The Village

The shopping area for us started from the corner of Arthur Circus and Hampden Road where Nellie Johnson had a grocery shop. Next up Hampden Road was the local dairy. I occasionally tell the story of my brother Graham and myself going around for a billycan of milk, and Graham running back down the dairy lane and straight across the street. With very little traffic, it was usually quite safe, but this day a car was coming up Hampden Road and hit Graham with its left front mudguard and I saw him land on the footpath. He must have been fine because he yelled loudly and ran around the corner straight home. Mum was concerned, asked where he hurt and proceeded to rub generous amounts of liniment into his legs and back. This worked wonders and he was up and running the next day. A week later Mum was looking for the oil to lubricate her sewing machine and after a while, realised that some weeks before, she had de-canted the oil into an old liniment bottle and forgetting this, had rubbed Graham generously with machine oil!

Next up the street was a tiny lolly shop which the proprietor called The Kiddies Friend and on the corner of South Street was the main grocery store owned by Mr Newman. Mum would often say she would not have coped financially in some of the hard times if it had not been for the generosity of Mr Newman – and later Mr Harrington – in letting the weekly bill add up for some weeks until she was able to pay. On the opposite South Street corner was the Nicholas family butcher shop, run by Col Nicholas and his dad. There were several houses from there to the old Prince of Wales Hotel (proprietor Syd Rawnsley) on the corner of Kelly Street, which runs down to Kelly Steps and Salamanca Place. The original hotel was sadly demolished in the 1960s when a number of the larger old homes on the ‘Point’ were pulled down to make way for more modern structures. On the next corner stood Cripps Bakery, then and still manufacturing quality bread.

Next again was the second butcher shop in the area run by George McMillan with his assistant ‘Muzza’ Mason who lived just down Kelly Street with his family.

I can’t remember if the next shop was occupied but on the corner of Stowell Avenue was the fruit and confectionary shop of Billy Whitehouse before the dark and forbidding Narryna, now a folk museum. On the corner of Montpelier Retreat was the Point’s chemist, Mr George Fleming, and just around the corner in Montpelier Retreat was Theo Pipkin and his hairdressing shop.

Montpelier Retreat was almost a community in its own right. The north-western side was an unbroken row of stone homes sitting right on the footpath, some with steps offsetting the slope of the street leading to the front door, others with the front door on the edge of the footpath. The complete street would have been built in the early to mid 1800s and hadn’t changed. On the opposite side were warehouses, chandlers and when I started work, a foundry and sailmaker.

On the other side of Hampden Road from the chemist was Bob and Tom’s service station, (still selling fuel and servicing cars today) and across Sandy Bay Road was the original Battery Point Primary School, then operating as a trade training school and giving me in Grade 6, the opportunity to use tools and work with Huon pine for the first time. Walking back along Hampden Road we came to Queen Alexandra Maternity Hospital where I (and all the Foster siblings) was born. After that, there was no commercial activity until the village centre again when we found Mrs Conrads and her fruit shop, Mr Miles and his boot repair shop and on the corner of Francis Street, Mrs Coram’s grocery and vegetable shop. Across Francis Street is now the Community Centre, formerly the Methodist Church built in the mid 1800s as the Congregational Church and, apart from St. Georges on the hilltop, the only religious building in the area.

A small dressmaking shop was opposite Arthur Circus and alongside that, Bill Cooper’s chimney sweep business, which in the days of wood-fired cooking and heating, was a constant occupation. There were three other small shops on the Point – one where the car park of the Shipwrights Arms Hotel now stands was the general store of Mr R. A. Triffitt, another at the top of Colville Street was again a grocery store with Bill Whitehouse (in conjunction with his Hampden Road fruit shop) and along St. Georges Terrace where the road divides, Mrs Ryan operated another grocery store.

It probably seems odd in this age of easy mobility that so many little stores could survive in such a relatively small area but it must be remembered that this was a classic village of the 1930s and 40s and residents didn’t have many options to move far from their home territory, particularly when considering the standard working week was a minimum of 44 hours (Monday to Friday as well as half day Saturday) and the almost total lack of refrigeration available to the average household.

Like all villages of the era we had a police officer living in the area. Constable Yost (Yosty) lived in DeWitt Street close to Hampden Road, which put him almost in the centre of the ‘town’. On reflection, he was a fairly benevolent law keeper and I can’t recall any significant trouble on the ‘Point’ although I was always in awe of the man in uniform. On one memorable occasion, I rode my scooter up to the corner shop and when I came out he was standing outside. I was terrified because as far as I knew scooters were not allowed to be ridden on the footpath. I ran home and told Mum, who went up to the shop, gave Yosty a piece of her mind and rode the scooter home.