaster, electric frypan and ‘Ironmaster’. The Sunbeam electric frypan, which became an essential in the 1950s suburban kitchen, was invented in the USA in 1953. Variations of the pop-up toaster had been around in the USA since the 1920s, but became more popular with the widespread use of sliced bread. More
The Choo-Choo Bar was originally made by Plaistowe in Western Australia. Hearsay suggests it arrived in the early 1950s – it was certainly advertised by 1954. The wrapper of the chewy liquorice-flavoured toffee bar originally depicted a train being driven by a very non-PC gollywog. Choo-Choos were discontinued sometime in the 1990s after Nestlé acquired Plaistowe, but were revived after Lagoon Confectioners purchased the brand in 2007. More
Savoury Shapes were launched in Victoria by the Brockhoff Biscuit Company in 1954. The small savoury biscuits came in five different shapes and had a cheesy flavour. They soon became popular as a snack with drinks. In the early 1960s Brockhoff merged with Arnott’s to form the Australian Biscuit Company but Savoury Shapes continued to be advertised under the Brockhoff brand until the early 1970s. More
By all accounts, the first pavement café in Melbourne was at Mirka’s – the café opened by Georges and Mirka Mora on the corner of Exhibition Street and Little Bourke Street in 1954. In 1958, the Ress Oriental Hotel in Collins Street obtained permission to put 19 tables on the pavement, although alcohol could not be consumed there. The experiment lasted only two years, before police objections led to the council permit being withdrawn. More
The Happy Little Vegemites song, used to advertise Australia’s iconic Vegemite spread, was written by Alan Weekes of advertising agency J Walter Thompson in Sydney. It was recorded in the EMI studios in Sydney and has been popular ever since. The term “happy little Vegemites” has entered the language as a semi-ironic way to describe people who are satisfied with a situation. More
According to CUB, Crown Lager (originally Foster’s Crown Lager) was first brewed in 1919 and only available to Australia’s diplomats and their guests. They say the brand was first released to the public to celebrate the visit of Queen Elizabeth II. However, a writer in Australian Brew News has challenged the story, finding evidence of ‘Foster’s Crown Lager’ being advertised in 1914 despite the fact that the company celebrated the 50th anniversary of its public release (a year early) in 2003.
The true history of Tasmania’s famous scallop pies is shrouded in mystery. The earliest reference I can find to the traditional pie, containing scallops in a creamy curry sauce, is less than complimentary. “I bought two scallop pies for 10d. (tenpence) each and found one little scallop in each, with about half a teaspoon of curry. There appears to be about 300 p.c. profit on each pie,” complained BITTEN of Glenorchy. More
Although there is a story that margarine-manufacturer Ted Mayes founded the Colvan business with his winnings from the 1942 Melbourne Cup, the Colvan brand was not registered until 1953. Ted bought the business for his two sons, Colin and Ivan, and the brand is a combination of their names. Thins and Samboy were Colvan brand names; it seems the Colvan has been dropped, although the Thins and Samboy brands live on. More
The Australian soft drink industry underwent a radical transformation in the 1950s and ’60s. The change was wrought by self-service chains, supermarkets, drive-in shopping centres and vending machines, with a little help from new technologies and marketing. The era of the returnable bottle was coming to an end and small brands started to disappear.
The Meals on Wheels concept originated in Britain during WWII, with authorities delivering meals to elderly, frail people. The first Australian service began in 1953 when Mrs E. Watts pedalled a tricycle around South Melbourne. The first meal was soup, roast lamb and plum pudding and cost 1/3d (around 13 cents). In 1954, the Red Cross provided a car and volunteers to deliver the meals. Today there are 78,700 volunteers at over 740 branches around Australia. >Speech by Governor General More
December 1953 saw the name Chocolate Crackles trade marked by Kellogg, despite the fact that the recipe had been in circulation for more than 15 years. The recipe was published on packs of Kellogg’s Rice Bubbles, but had previously been promoted by the makers of Copha, another key ingredient of this uniquely Australian confection. A purported attempt by Kellogg to trademark the recipe itself caused a furore in 2003.
Salada biscuits are among Australia’s favourite crackers or, as we used to call them in my youth, dry biscuits. Originally made by the Brockhoff biscuit company in Burwood, a Melbourne suburb, the Salada is now made by Arnott’s and is distinguished by its ‘man-size, snack-size, bite-size’ versatility. Except, like toilet paper, it doesn’t always break along the perforations. More
In 1953 Ron Street, nephew of Street’s Icecream founder Ted Street, invented the icecream that has endured for more than six decades. Originally available only in chocolate flavour, the Paddle Pop became a best-seller. Further flavours included vanilla, caramel and fruit salad.
Why would it have a French spelling? And why would it include Worcestershire sauce? And why would you bake it? The first time the Australian Women’s Weekly published a recipe for spaghetti bolognaise (aka spaghetti bolognese) it was just another casserole. But this was the forerunner of a dish that went on to become one of Australia’s dinner-time favourites. More
Harland Sanders opened his first restaurant in 1930 in the front room of a gas station in Corbin, Kentucky, naming it “Sanders Court & Café.” Six years later he was made an honorary Colonel by the state governor. Inventing his famous chicken recipe in 1940, he first franchised it not in Kentucky but in Salt Lake City, Utah, launching the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand at the Harman Cafe in 1952.
No doubt to the annoyance of the brand’s owners, the term ‘Esky’ is widely used in Australia as a generic term for a portable cooler box. The original Esky ® Auto Box was released by Malleys in 1952. It was the first of its kind in Australia, although there were similar products already available in the US. The brand name was registered in 1961. More
European migrants were temporarily housed at a former army camp at Bonegilla, where they protested about the living conditions, the strange and poor quality food and their long wait for work. Riots occurred at the camp in 1952 and again in 1961. Sydney chef Steve Manfredi remembers “cubes of pastel coloured vegetables floating in water.” Other writers talk of the over-reliance on mutton and rabbit.
Frank McEnroe was a boilermaker from Bendigo who developed the iconic deep fried Chinese-style roll to sell while catering at football matches and other events.The Chiko Roll was first sold at the Wagga Wagga Agriculture Show in 1951. Later, the Chiko Chicks, astride their Harley Davidson motorbikes, became the marketing signature of the brand. Some people think the Chiko Roll is Australia’s national food.
Far from being a conspiracy to put a whole generation off drinking milk forever, school milk was conceived as a benefit. The State Grants (Milk for School Children) Act was passed by federal parliament in 1950 and by the end of 1951 most states were inflicting this benefit on children up to the age of 13. A report to the government in 1973 deemed school milk poor value for money and the Whitlam government abolished it. More
Dried soups became an essential part of store-cupboard cookery in the 1950s. Unilever’s Continental brand was Maggi’s principle competitor. Their French Onion Soup was most famously used to make the ubiquitous French Onion Dip, while the chicken noodle variety contributed to quasi-Chinese dishes. More
Originally Grange Hermitage, Penfolds Grange was to become Australia’s most collectible wine. Penfolds Grange is made predominantly from Shiraz grapes (formerly referred to as Hermitage), usually with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. The first vintage was made by winemaker Max Schubert. After touring Europe in 1950, his aim was to create a red wine able to rival the finest Bordeaux wines in quality and ageing potential. More
Betty King, Home Economist, of World Brands Pty Ltd was one of the leading ladies of Australian cookery…the Margaret Fulton of her day. Unfortunately, she’s didn’t exist. Betty King, ‘leading home economist’, first appeared in Australian women’s magazines in 1950 promoting Mello Chocolate Dessert. She went on to spruik a range of brands, supported by her ‘staff of experts’ and her ‘professional kitchen’. Betty King was a fictional character – a figment of some marketing executive’s imagination – no doubt inspired by the equally fictional Betty Crocker in America.
The first Downyflake Donut restaurant opened in Melbourne’s Swanston Street in 1950. Their “American Donut Machine” was a source of fascination as the donuts were extruded, floated around in their bath of hot fat, and were automatically flipped, drained and tossed hot into sugar and spice. Downyflake outlets also opened in other major shopping centres and interstate. More