First up, a silly riddle about Woolloomooloo by C.J. Dennis;
Yes, that’s eight o’s. 😛
It’s a small jump to the puzzle of which Aussie icon rhymes with Woolloomooloo.
WOOLLOOMOOLOO – affectionately dubbed ‘the Loo’. It once had a reputation as a rough and ready sort of place. However, in his book Cobbers, published in 1934, Thomas Wood claimed that the Sydney suburb had just the right ‘stamp and go’ for the chorus of a sea-shanty. He even provided a couple of lines, and it’s easy to imagine a crew of drunken sailors dancing around Harry’s Cafe-de-Wheels with a pie in hand bellowing;
Woolloomooloo Ba-lah be-lay
Here is a rollicking song about the suburb from The Bushwhackers Band
EYES ON THOSE PIES
Harry’s Café-de-Wheels at ‘the Loo’ is a Sydney institution. The business was established in 1938 by Harry Edwards, who began selling pies from a stationary caravan. It became mobile after a council decree that such vans had to move at least 12 inches per day; hence ‘de wheels’ It doesn’t have any these days.
Famous patrons have included Frank Sinatra and Colonel Sanders. The Colonel reportedly leaned on his stick and consumed three pies. Evidently he thought they were finger lickin’ good. 🤣😂 Oh yes, plus Russell Crowe and the late food critic Anthony Bourdain. Russell may have ordered a rabbit pie (only rugby league fans will get that very bad joke).
The house specialty is the ‘Tiger’, named in honour of founder Harry, who was nicknamed Tiger while serving in WWII. It is a meat pie topped with potato mash, mushy peas and gravy. Oh good grief!
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN….WELL, TO AFFLUENT POTTS POINT ANYWAY
There are three lots of steps linking Woolloomooloo to Potts Point. Below is a photo of Butler’s Stairs;
If you can’t make out the caption it says, Fashionable Potts Point is at the top of Butler’s Stairs, much maligned Woolloomooloo at the bottom. During rush hours, stairs carry streams of workers from above who walk through ‘Loo to offices.
It took me longer than I anticipated to find them
The McElhone stairs are better known and more frequently used today, especially by fitness obsessed lunchtime joggers.
In the old days they were dubbed ‘The Stairs of Doom’. This was because sailors would climb them from the wharves to reach the bars and brothels of Kings Cross.
I walked past The Hordern stairs, but was far too weary to tackle them.
FROM WEALTHY TO WORKING CLASS
Ironically, in the very early days of Sydney, Woolloomooloo was only for the gentry. Instead of terrace houses there were grand mansions, with gardens fronting the bay.
One well-heeled merchant who lived there at the time was Robert Tertius Campbell. He made a fortune dealing in gold. Campbell’s beautiful daughter Florence would become embroiled in a sensational 19th century murder trial, back in the old country. It is commonly known as THE BRAVO CASE.
Woolloomooloo later became a working class suburb, housing the families of men working on the wharves. In 1896 it became the location of one of the city’s first free kindergartens. The aim was to offer a better start in life to children being raised in slum-like conditions.
The following, sobering piece was published in 1920;
The church bells are ringing; it is Sunday evening and the “Loo” is at its quietest. On my verandah, sitting in the half light, I look around the squalid scene. Though the evening shadows soften the harsh outlines, it looks what it is – a poor man’s quarter.
Little groups on the corners; women sitting on their doorsteps idly watching the passers-by; little children playing out the finish of their imperfect day.
On the verandah opposite I see four old women. There are more of them living in the house; I think they must club their pensions and by co-operation eke out an existence till such time as the feeble flame of life flickers out.
Next door is a firm of undertakers who do a thriving business. The little panting motor-car seems to be ever on the go. bringing in the remains of the departed.
Down the lane are the quarters of the demi-monde. One wonders whether these squalid surroundings are the necessary concomitants of civilization, and, if so, whether civilization is worthwhile. The Australian Worker, December 16, 1920.
Life was particularly hard during the Great Depression, but there are always those who strive to make things a little better for others, despite their own, difficult circumstances;
Today the wheel has turned full circle in Woolloomooloo, with the gentrification of the area. Huge prices are paid for apartments in converted wharf buildings, and restored terrace house are highly sought after.
The Loo has its share of fancy restaurants and bars, but you can still buy a ‘Tiger’ pie at Harry’s Cafe-de-Wheels.