Down Memory Lane: Woonona Bulli’s first service stations and garages

Shell Garage, corner of Molloy Street and the Princes Highway, Bulli.

Down Memory Lane with Jack Devitt *

AS motor vehicles became more numerous several garages began to appear in the Bulli Woonona area; with their hand operated petrol pumps, selling several brands such as Shell, Plume, Texaco, Union and a brand DPL a few pence per gallon cheaper on which my dad’s 1926 Superior K Chev went for thousands of miles.

He was the sewing machine representative with an area from North Wollongong to Waterfall, which he covered every fortnight.

Ivo Bunker had a garage opposite Bulli Hotel, later at the foot of Bulli Pass. He was an excellent mechanic, in fact a bit of a genius the jobs he could do.

He had two hire cars that I remember, a Chandler and its little brother a Cleveland. Both had side valve red seal engines, the Chandler reputed to have gone over Bulli Pass in top gear, quite a feat in the early 1920s.

Further south along the road next to the present Bulli Chemist shop [Now Fitz Bar & Café], Harry Buttler, another smart mechanic, had a garage and hire car, a Studebaker Californian Tourer, a hard top with side roller blinds from memory. I think Harry only had one bowser. The depression caused Harry to close up.

Later in the mid 30s, Ben Lansdowne opened a garage at the corner of Molloy Street and the main road, the property owned by Tom Medlin, who ran a couple of trucks hired to Bulli Shire Council on road work.

Ben, another good mechanic, had a couple of bowsers, one for DPL that dad used.

He later moved to the north coast, selling out to Russ Fletcher, who stayed some time before selling to Jim Molloy, who finally had to go when the property was sold to Shell, who opened the then very modern garage on the site.

Brooky Hall had a garage just south of Popes Road on the western side approximately where the doctor surgery stands.

Hec Pember, another fine mechanic, served his apprenticeship with Brooky, who was quite a character, said to have had only two speeds, stopped and flat-out!

Brook had Packards in which he transported the Woonona soccer team to away matches, Sydney (Metters and Goodyear) and teams in the Newcastle area.

Some of the players often told me of some hair raising experiences they had with Brook giving the Packards their lead on the way to and from the games.

There was another garage run by Vic Southal on the western side of the highway opposite Gray Street, Woonona. The building still stands being used by a garden and feed supplier [Now Woonona Tyres and Mechanical]. Vic sold out to go into the real estate business down the coast, the business not lasting very long after his departure.

Later Hec Pember opened his own garage at Russell Vale [at the corner of Collaery Road and the Princes Highway], still operating, taken over by his son when Hec retired [Pembers has now closed and is trading as Pacific Furniture and Bedding].

* First published in the Corrimal Post newspaper, October 1997.

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One thought on “Down Memory Lane: Woonona Bulli’s first service stations and garages

  1. Ivo Bunker was also quite an inventor. The stories were that the clock on the front of his garage was operated by rubber bands. Reference to his self-made false teeth and the counterfeiting of 2 shilling pieces are mentioned in an earlier piece on Looking Back.
    Harry Butler was a close friend of my father, Ron Evans who worked at both the Woonona Coop and the Royal Theatre Woonona for many years. He was also quite a character. During the war he and my father were “manpowered” to work for the Main Roads on the highway which now runs from the top of Bulli Pass to Mt Ousley. One day when driving up Bulli Pass an army officer stopped them and demanded a lift. When asked about his men he replied that they could walk. To which Harry replied; “then so can you” and drove off. When my father last saw him towards the end of the war, Harry was wearing an American Army soldier’s uniform.
    In the 1960’s the garage was still there. I recall the owners name was Reg and he lived at the bottom of Farrell Road at Bulli Beach but I cannot recall his surname
    Brooky Halls Packard was always parked in front to the house next to his garage. For many years the garage was run by George Benge and in the late 1960’s was sold to Eddie Fritz. I recall directly opposite was an Ampol service station.
    Vic Southall went to Erowal Bay south of Nowra where he had a small business renting fishing boats to holiday makers. I have a feeling when in Woonona/Bulli he was also an active member of the Bulli Rifle Club.
    My father also new Hec Pember quite well. As well as the garage, Hec sold second hand cars and was also the Wollongong BMC dealer, One afternoon in late 1961 my father came home quite excited, Hec had shown him a new small car (under a car cover) which was about to be released. It was the Morris 850. In 1963 the Mini was the third bestselling car in Australia, 20,911 units were sold grabbing 7% of total passenger car sales.
    Phil Evans lived in Bulli from 1945 to 1979 when he moved to Perth. He attended Waniora Primary School, Bulli High School and the University of Wollongong. From 1960 until moving to Perth he worked for Wollongong City Council first as a draftsman and later as a civil engineer


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