My connection with Parramatta started in 1973 when, as a 16 year old, I worked for Edels, a chain of vinyl record stores. They had branches in all Westfield’s shopping malls which were the largest retail centres in suburban Sydney. Westfield promoted that one of their centres was within 20 minutes’ drive of any suburb.
I had previously worked much closer to home (Revesby) at their Burwood and Roselands branches. When I was told to go to Parramatta it required a long all-stops train from Revesby to Sydenham then changing train lines and all stops to Parramatta. This was way before express trains or air-conditioned ones! It was close to a two hour round trip. If I was really lucky, there may be a train that stopped at a few less stations than 40 in total.
As we were a family of early risers (and bed makers) this didn’t worry me, despite the frosty pre-global warming mornings and heat wave evenings. Retail stopped at twelve noon, so one still had time in the afternoon to study, as I was in year 11. There was, of course, no Sunday retail, as it was expected that you would spend the Sabbath at church and after the long service, to have a roast chicken dinner for lunch with baked veggies. This was a luxury as chicken was dear and the week’s family meals usually included only mince, chops or sausages.
I was paid $2.43 (total) for a four hour Saturday morning shift which jumped to $5 per hour at age 16. As a milkshake was 25c and an ice-cream or small chocolate 10c, this represented freedom in a small way to the student me! Our pocket money had disappeared when we turned 15. My mother stated that “we would learn how the other half lives” by working part-time. As we were working class, I wasn’t sure which half of Sydney that she was referring to, but dutifully heeded her advice and saved for my own makeup, clothes, jewellery and shoes.
I aged out of retail as I approached 18, because 15 year olds were much cheaper to employ. I sought out another job closer to home. I didn’t really miss the long commute, even though I was used to it by now.
Alison Miller is a suburban poet, writer, editor and educator who worked in Parramatta in the 70’s near the Roxy Theatre when Westfield was new.
Parramatta Station Image: Mihaela Cristescu