Christmas shopping in Canberra in 1935

An article on Christmas shopping in the Canberra Times of 12 December 1935 encourages readers to buy early ‘to save undue strain right on Christmas to those who are at your service’, and so that everyone can approach Christmas ‘in more tranquil and befitting fashion.’

Readers are also advised that ‘giving is not the only thing that matters’, as there is ‘much scope for Christmas feeling’ in how you select and acquire your gifts. In particular, it is ‘more in keeping with Christmas’ to buy from fellow townsmen rather than deal with strangers.

Details are given of a selection of twenty-one Canberra businesses ‘who invite you to visit their premises this Christmas.’

FOOD. E.C. Harris and Co. has first class quality groceries and other foodstuffs at Manuka, City, Kingston and Queanbeyan. ‘Prices are at bedrock’ and goods are delivered free of charge. There are cakes and puddings, ‘Allowrie’ and ‘Norco’ hams, nuts, fruit mincemeats, and all kinds of ingredients for making Christmas puddings and cakes. There is also boxed confectionery, from 1/- to 5/6.

The Capitol Cafe, in the Civic Centre, has a ‘full range of Miss Daveney’s sweets.’ Cool drinks, ice cream, and fruit and fancy sundaes are served ‘in the modern refreshment parlour.’ The Cafe also has a large stock of tobacco, cigars and cigarettes. Leo’s White Gate Cafe has sweets and fancy boxed chocolates, and fruit and fountain drinks. There will be special 3/- dinners on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, between noon and 2 p.m., with poultry, pork, lamb and beef. The Cosy Dell tea rooms in Manuka always has sweets and cakes at keen prices and is the sole Canberra agency for Marchant’s soft drinks, for which orders are being taken for Christmas. The Cosy Dell is proving ‘a popular rendezvous for tasty morning and afternoon teas.’

VARIOUS GIFTS. Christmas cards are mentioned only once. J.W. Prowse at Civic Centre has art chinaware, ladies’ toilet and manicure sets, gift books, writing materials, fountain pens and propelling pencils, and many other useful items, and ‘a splendid range of Christmas cards in pretty designs and colours.’ Riley’s Newsagencies, at Kingston and Manuka, have in stock the ‘leading Christmas annuals’, which ‘make excellent gifts to send to friends in other lands.’ Other gifts include calendars, fancy stationery, books, magazines, writing materials, children’s picture books and a great array of toys, and ‘presentation boxes of cigarettes.’ Miss Yellands, at Manuka, has gifts and novelties for all tastes – books, pottery, craft-work, toys and other things ‘too numerous to mention.’ The June Baby Shop (noted under the heading of Yellands) has all baby’s requirements. Arbuckle’s in Manuka has presentation boxes of cigarettes, and ‘many Christmas novelties in smokers’ requirements, shaving sets, and many other lines.’

PHARMACIES. Thomson’s Pharmacy, at Civic Centre, has ‘Attractive presents at attractive prices.’ No mention is made of pharmaceutical items. There are cut glass articles ‘of neat design’, perfumes, flap jacks, dusting powders, puffs, eau de Cologne (‘Yardley’s favourite lines’), brushes, bath salts, manicure sets (‘Cutex’ brand), and art pottery. There are also Baby Brownie cameras for 6/-. The Manuka Pharmacy has a ‘host of articles eminently suited for Christmas gifts’, including perfumes, soaps, Atkinson’s toilet sets (powder, perfume, face cream), Yardley’s Old English lavender sets, Roger and Galet’s 10-10 sets, Potter and Moore’s lavender “Evening in Paris” sets, and hundreds of novelties.

ART AND FRAMING. C. Tobler’s at Manuka has newly imported reproductions of works by famous artists, ‘framed in modern style to please those of discriminating taste’, and at prices to ‘suit every pocket.’ Other articles include fancy mirrors.

CLOTHING. Peterson Bros. sell men’s wear and Chinese hand-worked napery (everything from d’oyleys to bedspreads). Customers can lay-by, and the prices ‘are equal to those ruling in the other capital cities.’ Their watchword is ‘give something useful’, and they have displays in six new ‘special display windows.’ Hughes’ Service Store at Kingston, selling clothes for men and women, has been trading for nearly ten years, and is now opening another branch at Manuka. There is a host of ‘seasonable gifts’ including lingerie, hosiery, gloves and handbags for the ladies, and half hose, shirts, ties and handkerchiefs for men. The store has a reputation for ‘honest trading, value, and keen prices.’ The long-established Adelaide Tailoring Company, with branches all over the Commonwealth and a reputation for value, quality and style, has suits ‘at unprecedented value’ for ‘the man who wishes to be well dressed.’

FOOTWEAR AND LEATHER GOODS. The skilled workers at W.H. Morris, bootmaker and repairer, use only the best materials and the workmanship is first class and guaranteed. Customers can also buy leather goods, including suit cases and ports.

SPORTS. Keith Carnall’s sports depot in Manuka Arcade has requirements for all sports – cricket, tennis and angling are mentioned – and also sells radios (Univox Sherwood and Sterling) and vacuum cleaners (Eureka).

HOME AND ELECTRICAL. The Canberra Furnishing Company has an emporium at Kingston with ‘Everything for the home’, including linos, carpets, glassware, crockery and kitchenware; radios and sewing machines; and for ‘the ardent gardener’ tools and lawn mowers. There are also toys for children. Strangman Bros., at the Civic Centre, sells electrical goods and radios. ‘Nothing will gladden the heart of the housewife more than labour-saving electrical appliances’ such as grillers, jugs, toasters, kettles, irons and immersion heaters. The electrical store Harris and Freeman in Manuka is the ‘home of the famous “Tasma” radio.’ This is one of the ‘leading radios of to-day’, a ‘wonder set that has established a record of achievement and progress’, priced from £19/19/-. ‘Its appearance, modernity, tone, rugged construction and reliability all defy competition.’ Customers are offered free demonstrations.

BICYCLES AND CARS. Williams’ Cycle Shop encourages customers to ‘Pedal along through a prosperous new year on a popular ‘Malvern Star’ cycle.’ Cycling offers ‘cheap and healthy transport’, and there is no better gift for a boy or girl. Rayment’s Garage at Braddon is ‘equipped with modern plant’, including ‘the famous Stubley re-boring machine’, and offers a ‘car repair service equal to any in the district’ and at prices ‘comparable with those charged in metropolitan repair depots.’

In this last reference it appears that Canberra was not yet regarded as a full metropolis. Rather, it seems to have had the character of a large country town, where some of the latest technology had infiltrated but aspects of availability and price had still to be judged in comparison with what was usual in the major cities. Three shopping centres are represented, Manuka, Civic Centre (City) and Kingston, and the suburb of Braddon; Queanbeyan also features. It is noticeable that pharmacies then as now supplemented their income by selling cosmetics and novelty items. Besides brand names now uncommon or extinct, one finds some old-fashioned expressions, including refreshment parlour, fountain drink, flap jack (a powder case or compact), half hose and ports; and immersion heaters are among the items desired by the housewife. A custom of sending Christmas annuals ‘to friends in other lands’ is notable. Christmas dinner at the White Gate Cafe seems cheap at 3/-. The most expensive confectionery from Harris and Co. is nearly twice that amount, while a Baby Brownie camera is 6/-. A good quality radio is over three times the price of the camera. Radios (here called radios and not wireless sets) are at the forefront of the wonders of the age.

‘Round the shopping centres’, Canberra Times 12/12/1935, p. 8. Keith Carnall: cf. ‘Keith Carnall: A short biography’, Canberra Photographic Society website; also ‘Looking back with pride’. Keith Carnall was admitted as a member of the ACT Sport Hall of Fame in 1996.

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