Balmoral – a Village

Posted by
Chris Borough
Streets
Time
1948 —1954

Balmoral was a self-contained village in the 1950’s. From the south my world started at the Naval Depot pool (used by the Balmoral Swimming Club after the original Balmoral Baths were washed away around 1948). Next was the 1st Port Jackson Sea Scouts shed and then the Balmoral Sailing Club. Further around was the Sunshine Club, Joel’s Boatshed and the “New” Balmoral baths.

The real part of Balmoral started at Botanic Road. The first building was “The George”, a fibro and timber two storey building that had accommodation, tennis courts and a great café that served magnificent chocolate sundaes made from Peter’s Ice Cream. Prior to WWII “The George” was known as “Braemar House”. My grandparents, who were married -facing the Heads – on The Island in late 1919, had spent the night before their wedding, along with all the wedding guests, to ensure they could be ready for the dawn ceremony. Just after “The George” tennis courts was a small mixed business “The Balmoral Store” owned by Mr. Coffee – the business later became Balmoral Vintage Cellars. A short distance away was a complex built in 1952 that comprised a typical beach shop/delicatessen that sold cigarettes, sandwiches, lollies, pies, Streets ice cream and milk shakes; there was also a fruit shop next door. I scratched my initials in the new concrete block work and my handiwork can still be seen. I had my first real job in the delicatessen owned by Mr. Thomas and made sure my mates were well supplied with extra malt and other delicacies in their milk shakes.

A bit further along was the ladies hair salon and, on the corner of Raglan Street, a butcher shop. The floor of the butchers was always covered in sawdust and the chiller had heaps of lamb carcases hanging by their legs. Meat was always wrapped in greaseproof paper and enclosed in crisp white butcher’s paper (no newspaper in the butcher’s shop). Between Raglan Street and Esther Road was a vacant block that was destined to become the Balmoral Infants School.

Along from Esther Road was the post office and, next door, Mr. Jim Miller the Chemist. I had a part-time job as a delivery boy with Mr. Miller – orders were dispatched all over the area. I disliked the ones that meant riding up Raglan Street and over to Clifton Gardens, although it was all good exercise. Next to these two shops was a small gravel drive that lead to an area behind the shops that used to be the Balmoral Garage – it sold petrol and undertook repairs but it had gone by the 1950’s.

A few houses and then the original fruit shop. Fruit and vegetables were wrapped in newspaper and they paid 2d for a stack of newspapers – reasonable money for a six-year-old. Next to the fruit shop was a mixed business, originally owned by champion boxer Dave Smith and later an English family. In the early 1950’s it was sold to Mr. Boutaji, a Lebanese. Mr Boutaji’s shop provided most grocery needs; sugar was weighed out into paper bags, biscuits were counted out of the biscuit tin and cheese was cut from a giant block of very hard dry cheese kept behind the counter. Ice creams were 3d. Mr. Boutaji was understandably very suspicious when I turned up to recover the 3d deposit on Marchants soft drink bottles – he knew that my mother hadn’t purchased that much soft drink and that the bottles had been collected from the park or the beach.

The park – I never knew its name but now discover it is Hunter Park – occupied the land between Almora Street, Hunter Road and The Esplanade. From Hunter Road towards Mandolong Road there was a vacant block of land, a tennis court and finally the shop on the corner of Mandolong Road that sold groceries AND McNiven’s ice cream. The vacant block on the corner of Hunter Road was THE location for the Empire Day bonfire and fireworks. For the weeks preceding 24th May all the kids would locate all sorts of combustible material and create a huge bonfire. Around 6 pm the bonfire would be lit and crackers let off. Penny bungers were the most popular but tom thumbs, Catherine wheels and sky rockets were up there – provided you had the money. The whole of Balmoral was covered in a dense fog of smoke and the dogs never stopped barking. Next day everyone was out bright and early to locate the “fizzers” that could be cut up and their gunpowder extracted for other uses. There was always some damage to participants of cracker night, the most common being the loss of a whole bag of crackers with sky rockets hurtling off in all directions.

A bit further down the road (around 59 The Esplanade) was a tiny mixed business, owned by the Nightingale family, that seemed to struggle for an existence but its position opposite the Bather’s Pavilion helped. At the corner of the Esplanade and Awaba Street was a substantial shop selling groceries, newspapers and magazines. Exciting books such as “Digit Dick on the Barrier Reef” were sold as well as “The Phantom” and “Donald Duck” comics.

On the beach side of the Esplanade the Bathers Pavilion kiosk sold Blue Bow soft drinks (only at weekends). The bottle deposits (from bottles collected after a southerly buster) were a big source of income but could only be redeemed at the kiosk. A small kiosk that sold hot water (for making billy tea) and pies also existed between the Bathers Pavilion and the now demolished Wyargine Flats.

The last little shop was at the very end of The Esplanade, around no. 83, and opposite the small access road to the beach. Some groceries were sold but pies were a specialty. The clientele was very limited – it was one of the first Balmoral shops to close its doors.

Balmoral was well serviced with trams every half hour to Athol Wharf and Chatswood with limited services direct to Wynyard. The trams went up though a cutting from Botanic Road and ended up in Beaconsfield Road and then Gordon Street before turning into Middle Head Road. At King Max Street the Athol Wharf tram (that met the zoo ferry) turned left and joined the tram line from Mosman Junction to the Zoo. At the Zoo, the track became a single line and a complex arrangement with a key to unlock the points was used to ensure that only one tram could be at Athol Wharf at a time. Special arrangements were made on holidays and weekends to cope with Zoo trams and also in the evening when up to three trams were needed to handle the thong of businessmen wanting to get home from the ferry. The trams gave access to Sydney City and all the shopping areas along Military Road – Mosman Junction, Spit Junction, Cremorne and Neutral Bay.

Chris Borough · 5 February 2010

Your comment

The little shop at the end of The Esplanade{ 83} was owned by Mr and Mrs Perry, they lived up in The Grove and their son Michael{ mouse} Perry was a long standing breakaway forward with the Mosman Rugby Club.

— Ian Kirkwood · 9 February 2010, 23:24 · #

Chris—Behind & adjacent to Nightingale’s shop lived Cyril Angles Race caller Family ? twin daughters.? The grocery shop at bottom of Awaba I used to ride in motor bike sidecar delivering groceries.

— Jack (John) Cameron · 18 February 2010, 09:07 · #

Great story and sad that we lost all the shops etc. Its interesting seeing the former Beaches restuarant (corner of Esplanade / Mandaloing) having paint removed recently , revealing its former identity as a Grocers ?

— Andy Ball · 16 March 2010, 07:43 · #

when i was young i caught the tram and ferry to school then to work my thoughts are that the tram lines from zoo ferry to balmoral beach should be reopened but if only from the wharf to the top of zoo old trams are out there people that know about them are out there it only needs a vision to make it happen old toastrack up to the last of them can happen what great tourest attaction it would be

— quentin chadwick · 8 August 2010, 02:22 · #

Well done Chris.

I remember Balmoral in the late 1950s and 1960’s. After the time you speak of, the cracker night bonfire moved to the beach. There was always extended debate as to which side of the Island bridge it should be. For a few years we alternated but the North side was better, between the bridge and the net.

The shop at the end of Awaba St was called “The Aquatic” and it was a bit more for the tourists than, say, Nightingales. Your story brought back memories of being asked (told) to “nip down to Nightingales…” and get something immediately necessary. Tomato sauce or something like that.

The shop at the end of Mandolong Rd was run by a family Riddols, (or Riddels) who lived above. The daughter, whose name eludes me, was married to a sailor who lost his life in the Voyager accident.

Speaking of sailors, who remembers the sound of the submarines charging their batteries? The sound of the diesal motors would echo all around. Often they did it at night and, in the morning, one or two subs were gone.

Phil Huby and I used to paddle our kayaks across and go under the wharf while the submarines were moored there. we’d pretend we were spies or commandos or something like that. In those days the authorities were more worried about us getting into strife and possibly drowning than any hint of terrorist threat.

the boatshed was Waltons, I think, then Ousbacks. Their son, Anders Ousback became an internationally acclaimed chef and champagne expert before he sadly died too young.

We had great times, us “Bally Brats”, even when Mr Boutagi (sp?) charged us for a drink of water because he had to wash the glass.

There’s a new team in Mosman now, with their own bats and balls and sense of entitlement and agenda, I sometimes wish they could see the past, see how nice it used to be. Then again, maybe they’re right, a Maccas at the beach WOULD be convenient…

— John Hollands · 6 April 2011, 19:56 · #

Yes I recall well the humming from the submarine depot and the sea-scouts shed on the way around and the airplane even before that used by Navy for fire-drill…right where the building now is at the oval at the most southern part of Balmoral. These evocative sites of an evocative era of greater contentment and spiritual peace than today have gone the same way as peace and security.

At the far end also, corner Awaba, was a shop which, was mentioned elsewhere, it became owned by Mrs Clancy…no relation to me….and was hers for many many years.

I recall well some of the the pretty girls and so very charming who came there to Balmoral, including the Isaacs (Anne and her Sister whatever happened to the Isaac girls, they went to Cremorne Girls I think…..I think one sister died in an accident…which was a shock ). Darryl, their great friend,….who’s sur-name just eludes me right now, began with an “F” I feel…he was also a drummer in a band and I think maybe in the army..He was a motor bike enthusiast who sold me his 1927 Harley 1200..lived 2 streets up from the beach….Waitovu? I think he owned a Matchless. I had a 650 Matchless some years later and a Triumph Bonneveille 120, WLA Harley and others, before I moved onto vintage Buicks and so on. .

Often I cooked potatoes in the ‘aboriginal’ cave opposite the Balmoral baths ..and I fished at the Pier often,almsot daily for many years… I recall fishermen bringing in a large Hammerhead caught off the Naval Depot…which abounded also in flounder…behind a boat which I prevailed on them to send to Taronga….I called and they duly arrived and took it away in a seawater tank..well alive and kicking, needless to say no feedback LOL!!..Did it live to become a feature?

Does anyone recall “Old Newt” and his mate who fished at the pier almost every day?

The Delpratts lived in the most idyllic old beach-house just below the street and to the side of the stairs at Wyargine…Paul was an artist and his sister was terribly, famously, pretty….Of course Balmoral was deservedly famous for its gorgeous girls from Queenwood who’s suntanned legs and short skirts were a joy to behold. many memories of Balmoral…,

The shop called Georges fell victim to the council’s mania for ruining anything interesting in the suburb in the interests of “ development” so called…one of it’s greatest crimes being the superb house at the corner of Mandalong Road and Clifford Street ..on a huge block of land, destroyed to build a large apartment block covered in mosaic tiles and very poorly built….

Georges’ was really terribly interesting…Sparten, the building was large and fibro…the counter set well back and eminated from the right hand wall..they made , great milkshakes and sodas!!…there were a few tables as I recall but mostly open space. It’s sad to have lived through through such destruction of truly outstanding places which today still evoke nostalgia…some of us still recall the Clifton Gardens Hotel as well…

By the way, remember that there was an ampi-theatre built opposite the rock pool area but I think never completed, for believers to a christian sect to have ringside seats to see variously either Jesus or J. Krishnamurti, sailing through the heads . The cash however sailed away in the opposite direction I believe. …one up to Mammon!! Below is an extract on it…an what a shame it was demolished…although I suppose like the pavilion it would have been given over to.the rich in so called “business” deals.

Along sadder lines but still notable Balmoral history, one of my grandfather’s friends was sewing near the window of her home on the cliff above above Wyargine and witnessed to her horror, the sea to her transparent, the attack on the young man (Willis?) who had , so sadly, ignored a shark warning when spearfishing and had fish on his belt. I think the shark attacked them and this poor lad became the casualty. I also encountered a nurse shark of considerable size when spearfishing at the point but was not attacked. There was as I recall another attack near the baths.

I also encountered to my amazement a sunfish of considerable size at the Baths in quite shallow water when snorkelling…I should mention that I was warned by the general manager of the council not to report his refusing to erect a sign about blue ringed octopus’ in the shallower section above the rock pool on two separate occasions..however .be warned…also bear in mind that sharp toothed eels lived below in the sea side of the wall….their descendants may still well do so, if not killed by the pollution or starved by the demise of fish at Balmoral…seemingly permanently as the place is still lunar 50 years later.

Under Balmoral promenade are huge pumps….you could live there for years and not know…As an adventurous youngster I saw them when the hatch was open not far from the old tram shelter near the island….ladders reached down for maintenance. I wonder if they still run..?

The Star Amphitheatre, Balmoral, Sydney—Facts and Fiction (see this site for the photo of the magnificent structure )

— Tony Clancy · 21 April 2012, 11:53 · #

I lived at the ‘George’ run by Mr Masouley(?) from 1954 having moved from Gosford and later till 1963 in Esther Road. (Mum worked in the Cafe) Newty taught me to fish and would raise an eyebrow if my knot looked loose. He caught yellow tail for his cat, it must have been a monster or he didn’t add the ‘s’. I ran out to the Naval Depot on Werner Wolf’s new paddle boats when the Queen came out and my legs still remember. I worked at Ousback’s Boat shed on the tenders taking people back and forth to their sail and motor craft and also at Ericsson’s shop along from Coffee’s, and the people before them (can’t remember their name but they moved to a shop at Freshwater and had magic pies which were great after a surf). My brother Stephen went to Balmoral school and later to Mosman where I went to High School.

I went back a few years ago and sadly I wished I hadn’t, it can never be the same but I had such a great time. The Island, Edwards Beach, Wyargine Point, Chinamans Beach and the run around to the Spit, getting the bus at Seaforth to go into Manly -ah – those were the days.

Wherever I went in Balmoral on my bike the shop-owners would come out and check that I had permission from Mum and they would check on my return, it was a village and everybody cared for other people, quite a different time, almost a time warp!

Jeff Thorne · 30 July 2014, 18:56 · #

My memories go back to the 1930’s when we lived in 3 Bayview Avenue from 1932 until 1942. In the 30’s there were some old men, possibly brothers, who lived in a cave that had been covered in and with an awning added which was about where the sea scouts boat shed has since been built. They survived by net fishing off the local beaches by setting a net from a rowing boat in a semi circle from the shore and then dragging it in. All the local lads who happened to be in the area joined in and helped, or maybe hindered , pulling in the net. I remember some quite good catches which were sold on the spot if there was anyone there with the money.
I was a cub and then a scout with the 1st Balmoral Scout group and we survived without a scout hall until long past the time when I left with meetings in the basement of the old amphitheatre, the surf club, the pavilion and even in the open air in the park at Edwards beach. At the time we had our meetings in the amphitheatre there was barbed wire entaglements along all the beach so that must have been 1942. The attack on Pearl Harbour happened to be on my 12th birthday, 8 December 1941 (on our side of the International Date Line.)
The Boatshed was run by Jack Joel and later, when he returned from war service, by his brother Ben who moved into the house above the shed with his wife and family, daughter Vera and sons Norman, and Roy. Jim was a later addition I think after they moved to a house in Raglan street.
The Balmoral sailing club began its life in 1946 and I helped erect the Nissan hut which became its club house. My brother had a 12 footer there, the “Ronles” which he and later I sailed with notable incompetence never being placed in a race in the 3 sailing seasons we were there. Notable names of the members were Bob Oatley who sailed “Joyce” and Bill Buckle in “Typhoon” and no doubt others.
I went away to sea as an engineer after an apprenticeship at Cockatoo Docks in 1951 and since then have moved on first to the UK and in 1970 to New Zealand .
Good to put down these memories as I see form your posting that your memories are not as far back as mine and there can’t be many of us left to fill in the early days.

— Donald Skinner · 1 October 2014, 12:55 · #

I have a photo of the 1st Balmoral Scouts and Cubs taken in December 1939 when Bruce, later Sir Bruce, Watson was the cub master with the names of most of those in the photo. I sent a copy to the Mosman Daily some years ago and they published it after which I received two requests for copies. If you are interested I will send you a copy.

— Donald Skinner · 3 October 2014, 09:49 · #

I’m the (volunteer) Marketing & Publicity Officer for Balmoral Sailing Club, previously the Balmoral 12ft Skiff, which was established on 24th July 1945. I would like to talk to / hear from anyone who has information (or photos) about the Balmoral Sailing Club at any time in its history or who would like to attend our 70th Birthday Celebrations.

Susan Halloran · 9 February 2015, 08:09 · #

There are some photos in a book “Sydney” by Frank Hurley which shows a scene, I believe to be, 1947 or ’48. The VJ to the left front is “Seagull” built and sailed by Roy Joel and the person standing holding the fore stay is my brother Jim Skinner. The other VJ with the “T” on the sail is “Tiki” built and sailed by John Kessell (now living in St Lucia) who is mostly obscured by my brother. The other crew with the boat is Tom King.

— Donald Skinner · 12 March 2015, 15:00 · #

Hello, I am wondering if anyone remembers Brian & Robin Davidson and their son Matthew who ran the Balmoral Baths in the early 60’s, My parents used these baths every day and helped raise Matthew, as Robin was busy running the kiosk and caring for Brian, who was a lot older. I was trying to get in touch with Matthew to see what he became??? thank you Vera Jeffs.

— Vera Jeffs · 12 January 2016, 09:03 · #

Hi
Can anybody remember the name of the chap Rob ? Who owned Waltons boat shed before it was sold to current owners?
He was brought up at Avoca beach?
Thanks so much.

— Fiona Handford · 13 April 2016, 16:25 · #

It is wonderful to read all the memories of Balmoral. Thank you all.

I lived at Balmoral Beach for all of the 1950’s and 60’s with my family
The Boutagy’s who owned and lived above the milk bar/grocery shop on the corner of Almora Street and the Esplanade. We were Palestinians (not Lebanese) having arrived in Australia in 1950 . My father and mother worked extremely hard in the shop 24/7 all year round with only Good Friday, Easter and Christmas morning off. All the family were expected to help out on the weekends and holidays.
It was a very happy and carefree environment and it was a caring village atmosphere. As children, it was an ideal place to grow up.
My brother still lives in Mosman and I live in Turramurra.

When my father retired in the late 1960’s the shop and adjoining properties were bought by the Waterhouse family (of racing fame) and one of the first of the block of units went up.
I
To fill in a few more blanks – I too went to Cremorne High (after Mosman Primary) and there was a Francis Isaacs in my year. My brother was in the first intake of Balmoral Infants’ School.

The fruit shop beside us was owned by an elderly couple from Armenia. At some point they had a photographer board with them and I have a photo portrait done by him. Unfortunately it is not signed on the front and because of the frame I am not able to access his name.
In the house next door there lived a Mrs Metchler and her son. They were from Europe somewhere and the son studied Medicine and became a doctor.

The shop on the corner of Mandolong Road was indeed owned by Mrs Riddle. Her daughter’s name was Barbara and yes, she lost her husband in the Voyager disaster. They had not been married long.

The shop on the corner of Awaba street was owned by the Misses May and Eileen Clancy. Prior to that they owned the little Kiosk at the far end of the Esplanade opposite the Club House. Miss May died many years ago, but Miss Eileen is still alive and lives in Mosman. They were wonderful friends to my parents until they died.

The ladies’ hairdresser was called Alexander of Mosman and rumour had it that Dame Joan Sutherland used to have her hair cut there.

The shop on the corner of Botanic Road next to the tennis courts was at some point owned by the Faye Family. They were well known Sydney publicans and owned the Hornsby Hotel.

I hope that fills in a few blanks.

— Randa (Boutagy) Loupis · 3 October 2016, 16:46 · #

Further to Tony Clancy’s comment about a shark victim – I pulled this out of my ‘Mosman Childhood Memories’ account: ‘…in clear view of The Bathers’ Pavilion in January 1955, a young thirteen-year-old boy was seen entering the water with some meat to bait his lobster pot. Despite the warning from another swimmer that a large shark was seen prowling the area over the last few days, John Willis was fatally attacked. I was told he went to my school (he was 2 years older than me)’. ps. Thanks for the memories of Nightingale’s – I have been searching for a reference to their store. Richard Beard, born WaitovuSt, ‘Whyalla’(?).

— Richard Beard · 13 October 2016, 11:12 · #

I was a member of Balmoral Sailing Club for a number of years, around the mid-1960s, as were quite a number of my friends.

We were youngsters who sailed Moths. There were older folk who sailed Herons and later an influx of Manly Juniors for the really little kids.

In the day, storage places in “the shed” (a Nissan hut right on the beach) were limited and the decision was made to award places according to annual point score. Club champion got first pick, and so on.

Happily, some of the members chose to take their boats home but kids like me having no driving licence and frequently busy parents relied on a shed storage position.

Plus, some Dads had expensive cars and didn’t relish a wet boat OR roof racks on the roof.

All clubs have their old legends and BSC was no different. We had Germaine (sp?) Murdoch – who, to me, seemed at least a hundred or so.

He was a lovable, crusty old bastard who – seemingly – was always there and always ready with a helping hand and occasionally a sharp critique. Much loved by all.

In order to keep my points up (and keep a place in the shed) I would race summer and winter. We got 101 points for each race entered provided at least one leg was sailed.

I’d race all Summer and then, on Winter Sundays, I’d walk down to the club with my sail over my shoulder, drag the boat out, rig it up, start the race, do one leg and withdraw – unrigging, putting the boat back in the shed and going home to study. (I was still at school).

I kept my place in the shed. No pressure!

The other way to earn points was to actually win or do well in the races. Pfffft! It was a pretty competitive club with really good sailors competing and THEY had all the modern stuff: “mouldies” (moulded hulls), bendy rigs, walking stick masts, new Hood or Miller & Whitworth sails…

When I sold my boat, I sold through a Broker who was then named Bob Miller (born in Boggabri where we lived for a while) before he changed his name to Ben Lexcan and helped win the America’s Cup. His customer was Tristan Antico who bought it for his kids.

However, before that sale, there was the most tremendous and exciting thing ever to happen in the Universe! The Balmoral Sailing Club Easter Regatta.

Hundreds of competitors would come, they occupied the entire area between the baths and the bush with some parking on the oval.

A whole bunch of us “Ballie Brats” would camp on the beach for the duration. There were bonfires, barbeques, music, dancing and even a few cuddles in the moonlight. Not much else for us, though.

We were young, innocent and it was a different time.

I loved the Easter Regattas.

Nowadays there are signs down there prohibiting lots of things – we would have broken every one of those rules back then. Except about drugs and alcohol, we weren’t into those.

P.O.G.C.F. (Plenty Of Good Clean Fun).

Outside of the Easter Regatta, on other weekends, some of us boys would sail over to Manly for a milkshake and occasionally sail to Castle Rock for an overnight. We’d pull the boats up, tip them over and sleep under the sails. A fantastic boys-own adventure.

In later years, we cottoned on to taking a girl sailing and pulling in to Cobblers Beach, usually quite deserted.

And anytime we’d all gather somewhere on the water, tip the boats over and sit on the upturned hulls, chatting away.

Meanwhile, we became pretty expert at avoiding the Dobroyd bombora, the Middle Head backwash, the tide towards Chinamans, the rocks of Grotto Point.

We knew that getting down towards the Spit Bridge (sometimes we’d visit friends in Clontarf) would be a problem later in the day when the wind would usually drop.

We learnt to predict Southerlies, spot “darkies” (dark water rippled up by approaching wind), sense the bottom rising – especially between Wyargine and Grotto Points.

God knows what our Parents thought – I have kids myself, I’d be beside myself if THEY got up to some of this stuff. “What if the boom hits you in the head?”

Nobody died.

Maybe we were just lucky.

We were certainly blessed.

— John Hollands · 16 October 2016, 20:37 · #

Ted and Lorna Tutty, my father and mother rented the Balmoral boatshed and shop in about 1942/3 owned by the Joel’s, with myself and brother Ken I would have been about 5 and remember Mr Coffey across the road in his shop, my father looking after the boats moored in the bay. Bob Dywer had his boat moored at Balmoral then. My mother told me she was pretty scared when the mini subs came into the harbour. I was not allowed to go up to the workshop with my father on a certain day because the windows overlooked the baths and men were allowed nude bathing then.
We also moved to Raglan St where my second brother was born in 1946.

— kay francis · 4 November 2016, 20:01 · #

Hello,
Would like to contact Phil Huby who I was advised moved to Nambour in QLD.

— Malcolm Smith · 15 January 2017, 16:44 · #