Going To Coles

When I was a young lad living in Shepparton one of the school holidays greatest pleasures was being taken by Nana to Coles Cafeteria. You’d walk through the cramped aisles of the department store, past the groceries, then the hardware and through the small door to the cafe.

To a young child it was a wonderful place. It seemed so large, so many tables and so dark and cool. You’d grab your plastic tray and start pushing along the shelf eyeballing the wonders in front of you. There was the bain marie full steaming hot food; but I’d always go for the fish and chips, dolled out by the matronly lady in her white Coles coat. Next would be a drink, lemonade most likely, before pushing the tray to true kiddy nirvana – the dessert section. Now I had jelly a lot as a kid, it wasn’t that special but I couldn’t wait to grab a plastic cup of green jelly smothered in whipped cream and plonk it on to my tray. The tray, and our journey, ended at the register where Nana would always have a chat to the lady sitting on the stool while I played with the pats of silver wrapped butter. Once Nana had finished it was my job to go and get the cutlery from the station and, if we were really lucky, take it back to the booth we had secured. I’d sit there and eat, looking at the American style soda fountain, wondering when I’d be old enough to go to that by myself.

I never got the chance ’cause Coles was torn down when I was about 12. Everything was sold off, the building razed and a soulless mall that no one ever shopped in was put up in its place.

This might explain why I love it when Rae has a cup of tea at Cut Paw Paw. The owners have a little piece of my past. They must have picked it up from a more local store, maybe the old Coles in Footscray that closed down, but just for a moment I can be back with Nana; just me, her and all the time in the world.

Coles teapot

8 Replies to “Going To Coles”

  1. Thanks for this posting, the photo reminds me of other things. There was a refreshment bar on Flinders Street station. Very casual. You’d get a tea or a coffee there and drink it standing at waist-high round tables with a metal pole through the centre. The cups (mugs) all had V.R. on them. We had quite a few at home. My dad worked for the railways. Just about everything in our place had V.R. on it.

  2. Our Coles Restaurant was in Murray Street in Perth. And those coffee pots do look exactly like ours did as well.
    What i used to worship was the Freddo frogs in the green jelly.

  3. I loved the old Coles Cafeteria in Shepp. I remember its last day in July 1985, it closed a day before the K-mart opened (which until a couple of years ago also had a cafeteria but was much smaller and had more of a fast food type menu, it wasn’t the same). There is a restaurant in the same site, but it’s an all you can eat Chinese one now.

  4. Ahh, memories. I used to go to the Bourke St Coles cafeteria with my mum. It was upstairs somewhere behind masses of manchester, all of which seemed very tall to a little kid at the time.

  5. That Cut Paw Paw always looks a bit pricey, but maybe not. Those pots would have been bought at auction. Or later on, from a dealer.
    The nice thing about Coles Cafeterias was their informality; everything rough and ready. And lots of noise. What I remember most is the clashing of all that cutlery; a bit like the coat hanger racket that goes on now at SAVERS.

  6. Aahh memories. I remember visiting the Perth Coles Variety store every week. The restaurant upstairs was like taking a step back in time to when I was a child. Picking up your tray at the start of the counter. Sliding it along whilst gazing at all the hot food in front of you and being served by one of the friendly ladies. Then moving on to choose your dessert (usually always the jelly and dollop of cream) Wonderful times. Sadly the Perth store was bulldozed in 1996 and replaced with a mini mall….uuuggghhh!!!

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