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Talking Shop: Ballarat in Business and City Life at Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute

Between January and April 2019, the Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute hosted the exhibition Talking Shop, exploring a world of Peters ice cream cones, milk bars, vintage advertising, historic photographs and ephemera. This nostalgia was complemented by contemporary photographs and creative responses exploring Ballarat’s shops and businesses. Community events throughout the exhibition invited the people of Ballarat to contribute their images and memories to the BMI collection, and are shared here in this story.

This exhibition was curated by Amy Tsilemanis at the BMI who worked with artists Pauline O'Shannessy-Dowling and Margie Balazic, collector John Kerr and Ballarat businesses, council, and schools to create a 'generative' exhibition where material and collaborations could grow.

Talking Shop: Stories from women of Ballarat

Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute (BMI Ballarat)

This edited piece was created for International Women’s Day and features the voices of Heather Horrocks (speaking about the haberdashery business Picot and Widmer and the controversial McDonald's established on Bakery Hill in the 1970s), Shirley Whitefield (speaking about Ballarat tram and shop memories and playing local football in the 1960s), and Isabel Gribble (recalling visits to local shops and hotels). These oral histories were collected at a Talking Shop Community Day where the Ballarat community was invited to come and share their memories on local shops and businesses.

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Front of Red Shop Tea Rooms Sturt St Ballarat (add link to Ballarat Revealed)

Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute (BMI Ballarat)

The business partnership Anderson and Briant Pty Ltd was formed by two bakers working in the Hope Bakery in Seymour Street; they later opened the Red Shop Tea Rooms in the 1890s. They created a grand and elegant eatery and bakery with cakes, pies, desserts and all manner of confectionery prepared and baked on the premises for nearly 70 years. An extract from an advertisement in the Berringa Herald, 1917, speaks of the delights of the business:

“Our refreshment rooms are complete with every convenience. Electric radiators, small and large tables with a nice staff of waitresses to attend to your wishes. Our Factory is the Largest for Pastry in Ballarat... and comprises cake machines, sponge mixers, meat machines, pie machines, cochlea and icing machines and a complete for ice cream. Our decorating surpasses anything in Ballarat."

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Opening of Bridge Mall looking west

Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute (BMI Ballarat)

Max Harris was working as a photographer in Ballarat's Bridge St during the time of its conversion into a shopping mall. He took this series of photographs capturing the changes and the opening of the new mall.

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Hames and Woodward window Armstrong Street North

Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute (BMI Ballarat)

George Richmond, father of BMI librarian Rosemary McInerney's, ran this furniture business on Armstrong Street North. Richmond began work in Armstrong Street North as a young man in 1926. He started with Hames and Woodward, a piano, music and record shop, which he took over when both Hames and Woodward died during the war. An extract from The Courier, March 1 1978, records George’s reminiscences of the shopping precinct.

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Joyce Conder

Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute (BMI Ballarat)

Jack Conder was owner of the well-known Sturt Street (number 12) candy store known as Conder’s. Jack started the business in 1941 when he was only 25, and ran it into the mid-80s with his wife Joyce at the counter beside him. This image was donated by daughter, Marilyn Stewart. Marilyn remembers the delicious banana splits that would come with three scoops of ice-cream and plentiful whipped cream and toppings like syrups and nuts, with wafers to complete the dish. Conder’s was a popular meeting place to visit before and after the dances and movies, and would often be full of people.

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Brogden bakery cart with Stanley Harris

Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute (BMI Ballarat)

Joan and George Brogden ran a bakery from 1922 to 1966.

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Centenary decorated Bridge St shops

Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute (BMI Ballarat)

In 1938 Ballarat celebrated 100 years since European settlement with a city wide floral festival and parade. Businesses decorated their shops with elaborate displays.

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Front view of factory (George Farmers)

Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute (BMI Ballarat)

George Farmer was born at Ballarat in 1854. His father, John Farmer began bacon curing at Golden Point, Ballarat. George Farmer succeeded his father in control of a ham curing business in 1879. The business became known as George Farmer & Co and was situated on Eureka St. The BMI collection holds a series of images of this Ballarat East business, including advertising.

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Advertisement James Tyler Bridge St Ballarat

Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute (BMI Ballarat)

A drapers business in Bridge St, a busy shopping area in early Ballarat.

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Landsborough St Milk Bar

Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute (BMI Ballarat)

Ballarat artist and educator Geoff Wallis took a series of photographs of Ballarat Milk Bars in the 1970s. This image became one of Geoff’s favourites. He notes:

“My ‘local’ is not the pub that stands on a corner only 100 metres from my home but the milk bar that is across the road from the pub in Peel Street North. It is an extraordinary example of the milk bar fulfilling its time-honoured role of being every suburb or town’s Aladdin’s Cave. Milk bars had been part of my life from when I first was sent to ‘the shop’ as a little boy clutching a ration card. Lollies, comics, ice cream, milkshakes -- all the treasures essential for a happy childhood -- awaited any child who pushed through the door. Though milk bars were once scattered throughout the city, competition from many sources is making them an endangered species.”

Wanting to know more about Ballarat’s booming business history? Take a digital tour of the exhibition here: https://invictoria.com.au/talking-shop-exhibition/

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