Friday, 7 October 2011

Rita reminisces

14th February 1966 heralded the start of decimal currency in Australia – a most confusing time for all of us, given that we had only ever used the ₤ (pound), shilling and pence (sterling) system. It was extremely difficult to get your head around the fact that everything was priced from then onwards in dollars and cents. In the new decimal currency system, ₤1 (one pound) became $2, and 10/- (shillings), which was half a pound, became $1. The new coins also confused the hell out of me.

On 14/2/66 I was in Year 11 at Hobart Matriculation College in Letitia Street, North Hobart (where Turnbulls Funeral Home is now). Going to school that first decimal currency morning, all was as normal (ie as it had been the day before), but coming home after school was a different matter. I got on the trolley bus outside school, handed the driver my student pass and money, but he wouldn’t accept my 6d (sixpence, which physically was the size, and had the appearance, of a 5c piece)! He told me we now had decimal currency, and I needed that currency in order to travel on the trolley bus! I walked into town, then home to Dynnyrne, because I didn’t have any new currency, but rapidly made sure I bought something at the corner shop on my way home, so I could obtain some of the new coins in change, and ensure I got to school the next day via trolley bus!

Fast forward to the end of that year, and I was working (and earning $42 per fortnight) at the Hydro, and living in a share house in Bathurst Street with six other girls. We all worked at different places: one girl was a beauty consultant at Myers (which meant free sample makeup for all of us). Another girl was an usherette at the Odeon movie theatre in Liverpool Street, which was great because she let any of us in free to see the movies!

Three of us pooled resources, and took turns shopping and cooking the meals.

Whilst sorting through lots of old papers today, I found my (priced) shopping list, and meal plan, for a three day period (Friday night dinner, lunch and dinner on Saturday, and lunch and dinner on Sunday) in late 1966, and was most amused at how much things have changed.

Friday nights menu was chops, peas, potatoes, cabbage and carrots. Saturday lunch was casserole, potatoes, pumpkin and cauliflower. Saturday night dinner was steak and onions, potatoes (usually mashed), peas, cabbage and carrots. Sunday lunch was a corned roll (corned beef), white sauce, potatoes, peas, carrots, pumpkin and cabbage, with (tinned) fruit and custard for dessert. Sunday night tea was whatever was left over.

Random prices for the above ingredients were:
potatoes, 20c per pound (lb) (metric weights like kg and gm hadn’t come in at that stage, so 2 lbs =roughly 1 kg; 1 lb was approximately 500 gm)
onions, 20c per pound
tomatoes, 24c per pound
carrots, 12c per lb
pumpkin, 12c per lb
1 capsicum, 6c
1 lb bananas, 18c
1 lb (approx 500 gm) butter, 56c
½ lb tea, 36c
custard powder, packet, 20c
packet assorted biscuits, 28c
tin apricots, 25c
1 lb plain flour, 10c
packet sultanas, 26c

Obviously the prices of food items have risen slightly since 1966, but also the customs we now take for granted: grabbing some fast food on the way home at night after work, dining out, and the popularity of convenience food.

It’s hard to recognize today’s eating habits when comparing them to 1966.

(By the way, three years later when my boyfriend, who subsequently became my husband, and I looked for a flat to rent, we looked at two: one in Davey Street which was $17 per week, and the other in Patrick Street which was $14 per week.  I really wanted the Davey Street one, but as we were mega-poor, we went for the Patrick Street cheaper option).
Posted on by Rita


potplant said...

I found an old budget from my working holiday in London from 1972 while sorting out some old books. Four pounds a week was dedicated to food, six pounds to entertainment! I lived on homemade museli and yoghurt (unheard of in London supermarkets of the day) soup and curries. Eating out was too expensive. Stayed amazingly healthy for those two years, considering the amount of Bull's Blood (dreadful Spanish plonk) consumed.

Anonymous said...

That bus driver was wrong! the sixpence remained perfectly valid legal tender. Great story.

Rita said...

Good one potplant. I know it makes me sound old (and maybe I am!) but those years seem to have passed so quickly. Your 1972 London working holiday was typical of the times, wasn't it? And going without vitals like food, so you could take advantage of all Britain and Europe had to offer increased your street cred today, eh?
Anon 8.00, I thought so at the time too, but being an extremely shy and unsophisticated teenager, fresh from the wilds of Huonville, I didn't have the balls to point that out to him!

Anonymous said...

Great post Rita, we ate a lot of meat in those days! Your weekend menu took me right back. Never have been able face corned beef since my childhood, pleaded with my mother to have mine minus the white sauce, it took ages. Even something like shepherds pie is only just - purely fuel, nothing else sadly.

Anon2 said...

That bus driver was out of order, Rita! The 2 currencies co-existed for some time during a transition period. I was also in Year 11 at Hobart Matric that year, having commenced the year at St Virgil's, and, having had a row with them over subject choices and cadets , I started at HMC only a few days into the school year. I continued living at home for some years but I remember the food very much as you have recounted. Highlights were the weekend roasts and steak and eggs for breakfast on Saturdays!

Anon2 said...

By the way, where was the flat in Patrick St? My parents also had our Patrick St house in flats at that time

Rita said...

Great to hear from you again here Anon2. Our flat in Patrick St was several houses downhill from your place. I can't recall the number at the moment I'm afraid. A double storey house. Our flat was the upstairs one.