Shoppers Lament


When I was younger I enjoyed a good browse around the shops. I’d often plan a day out either in the Adelaide CBD or one of the larger suburban malls with mum or Naomi or even on my own. There was always plenty to see, even when we had little money to spare we’d play the “If we won lotto” game, choosing what furniture we’d have.

In the millinery department of Myers or John Martins we would have a giggle trying on hats. Mum used to enjoy that too. She also liked going to look at the china ornaments and other giftware where we would admire the Royal Doulton porcelain figures that we could never afford to buy..

picture uploaded by Flickr user Denisbin https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

We’d go up to the toy department, John Martins was our favourite, especially at Christmas. It was always fun to see all the decorations and visit the Magic Cave even though we were too old to sit on Santa’s knee. You could buy an electric train set from Hornby or Lima or a Scalextric racing car set. I always fancied having one of those. Mum loved looking at the baby dolls too, picking out dolls for the grandchildren that she hoped for and never got. Later, when we started to collect Barbie dolls Naomi and I worked our way round every store in the Adelaide metro area that sold them looking for dolls or clothes we didn’t have yet.

Of course we also shopped for clothes, got our hair done,and browsed in the book and record stores, this was mainly when people still bought vinyl records. I liked to go down to David Jones Food Hall where they had a cookie making machine that always smelled wonderful. They had a gourmet food section that even sold wine. It was the only department store where you could buy alcohol. I never did. I didn’t know anything about wine in those days. David Jones was a very fancy store then. They had marble tiled floors. There used to be a man playing a grand piano on the ground floor every day and at Christmas there was a choir. They didn’t have sales they used to brag, they had “Clearances” twice a year. Clearance sounded more posh then. David Jones bought out John Martins and closed it down. I have never forgiven them for that and don’t like to shop there any more.

Naomi and I enjoyed shopping trips to other cities too. We loved visiting the shops in Melbourne and Sydney. Melbourne had a huge Myer store and for a short time even had an Isetan store which we’d never seen before. The first Borders store we ever visited was in Melbourne’s Toorak and we came home with a stack of books. Sydney had Grace Brothers which was new to us.

Bidgee / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)
Charlie Brewer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/charliebrewer) / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Naomi loved the shopping in Singapore the first couple of times she went there too. Singapore and Malaysia were much cheaper then and she bought a lot of toys and Barbie stuff for me.

Marina Bay Sands shopping centre in Singapore

Yes, shopping, even window shopping, was great fun for us up until the late 1990s.

Now? Not so much. Most of the department stores have either closed or downsized to the point that it only takes a few minutes to look around. I no longer get a lot of pleasure from buying clothes. I’m bigger and the choices are fewer. I rarely see colours and styles that I really like and I don’t go out much so I don’t need a lot. There are still a lot of stores that sell clothes for young people, make up, jewellery and handbags. I wasn’t particularly interested in those even when I was young.

There are still book stores although not as many, but books are much more expensive now. I rarely buy a new one. I know I can either download or find cheap books at Op Shops. Records made way for CD’s and videos made way for DVD’s but now nearly everyone streams so there are not as many of those stores either. Most of the toy stores are gone too. The pink aisle where Barbie lives used to be recognisable in any store that sold her, now I’m lucky to find half a shelf of what I consider poor quality dolls compared to what was around when I was a child or even a new collector twenty years ago. I can’t even enjoy looking at furniture or soft furnishings very often because it’s all either grey or beige. It’s hard to find something I would want to buy even if I did win lotto.

Myer Centre wikimedia photo by User:Orderinchaos / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Window shopping is harder because big store windows with interesting displays seem to be a thing of the past. There are so many empty shops too. The new Myer Centre building that replaced the old store was almost empty the last time I was in Adelaide. Myers itself was much smaller and many of the specialty stores had closed or moved.

Interior of the Myer Centre 2011
Harris Scarfe, Rundle Mall entrance May 2011. Demolition had already started.
Harris Scarfe during demolition May 2011
Harris Scarfe store closed 2011.

I know I’m just another old person regretting the loss of something that most young people don’t care about. The days when “going to town” was something to be looked forward to.

Taswegian1957

I was born in England in 1957 and lived there until our family came to Australia in 1966. I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where I met and married my husband David. We came together over a mutual love of trains. Both of us worked for the railways for many years, his job was with Australian National Railways, while I spent 12 years working for the STA, later TransAdelaide the Adelaide city transit system. After leaving that job I worked in hospitality until 2008. We moved to Tasmania in 2002 to live in the beautiful Huon Valley. In 2015 David became ill and passed away in October of that year. I currently co-write two blogs on WordPress.com with my sister Naomi. Our doll blog "Dolls, Dolls, Dolls", and "Our Other Blog" which is about everything else but with a focus on photographs and places in Tasmania. In November 2019 I began a new life in the house that Naomi and I intend to make our retirement home at Sisters Beach in Tasmania's northwest. My current housemates are Cindy, my 14-year-old Staffy-Lab X dog and Polly the world's most unsociable cat who is seven.

One comment

  1. Relish nostalgia, I say. This morning the kids and I walked to a local “street library” with the puppy. In a drawer beneath the main shelf I found a double cassette audio book of Pride and Prejudice. I gazed at it in awe and stroked the cover as though it were precious. But we don’t even own a tape deck so I didn’t take it. Jane Austen and tapes. It was like my high school years had landed again.

    Liked by 1 person

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