Thursday, November 26, 2015

A refreshing cup : Wagga Wagga's Cafe Society 1920 - 1954

Above : from The Daily Advertiser, January 1943

Cafes were a huge part of the community in the first part of the 20th century.  More than just providers of food and drink, cafes were meeting places, landmarks for giving directions to events or other businesses, and they hosted events and parties of all kinds. 

Street stalls were part of the war time fundraising effort and directions for such were printed in the newspaper when announcing when and where the stalls were operating. People could buy goods from the stalls and the money raised went to supporting war related or other similar charities.  The Greek café community in Wagga Wagga also contributed greatly to the war effort by raising large amounts of money in 1942.

Above : from The Daily Advertiser, December 1942

Cafes also made the news through brawls, breaching food health and safety laws, people behaving weirdly (yelling or knocking tables and chairs over) and being removed from the premises, fires, and over pricing of cigarettes, to name but a few examples. Farewells and bridge nights, engagement parties, musical evenings, in fact anything that involved people gathering for an event would most likely involve one of Wagga’s many cafes.

Above: from The Daily Advertiser, March 1923

Here is a by no means exhaustive list of cafes operating in Wagga Wagga from 1920 to 1954 :  

Riverina Café (Gurwood Street) 1920
St John’s Café (Baylis Street) 1921
Austral Café 1923
Mother’s Union Café 1926
Picone’s Café 1928
Wonderland Café (adjoins the Strand arcade) 1928
Siver Key Café  (Baylis Street) 1929
Page’s Wattle Café, 1930
White Rose Café 1931
Majestic Café (Gurwood Street) 1932
Black Cat Café (240 Baylis Street) 1933
Popular Café, (Fitzmaurice Street) 1933
Watson’s Café  1933
Café Royal (210 Baylis Street) 1934
Elizabeth Café (over Edmondson’s in Gurwood Street) 1934
Toby’s Tavern, ( Glamis Court, Gurwood Street) 1938
Continental Café 1940
Aussie Café 1942
Blue Moon Café (next to the Plaza Theatre) 1943
Crown Corner Café 1948
Alpine Café 1948
Ideal Café (Baylis Street) 1950
Bidgee Café 1951
Bridge Café 1951

In the early part of the 20th century the  Café Chantant was also popular, a form of café event held outside in garden settings, where people sang and recited poetry and stalls sold different foods like ice creams and fizzy drinks, tea, coffee and little cakes. Gardens at twilight, with strings of fairy lights and Chinese lanterns decorating the trees, were pretty backdrops for the evening's programme. Mount Erin held a number of successful Café Chantants in the 1920s.

Above : from The Daily Advertiser, November 1928

The Bridge Café is famous in Wagga Wagga’s history and is featured in Selling an American Dream : Australia’s Greek Café, the book accompanying the national travelling exhibition in 2013. Lex Marinos is a descendant of the original owner of the Bridge café, Anthony Karofilis. This book is part of the Wagga Wagga City Library local studies collection and is available to view within the library.

Above : from The Daily Advertiser, May 1951

Above : Anthony Karofilis and staff, Bridge Cafe Wagga Wagga, 1950s. From  Selling an American dream : Australia's Greek Cafe

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Different faces of Wagga Wagga : new books in local studies

The 1960s Aboriginal Fruit-Picking Scheme – A critical evaluation: An instructive history of social policy, social work, and Central Australian Aborigines by Milton James.
This study of the policies, procedures and outcomes of a fruit-picking scheme created to solve a labour shortage in selected rural areas covers the groups based at Gundagai, Leeton and Griffith, amongst others further afield.
The study contains statistics regarding pay rates, properties used in the scheme, as well as reminiscences from various people involved, from property owners to workers.

Wiradjuri Reserve Gobba Beach (Murrumbidgee River): Statement of Significance for an Aboriginal Place Declaration. Compiled by Go Green Services, Wagga Wagga.

Another extensively researched and readable report from Dick Green at Go Green Services, containing Indigenous history, maps, environmental facts, photographs and more.  There is a copy of this book in the general collection as well as in local studies, and is available for loan.

Faces of Wagga Wagga by John Egan.

A series of portraits of people who have contributed to the local community in diverse ways, taken by the photographer (and author) John Egan. There is a copy of this book in the general  collection as well as local studies. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wagga Wagga in the 1950s : "Quiet as the morgue"

By January  1950, Wagga Wagga had become a quiet and mostly respectable town, to the extent that its inhabitants felt it was generally dead as a doornail. The anonymous "Staff Reporter" (see above) felt that Wagga had improved somewhat from his first year in the town. The start of a new year was still a cause for celebration, especially at this time as it took the town further away from the austerity years of World War Two. A national debate about ending petrol and butter rationing was just beginning.  
So what was Wagga really like in the 1950s ? The pages of the Daily Advertiser provide a snapshot of a mostly wealthy, comfortable and progressive town with a reputation of being a little on the dull side.

But the future was arriving, with the newspaper announcing that "movies by telephone" were on the way :

The quirky side of Wagga also appears in sometimes startling, many and varied news items (also interesting to see what passed as news in that era), from the country beer shortage, snakes spotted in West Wyalong, the scandal of drunk, nude swimmers on Wagga beach, new Croquet lawns and a car inadvertently stolen twice by the same thieves.

Wagga Wagga held an annual Gift Race day, which brought an influx of people to participate and watch (the Gift included a cycling category). There was also a Boxing event which was always popular: 

What was on the menu in the early 1950s? Curried pilchards, tinned cauliflower and peas were another, perhaps explosive, carryover from the war years when people may have been less fussy about what they ate.

My favourite items from the 1950s are the clothing and other advertisements, elegant but somehow faintly ridiculous, like the sophisticated self supporting trouser, and the evening gown required for cigarette smoking.

This blog post is the first in a series about the 1950s in Wagga, and we’d like to know what are your memories of the 1950s in Wagga ? Do you have any photographs, favourite toys or books, movies or events you would like to share with us ? contact us at and we can share your 1950s memories !

Saturday, August 29, 2015

New to Wagga Wagga City Library’s local studies collection : A history of the North Wagga Public Hall by Geoff Burch

Local Historian Geoff Burch has written a concise and thoroughly researched history of the North Wagga Wagga hall, with its origin as a church and community hall for North Wagga particularly.
Local people’s memories of the social occasions held at the hall are many and varied, with dances, friendship clubs, weddings, and different community groups using the hall as a meeting place over the years.
There is extensive and precise historical information on architectural plans, ownership and leasing by various groups. The ownership of the hall is particularly covered in detail, with the author untangling a slightly confusing tale of two halls in the same area.  

A highlight in the North Wagga hall’s history is when it was raided by police in May 1950, when the businessmen of Wagga got together to hold a “fete” in the hall, which was actually a gambling event (p 13, A History of the North Wagga Public Hall, Geoff Burch) .
This item will soon be available to view as part of the local studies collection, and is well worth the read.  

Friday, July 31, 2015

Where in the world is Coffin Rock ?

Parish maps are a great way to find out who owned what, and when, across New South Wales during particular time periods. Some of the maps have basic geographical features drawn on, and all the notes, keys and other features of these maps make for interesting viewing.

Wagga Wagga City Library’s local studies collection has some local area parish maps available to look at. If you want to find out what parish maps are in the collection, go to the library’s homepage, and you can search the catalogue through the simple search :

Write down the call number – ( the shelf location number) and when you come into the library you can ask at the Information desk to see the map you are looking for.

Detail from the Sandy Creek Parish map, showing the beginnings of Coffin Rock

I’ve chosen the Parish of Coffin Rock to look at, which has a very intriguing name and it is not well known though comparatively close in to Wagga Wagga. A quick search through the Daily Advertiser newspapers online in Trove shows that Coffin Rock, though “sparsely populated” was a thriving little community with sports days, picnic meetings and more in the last century.

This excerpt is from the Daily Advertiser, Friday 26th of January, 1923.

If you would like to look at the Daily Advertiser newspapers available through Trove : 

There are a number of websites that are useful if you are doing historical research and particularly wanting to use maps and similar type records. Here is a link to the Land and Property Information NSW website, where you can search for Parish Maps : 

To read or download a series of five guides to searching maps and other historical records online : 

Happy researching  ! 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

More tales and true in Local Studies : new books on World War One, the Kapooka Tradgedy, and the lost world of Pastoral Holdings circa 1890s

Loss, reverence and longing : ANZAC stories from the home front

This is the official catalogue of the exhibition of the same name , produced and shown by the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery. If you missed the exhibition or are interested in anything to do with World War One, this book alone is well worth reading. Cover to cover, it has beautiful images, moving stories and historical information woven into one perfect whole. 

The Kapooka Explosion: 21 May 1945, by Sherry Morris

Sherry Morris has rescued another important part of Wagga Wagga's history that would otherwise have been lost, with her detailed account of the tragic explosion at Kapooka in 1945. There is also background information, new photographs, diagrams and other documents that fill out the story of what exactly happened that day.

Mackenzie's Riverina, second edition, Including Pictorial Supplement : A tour of the Hay district Pastoral Holdings of the 1890s , articles written by Harold M Mackenzie . Reprinted by the Hay Historical Society.

The preface to this work describes Harold M Mackenzie as "a travelling agent, dealer, and journalist of the late 1800s". (p. 5, Carolyn Merrylees, ed.) The second edition has been updated with photographs old and new, illustrations and maps, and is a cracking read , with Mackenzie's observations on people and properties amusing and informative. Mackenzie has a fine fireside literary style which he uses to great effect in his writing, and you feel like you are sitting with him as he tells his tales. 
If every man, woman or child were sent to goal for 24 hours without the option of a fine for whistling or humming "After the ball", it might have the effect perhaps of making life at present a little more tolerable. Harold M. Mackenzie, p 143, Mackenzie's Riverina 
Winter is a great time to catch up on your history reading so come into the library and have a look through our local history titles !   

Friday, May 29, 2015

Local history's local histories

Here is a sample of local histories for you to read, use in your research or prompt you to put your own research into print, and all from the local region.

There are a few histories of Batlow, focussing on different aspects of the town. I have chosen two :

Batlow : the growing years from gold to apples, compiled by the Batlow Historical Society.

A general history of the town and surrounding district.

Famous for flavour : 75 years of co-operation in Batlow by Sherry Morris.

A detailed study of the Batlow Fruit Co-Operative on their 75th anniversary of operation.

Grong Grong : the spirit of a small town, compiled by the Grong Grong History Committee. A general history with information drawn from oral histories, newspapers and more.

Wowsers, bowsers & peppercorn trees: a collection of history from Ariah Park and district compiled by Nigel Judd.

The history of Ariah Park town and the surrounding area, includes some family histories, stories about local characters, and church histories.

There are many more local histories to discover in the Wagga Wagga City Library collections, whether you are looking for a specific area or just want to browse the collection.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Indigenous history resources in Wagga Wagga City Library

The first people of this Riverina area are the Wiradjuri, and there are some very interesting resources on local Indigenous history in the local studies section of the library. If you are researching Indigenous history, the following are indispensable:

Wiradjuri Places : The Murrumbidgee River Basin (with a section on Ngunawal country) by Peter Rimas Kabaila,  contains information on Wiradjuri history across the Tumut, Narrandera, Cootamundra  and Yass areas, even to Grong Grong, with detailed maps and other illustrations.
Archaeological Aspects of Aboriginal Settlement of the period 1870 – 1970 in the Wiradjuri Region , by Peter Rimas Kabaila (Thesis for Doctor of Philosophy 1999) This thesis is a very readable and fascinating work which covers the theory and  methodology of social archaeology in regards to Indigenous History, more particularly to the use of these in uncovering Wiradjuri history in the region. There are maps, statistics, appendices (containing artefact records) and it is, in total, a truly beautiful piece of research.

Wiradjuri Heritage Study,  for the Wagga Wagga local Government Area of New South Wales , complied by Dick Green,  Go Green Services of Wagga Wagga, 2002.A collection of Wiradjuri history, facts, maps, and more, in the Wagga Wagga local government area, with the literary additions of songs and poems, a really handy and accessible guide, which is also reproduced in full on the Wagga Wagga City Council website :
Last but not least, and although not strictly categorised as history, are the Wiradjuri language dictionaries available in Wagga Wagga City Library, and because I love dictionaries, (who doesn’t!) and these are a very fine set of resources for the region.
A new Wiradjuri Dictionary, compiled by Stan Grant (Senr) and Dr John Rudder, Restoration House, 2010. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A tale of two world wars : resources in local studies at Wagga Wagga City Library

With the anniversary of world war one under way, now is a good time to look at the stories that both the wars produced, more particularly the impact of the wars on people in the local area. If you are interested in war stories here are two books that you may find interesting:

Land fit for heroes : Urangeline Soldiers Settlements from 1920 , by Christopher P. Madden

Divided into two sections, part one covers the history of soldier settlements, and part two is a list of soldiers who took up the land on offer, which was part of the former station Urangeline, land which was then in an area called the Parish of Urangeline, in the County of Urana, in Lockhart Shire. This book offers a detailed study of a little known aspect of returned soldier’s lives after World War One and leading up to the Great Depression, with descriptions of the land itself, what agriculture it supported, what machinery used and other unusual information.  
John Hurst Edmondson V C : A hero in the mould of other days, by Kenneth R Peacock
John Hurst Edmondson won a Victoria Cross in World War Two. Known as Jack Edmondson to his family and close friends, he died on 13 April 1941 in Tobruk, protecting his Commanding Officer and fellow soldiers from enemy attack.  This book covers his childhood in Wagga Wagga as well as military service and family life and relationships.
There are lots more war stories to discover - come into the library and ask the friendly staff to help you find what you are looking for.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Not so quiet on the home front: Wagga Wagga, World War One and the Kangaroo March

1915 : a new year and a world war, Wagga Wagga was rapidly becoming involved in the national war effort by holding and hosting recruiting drives and other events .  Arguably the biggest of these was the Kangaroo March, which kicked off in Wagga on December 1, 1915. The Daily Advertiser reported on all the associated meetings, discussions and gatherings, the newspaper being the most up to date technology for disseminating the war news (which it liked to point out to its readers, on the front page: “ CABLES AND TELEGRAMS EVERY MORNING News before any other source” )

The Kangaroo March, by Sherry Morris and Harold Fife, is a detailed history of the Kangaroo March itself, but also offers insights into other aspects surrounding the effect of the war on the local area. Australia is currently commemorating the 100 years anniversary of ANZACS participating in World War One, so now is a good time to research all things 1914-1918. 

 There are many reputable websites with information regarding Australia’s  contribution to the war , for example the Australian War Memorial :

                                         Australians on the Western Front
                                         100 Years of ANZAC

But best of all you can come to the library and borrow a copy of The Kangaroo March, or book the microfilm reader to look at the Daily Advertiser’s war reporting, or use the library’s free wifi or computer access to look up World War One websites, or look for general or local information about the Great War.  See you soon! 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Wagga Wagga New Year - 1949 and local industry

Four years after the end of World War Two, Wagga Wagga was still experiencing a degree of postwar poverty, but the general outlook was one of optimism. Wagga Wagga promoted itself as an industrial hub in a number of manufacturing areas such as metal, timber, dairy and flour. 

Still recovering from the food restrictions imposed by rationing during the war, (rationing for butter and tea wasn't abolished until 1950) the city never the less looked forward to an economic boom time. A group of local businesses calling themselves "The Combined Manufacturers of Wagga Wagga " pooled their resources, and using the traditional community enthusiasm for a new year and a fresh start, published a leaflet advertising and extolling Wagga Wagga as a provider of employment, quality goods and services, as well as appealing to the rural and pastoral element with references to a golden era of farming in the area.


The people of Wagga Wagga had seen in the new year with many celebrations in the form of dances, theatre and general carousing in the streets - 1949 was also the year Thena Karofolis was crowned Miss Wagga (she also held the title of Miss Cafes) . The Daily Advertiser had estimated that ten thousand people filled central Wagga Wagga's streets singing and dancing, and this crowd was added to when theatres and movies ended, the patrons joining in the general celebrations. At midnight the crowds gathered round the Court House and sang Auld Lang Syne. Economically progressive Wagga Wagga was ready to tackle another year, moving further away from the difficult war years. 

The Wagga Wagga Industries Directory will soon be available to view within the library ! Come into the library and check out the local history section and just come to the loans desk to ask about viewing this and other material from the local studies collection.