Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Little Lace Maker of Arsiè



She was working full time at the age of 11, travelled alone by ship from Genoa (Italy) to Sydney to marry a man she had not seen for five years, and cooked meals for 60 diners a night in a cafe in Beaumont Street, Hamilton. And by the way, Silvia Saccaro raised three children.


She arrived for our meeting direct from her hairdresser, immaculate.


As I listened to the story of Silvia Saccaro, I marvelled at her pragmatism.


Silvia never looks back, and never regrets. She follows her mother’s advice:


When you go to live in another country, you have to settle and follow their way, or you will never be happy.


“We are living here,” declares Silvia in her forthright way, “and if you don’t like it, go back!”[1]


She has been back, eight times, to visit.


“Italy is always in my thoughts,” she says. “But there is no point in saying, Oh Italy this, and Italy that!”


Silvia was born Silvia Bettin, between the wars (1933), in Arsiè, 80 kilometres north-west of Venice. The family owned a small farm, and a house in the village.


View towards Arsiè from the family property (2007)
Photograph by Cinzia Saccoro


Times were hard, and the family needed every member to contribute to its income.


Silvia left school at the age of 11, and was sent to a nearby convent to learn Burano lace making. A nun there specialised in this ancient craft, and conducted a Lace School.



The craft originated on the Isola di Burano, an island in the Northern Venetian Lagoon. Burano lace is made with extremely thin cotton, and so it takes many days to create a pattern.


In the 1950s, many houses and institutions did not have adequate heating or lighting. Young women began work at 8 am in the brightest part of the building, moving in the afternoon to the squares. This minimised the strain on their eyes, as they were doing incredibly fine work.[2]


Burano lace was highly prized. Silvia remembers the nuns telling her it was more expensive than gold.



Silvia Saccaro’s craft display at the Italian Centre for the
1993 Hamilton Fiesta
Burano lace is in the frames. Jumpers have been knitted without following a pattern
Photograph courtesy of the Saccaro family




Silvia went on to learn dressmaking, and worked for six years as a dressmaker in the village. When the family needed more income than this provided, Silvia travelled over the border to Switzerland to take up a job in a carpet factory.


After working for some 16 years, Silvia received an offer of marriage from Australia.


She had known Rigo Saccaro since their kindergarten days, and they had “gone out together” in their teens. They were parted when Rigo emigrated to Australia with his parents, and found restaurant work in Sydney.


Silvia accepted Rigo’s proposal. What does a bride-to-be pack, going off to a country she's never seen? Silvia travelled well prepared. She took three trunks and three suitcases, along with a box containing a 72 piece dinner set. Included in the trunks were things for the house such as coffee cups, a tea set and silver cutlery.



Silvia’s mission brown trunk was given an update by Rigo when it faded, with the green detailing added
Photograph by Cinzia Saccaro 
  


She also brought out materials and equipment for embroidery and dressmaking – even her Singer sewing machine!

 


Silvia’s Singer sewing machine, brought with her to Australia in 1961
Photograph by Cinzia Saccaro 



Today the sewing machine sits in Silvia’s laundry and is rarely used. Not only did it survive the long trip to Australia and create many garments over the years, but it also survived the 2007 Newcastle floods. The high water mark is clearly visible in the photograph.


The ship Australia left Genoa on 24 February, 1961 and arrived just over a month later. Silvia paid for her own passage, and travelled alone. Her family saw her off at Genoa, and she remembers the fun and parties on board. As the ship crossed the Equator, she was crowned a Princess of Neptune!



Leaving Genoa (Silvia is circled)
Photo taken by Silvia’s brother-in-law as she left Genoa, from the personal collection of Silvia Saccaro



“So what was it like, seeing this man you were to marry, after five years?” I asked.


“Oh, just the same, just the same!”


That pragmatism again!


No time was wasted. Rigo and Silvia were  wed within a week of her arrival in Australia. Rigo’s parents were living in Hamilton, Newcastle so the ceremony took place at St Lawrence O’Toole’s Catholic Church in Broadmeadow.



Silvia and Rigo Saccaro’s wedding, with Rigo’s family
and best man Silvano Bellinaso (1961)
Photograph from the personal collection of Silvia Saccaro



The next 8-9 years saw Silvia and Rigo working hard – Rigo in restaurants, Silvia as a dressmaker from their home in Surry Hills. Three babies arrived. They were able to save to buy a house in Earlwood.


After Rigo’s mother died in 1969, his father urged the young family to move to Hamilton, Newcastle to be closer to him. He had spotted a small coffee shop for sale at 50 Beaumont Street, and thought his son could run it “easily”.


When they bought the coffee shop, Rigo immediately turned to his wife for help.


“Why don’t you cook?”


She was co-opted to the job “from day one!” she says.


Newcastle was a culture shock after Sydney. Was leaving familiar places and friends a wrench, I wondered?


“It was horrible,” agrees Silvia.


Being Silvia, though, she just got on with meeting the challenges in front of her.


Gelateria Arena sold coffee, ice cream and sandwiches but quickly diversified into home cooked Italian meals.



A rare photograph of the Gelateria Arena, Hamilton (1971)
Daughters Delia and Cinzia after their First Holy Communion
Photograph from the personal collection of Silvia Saccaro



Then began 20 years of Silvia cooking for up to 60 diners each night. Space for just 15 chairs meant the first shift started at 5.30 pm. The café  was popular with workers from Newcastle’s big infrastructure projects. Men worked for companies such as Transfield, EPT and Multicon, or concreting companies like the De Martin Brothers, Cannavale, Di Prinzio and Cossettini Concreting.


It is easy to imagine these hungry and exhausted migrants, most of them single men, surging off the building sites and buses, keen for some home cooked food that reminded them of where they’d come from.


The later sittings were of Australian business people who enjoyed trying new cuisines and who ultimately became regular customers.


“They loved my spaghetti,” Silvia tells me. “And my schnitzel was really popular.”


The work ethic that Silvia had absorbed as an 11 year old trainee lace maker stayed with her. Her children were still young, but she did it all.


“The girls helped after school”, she says. “I was working in the café six days a week and looking after the house and children. Sunday was spent cleaning the shop because it was the only day it was closed. It was a hard life; lucky I was young or I couldn’t do it.”[3]



At the Hamilton Fiesta in 1990, daughters Cinzia and Delia served over 1200 gelati, while husband Rigo cooked gelato batches in the kitchen
Photograph courtesy of the Saccaro family



Following the 1989 earthquake, son Alan was kept busy serving coffees and milkshakes, and churning gelato
Photograph courtesy of the Saccaro family



A recent widow, but still living in the same Hamilton home she and Rigo purchased over four decades ago, Silvia is able to enjoy an easier life these days. Her community contribution has been  volunteering at the Italian Centre serving meals, and with the Italian Choir, of which she has been President for 20 years. While now losing its members to frailty, she has been kept busy until recently with practice every week and engagements to sing at funerals and nursing homes.


Silvia third from left, with the Azzurri Italian Choir at Tinonee Gardens,
The Multicultural Village (1997)
Photograph from the personal collection of Silvia Saccaro



“My roots are still there in Italy”, Silvia says, “...but my children are Australian and I am settled here.” [4]


Silvia’s mother’s advice has served her well. She is settled, and she is happy.




Coal Espresso is in the Beaumont Street space that was once
Gelateria Arena (2016)





 If you would like to receive each new post in your email box immediately it is written, just complete the Follow by Email box on the home page. Click here to find it.    



Special thanks to Silvia Saccaro, and to Cinzia Saccaro for facilitating this post.



          




[1] Some information and quotations for this post have been sourced from NSW Migration Heritage Centre, Exhibition – Belongings. Post-WW2 memories and journeys. Refer http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibition/belongings/saccaro/
[2] http://www.isoladiburano.it
[3] NSW Migration Heritage Centre, Exhibition – Belongings. Post-WW2 memories and journeys. Refer http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibition/belongings/saccaro/
[4] NSW Migration Heritage Centre, Exhibition – Belongings. Post-WW2 memories and journeys. Refer http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibition/belongings/saccaro/


Monday, 14 October 2013

Missing from Beaumont Street


 

“All these shops, but nowhere to buy a nail!”

 

This was my husband’s recurring lament, after we moved to live in Hamilton.

 

We love being in close walking distance to a wide range of shops and services. It wasn’t long, though, before we discovered some serious gaps in the retail mix.

 

These gaps are a priority for the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, as part of a bigger plan to attract more people to our business district. For Margaret Colditz, growing up in Beaumont Street through the 1930s to the 1950s, there were no such gaps.

 

In her unpublished memoir My Beloved Beaumont Street, she tells us about many of the shops and businesses. Margaret’s own story is here.
 

 

This is what she says about some of them – ones that are missing from Beaumont Street today.

 

I’ll start with the nails – and the old fashioned hardware shop.

 

Deitz’s hardware store was on the corner of Lindsay and Beaumont Street.
 
 

 
Advertisement in the Newcastle Herald and Miner's Advocate, 1955/56.

 

 

As a one-time Girl Guide, Margaret Colditz writes:[1]


There was kind, smiling-faced Mr Deitz. He had the most comprehensive array of hardware. He always greeted us with a bright, happy face. When we would request ‘one yard of blind cord please Mr Deitz’,he immediately knew that we belonged to St Peter’s Girl Guide Company....many a young one learned to tie a reef knot outside Mr Deitz’s shop.

 

Quietly, Mr Norm Agland was always ready to guide us when we had to buy our first billy can for outdoor cooking. Norm was an authority, in those times, on household effects – for example, butter coolers, meat safes, and fly papers. He helped our mothers to select new wire for their clothes lines....

 

I wondered if Brian Agland, who as a child used to run in and out of the house that once stood on our block, was related.

 

‘Norm was my father’s cousin’, Brian tells me. ‘He was tall, slim, and always wore a dust coat. He was always very calm. I would often walk up to Deitz’s with Dad on a Saturday morning and Dad would buy nails and screws by weight, and these were packed in a brown paper bag’. Read more about Brian here.

 

In a tragic, freak accident during a parade in 1944, Mr Norm Agland’s 70 year old mother was killed by an out-of-control horse, on the corner of Beaumont and Tudor Streets. Norm was 34.

 

Then there was the fish and chips shop. One can buy fish and chips in Beaumont Street today, but gone is the iconic, single purpose establishment of Margaret’s times – and it would be wonderful to be able to buy fresh fish there.
 
 

It is the stories and characters behind the shop façades that even today, make Beaumont Street unique. Margaret writes not a word about the taste of the fish and chips she bought –

 

 


Fish and Chips
(Stockfood/Ken Field Photography Ltd. R.F.)

 
 

but something else that lingers in her mind:

 

I remember with affection Tony’s Fish and Chip Shop, and his brother who had a gold front tooth. None of us had ever seen a gold front tooth. This one had come, with its proud owner, from Italy.

 

There is always plenty of walking to be done, as the business section of Beaumont Street is around a kilometre long. But a shoe shop today? Not one!

 

Mr Lee’s shoe shop .... was very elegant. One half side of the shop had Ladies’ and Children’s Footwear, while the other side was the Gentleman’s Department. If one couldn’t be fitted, Mr Lee personally measured one’s feet and arranged for shoes to be personally crafted.
 

 

Shoes 1940s
(Photography courtesy myvintagevogue.com)
 

 

What Bunnings is to hardware today, so Spotlight is to drapery, haberdashery and manchester. Gow's Drapers was a very large shop for the times, and employed many people. Approaching Gow's, Margaret always wondered what new window display would be featured. It was Gow's the schoolgirls visited at the beginning of each school year to purchase their sewing requirements.

 

One yard of white lingerie lawn became converted, during the year, to a pair of Bombay Bloomers, with a spray of flowers artfully embroidered on each side. All of course, hand sewn!

 

Gow's also sold clothing for women and men. While Beaumont Street has an array of boutiques for women, only men who take big sizes are catered for now.

 

And then, the money system. No cash registers, but one all-powerful central cashier:

 

The assistant at the counter would put the docket and money into a cylindrical container, pull a cord, and one watched it whizz around the wires to the central cashier, to the cry, in Gow's, of ‘Change, Miss Bates!’

 

Read more about the Gow family  here.

 

Finally, a type of business we definitely no longer need – Mr Poole’s coal, coke and wood shop. It is worth checking out here, because it demonstrates, as Margaret writes, that “Trust was everywhere!”

 

Mr Poole’s large shed looked like a large, black cavern. Not only did it store coal, coke and wood, but there was enough room for a truck inside. Then -

 

At the entrance, hanging on the wall, was a black board, and some white chalk. With this, customers wrote their name and order – no need for an address, Mr Poole knew all of us. We all welcomed him as he refilled our ‘coal holes’ in the garden. We would replenish our coal scuttles and then have fun making our fires in the dining room fireplace.
 
 
 
 
Coal scuttle
 
 
 

While we may be missing some specific businesses in Beaumont Street, a very distinctive customer service can still be found. On Saturdays, I wend my way through the shoppers to find my special purchases – fresh pasta at Pina Deli, my favourite fetta cheese at  Nina's IGA, the best chicken at the Beaumont Street Butcher, or luscious strawberries at the Hamilton Fruit Market.
 
 
 
 


At every stop, I am reminded what customer service really is.

 
 

Like the shops Margaret Colditz remembers, cheerful greetings, attention to detail and pride in quality are still part of the Beaumont Street experience. Perhaps, after all, that is what makes a visit really memorable.


 



If you would like to receive each new post in your email box immediately it is written, just complete the Follow by Email box on the home page. Click here to find it.    



 

 

 

 




[1] Sections in italics are reproduced with permission from Margaret Colditz: My Beloved Beaumont Street. Unpublished manuscript, 1990.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Romance of Timber




“Timber is the thing,” Frank Standen told his daughter Jan. “It’s all in the taste.”


Years later, her father long gone, Jan Pilcher wishes she had asked him what he meant.


Red cedar furniture, hand crafted, was the specialty of Barrie’s Furniture Shop, situated at 52 Beaumont Street, Hamilton. Founded by Mr Fred Barrie, it operated from the 1930s until the late 1980s.


The distinct aromatic oil in red cedar has long-lasting properties that are much sought after - preventing insect infestations and protecting against mould, mildew and moisture damage. Perhaps there is a signature taste in the oil that experienced woodworkers recognise as characteristic of the very best wood they have ever crafted.



With his boss, Mr Fred Barrie, Frank Standen would travel the Hunter region to source the finest cedar trees from the timber getters for their furniture. Trudi Bean, Fred Barrie’s granddaughter, writes:



‘In 1947 after reading a newspaper article about how Gloucester Timber Mill was going to fell a giant cedar tree, Fred wrote to them offering to film the tree felling and also offering to buy some of the cedar. So in 1948, Fred Barrie, Geoff Barrie and about six men went with the caravans and the bulldozer and trucks to fell the 67 feet (20m) tall tree which was estimated to be 750 years old.’



The tree was to be called the Cedar Monach. It had a girth of 11 metres with a base  equivalent to the size of a small bedroom. Fred purchased about 40% of this massive tree for £900. He didn’t have anywhere to store this huge quantity of timber so put it in the showroom. Confronted daily by this phenomenon, he was spurred on to make cedar furniture in earnest.


Frank Standen was in the timber getting crew and his daughter Jan Pilcher has gifted the shavings and measurements of that tree to the Newcastle Museum, Fred Barrie’s grandson, Warren Mair, is custodian of a home movie Fred made of the felling, transporting and milling of “The Cedar Monarch.” The movie is called “The Romance of Timber.”

Sizing up the Cedar Monarch (1947)
(Photograph courtesy of the Newcastle Museum)



This story really begins when Fred Barrie (1905 – 1999) came to Newcastle from the Cessnock farm of his parents, James and Jane Barrie, to learn his trade as a cabinet  maker. The year was 1919, and Fred just 16 years of age. Boarding with an aunt and uncle, Fred was apprenticed to Aub Murray (relative of Murray's Funeral Directors)  in his workshop in Cameron Street. So began Fred’s long association with Hamilton.



To help support his family, Fred made rolling pins in his spare time, selling them door to door on his bicycle. After finishing his apprenticeship, he married Alice Harvey in 1926.  They lived in Everton Street, Hamilton. By this time, Fred’s father James had sold the Cessnock farm and bought 52 Beaumont St, Hamilton, setting up a photographic studio above the residence. Fred  began making furniture in his parents’ laundry. As business improved, he built a workshop at the rear of 52 Beaumont Street.


 
 

Frank Standen (1907 - 1985) learned his cabinetry trade making coffins for the Fry Brothers Funeral Directors in Maitland. Fry's are still in business there today.
(Courtesy Fry Brothers website)


Frank’s extra duties included driving the hearse – a horse and cart. All black was the fashion for funerals then. Since Frank was fair, he was expected to wear a black wig so as to blend with the pall bearers and present a uniform, serious appearance.


Like so many, the Barrie family experienced a difficult time in the Great Depression which began with the American stock market crash on 4 September, 1929 and lasted for up to a decade or more. Fred made furniture for the house he and Alice lived in so they could take in boarders. They also rented out their tennis court. Daughter Margaret was born in 1931 and son Geoff at the end of 1932. It was a challenging time for a young family to be venturing into business.



In 1934 things began to improve and Fred employed Frank Standen and Andy Forrester. Andy had been the foreman at Murray’s and had taught Fred his trade.

Frank’s recruitment to Barrie’s in Hamilton began a lifelong friendship between the two men who shared a passion and enthusiasm for fine furniture. Theirs was indeed a romance with timber.



Barrie’s made quality furniture customised to order for farmers and graziers with large homes, and wealthy city dwellers. Orders came from all over Australia. The letterhead reads:


“Specialist in figured maple, sycamore, walnut and inlaid furniture.”
Letterhead
(Photograph from the personal collection of Jan Pilcher)


Here is an example of the elegant cedar occasional tables made at Barrie’s.
(Photograph from the personal collection of Jan Pilcher)

Below is a bookcase.

(Photograph from the personal collection of Jan Pilcher)


Enormous wall length wardrobes – forerunner to “the built-in” – were popular with Italian families.
(Photograph from the personal collection of Jan Pilcher)


Such pieces were out of the reach of many Novocastrians, though. As Margaret Colditz writes: [1]


“Mr Barrie’s Furniture Shop. How elegant it was! A large piece of red cedar caught one’s attention. Most of us could only look admiringly at the lovely hand crafted furniture. Upstairs, we had our photographs taken sitting in a beautifully carved chair. In a post-Depression era, this elegant shop was inspiring."



Tougher times were ahead. With the declaration of World War II, furniture orders dried up. Staff were laid off. A conscientious objector, Fred Barrie was called up to the Allied Works Authorities, first at Nelson’s Bay building a hospital, then at Bankstown and Mascot as the leading hand with 60 men, making boxes and packing them with nails and bolts to make pre-cut warehouses  for the army.
 

Frank Standen found himself without a job.


Now, the musical skills Frank had acquired as a boy, travelling each week from Maitland to lessons at Mayfield, would come into their own. He played the violin, saxophone and clarinet. Joining a small band, Frank went “on the road,” travelling up and down the coast playing instrumental accompaniment for the silent movies.


In the mid twentieth century, silent movies were hugely popular. They were one of the few forms of entertainment available.
Charlie Chaplin - legendary star of the silent movies


Live music was a key component of the silent movie experience. Just as for movies we enjoy today, music provided atmosphere, emotional cues, sound effects (like thunder or galloping horses), or danger warnings. The difference was – the musicians were playing live, in the theatre.


It was on one of these trips up the mid north coast that Frank met his wife-to-be, Dorothy, in Kempsey. She was one of 13 children.



Dorothy’s family had a tailoring shop; she did the hand stitching on men’s suits as well as caring for their invalid mother upstairs. In time, Frank and Dorothy were free to marry. He purchased the last available block of land in James Street, Hamilton. No. 21 had been the work yard of the adjacent brick foundry. They had one child, a daughter Jan.
 

When the war was over, business improved as the men returned home. The factory was enlarged. Fred Barrie varied his product line to include grandfather clocks. He had developed an interest in clocks after a trip to Europe. Frank was recalled to work with his old boss, hand crafting the timber cabinets that housed the clock mechanism and pendulum. Like the furniture, some of the clocks had delicate scroll work and other decorative motifs, for which contractors would be engaged.


Frank was to become head cabinetmaker.


Frank Standen with grandfather clock cabinet 
(Photograph from the personal collection of Jan Pilcher)



Barrie’s still made furniture, but fewer of the heavy pre-war pieces. Occasional tables, writing desks, dining suites and Queen Anne dressing tables were part of the range.

A Fred Barrie sideboard with framed photographs of the Cedar Monarch in the background
(Photograph from the personal collection of Jan Pilcher)





Ladies writing desk
This Fred Barrie piece is treasured by Rhonda White
(Photograph from the personal collection of Rhonda White)




I recognised several pieces of Fred Barrie furniture when visiting the home of Mrs Ada Bizzari, one of the early owners of the Northern Star Cafe. They looked as perfect as when they had emerged from the Barrie workshop.



Frank continued working at Barrie’s for the rest of his life – almost 60 years, until he died aged 78.
Frank Standen at work 
(Photograph from the personal collection of Jan Pilcher)

Fred Barrie was a Christadelphian. According to Denis Anderson, who worked in the business for several years in the 1980s before setting up on his own [3] - there was no swearing and a strong work ethic in the workshop, although Fred always enjoyed a joke. His role was to run the business, dealing with clients, choosing timbers for each job, and machining the initial lengths. Then the cabinetmakers took over.




Geoff Barrie, Fred Barrie's son (far right), Frank Standen (second from right) and staff at Fred Barrie’s Furniture (n.d.)
(Photograph from the personal collection of Jan Pilcher)



Living so close to his place of work, Frank walked home for lunch, which Dorothy always had waiting for him. On his way back to work, he would stop off at The Kent Hotel for a beer. This was a lifetime routine. The family never owned a car – it wasn’t necessary.
Jan Pilcher (Frank Standen's daughter) outside his former home at 21 James Street (September, 2013)

As the post-war Italian migrants moved into Hamilton[4], Frank often expressed concern about how things were changing. He worried about the impact on jobs, and of course, on his beloved Kent.


Then Fred Barrie took on a couple of Italians as apprentices. They proved to be excellent tradesmen as well as personable young men. Frank’s fears dissipated as he got to know not only the boys, but also their fathers.

Fred Barrie grandfather clocks became much sought after. Frank’s daughter Jan had always longed for one but the budget had never been able to stretch quite that far.


On her 60th birthday, her long-held wish was granted. Jan’s family tracked down a Fred Barrie grandfather clock for her over the internet. Its authenticity was confirmed by the small plaque hidden inside the cabinet. The family managed to convince its owner that it was going to a good home – the wife of the man who crafted it. What better home than this?
Barrie's Grandfather and Grandmother Clocks
(Photograph from the personal collection of Jan Pilcher)


Could the elegance of which Margaret Colditz wrote have had something to do with Fred Barrie’s wife, Alice? A reluctant grandmother at 47, she preferred to be called Jan by her grand children. When she died in 2012 aged 106, her obituary in the Newcastle Herald reported her granddaughter Trudi Bean saying:


“When we were little, Jan seemed like the most glamorous woman we knew. She had a walk in wardrobe, with lots of shoes and hats, and the girls were allowed to try on her shoes, hats and beads, passing on her clip-on earrings because they hurt too much.”


Her grandson Warren Mair described her like this:


“If other grandmothers were like classical music, then Alice was like rock and roll.”


Her long life, she said, could be attributed to two sherries a day - not to mention chocolate ginger! [5]


There was a bit more to the story. Warren Mair explained to me that in their 50s, due to Fred’s gout, his grandparents embraced healthier living with a passion. Fresh, raw foods, nuts and seeds, and juices became part of their diet.


Perhaps this stylish woman, whose favourite colours were red and purple, wore Estee Lauder Youth Dew perfume, and referred to husband Fred as “the boyfriend,” influenced the designs coming out of the shop. We can’t be sure, but we do know she was a great asset to the business, entertaining their clients at their showroom home in Adamstown.
Mrs Alice Barrie (2007)
(Photograph courtesy of Hunter Lifestyle Magazine)



In her generous hospitality, she followed in the footsteps of her own grandfather, Alfred Harvey. A “leading citizen of the day,” Alfred Harvey  was the owner of the Royal Coffee Palace, Scott Street, Newcastle. This unique “coffee palace” had 40 rooms and a dining room that could accommodate 100 guests, supplying 2000 meals a day.[6]


Denis Anderson says that his decision to make furniture the traditional way is a legacy from Fred Barrie and Frank Standen – men who at the time of his apprenticeship, were old enough to be his grandfather.


“I love the process of designing and creating for a customer and using excellent timbers to produce a piece that will stay in a family for generations,”  Denis says.



Fred Barrie at his home amidst his own hand crafted furniture
(Photograph from the personal collection of Jan Pilcher) 



Neither Denis Anderson nor Warren Mair could help me unlock the secrets of the taste of the best cedar timber. Perhaps that was something Frank wanted to keep to himself – like a great cook, never divulging a special ingredient that makes all the difference to a dish.


One thing I can be sure of – although Barrie’s Furniture Shop can no longer be found at the northern end of Beaumont Street, the enthusiasm and passion of Fred Barrie and Frank Standen for fine furniture lives on in the work of at least one of their protégés.





The Laneway today, which provided back access to the factory section of Barrie's Furniture (2013)



Acknowledgements

Thank you to Mrs Jan Pilcher, Warren Mair, Trudi Bean and Denis Anderson for their generous contributions.

This post was updated on 1 May, 2014.





If you would like to receive each new post in your email box immediately it is written, just complete the Follow by Email box on the home page. Click here to find it.    



[1] Colditz, Margaret: My Beloved Beaumont Street. M/S (1990).
[2] Years later, the photography studio was moved to the Barrie’s home. Fred Barrie was one of 8 official photographers for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Newcastle in 1954.

[3] http://www.andersonscedar.com.au/
[4] In 1947, Lettesi (a settler group made up of nearly 150 families from the village of Lettopalena in the Abruzzo Region of Italy) initially settled in Islington but they soon expanded into the nearby suburbs of Hamilton and Mayfield. This was primarily due to Islington's proximity to the BHP steel works. Before long Hamilton (especially Beaumont Street) was to become a strong community and commercial centre for Newcastle’s Italians. More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton,_New_South_Wales.

[5] Obituary for Alice Barrie, Newcastle Herald, 23 January, 2012.
[6] Hunter Lifestyle Magazine Edition 26 (2007). “Amazing Alice” by Marilyn Collins.