By MICK ROBERTS ©
LIKE most towns and suburbs across Australia, the sound of the paper boy’s whistle has fallen silent on Bulli’s streets.
Changing attitudes towards the way in which we devour news and information, has lead to the demise of both Bulli and Woonona newsagencies, and with them have gone the ‘paper boy’.
A short blast, followed by a slightly longer shrill of the metal whistle, sounded the paper boy’s arrival through the suburban streets of Bulli weekday afternoons, and weekend mornings.
Straight after school the boys would gather in front of the newsagency to collect their trade-mark yellow barrows, ready for the three local runs. With leather purse securely strapped around their waists, off they would go, barrow stocked with newspapers, magazines, cigarettes and a few selected confectionaries, on the three runs: ‘Bulli’ (streets south of Park Road), ‘Sandon Point’ and ‘Bulli Hill’. There was also an early morning stall, set-up in the local service station, during the 1970s.
Although I could go on, this story isn’t about the paper boys; it’s to tell a short history of the newsagencies which gave them employment.
After more than a century of history, the Bulli Newsagency closed on January 20 2012, after the business fell into financial difficulties. The Woonona Newsagency followed shortly after, with Graham Sturgiss deciding to shut-shop and retire on November 29 2015.
After 104 years trading from the north east corner of Russell Street and the Princes Highway, Mr Sturgiss said it was a difficult decision to close.
“It has been an extremely hard decision to make, especially with our family connection to the business over the last 49 years,” he wrote on social media at the time.
“Unfortunately it is a reflection of changing retail environment and the changing way consumers gather their news and information.”
Although in an updated building, newspapers had been sold from the corner location ever since William Austin Pitman opened his newsagency in 1911 when he converted the old Woonona Workmen’s Club, which had closed for business a few years earlier.
The South Coast Times reported on Friday September 8 1911:
“The building trade is very brisk. Extensive alterations are in progress at the old Workmen’s Club premises, which are being altered to suit the newsagency business, to be carried on there by Mr. W. Pitman.”
The Woonona newsagency closed three years after its counterpart in Bulli shut for business after 101 years.
Bulli’s first newsagency was opened by Walter Larkin in 1911, in a small timber shop on the main road, opposite what is today, the Masonic Temple. The site is part of the new Bulli Shopping Mall’s car park, and the northern driveway into thye Shell Service Station.
Walter and Elizabeth Larkin came from Camden to open Bulli’s first newsagency. Prior to this newspapers in both Bulli and Woonona were available at shops contracted to individual newspaper companies. For example, Henry Fry’s general store, opposite the public school was contracted to sell the Illawarra Mercury in Bulli during the early 1900s.
Specialised newsagencies developed in 1911 when government legislation required shops selling a determined product or item to close at prescribed times. This legislation shaped the birth of the newsagency, which focused on selling newspapers, magazines, stationary and similar products.
Walter Edward Larkin was 56 when he arrived in Bulli to open his newsagency. He had previously been a mail contractor in the Camden area, and was a noted gardener, winning many awards at agricultural shows. He had a short stay at Bulli, and died of heart failure at the age of 61 while still running his shop. He was buried in the Church of England Grave Yard in Park Road Bulli.
Larkin’s wife Elizabeth, finding the responsibility of running the business after his death too much, sold it almost immediately to Edward Victor Shipton of Katoomba. Elizabeth saw out her life in Bulli, and died there aged 85 in 1942.
The Illawarra Mercury reported on August 14 1942 that at her death she was one of the oldest and most respected residents of Bulli.
”She was born in Kent, England, 85 years ago, and came to Australia with her parents when two years of age. She was married in Sydney to the late Mr. Walter E. Larkin. She had resided in the Bulli district for a very long period, and was very highly respected. Despite her advanced years, she was in full possession of all her faculties and while on the seat on the verandah of her home in Main-road, she always had a cheery word for her many friends as they passed along the street. A few months ago she suffered a stroke and although she had not been confined to her bed she had not been able to get about except in a wheel chair. She is survived by a grown up family of eight.”
Meanwhile, Shipton, who had taken over the Bulli Newsagency, became a foundation member of the Illawarra District Newsagents Association. He was elected as secretary, along with Mr Simpson as president (Wollongong), and Mr Duchesne (Wollongong) in September 1917.
MEMBERS OF THE SOUTH COAST NEWSAGENTS’ ASSOCIATION.
Back Row (From the Left) : G. Redmond (Coledale), A. V. Green (Wollongong), G. Green (Wollongong), Dunk (Bulli), Williams (Woonona), G. Green (Corrimal). Middle Row: Hope (Balgownie), Deleca (Helensburgh), E. Hummerston (Wollongong), Secretary J. McCann (Port Kembla), Vice president C. Simpson (Wollongong), President Warren (Thirroul), Butler (Austinmer), Parnell (Scarborough). Bottom Row: Redman (Coledale), R Green (Corrimal), C. Jackson (Nowra).
– Sydney Mail, November 11, 1925.
Later that year, Shipton’s newsagency narrowly escaped destruction by fire. The South Coast Times reported on October 12 1917:
“About 1am a young man, Reg Kerrison, was passing the shop when he noticed a glare of light through the window. He immediately awakened Mr. Shipton, who rushed into the shop and found portion of the shelves in a blaze. A few buckets of water, however, were sufficient to squelch the flames, but not before sweet meats and tobacco, worth between £6 and £7, were destroyed.”
Seven months later flames again engulfed the shop. This time, however, Shipton’s business didn’t escape and was burnt to the ground. The South Coast Times reported:
“A little before six o’clock on Sunday evening last a fire broke out in premises on the Bulli road occupied by Mr. Shipton, newsagent. The fire bell roused the populace to action, and in a few minutes a willing band of workers set about fighting the flames. Beyond saving the cottage adjoining, however, their efforts were without avail, for the building and its contents were totally demolished. Mr. Roberts, who occupies the cottage adjoining, had his furniture somewhat damaged through having it hurriedly removed. Mr. Simpson, who resides in a small room at the rear of the building which was gutted, being away at the time, had all his belongings destroyed. Mr. Shipton states that his loss amounts to about£150. The building contained books, toys and other goods usually stocked by a newsagent. There is £100 insurance on these in the Mercantile Mutual. Mr. Shipton also states that he left twenty pound notes in the shop on the Saturday night and these were also destroyed.”
Shipton had recently sold the business to S.P. Pitman, who was also operating the Woonona Newsagency. Pitman advertised that he would make arrangements for newspapers to be purchased from a “convenient location” at Bulli.
Shipton, with his wife, moved to Helensburgh and later Ashfield where he continued in business. He died at the age of 69 in 1954.
After the 1917 destruction of the Bulli Newsagency by fire, newspapers were sold from the shop of Miss E. Evans, on the main road opposite the Bulli Post Office. Miss Evans had previously opened her general store in 1915.
Bulli’s next newspaper agent was C.J. Aplin. Aplin, with his wife Norah Anne, had previously operated a newsagent in Murrurundi. They bought Miss Evan’s Bulli business in April 1923.
The Aplins had a short stay at Bulli, and sold their business to William Leslie Dunk in 1925. Dunk at the time was the manager of the Coledale Co-Operative Society Store.
The Aplins later moved to Manly where they operated a newsagency for many years. Mrs Aplin died in Manly aged 65 in 1933, while her husband died in 1938.
Bill Dunk’s Bulli Newsagency – almost opposite Park Road on the western side of the Princes Highway – besides newspapers and stationary, also sold millinery and “fancy goods” during the 1920s.
The Bulli Newsagency was lucky to not have been demolished by a runaway team of draught horse in 1925. The horses were returning to Mr T. Evans livery stables and transport business, which were located behind the newsagency, when they slammed into the side of the shop. The South Coast Times reported on February 20:
“Turning into the lane next to Mr Dunk’s Bulli Newsagency, the dray struck a post and rebounded on to the side wall of the newsagency building. Onlookers thought the place would be wrecked, but all the impact did was to knock a few articles off the shelves inside. The animals next crashed through a fence and pulled up at the stable. Only slight damage resulted to the dray and harness.”
The next big move for the Bulli Newsagency occurred in 1926, when Dunk built an “ornate little shop”, opposite Stokes Lane on the Princes Highway. The Illawarra Mercury reported on July 9:
“The Bulli Newsagency.
It is admitted that Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Dunk have displayed much-interest in the Bulli Newsagency since taking it over about 18 months ago. Their enterprise is now displayed by having erected, on their own property opposite Bulli Hotel, one of the most up-to-date shops on the South Coast. The building is having the final touches applied to it by the contractor, Mr. S. B. Anderson, and his staff, and Mr. Dunk should be in occupancy early next week.
The brick building outside is tiled in parts, but otherwise has a complete glass front, with pretty lead lights above. There are two display windows, together with an island window in the centre, all making a desirable, attractive and modern entrance. The cantilever awning is lined with steel ceiling. The shop has also steel ceiling of a neat, continuous pattern. Inside there is a counter on either side, with the required shelving. Credit is entirely due to Mr. Anderson (Bulli’s young builder, who is making good progress), and also his staff of tradesmen, a noticeable feature being the fact that the metal fronts were made on the job. The shop, is lighted by electricity, the fancy shades over the bulbs lending a charm to the whole appearance, and in this connection we compliment, the electrical fitter, Mr. W. Wynn, who is as keen on that work as he is in describing a game of Soccer.”
Speaking in support of an application for another hotel for Bulli, Bill Dunk told the Wollongong Licensing Court that another “up-to-date” house of accommodation, in line with Thirroul and Wollongong, was needed. He said the accommodation for tourists at Bulli was not sufficient, “either for sleeping, or bar conveniences”. He attributed the loss of tourist traffic to the bad hotel accommodation. The application, for the site where the Bulli PCYC is located today, failed.
After 14 years, Bill Dunk sold his newsagency business to Albert Marsden in April 1939. Marsden had plenty of business experience, previously employed at the Woonona, and later Corrimal Co-operative Society stores.
Bill Dunk, who had been living in Park Road died at the age of 58 in 1943. The Illawarra Mercury reported on Friday August 27:
“THE sudden death on Monday of Mr. William Leslie Dunk, of 44 Park Road, Bulli, came as a profound shock to his many friends throughout this district. Bill Dunk, as he was familiarly known, was a general favourite with , all and his passing will be sincerely regretted. Aged 58 years, he was a son of Mr. and Mrs. William Dunk, of the Methodist Church, Bondi Junction, and came to the coast about thirty years ago. For a time he was employed at the Co-operative Store, and then he took over the Bulli Newsagency. Some four years ago he sold out and set up in business as an auctioneer and estate agent. Throughout his long business career in the town he had won the respect and esteem of the business community and the good-will of the general public. He had taken an active part in the public life of the town being connected with the Progress Association and the many other organisations which had for their aim the advancement of the district. Fort a time, he had been a member of the V.D.G. and subsequently took up duties as an N.E.J. warden, a position he filled with credit to himself and the organisation. He was a member of the Bulli Masonic Lodge and early in his residence on the coast had been secretary of the Ancient Order of Foresters. A keen fisherman, he never tired of telling of the big ones that got away and only recently he had been assisting in painting the boat in readiness for a break in the weather which would allow them out. His death will be deeply regretted by all bowlers on the Coast, particularly those of his club, Woonona, for he had been secretary for the past five years and had proved a most efficient and popular officer. Widespread sympathy is expressed to his widow and two daughters, Jean (Mrs. McKinnon) and Joan. At the funeral on Wednesday, a service was held at St. Augustine’s Church of England prior to the cortege moving to the general cemetery. The pall bearers comprised members off the Masonic Lodge and Woonona Bowling Club.”
Albert Marsden had the Bulli Newsagency for seven years before he sold the business onto S.A. Cruickshank in 1946. The South Coast Times reported on May 14 1951:
“NEWSAGENT LIKES CORRIMAL
Jovial newsagent, Mr. Albert Marsden, is extremely happy that he has settled at Corrimal. Mr. Marsden conducted a newsagency at Bulli for seven years but was always desirous of returning to Corrimal. Both he and Mrs. Marsden had formerly been employed at the Co-operative store. Their business knowledge was put into effect when they became associated with the newsagency, and it has paid dividends. The store is well stocked with all requisites and service is given from the proprietors and employees with a smile.”
While at the Bulli Newsagency, the Cruickshanks became involved in the Bulli Greyhound Club. Mr Cruickshank was on the committee when lighting was installed on the Slacky Flat track for night racing.
The Cruickshanks also made several alterations to the shop built by Dunk, opposite Stokes Lane, in the early 1950s. The Cruickshanks were given approval by Bulli Shire Council to make additions and improvements to the shop and residence, valued at £4,300 in January 1951. In April 1952 they were also given approval to extend the shop, valued at £1000.
Harry and Kathleen Dumbrell bought the business in 1952. Harry had worked in the family butcher shop with his four brothers on the highway at Woonona before gaining employment for a couple of years at the Steelworks, then buying the Bulli newsagency.
During the Dumbrells time at the newsagency they employed a legendary figure around Bulli by the name of “Frank”. Frank was employed as a handyman and sold newspapers from Bulli Railway Station in the mornings. Later in his life he delivered newspapers to Bulli Hospital for many years.
The Dumbrells daughter, Enid Jordan, tells me that her father relocated the shop to new premises across the road, where a hairdresser now trades, in about 1963.
The owners of the shop where the Dumbrells had traded from 1952 to about 1963 (the current liquor store) would not extend the lease. Harry relocated the business across the road to a shop and sold the business to the Beeches before retiring to Sydney.
Rube and Jack Hargrave built the shop where the Dumbrells relocated at 241 Princes Highway. At the time, two shops traded from the building – on the southern side, the Bulli Newsagency (which had moved from its old location, opposite Stokes Lane) and the other was home to a barber.
Glen and Maria Beeche had the Bulli Newsagency from 1963 to 1980. This was the time I briefly worked as a paper boy, doing the Sandon Point run in about 1975.
In 1980, the Bulli Newsagency shifted once again, this time to the shop next door on the corner of the Princes Highway and Stokes Lane. This shop currently trades as a café.
Grant Joy, who worked as a paper boy at Bulli in the early 1980s, tells me that when the newsagent traded from 238 Princes Highway, it was also originally two shops. It was run at the time by the Goughs. The newsagency first operated from the shop closest to Stokes Lane, and later expanded into the other half.
The newsagency was purchased by Ken and Pauline Kates in 1983. The Kates relocated the business back to shop next door at 247 Princes Highway, later expanding the newsagency into the barber shop next door.
Pauline Caswell Kates writes on Facebook: “We are the previous owners of Bulli news agency, Ken + Pauline Caswell Kates. We purchased September 1983 from Mr and Mrs Gough. We sold to Greg Smart + his partner Butch Connell, nine years later. We purchased when news agency was on western side of highway, the property owned by Eric Blain [Mr Blain was the real estate agent for the Hargraves]. We then purchased the property on the eastern side of highway where news agency was situated until its closure. During our ownership, we did sell a winning ticket to the $2 lottery. Won by a local family, who also lived in Bank Street.”
Pauline was referring to a post I placed on social media asking for help putting this history together. Illawarra Daily Mercury of November 23 1950: “Lottery Second Prize to Bulli – Second prize of £1000 in yesterday’s State Lottery went to Bulli. The ticket was held by Mr. Fred Chilby, a retired miner, of Bank Street, Bulli, and Mr. J. Swift, a steelworker, of Main Road, Bulli. The ticket was purchased through Mr. S. A. Cruickshanks’ newsagent, of Bulli.”
The Kates relocated the business across the road, opposite Bulli hotel, into 247 Princes Highway. Shortly after the newsagency was sold to Greg and Lyn Smart, and “Butch” Connell, the business was expanded into a video store on the northern side of the building.
With the closure of the Bulli Post Office, the Smarts became the licensed post office agency, and post boxes were installed in the front of the shop. About this time the shop was renovated with a heritage style façade in the late 1980s, with post supported awnings.
In 1999, the business was sold to Gary Wickham, who fell into financial difficulties and he closed the business in 2012.
Today, both Woonona and Bulli are without a registered newsagency.
Bulli Newsagents 1911-2012
1911 – 1916: Walter E. Larkin (277 Princes Highway).
1916 – 1918: E. V. Shipton (277 Princes Highway)
1918 – 1923: Miss E. Evans (232 Princes Highway)
1923 – 1925: C. J. Aplin (232 Princes Highway)
1925 – 1939: William L. Dunk (241 Princes Highway)
1939 – 1946: Albert Marsden (241 Princes Highway)
1946 – 1953: S.A. Cruickshank (241 Princes Highway)
1953 – C1955: Thelma Gerling (241 Princes Highway)
C1955 – 1963: Harry and Kathleen Dumbrell (236 Princes Highway)
1963 – 1980: Glen and Marie William Beech (236 Princes Hwy)
1980 – 1983: Goughs (238 Princes Hwy)
1983 – 1992: Ken and Pauline Kates (236 Princes Hwy)
1992 – 1999: Greg and Lyn Smart and “Butch” Connell (247 Princes Hwy)
1999 – 2012: Gary Wickham (247 Princes Hwy)
Woonona Newsagents 1911 – 2015
371 Princes Highway, Woonona
1911 – 1920: S. Pitman
1920 – 1922: J. H. Edwards
1922 – Haywood Brothers
1932 – Len Williams and William Frederick Rees
1940 – Maggil
1951 – T.R. Rodda
1960 – 1966: Andrew Hickey
1966 – 1979: Bill & Jean Sturgiss.
1979 – 1993: Neol & Ruth Pitman (Grandson of original newsagent).
1993 – 2015: Graham & Christine Sturgiss (son of Bill & Jean Sturgiss).
© Copyright Mick Roberts 2016