Deegans’ shop

Phyllis Deegan behind the counter of her Bulli shop

Phyllis Deegan behind the counter of her Bulli shop

By MICK ROBERTS ©

AFTER managing a coal miners’ pub during World War II, Phyllis Deegan would have thought running a small mixed business a piece of cake.

The 37 year-old mother of two teenagers probably looked with relief at mixing milkshakes instead of pulling beers.

Pubs, especially the rough and tumble of a miners’ watering hole, wasn’t considered the best place to bring-up kids.

The opportunity to move her family out of the Bulli pub came after her brother-in-law, Charlie Luscombe, decided to sell the license of the Bulli Family Hotel in 1947.

Luscombe’s wife, Marjorie had died and he had the pub on the market.

Phyllis had been at the helm managing the business since 1943.

The war years made it difficult for Luscombe to find staff and Phyllis came to the rescue soon proving herself a strong and capable hotel manager.

Phyllis was her family’s chief bread winner as husband Cyril was unable to hold down any permanent work. He was a sickly man suffering tuberculosis (TB) and when the Bulli pub went up for sale Phyllis searched for a stable income for her family.

Phyllis Deegan built a reputation as a generous and successful business woman in the Bulli district during the 1940s through the war years until the 1960s. During 2003 I spoke to 72-year-old Pat Pennefather who revealed a glimpse into the life of her mother, Phyllis Deegan.

Deegans'shop, Bulli

Deegans’shop, Bulli

Bulli hotel licensee Charlie Luscombe repaid his sister-in-law’s hard work at the pub during the war years by offering her a loan to buy a small but busy little mixed business located opposite the Masonic Lodge at Bulli.

Phyllis quickly put her skills to work building on the already thriving little business, Pat said.

“It was like today’s convenience stores, I suppose,” she said.

“We sold a bit of everything.”

Long gone, the Deegans’ shop sat at about the northern driveway into the Shell service station on the Princes Highway at Bulli and did a roaring trade supplying sandwiches as well as groceries and small goods to the surrounding community.

The Deegans remained there until 1950, when Phyllis decided to make an ambitious move to sell baby clothing from a shop opposite the Bulli Hotel. The shop was located directly north of the Black Diamond Bakery, where a liquor trades today. While in business there Phyllis and Cyril became foundation members of the Bulli Bowling and Recreation Club (now closed) which was established at Slacky Flat in the late 1950s.

By the 1960s she was selling women’s fashions from the store now known as Joytogs. The shop became a popular fashion store for women in the northern suburbs.

Tragedy struck the Deegans when Cyril finally succumbed to TB at the age of 61 and died in the shop in 1961.

Phyllis continued to run Joytogs on her own until a burglary in 1965 forced her to reassess her life, according to daughter Pat.

“She became quite unsettled after someone broke into the shop and she decided to retire and go on a holiday to Hobart,” Pat said.

While on the Apple Isle, a new man entered the life of Phyllis Deegan. She struck up a friendship with a man by the name of Maurice Smith and they eventually married in 1967.

Phyllis moved to Hobart with her new husband, leaving a lasting reputation at Bulli as a business woman who cared for her local community.

Besides a foundation member of the Bulli Bowling Club, she was an active member of the Bulli Surf Club.

As a prominent member of the social committee, she organised many successful fund-raising fashion parades and other events for the surf club in its formative years.

Phyllis died in Tasmania in 1989 aged 79.

© Copyright 2014 Mick Roberts

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