Saturday, August 31, 2013

Harry's Cafe de Wheels

Last week I posted an item about Arthur Stace, Mr Eternity, a simple man who has become an iconic part of Sydney’s history. Here is another story of the same kind. . . 


Back in 1938 a man by the name of Harry Edwards opened a caravan cafe at the gates of the naval yard in Woolloomooloo. 

For those not from Sydney, Woolloomooloo is a harbourside suburb of the city about 2 kilometres east of the CBD. Originally a poor, working class suburb that was noted for its docks and wharves, it has undergone gentrification with valuable redevelopment of its waterfront areas.

Harry Edwards

Back when Harry opened his cafe van, there were no late night eateries. Originally serving the workers from the naval dockyard (today known as Garden Island Naval Base Woolloomooloo), Harry’s fast food (notably his pie ‘n’ peas and his crumbed sausages) proved so popular that other night owls also began to make a stop – sailors, soldiers, taxi drivers, starlets and police officers. His business was simply called “Harry’s”.

In 1938 Harry enlisted in the Australian Infantry Forces and served during World War 2, where his boxing abilities earned him the nickname “Tiger”. 

Wounded and discharged in 1942, he drove a taxi and then a fruit truck upon returning home. He soon reopened his late night mobile cafe but this time using an old army ambulance which he parked at rugby league matches and other sporting events. In 1945 he swapped the ambulance for a home made caravan which he again parked outside the ‘Loo dockyard, much to the annoyance of the naval authorities.

Harry’s 1945 van, donated to the Powerhouse Museum in 1985 by later owner Alex Kuronya

1965 van

According to the Powerhouse Museum website:

Harry's typically Australian fast food, especially his classic pie 'n' pea floaters, captured the public's imagination and made the Cafe de Wheels a unique part of the city's nightlife. It attracted blue collar workers, sailors, taxi drivers and late night revellers from Kings Cross. It even became a tourist attraction. International celebrity visitors included Frank Sinatra, Johnnie Ray, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Robert Mitchum, Shirley Maclaine, Phyllis Diller, Colonel Sanders and Elton John. Local supporters included John Laws, Mike Walsh, Kerry Packer and Olivia Newton-John. Despite this glamorous patronage, Harry's maintained an egalitarian reputation. Musicians, streetwalkers, dancers, policemen and bookmakers could be seen late at night devouring meat pies, hot dogs and crumbed sausages alongside judges, politicians and society's well-to-do. With its romantic location between the 'Loo and the Cross, Harry's was a meeting place where social classes intersected. It represented something quintessential about the personality of Sydney.

The change of name from “Harry’s” to ”Harrys Cafe de Wheels” came about because of a Council regulation that required mobile food vans to move at least 12 inches (30 cm) daily. 

At one stage the wheels mysteriously went missing and for the next few years wags referred to the van as “Harry’s Cafe de Axle.”

Harry’s was especially known for its pie floaters, an Oz delicacy whereby a meat pie is either covered in, or floating in, mushy peas or pea soup. It is often garnished with tomato sauce . . .

Harry’s Pie ‘n’ Peas

The Tiger Harry, as above but with mashed potato as well

In 1975 Harry retired (he died in 1979) and sold his van to Hungarian born refugee Alex Kuronya.

Kuronya, who had arrived in Australia in 1950 from Austria, was known for greeting customers with a friendly 'Hi ya handsome, what'll it be tonight?'

In 1988 Alex Kuronya sold the business to Michael Hannah, an ex Vietnam vet who had attended at Harry’s as a child with his father. 

Under Hannah’s ownership, Harry’s was revitalised and became a favourite celebrity stop. In 1991, Rupert Murdoch had pies shipped to Los Angeles for an Australian themed Oscar’s party. 

Today there are 10 franchise outlets in various locations negotiations taking currently taking place for expansion into Asia. It remains a gathering place for footpath diners but one noted change is that these days there are many more young people.

Colonel sanders of KFC fame ate 3 floaters at Harry's

Elton John

In December 2004, Harry’s was classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and included on its Register. According to the National Trust of Australia, Harry’s is a “quintessential Sydney icon” and in the Trust’s opinion, falls within the following definition:

“Those places which are components of the natural or the cultural environment of Australia, that have aesthetic, historical, architectural, archaeological, scientific, or social significance or other special value for future generations, as well as for the present community.”

Friday, August 30, 2013

Funny Friday

A few funnies about fathers and sons . . .

How young kids see their dads.


Jesus came upon a small crowd who had surrounded a young woman they believed to be an adulteress. They were preparing to stone her to death.

To calm the situation, Jesus said: "Whoever is without sin among you, let them cast the first stone."

Suddenly, an old lady at the back of the crowd picked up a huge rock and lobbed it at the young woman, scoring a direct hit on her head. The unfortunate young lady collapsed dead on the spot.

Jesus looked over towards the old lady and said: "Do you know, Mother, sometimes you really piss me off."



An Amish lad is standing beside the road with a big load of wooden crates that just tipped over off his wagon. A man passing by notices the young man struggling to get the crates picked up. The young Amish lad is huffing and puffing and sweating profusely working very hard on a very hot day with the sun beating down on him. The man asks the Amish lad why he is working so hard when it is so hot outside and he could seriously injure himself or get heat stressed. The Amish lad replies, that he needs to get these crates picked up or his father will kill him. 

"You need to slow down," replied the man, "before the heat overtakes you. You should take a break." 

The Amish lad relents to the advice of his elder, and the two sit under a shade tree and drink some fresh water the traveler happened to have with him.

The man then asked of the lad, "Where is your father? Maybe I should have a talk with him and straighten this all out." 

"He's underneath all of them crates," answered the Amish lad. 



A pregnant teenage girl phones her dad at midnight and says "Can you come and get me? I think ma water has broken."

"Okay," says her dad. "Where are you ringing from?"

"From my knickers tae ma feet." 


And to all the Dads, Happy Father's Day for this Sunday . . .

Limerick Spot

Caution: risque limerick ahead

There was a young sailor from Brighton
Who remarked to his girl, "You're a tight one."
She replied, " 'Pon my soul,
You're in the wrong hole;
There's plenty of room in the right one."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

10 More Images of Sydney Past

Construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Southern Approach, 1926.
That’s John Bradfield, the engineer who oversaw design and construction of the Bridge, behind the man holding the papers on the left. Now you also know how the Bradfield Highway received its name/

Corner Parramatta Road and Great North Road, Ashfield, 1930
Where the people are sitting, bottom left, is now the exit from the BP service station

George Street, Sydney 1901, decorated for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York. 
Note portrait of King and the Duke and Duchess on building further down the street.

Cnr Pitt and Spring Streets, pre 1880

Entrance to The Domain, Sydney, pre 1880.
The cannon are from the Crimean War, the statue is of Governor Bourke.

Central Station 1906

View of Redfern Street showing Court House and Post Office, Redfern. Undated

Redfern Post Office, c 1890’s

Wynard Station, Sydney, pouring roof slab 1930

Martin Place, Sydney, 1936
Sydney Hospital on Macquarie Street at rear

Bonus Pic:

Main reading room, State Library, Sydney.
Note the height of the woman, lower right.  Height can be gauged by the other persons at the same counter.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Footnotes to History

Those who noticed that there was no Bytes yesterday can put it down to computer geek and Byter, Dino, working on my computer longer than intended to remove some glitches. 

(Interestingly, the term “glitch” comes from the German “glitschig”, meaning “slippery” and thence to Yiddish “glitsh”. The term refers to a short lived or minor fault in a system and was originally used by electronics hardware engineers. It gained wider exposure and dissemination when used by persons involved in the US space programs in the early 1960’s.)


Here is a trivia quiz for you: What do the Mafia and milk have in common? It’s not a trick question or funny riddle and is explained in the following article which I reprint, in part, from its original source, a website called Times News, at:

Here is the item:

Why is milk dated? An unlikely answer to that can be found in, of all places, Alcatraz Island. During a tour of the former federal prison, a U.S. National Park ranger noted that Al Capone "lobbied for milk bottle dating to ensure the safety of the city's children."

Capone was a Chicago businessman who made a fortune in alcohol distribution during the brief period of Prohibition from 1920 to 1933. During this period, the demand for alcohol actually increased, with taverns being replaced with speakeasies, and the purveyors of "booze" labelled gangsters and racketeers.

Although Capone was sent to Alcatraz, it was for the white collar crime of evading taxes on the money he earned distributing alcohol, not for the numerous violent crimes attributed to him, such as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Although the Federal government viewed Capone as a gangster, to many people in his adopted city of Chicago, he was a modern-day Robin Hood.

Capone was the first person to open a soup kitchen to feed the poor during the Depression. At a time of 25 percent unemployment, Capone's kitchens served three meals a day to ensure that everyone who had lost a job could get a meal. Soon, every city and town had a soup kitchen.

Capone did not only open them, but he would go to the soup kitchens and help serve the meals. These soup kitchens cost Capone thousands of dollars every day to keep running. It is said that Capone had a soft spot for people who were struggling.

It was reported that one of Capone's family members in Chicago became ill from drinking expired milk. At that time, there were no controls on milk production, neither expiration dates nor controls on adulteration, dilution or skimming of the cream.

This drew Capone's interest to the milk business, and he saw several things: the milk distribution business had a shady character – and Capone was comfortable with shady businesses; he didn't like to see people, especially children sickened by adulterated milk; he saw a potentially high profit in milk distribution; and with Prohibition soon to end, he had a fleet of trucks that could easily be used to transport milk.

Capone took two steps to move into the milk business. One was to acquire a milk processor, Meadowmoor Dairies. The other was to have the Chicago City Council pass a law requiring a visible date stamped on milk containers.

On the second item, it was likely that Capone had already cornered the market on equipment to stamp expiration dates on bottles, and the passage of the legislation would help him take over the Chicago milk market.

In 1930s Chicago, before refrigeration and supermarkets, milk was delivered by the milkman, a teamster's union member. The union controlled the distribution of milk, whose freshness depended on how long the milk sat around until the driver delivered it.

The unions would only deliver local milk. Meadowmoor Dairies wanted to import cheaper milk from Wisconsin, and wanted it delivered by their own non-union truckers.

With the negotiations at a standstill, Capone's people reportedly kidnapped the union president and used the $50,000 ransom to purchase the dairy. The dairy was given as a present to Capone's attorney, William Parrillo. Meadowmoor Dairies opened three months before Capone went to prison.

Friday, August 23, 2013

No Bytes this weekend

There will be no Bytes this weekend. I’m off to Canberra where my wife, Kate, is meeting up with her sisters to attend the Joan Baez concert on Saturday night. I’ve never been a Joan Baez fan, I always had this mental image of her as Mary Poppins with a guitar, even despite what ex bf Bob Dylan said about her. 

When I mentioned to Byter Jess at triv during the week that I would be away on the weekend, her one concern was that there would still be a Funny Friday. There is, below.

And to make up for being away, I am posting a weekend item after Funny Friday.


For those who are Joan Baez fans, and even those who aren't, such as myself, here is a JB story by Eric Stoner from August 2009:

Outside a Joan Baez concert a couple nights ago in Idaho Falls, four Vietnam veterans protested the show with signs reading: “JOAN BAEZ – SOLDIERS DON’T KILL BABIES, LIBERALS DO” and “JOAN BAEZ GAVE COMFORT & AID TO OUR ENEMY IN VIETNAM & ENCOURAGED THEM TO KILL AMERICANS!”

Rather than ignore the protest, which would have been the easiest thing to do, or get into a nasty argument with the men about their signs, Baez choose to engage them in an exemplary nonviolent fashion. According to [the website] Daily Kos:

Joan was informed that the men were protesting her concert about an hour before it was due to begin and she immediately walked out onto the street to talk to them. When she approached, one of the first things they said was “We appreciate the work you did on civil rights and women’s rights.” They wanted to make that point clear. 
She listened closely as they discussed their views. Primarily, they wanted to express the way they felt betrayed by anti-war protesters when they returned from combat. Joan assured them that she stood by them then and now. They had mixed reactions as she explained her actual positions and her support for all veterans, across the board.

The protesters at first were hardened in their position, and it sounds like at different points the conversations did get quite tense. However, Baez’s calm, nonviolent approach to the conflict had an effect:

…Joan’s continuing acceptance of their stories and her willingness to hear them out began to melt their anger. In a twist that seems hard to fathom, they then asked her to SIGN THEIR POSTERS! She replied that she would sign the back but not the front of “those horrible things.” Incredibly, the man with the baby-killing sign replied that he would take her name off the poster if she would sign it. 
She did end up signing them, and also getting copies of her book for each of them, and offering tickets to the show, which they did not accept. She signed the back of the poster about her encouraging the killing of American soldiers – “All the very best to you, Joan Baez.”
During the concert afterwards Joan dedicated a song to the protesters and said “You know, they just wanted to be heard. Everyone wants to be heard. I feel like I made four new friends tonight.”

Funny Friday

No theme in Funny Friday this week, just some wordy items and miscellany.


The following items about engineers are from Byter Tobye.

The stereotype of engineers - that they are old, nerdy geeks who lack imagination, dress conservatively and care only about figures - is not a correct one.  I know some engineers and they are not all old.


Understanding Engineers #1

To the optimist, the glass is half-full. To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Understanding Engineers #2 

A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed, "What's with those guys? We must have been waiting for fifteen minutes!" The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such inept golf!" The priest said, "Here comes the greens-keeper. Let's have a word with him." He said, "Hello George, What's wrong with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?" The greens-keeper replied, "Oh, yes. That's a group of blind firemen. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime!" The group fell silent for a moment. The priest said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight." The doctor said, "Good idea. I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist colleague and see if there's anything she can do for them." The engineer said, "Why can't they play at night?"

Understanding Engineers #3 

What is the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers? Mechanical engineers build weapons. Civil engineers build targets.

Understanding Engineers #4

An engineer was crossing a road one day, when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess." He bent over, picked up the frog, and put it in his pocket. The frog spoke up again and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn back into a beautiful princess and stay with you for one week." The engineer took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket. The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I'll stay with you for one week and do anything you want." Again, the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket. Finally, the frog asked, "What is the matter? I've told you I'm a beautiful princess and that I'll stay with you for one week and do anything you want. Why won't you kiss me?" The engineer said, "Look, I'm an engineer. I don't have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog - now that's cool."


Because I'm a Man

Because I'm a man, when I lock my keys in the car, I will fiddle with a coat hanger long after hypothermia has set in. Calling the NRMA is not an option. I will win.

Because I'm a man, when the car isn't running very well, I will pop the hood and stare at the engine as if I know what I'm looking at. If another man shows up, one of us will say to the other, "I used to be able to fix these things, but now with all these computers and everything, I wouldn't know where to start." We will then drink a couple of beers, as a form of holy communion.

Because I'm a man, when I catch a cold, I need someone to bring me soup and take care of me while I lie in bed and moan. You're a woman. You never get as sick as I do, so for you, this is no problem.

Because I'm a man, I can be relied upon to purchase basic groceries at the store, like milk or bread. I cannot be expected to find exotic items like "cumin" or "tofu." For all I know, these are the same thing.

Because I'm a man, when one of our appliances stops working, I will insist on taking it apart, despite evidence that this will just cost me twice as much once the repair person gets here and has to put it back together.

Because I'm a man, I must hold the television remote control in my hand while I watch TV. If the thing has been misplaced, I may miss a whole program looking for it...though one time I was able to survive by holding a calculator...(applies to engineers mainly).

Because I'm a man, there is no need to ask me what I'm thinking about. The true answer is always either sex, hunting, sex, cars, sex, tractors, sex, fishing, sex, sports or sex. I have to make up something else when you ask, so don't ask.

Because I'm a man, I do not want to visit your mother, or have your mother come visit us, or talk to her when she calls, or think about her any more than I have to. Whatever you got her for Mother's Day is okay; I don't need to see it. And don't forget to pick up something for my mother, too.

Because I'm a man, you don't have to ask me if I liked the film. Chances are, if you're crying at the end of it, I didn't...and if you are feeling amorous afterwards...then I will certainly at least remember the name and recommend it to others.

Because I'm a man, I think what you're wearing is fine. I thought what you were wearing five minutes ago was fine, too. Either pair of shoes is fine. With the belt or without it, looks fine. Your hair is fine. You look fine. Can we just go now?

Because I'm a man, and this is, after all, the year 2013, I will share equally in the housework. You just do the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the vacuuming, and the dishes, and I'll do the rest.... like wandering around in the garden with a beer, wondering what to do.

This has been a public service message for women to better understand men.

Limerick Spot:

Two limericks for geeks. . . 

There once was a [person] from [place]
Whose [body part] was [special case].
When [event] would occur,
It would cause [him or her]
To violate [law of time/space].

There once was an X from place B,
That satisfied predicate P,
He or she did thing A,
In an adjective way,
Resulting in circumstance C.

and one not. . . 

A gay man who lived in Khartoum
Took a lesbian up to his room, 
And they argued a lot
About who would do what 
And how and with which and to whom.

Mr Eternity

The recent Graffiti Wars posts prompted an email from Byter Dennis:

The Robbo Graffiti reminded me of the person who for years in the 1940-50’s chalked on the footpaths of Sydney, Australia, the single word “Eternity” in beautiful executed script. There was never anything else but the one word and no one knew who this person was or actually witnessed him chalking the paths. Sydney newspapers would undoubtedly have historic references and pictures of this graffiti, if you are interested.

I thought that I had already posted an item about Mr Eternity, as he came to be known, but a quick check showed that was not the case. His story is both fascinating and inspirational. On a personal note, I recall many times seeing the sign chalked on the ground on trips into the city with my parents when I was a nipper. Back then I didn’t have a clue what it meant, much less who had written it. I asked my parents what it meant and why it was written there and they didnt know.  For a long time, no one did.

Mr Eternity became such a part of Sydney’s rich fabric of history that the word he chalked on the Sydney footpaths was used as the illuminated message on the Sydney Harbour Bridge arch for the new millenium fireworks:

Here is the story of it.


Mr Eternity was Arthur Stace, who was born in the Sydney inner city suburb of Balmain in 1884. Now an expensive, harbour suburb, in 1884 it comprised slums.  Arthur grew up in those slums, neglected by his alcoholic parents and in extreme povert.  He stole bread and milk and scrounged scraps out of garbage bins. By the age of 12 he was illiterate and a State ward.


As he entered his teenage years he was already an alcoholic and at age 15 was sentenced to a gaol term. Upon release he worked as a ‘cockatoo’, or lookout, at illegal gambling dens and in his twenties became a pimp for his sisters' brothels in Surry Hills, also an inner city suburb of Sydney.


In 1916, at the age of 26, Stace enlisted into to army for service in World War 1 but recurring bouts of bronchitis and pleurisy led to a medical discharge in 1919.


In 1930 he heard an inspirational sermon by Reverend Hammond whilst attending St Barnabas’ Church in Broadway for the free food provided. Sydneysiders will know St Barnabas as the church that engaged in sign wars with the publican of the Broadway Hotel across the road. They may also recall that the church burned down in 2006.

St Barnabas Church

Reverend Robert Hammond

The sermon inspired Stace to convert to Christianity. He abandoned crime and began living a life based on devotion and service. According to Stace “I went in to get a cup of tea and a rock cake but I met the Rock of Ages.”

For the next 20 years he led open air meetings on the corner of George and Bathurst streets.


Two years later, on 14 November 1932, Stace was in attendance at the Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle in Darlinghurst, where he worked as a janitor, when he heard evangelist John G Ridley MC preach on “The Echoes of Eternity”.

Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle

John G Ridley

Ridley’s sermon was based on a verse from Isaiah 57:15:

"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth Eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."

At the end of his address Ridley put away his prepared notes and spoke loudly to the congregation: 

"Eternity, Eternity, I wish that I could sound or shout that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney. You've got to meet it, where will you spend Eternity?"

For Stace the experience was life changing. 

In an interview in 1965 Stace described the effect upon him of Ridley’s words:

“John Ridley was a powerful preacher and he shouted, 'I wish I could shout Eternity through the streets of Sydney.' He repeated himself and kept shouting, 'Eternity, Eternity', and his words were ringing through my brain as I left the church. 
Suddenly I began crying and I felt a powerful call from the Lord to write 'Eternity'. I had a piece of chalk in my pocket, and I bent down right there and wrote it. I've been writing it at least 50 times a day ever since, and that's 30 years ago ... I think Eternity gets the message across, makes people stop and think.…. The funny thing is that before I wrote it I could hardly write my own name. I had no schooling and I couldn’t have spelt Eternity for a hundred quid. But it came out smoothly, in a beautiful copperplate script. I couldn't understand it, and I still can't."


After eight or nine years he tried to write something else, "Obey God" and then five years later, "God or Sin", but he could not bring himself to stop writing "Eternity".


For the next 35 years, Stace left his wife Pearl (he had married in 1942) and their home in Pyrmont  three to four times per week at 5.00am to travel into the city.  There he chalked the word “Eternity” on footpaths, train station entrances and wharves. and anywhere else he was able.

It is estimated that he wrote the word around 500,000 times over those 35 years. 

Millions saw the chalked, copperplate message from the anonymous mysterious writer, none knew his identity, few understood the meaning behind the message.


In 1956 Reverend Lisle Thompson, who preached at the Baptist Tabernacle, identified Stace as Mr Eternity when he saw Stace take a piece of chalk from his pocket and write the word on the footpath. Thompson wrote about Stace's life and an interview was published in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph on 21 June 1956. 

This was the first time Sydneysiders knew the identity of the mysterious writer and the first time that an insight was given as to what the signs meant.


Stace continued writing for another 11 years.

Stopped by the police on 24 occasions for defacing the Council footpaths, he was able to avoid arrest by advising that he had permission from a higher source.


In 1963, photographer Trevor Dallen cornered Arthur and asked to take a few pictures of him writing his famous phrase. After four photos, Trevor ran out of film and asked for Stace to stay put while he got more film. Upon Trevor's return, Stace was gone.


Stace died of a stroke in a nursing home at the age of 83 on 30 July 1967. He bequeathed his body to the University of Sydney; subsequently, his remains were buried with those of his wife at Botany Cemetery.


The word Eternity in Stace’s copperplate hand is preserved and/or displayed at a number of places in Sydney:

  • Inside the bell in the General Post Office clock tower which had been dismantled during World War II. When the clock tower was rebuilt in the 1960s, the bell was brought out of storage and as the workmen were installing it they noticed, inside, the word "Eternity" in Stace's chalk. This is the only surviving "Eternity" by Stace's own hand in Sydney. (No one ever found out how Stace had been able to get to the bell, which had been sealed).

  • In Town Hall Square, between St Andrews Cathedral and Sydney Town Hall. When the area was redeveloped in the 1970s, a wrought aluminium replica of the word in Stace's original copperplate handwriting was embedded in the footpath near a fountain as an eternal memorial to Stace.


The National Museum in Canberra holds a rare 'Eternity' sign handwritten by Stace. It was written in chalk on cardboard for a friend at the Burton Street Tabernacle Baptist church. This object is the only other in existence in his own hand.

The sign was given by Stace to his friend Telma Dodds, also a parishioner at the Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle. In 197-0 she gave the sign to Reverend Levit who preached at the church. He took the sign to Woy Woy when he retired and it was stuck to his back door until 2000.


The grave of Arthur and Pearl Stace at Botany Cemetery is unremarkable and undistinguishable from most of the other graves except for one thing. There is a plaque with a message at the foot: