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Honi’s Memories of ‘The Shop’

Memories Of Honi's Shop

Honi Riefler lived in Barraba in the 1960s. Part of the Hughes family, Honi has clear memories of being part of the family business running as a girl. The general store, known locally as ìThe Shopî was opposite the hospital in Edward Street.

Honi’s memories are part of the publication ‘As Time Goes By, part 2’ complied by Carolyn Faint.

We share part one (of four parts) here, with permission.

Having been born in Manilla, then living in Upper Horton for 5 years, we moved into Barraba for my formative years of 8 to 18. These recollections are seen through the eyes of a child growing up in a general store in the 1960ís in Barraba.

I officially started life as Annette Hughes (above) but have been called Honey from the moment of my birth. This seemed normal until my early teens when I was tor- mented by the boys. They loved to sidle up to me and sing ìKiss me Honey Honey ñ kiss me!î I hated it but to be called Annette seemed really strange. The problem was solved when I was in Japan as a Rotary Exchange student and they called me Honi. So Honi it has been ever since.

(In the shop) Dadís motto, and mantra, was service with a smile so ëheaven-help-usí if we approached a customer with reluctance, reserve or ëthe black dogí. Every customer was shown the utmost courtesy, but some, were handled with reverence. The doc torís wife was honoured with our best manners and our most gentile voice when she telephoned her weekly order through to the shop Her choices of tinned pink salmon and asparagus spears were always on the shelf ñ just for her (when the rest of us thought that creamed corn was a decadent luxury.) Another customer had to be treat- ed with the utmost respect. He had been a Japanese prisoner-of-war and bore the legacy of his horrific survival. As a returned service- man himself, Dad showed great honour to this man and ensured that we kids were always extra polite to him. When an item that was ëmade in Japaní was for sale, we had to make sure that he never saw it.

Dad hated the lolly counter with dithering kids agonizing over how to maximize the spending of their precious 3 pence or 6 pence. So by the time we were 10, my sister Tina and I were relegated to this lofty role. We, ourselves, were allowed to eat 6 pence worth of lollies a day, but we certainly consumed a life-times worth of chocolate bul- lets, clinkers and cobbers. Itís a wonder that neither of us ended up being obese or having diabetes.

This week we provide part two (of four) from Honi Rieflerís memoir of living and working in a family General Store in Barraba in the 1960s.

The Hughes General Store, known locally as ìThe Shopî was opposite the hospital in Edward Street. Honiís memories are part of the publication ìAs Time Goes By, part 2î complied by Carolyn Faint and are shared with permission.

There were always plenty of jobs for us girls to do in the shop apart from serving the customers. Eggs had to be wrapped in newspaper ñ three eggs per half sheet of newspaper then carefully placed in brown paper bags holding one dozen eggs. Butter was wrapped in white paper and womenís sanitary pads were discreetly packaged, and modestly sold, from a quieter part of the shop. Processed rolls of meat, devon or garlic, were sliced with the turn of a handle on a slicing machine. Although our cats were banned from the shop, they would magically sidle up to us when they heard that handle turning. Hidden from the customer, we would slip a slice of meat down to the appreciative cat.

Before the school (Barraba Central) up the hill had its own tuck-shop, Mum made lots of lunches. Pies and sausage rolls came from the bakery, but Mum made the sandwiches. Her curried egg recipe is still a family favourite. The bread had to be buttered from crust to crust, filled, generously garnished with salt and pepper, wrapped in grease proof paper, packed into a paper bag then marked with the hungry childís name.When the Masonic Lodge held their monthly meetings, Mum trays and trays of sandwiches. Their favourite filling was camp ñ pie with tomato sauce mashed through it.

Being in The Shop gave us a broad education and general knowledge. Prices were added up on pieces of paper or in our heads (without a calculator), change given (without a cash registerís print out) and the move to decimal currency was a challenge met with a strategy. Dadís ability to handle money was admired and gave us a love for the intricacies of mathematics.

The weather conditions were always the introductory topic of conversation, so we were made aware of Barrabaís atmospheric conditions. The drought, the floods, the cold, the heat and whatever else affected stock prices and wheat harvests were acknowledged. And the day it snowed was a momentous occasion.

Local, State and Federal politics came second after the weather. Divergent views from our parentís political persuasion were treated with caution, but with a smile, as the customer was always right!

This week we publish part three (of four) from Honi Reiflerís memoir of living and working in a family General Store in Barraba in the 1960s.

The Hughes General Store, known locally as ìThe Shopî was opposite the hospital in Edward Street. Honiís memories are part of the publication ìAs Time Goes By, part 2î complied by Carolyn Faint and are shared with permission. Mum was never a gossip, even though she no doubt knew a lot about the ëgoings-oní in Barraba, we were kept in the dark. It was, usually, the things that were deliberately not spoken out aloud that piqued our curiosity. We would sidle-up to a hushed conversation and, just have to stock a near-by shelf as we surreptitiously eavesdropped.

Our imaginations filled in the rest! Some customers gave us a life-long education. A short, retired nursing sister inevitably warned us of the dangers of smoking when she purchased her daily packet of cigarettes. ìYouíll end up like me if you start smoking and youíll never be able to stopî she would inevitably warn us. I think that we were more worried about her short stature, rather than the addiction, which was our deterrent to smoking. Another mother and daughter, who were both very short, reinforced this perception when they sent their kids to The Shop every day for a small packet of Capstan Blues and the necessary, accompanying packet of Bex powders.

The weekly arrival of the Boulís Brother truck from Inverell with fruit and vegetables was much anticipated. These jovial young men (who seemed very old to us) exposed us to a cultural diversityas they let us play on the back of their truck on top of the bags of potatoes. One frequent traveller, in a freezer truck, was known as Birdís Eye (because of the brand of frozen vegetables he distributed). Imust have had a long face one day when he asked me what was the matter. My reply was repeated formany years. ìIíve just had the fastest feed in the west! I cleaned my teeth with Barraba water!î

If there was a black-out in the evening Dad would marshal us up like troops.We were all assigned acounter to guard from the opportunistic family who would descend in the darkness to help themselves to our goods. These same kids were never short of mischief in other ways too. Cordial bottles could be returned to the shop for a3 pence repayment of the deposit.

They would then be washed out and stacked up in crates behind The Shop to be returned to the Northís Factory in Tamworth.Those kids made many attempts to recycle those empties from our backyard and to sell them to us again.

Dad was a wake up to this ruse and threatened to tell their grandmother about their shenanigans. She walloped well and was the only person who could keep them in line.
As a child I was honoured to be able to write out the fortnightly cheque for a customer who camein from the bush. His purchases always came in under 10 shillings ñ including a packet of tobacco. I wasfascinated to watch him painstakingly signing his name on the cheque, little realizing that he wasilliterate and that his signature was the most he could achieve.

Our older brother Jeff was sent to Tamworth for his high schooling and we girls were a bit peeved that he got out of all the work in The Shop (this was the era when it was more important to educate boys for a career whereas girlsÖwellÖ!). However, we were very proud of him when he purchased the empty block of ground next to The Shop
as an investment ñ before he even finished school.

This week we publish the final part of Honi Reiflerís memoir of living and working in a family General Store in Barraba in the 1960s when she was known as Honey Hughes.

The Hughes General Store, known locally as ìThe Shopî was opposite the hospital in Edward Street. Honiís memories are part of the publication ìAs Time Goes By, part 2î complied by Carolyn Faint and are shared with permission.

With the Hospital across the road our general store provided a service to those visiting loved ones. Chocolates, biscuits, cigarettes and cordial were the usual purchases. We didnÌt close the shop until 8:30pm in case some of the country people wanted something to buy before returning to their homes out of town.We usually ate our ëteaí between 7 and 8 during visiting hours? – our quietest period. As soon as our meal was over Tina and I would play on the cement pad in front of The Shop.

Hopscotch was popular but it was superseded by pogo sticks. The flat surface encouraged amazing feats and we always attempted to do more than 100 jumps without falling off. It was a miracle that we never fell through the plate-glass windows of The Shop. One young man, who was intent on impressing one of us, demonstrated his pogoprowess; that was until he jumped into the hedge which had a barbedwire fence encased in it.

Saturdays were our big days with huge grocery orders from the surrounding properties. The orders would have been telephoned through during the week or dropped off by a school child and we would have every item packed into cardboard boxes in preparation for the pick-up. Because of our Upper Horton connections we had a lot of good customers from there.

One family always interested me. They only came to town once a month and the mother loved to spend as much time as possible in The Shop for a good natter. The father sat in the truck out the front and waited! Once a year he would get out of the truck and join Dad for a Christmas beer – but his words were few!

Dad drove to Tamworth every Thursday to pick up supplies for The Shop. Between the summer heat, the speed of the Vauxhall and the condition of the road, it wasnÌt possible to bring home frozen goods. Dadís solution to the request for cooling treats was to create ice-blocks. Water ones sold for a penny but his most popular line was the Buffalo. It was made by whipping carnation milk, coconut and strawberry flavouring together, then frozen in trays and cut into squares to be sold between two flat wafers. They sold for 3 pence and a very lucky child could redeem their purchase price if they bought the one with 3 pence piece hidden in it. If one of our friends wanted a Buffalo then we could make sure that theirs was the lucky one.

Reminiscing about the ëgoodold-daysí could go on forever! [When] we celebrated Mumís 88th birthday, my sister and I laughed at our wonderful Barraba childhood. It was a spring-board to a fulfilling adulthood of travel, business, ministry, university and involvement in our respective communities.

Although our world has expanded with my daughters-in-law from Europe, Africa and Asia ñ and Tinaís grand-daughters being raised in New York – we are grateful for our Barraba beginnings. After a whirlwind and Godordained engagement I married a Swiss migrant. We spent nearly 7 years in WA working with the Aboriginal people and I did my university studies in Occupational Therapy. Then we were divinely led back east where we established a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre at Glenreagh – half way between Coffs Harbour and Grafton. With 6 kids, 15 grandkids and 37 years of rehab under our belts we have had one big adventure.

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Tina also settled in this area as Mum and Dad sold The Shop in 1971 and moved to Coffs Harbour. Tina studied nursing at university, married Greg Hartmann who has an auto-electrical shop. He was originally from Dundee, near Glen Innes, and they have purchased a property back up in that area although they live in Coffs Harbour. They have 2 children and 4 grandchildren.

Jeff is the only one who has stayed in the New England area and he lives in Tamworth. He worked for East West Airlines for many years as an aircraft engineer then had the South Tamworth Post Office. He has 3 sons and 8 grandchildren.

Dad died in 2008 with a fantastic memory right up to the end.

Mum lives with me and enjoys being close to her two daughters and many, many grandchildren and great grandchildren. (Note: Honiís mum has died since the time of writing this memoir.)