Edna Dunning Remembers

Shopping in Henley Beach

My name is Edna Dunning. I came to live in Henley Beach when I was three years of age and I’ve seen Henley grow from a little sea-side village to the lovely city of Henley and Grange as we know it today.

The first thing I recall is going shopping in Henley on Friday nights. It was like a family night out. All the shops were lit up, and everyone was so friendly. Some of the traders were:

  • Burden the chemist
  • Watkins’ fruit shop
  • Badenoch’s grocery store with the bakery at the back
  • ‘Waxie’ Johns’ paper shop
  • Johns’ butcher’s shop and
  • Whibley and Ferriers drapery store.

Shop Fronts Henley Beach
Image credit: Henley & Grange Historical Society

Next to the Ramsgate Hotel was Naylor’s Land Agency. The Ramsgate itself was a beautiful building with its lovely old wrought iron lace on the verandahs. But as one walked past the pub on a Saturday down to the railway station the pong from the ‘lavs’ was most offensive.

Fortunately, an improvement came in time!

(abridged from H&GHS Journal 4, 1983)

The Henley Beach Railway Station

The Henley Beach railway station and terminal was a long one, stretching from Main Street to Kent Street. There were two ramps, and two lots of steps, a ticket office and right at the south end, rest rooms and shelter were provided. The site of the railway station is now taken up by the police station and the Housing Trust flats.

Henley Beach Railway Station
Image credit: Henley & Grange Historical Society

The steam train with its six or so carriages would pull in. After the engine was uncoupled, it would proceed to the end of the line, where two water tanks were provided, to fill up for the return journey to Adelaide. The engine would then go on a spur line, or loop, pass the standing carriages, and couple up at the front, ready to move off when the time came.

The train service was well patronised in those days, and the people got to know each other by travelling on public transport.

(abridged from H&GHS Journal 4, 1983)

My Schools

Who remembers the lovely convent school down near Marlborough Street? It was a private Catholic school for girls and boys. The school lawns were well cut, and the lovely yellow coreopsis attracted the bees. One of the bees got on me one day, so I killed it and had to stand in the comer of the classroom for the whole of that day, just for killing that one bee.

We had lovely little concerts each year, to break up for the Christmas holidays. One year I was a fairy, with full tulle skirt and wand. Next year, I was a brownie dressed in brown with gold trim, with bells on each flute of the collar and on my toes. A long-pointed cap, with a bell, hung down my back. We always went on our yearly picnic by special train to Long Gully. Parents, nuns and children attended the picnic.

There was no public school in Henley in those days, and a lot of the young people used to go by train to the Grange School. The train used to stop right opposite the convent gates, at the long wooden platform of the Marlborough Street station. Of course, we convent kids used to line up to see Grange school-going children and have a few words to say.

The Henley Primary School was built at the end of Hazel Terrace soon after we moved in, and I attended it the second year it was opened. The education was totally different from what it had been at the convent. There it was music, singing, social graces and religious instructions. But at the public school it was reading, writing and arithmetic!

(abridged from H&GHS Journal 4, 1983)

Henley Beach Primary School
Image credit: Henley & Grange Historical Society

Picture Shows

Picture Shows were important to us.

The first open air picture show was on the sea front, with the screen almost along the line of the esplanade. The next venue for the showing of films was upstairs in the Kiosk. Admission to the matinee was sixpence, and with a second sixpence we could buy lollies, like ‘gob stoppers’, ‘kali suckers’, ‘ten-a-penny balls’, or a selection from the halfpenny tray.

There was usually a cowboy film showing, but the highlight of the programme was ‘The Veiled Mystery’ was one of our favourites. If we could wangle it, we would go back in the evening with our parents when, we would see a newsreel and travel talk.

Poster of the ‘The Veiled Mystery’
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons [public domain]

And then we were told that an opposition was starting up, to show films at the Henley Town Hall. We children were up in arms. How dare they? We wouldn’t go. But, come opening night, we were the first to line up for our tickets. And, for a while, we had a matinee of silent films at the Kiosk on Saturday afternoon, followed by an evening of silent films at the Town Hall. Dorothy Angus, the pianist for the Town Hall pictures, was like a queen, with her lovely long dark hair, as she walked down the aisle to the piano.

Over the years, at the Town Hall, many good ‘talkies’ were shown. To name a few: Waterloo Bridge, Ziegfeld Follies, Boys’ Town, Bobby Breen with his lovely voice, and the first animated film ever made by Walt Disney – ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’.

(abridged from H&GHS Journal 4, 1983)

Poster of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons [unlicenced]

My First Job

The first job I ever had was Usherette and Ticket Seller for Times Theatres.

We always had good crowds, and I often had to put extra chairs in where possible. Many of the locals had regular bookings. I used to be known by the children as the picture lady, a name I would hear if I got on a tram or walked down the street.

Theatre Usherette 1940s
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons [public domain]

During the war years, I even used to paste up the billboards. I would get up before the first tram came down at 6 o’clock, to get the job done. As the boards were all so high up, I used to cart a box along on my bike, so that I could reach. If a strong wind was blowing, I was really in trouble. The flour paste was always mixed the night before, so that I could get an early start. For this glamorous job, I got five shillings a session. There were a lot of romances started from our local picture shows, and a lot of-happy marriages resulted.

(abridged from H&GHS Journal 4, 1983)

Editor Note: ‘The Times’ theatrette opened on December 2, 1932 on the corner of King William and Grenfell Street, Adelaide. It is sometimes referred to as ‘The Theatre Dainty’. It closed on October 28, 1933.


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