Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How I threw away about 1 million dollars

About 50 years ago my family moved from Horsham, in NW Victoria to Croydon in the foothills of the Dandenongs after 10 happy satisfying and productive years. In Horsham my wife Marge had opened & operated a very successful ladieswear boutique from about 1947 which greatly benefitid from wartime shortages of fashionable stock., using one communal change room set up behind the clothing racks...she had lived in Horsham immediately she had immigrated from Poland and had many school-friends she knew when she opened which formed the nucleous of a thriving business very quickly after her few years in Melbourne as a teen-ager. She had "a thing" about small shops and she loved the buzz and excitement amongst the ladies when new stock arrived and after rapidly removing invoices etc. allowed them to remove them from the boxes and put them on the hangers amid choruses of admiration - "ooh`s and ah`s" etc. as some of them looked for their special orders etc. .. After we`d settled in Croydon she wanted to continue in the same way and in 1957 we opened Jolee Sports, named after our 2 daughters Jo & Lee, in a spacious shop - too large in fact, so we separated it by a unique ti-tree dividing wall and a covering of tan-bark covering the floor. Our elated enthusiasm overlooked the fact that, after a few weeks the tanbark had disastrously disentegrated into dust which was definitely not an advantage to resplendent racks of delicate, demure dresses and the tanbark  was duly dispatched to the garden.
 
We had no allocation for advertising in our strictly limited budget, so Marge quietly opened and patiently waited for customers and it wasn`t too long before  she happily advised of her first sale - a cardigan! She soon built it up into a thriving business and in the other half I operated a successful real-estate agency I sold after a while when it became evident there was scope for an art gallery we called Croydon Galleries - living near many artists then operating in and around the Dandenongs...it was Melbourne`s first art gallery outside the city`s CBD....after some solid searching in artists` studios I was most fortunate in persuading Arnold Shore, well-known painter and the Age art critic to do the honours  and he agreed, after which I successfully approached Melbourne`s the city`s then 3 TV channels 2, 7 and 9 to film the opening.
 
One of the first painters I asked to exhibit was a certain John Brack - I think he was an art teacher at Melbourne Grammar then . He had not been painting long and at that time I was beginning to form an opinion in my own mind if the style of paintings I preferred and I loved the clean-cut in which he presented his human figures..........if only I`d that I`d been blessed with foresight and held on to a few of his paintings then! I reckon I lost about a million dollars because one of his paintings recently sold for 3.2 million dollars .....
 
After Croydon Galleries had served us well we closed it and opened the Jolee Coffee Shop with an entrance through to Jolee Sports on one side and Jolee Junior on the other - manned by myself. Prior to the opening of the coffee shop I had visited Pellegrinis at the top of Bourke St - not then long in business which was using Melbourne`s first expresso machines. I`d previously ensured I was armed with a pencil & tape measure so I could get approximate measurements of the bar - by standing up against it noting it was just a little below nipple height - we also used a black & white checked floor......it soon became well-known because of Marge`s cooking until it justified a paid fulltime staff member.
 
We also had prime publicity for Jolee Junior with it`s own play area with tiny fences, toy phones etc. (another "first" for Melbourne) so while the Mums shopped and/or enjoyed coffee, the kids were happy - not touching the clothing etc.....
 
Talking of children, Kingsley Amis (1922 - 1955) said "It`s no wonder people were so horrible when they started life as children.......
 
`till next time - about 7-10 days

2 comments:

farmdoc said...

It's only money, mate.

Robyn Weston said...

More Reminiscences of the Greenbergs

The first home in Croydon the Greenbergs owned was Lonsdale in Dorset Road. A beautiful old Victorian home painted white with spacious lawns, lovely gardens, a swimming pool, tennis court and a cottage.

My favourite feature was a beautiful Oak Tree second only to the Oak Tree at Croydon State School. It was home to Marge, Harry, Peter, Jo and Lee. There were Black and White tiles in the passage, floor to ceiling windows in the music room housing Peter’s organ, an open fire in the living room with views over the garden etc.

Family pets included two Labradors Louise and Lydia and Lucy the horse.

With such a lovely family home a shift would seem unlikely, however the Greenbergs later shifted to Victoria Road, Wandin. A cottage, garages and sheds existed on the land with orchard trees. Marge and Harry set about giving the property the “Greenberg treatment” – A new house was built and gardens, lawns and paths were constructed. A pool together with a baby pool was built. A Silver Birch driveway was planted, as a reminder of Marge’s Poland where she lived as a girl. A black poodle was the family pet.

I well remember Jo’s eldest boy starting school. A big event in anybody’s life. Marge and Harry purchased a very polished leather bound brief case as Stephen’s school bag. Jo enquired among other school children what was the usual school bag and was told a Mickey Mouse bag. Marge and Harry wanted Stephen to be in the swim and quickly decided their purchase could be used for his “private papers”.

Just as the Greenbergs are special, so was the house and property. We visited Marge and Harry on the first day of our honeymoon. Our first baby tried out the baby pool and the marvellous visits there are too numerous to mention.

Some years later, Marge and Harry shifted back to Croydon. The settled in a country style house in Hull Road. This house of course received the “Greenberg treatment” also.

Marge and Harry didn’t mind shifting house. They returned to live at their Wandin property before shifting to Burwood Road, Hawthorn – near St James Park. We were fascinated that the flight of drawers purchased many years before from Nisbit Grocers at Croydon fitted perfectly just as did Harry’s and Marge’s paintings and embroideries. Marge once remarked she could make a home out of a cave.

Shifts to Noosa followed before Marge and Harry returned to live in Victoria at Ardoch. The generously proportioned unit underwent renovations. However what stood out was Harry’s and Marge’s style and flair. When I close my eyes I visualize Marge weeding the garden in the communal area, Harry at his desk and work studio painting, Marge knitting sewing and embroidering. No wonder everyone loved to visit the Greenbergs – particularly us.

Harry painted many Blanket Boxes for the grandchildren usually with a nautical scene and Marge made the contents for the Box.

We are pleased to say we also have a beautiful Blanket Box made by Harry and a wonderful painting of kibbutizim folk-dancing.

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t think of Marge and Harry.

Some years ago I visited Lonsdale. It is now a sports medicine clinic. I recollect the consultation took quite some time to get going as I was able to inform the doctor how it was when it was owned by the Greenbergs – down to the red blinds in Jo and Lee’s room.

Such wonderful memories of Robyn Weston.