|Melbourne's iconic Skipping Girl.Image from Kingston Historical Website|
Since 1936, the Skipping Girl Vinegar sign has been an iconic and much loved landmark for Victorians. Dubbed "little Audrey", the Skipping Girl began in the imagination of Jim Minogue, who won a competition to design a logo for Skipping Girl Vinegar in 1915. Minogue's 8 year old sister Kitty, was the inspiration.
In 1936, a neon sign was created by the Electric Sign Company- believed by some to be Melbourne's first - although according to Neville Michie, whose father, AI Michie, was General Manager at Nycander's from 1928 to 1954, the Skipping Girl was not the first animated sign, as "Kraft had a sign with a "K" composed of three letters K, of three sizes, that were illuminated in turn. "As kids we knew it as Panting K".
Interestingly, Neville Michie also recalls that the Skipping Girl had a Swedish cultural connection. As he explained to me:
My Father, A.I.Michie, worked at Nycanders from 1928 to 1954 when he was manager. He explained the Skipping Girl was Nycander's idea. Nycander was a Swede, in Sweden the cruel, cold winters keep children indoors for months , until in Spring there is a day that is warm enough for the children to go out and play. The first "Skipping Girl" of the year is a sign that Winter is over and Spring has arrived. So just as the English wait for the first cuckoo, the Swedes wait for the first skipping girl.
At a time when brands were promoted by logos, like Aeroplane Jelly and Submarine Candles, Nycander chose the "Skipping Girl" from his Swedish heritage as a trading logo. Notice that the dress that she wears is a Swedish traditional design.
Skipping Girl was placed atop of the Nycander Co’s Skipping Girl Vinegar factory, opposite the end of Burnley Street in Abbortsford. However in 1968, at a time when, sadly, many of Melbourne's historic buildings were being mercilessly ripped apart to make way for high rise developments, the factory faced demolishment and the Skipping Girl was dismantled by Whelan the Wrecker and sold to an Auto yard for £100. (Comedian Barry Humphries later tracked down the decayed original skipping girl and wrote a song, an An Ode to the Skipping Girl.)
Ours...By that time Skipping Girl had become a part of Melbourne's collective psyche and her abscence caused a public furore. Outrage was so strong that the factory owner had a replica made, which was placed atop of the Crusader Electroplating factory in 1970, 100 metres away from the old Vinegar Factory. That wasn't the end of the story though, as in the 1980's, there was more controversy when the Crusader factory was turned into trendy apartments.
The Skipping Girl survived the transisition and remained on top ...I mean, who wouldn't want to live in a building below the Skipping Girl?
By the 2000s she was looking a little distressed and once again in danger of annihilation. Fortunately the Heritage Trust launched an appeal and funds were raised to restore the sign. Her neon function had been turned off for several years and it's only since 2009 that she's been lighting up the Melbourne sky again at night and powered by 100% Green Power energy no less.
|Old Nycanders factory, - original home of the Skipping Girl. Many thanks to the Michie family for the use of these photos.|
|AI Michie, industrial chemist at and Nycanders and later, General Manager from 1928 to 1954|
Isn't it Iconic?
As of 2012, the Skipping Girl is no longer powered by electricity but rather twenty-seven solar panels, keeping her in step with an environmentally conscious world.
Speaking of old Melbourne. Remember Foy and Gibsons..?