The Old Milk Bar

RIP Peter's Ice-cream sign
Once upon a time in Australia every suburb had a little Milk  Bar, often with a luscious looking Peter's ice-cream neon sign out front. Customers went in to buy milk and bread and maybe a newspaper and sundry grocery items...or even a milkshake and a four and twenty pie. They were a focal point for the neighbourhood...a hangout and a place where customers developed a relationship with the shopkeepers.
If you were a kid, your eyes would zoom in on the glass display case which formed the counter, to ogle the rows of lollies in their enticing little trays - clinkers, musk sticks, choo-choo bars, cobbers, mint leaves, milk bottles, wild berries, pineapples, fizzies...teeth and more. Sometimes kids would take ages deciding on what combination of lollies to choose for the shopkeeper to put in his little white paper bag."Um...I'll have one musk stick, two teeth, one wait, two cobbers!"

A Milk Bar in Fitzroy North survives the onslaught..for now. Image from Wiki.
Old fashioned Milk Bars are as scarce as hen's teeth now. Not surprising really, since the widespread tentacles of the supermarket giants, along with convenience stores,  have meant an inevitable decline in the small, owner-operated Classic Milk Bar...well, more like a decimation than a decline. Australia has one of the most concentrated grocery markets in the world - two big retailers control the market and almost everyone else had been squeezed out.

Perhaps it's still possible for a quaint Milk Bar to survive here and there but probably only if they offer something the supermarkets don't. There was a Milk Bar in a town near where I live that sold sponge cakes made by a local elderly lady. The shop did a pretty good business but I strongly suspect only because those cakes were the most beautiful, spongiest, delicious cakes you could get and made the supermarket variety taste like foam rubber.  

Through word of mouth, customers (including myself),  used to go out of their way to visit the Milk Bar just to take home a sponge once a week or so and while they were there, they usually bought a couple of items, like milk, bread or a newspaper. Alas, the elderly lady retired and I can't tell you whether the shop survived or not because when the sponges went, I never went back.

The photo above, taken in 1946, shows a Milk Bar at Central Railways in Sydney. Not a typical suburban Milk Bar but a Milk Bar nonetheless. Image from NSW State Records.