Grocery shops were different then…

Where exactly was the Hayes and Russell grocery store? Do you know?

Hayes and Russell's store - located somewhere in Kingston, ACT

Hayes and Russell's store - located somewhere in Kingston, ACT

Looking at these National Archives’ photos of the interior of the Hayes and Russell grocery store, I realise that grocery shopping in Canberra’s 1920s and 30s would have been an exotic experience for me. As a modern-day shopper, I’m used to the vast spaces, impersonally bright lights and endless aisles of Coles and Woolworths. Certainly none of my usual grocery stores offer me a seat while a grocery assistant puts together my order, as obviously happened in Hayes and Russell’s store.

interior of the store

Shopping here must have been a social experience - you could sit and chat to other customers while your order was compiled. NAA: A3560, 1631

It seems from these photos that Hayes and Russell offered their customers a whole range of tinned and bottled groceries, as well as kitchen and glass ware. The light shining down through the clerestory windows falls on beautiful wooden fixtures – the counters, display shelves and chairs. The classic display of pyramids of tins are a real feature. Many modern boutique stores try extremely hard to recreate this sort of look.

But not big modern grocery stores. For a start, big modern grocery stores demand air-conditioning and refrigeration. Lots of refrigeration. Somehow I don’t think refrigeration was a major feature of Haye’s and Russell’s.

interior of store

Hayes and Russell's store must have had its own unique smell as you walked through the door. Kids would have been able to wander the floor, looking at but unable to touch any of the items carefully displayed. Would there have been treats for them? Bags of mixed lollies, perhaps? NAA: A3560, 1635

So where was the store? According to the title of one the photos taken, it was located on the corner of Kennedy and Eyre Streets, in Kingston ACT. If this was the case, it was in a building away from the main Kingston shops, and it no longer exists. That corner has nothing on it now – save some fences that indicate that new buildings are going to spring up in the near future.

If you know where the shop is – go and visit the fabulous website Discovering Mildenhall’s Canberra. In fact, you should visit the site even if you don’t know the the shop’s location.

On the website, you can see over 7000 photos taken of the early days of Canberra. Better than that though, you the opportunity to locate and map where they were taken. You can also ‘rephotograph’ those sites , and load your own images to the website. Have a look and a play. It’s a rather interesting way of rediscovering our modern city, seeing it through the lens of these old photographs.

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This entry was posted in 1920s, 1930, ACT and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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