Few people travelled off the Princes Highway to visit Mallacoota in the 1930s and with only about six families living here we were real ‘bush’ children and our knowledge of the outside world was very limited. It was with great anticipation that we travelled down Gipps Street into Carp Street taking note of Bega’ s Memorial Clock on the corner. It had been erected in memory of Dr. Evershed, who had a practice there in the 1880s. His ‘district’ covered an area from Tilba Tilba to the Victorian Border and Bombala as well! His means of travel was on horseback. I think he was deserving of that memorial!
We always stayed at Brady’s Commercial Hotel in Bega not because of it’s name but because it was THE HOTEL of the Far South Coast. In the 1920s the proprietor was J. Searle and it’s advertisements stated that it was The Leading Tourist and Commercial House and was under Vice-Regal patronage.
Later in a Tourist Brochure guide printed in the early 1930s it’s attraction was lock-up garages, electric light and billiards. The proprietor was one Montague Burke. It had been re-built by the time we stayed there and Mr Brady was the licensee; in 1936 he purchased the freehold. It was known for it’s impressive clientele (not us) and many a Parliamentarian stayed there. I remember Mr. Dom Brady telling us that Sir Robert Menzies had been a guest on several occasions and also the Duke of Gloucester’s aide whilst the Duke was Governor General of Australia. Mione and me were quite young when we first stayed at the Commercial and I can remember clearly stepping into the foyer with it’s leather lounge chairs and Grandfather Clock. You can imagine how important we felt as we went upstairs with our parents to our bedroom and our delight when awakened next morning by the ‘customary rising bell’ to be offered an early morning cup of tea and biscuit.
The Bega Co-operative Store was ort the corner of Auckland and Carp Streets and a real emporium in those days. Dad had bought a few shares which entitled us to a discount and we kids were suitably impressed! The most fascinating thing for us was the ‘invention’ of the time. After making the purchases, the tended money was put into a small barrel-like container placed above each particular counter, screwed back on, given a pull and away it zipped on an overhead wire track up to the cashier’s desk. When she had worked out the necessary change she placed it back into the container and sent it on it’s way down to the relative counter. There and then I decided that would be the ultimate job!
It was .at Bega that Mione and me saw our first Neon sign which I believe was the first one installed in that town. We had heard about it and because we only knew kerosene lamps, we couldn’t wait to see this new wonder a bright green fish advertising the Niagara Cafe. That was something NEW, too. We had only known Tea Rooms with wooden chairs and tables, the latter usually covered with shiny baize or checked tablecloths on which sugar bowls were placed, no dispensers then. There was always the inevitable vase of gum-tips and poppies when out of season, the poppies were replaced with ones made from crepe paper. We were absolutely intrigued with this new modern eating place as we slid under the table to sit on backed forms which were fixtures, and rather reminiscence of our school desks. Mostly though, we were curious about it’s name; we had never heard it before; so we pronounced CAFE as in SAFE til Dad put us right!