Delights of King’s ex-Army Disposals.
There was nothing more encouraging for going bush than taking the train to Sydney’s Central and walk along Broadway towards Town-Hall. On a corner at George Street there was for many years a shop named King’s Disposals. It was advertised as an ex-army store selling used ex soldiers equipment but I was never so sure of that. They never sold guns or disused cannons or tanks. If you wanted a gun you had to walk on a few hundred meters towards the Town-Hall. The gun shop was next to Pellegrini religious goods and gifts which I thought a rather strange combination of shops right next to each other. Although, history does tell us that one doesn’t preclude or exclude the other. In fact, often God and guns have been the best of buddies.
I bought my first gun in that shop next to the religious shop. It was a B.S.A 22mm rifle with a nicely polished wooden handle. It was graced with a sliding bolt action and five bullet cartridge. I remember buying it all wrapped up and then peering into the Pellegrini shop next door. The window was full of virtuous and holy looking virgins with many variations of Christ keeping an eye out for order…it must have been a difficult task with a wreath of thorns embedded into your head. Compared with the gun shop it all looked very unrealistic and somewhat silly, especially considering its situation. If ever there was a conflict of interest it was surely manifested there in George Street.
From memory there were also a few barber shops and perhaps a milk-bar called Stavros or maybe Mavros. Sooner or later your walk would then have taken you to the Trocadero Dance Hall where many of those Southern European migrants would be given their first of many refusals for a simple fox-trot. Later in the evening, many of those dark eyed lonely men would look for solace with East Sydney’s Chapel Street whores and go for a two-quid ‘short-time.’ No refusals and there would be a busy and brisk trade in a different kind of fox-trot, especially when the bus loads of Queensland cane cutters arrived. Pellegrini was fighting an uphill battle keeping those young men virtuous and from straying. Those brothels in Chapel Street now cost millions with many including ‘long time’ mortgages.
Going back to Kings Disposals there was a Chinese restaurant called the Tai-ping just around the corner. It was upstairs and specialized in Mongolian Lamb. I would sometimes be able to afford going there for a lunch before ending up at the markets a bit further on. Many times my brother John and I would buy young six weeks chicks guaranteed to be laying eggs within a couple of months. They always all turned out roosters. We finally decided to buy adult chickens which we took back to Revesby on the train all with their heads poking through the hessian bag staring bewildered at the fellow passengers. They often turned out to be old boilers but still managed to squeeze out the occasional egg or two. You had to look at their combs, we were finally taught by the more experienced chook buyers. We were on a long learning curve.
King’s Disposals have all disappeared. Soon after came the Clark Rubber shops selling rubber pool liners and above ground pools, inflatable rubber mattresses and other bedding goods imported from Turkey. Many of our friends in the Inner West bought foam- rubber seating arrangements which came in ugly modules but thought of as quite ‘hip’ at the time. Clark Rubber never had that adventurous look about them as did King’s Disposals with huge knives and those massive lace-up genuine army boots…
As for my BSA rifle, I have a photo somewhere holding up a dead snake and also still remember the garbos coarse oaths early one morning dealing with a bin full of rabbits redolent with decay and maggots.
The era of adventurous shops seems to have disappeared.