Sunday, July 7, 2013


Dimmy's: Julie Clarke ©

I vaguely remember standing with my grandmother and looking at a dress on a display mannequin in a shop store window in the mid 1950s. A large white, cardboard price tag with the numbers 29/6d (twenty nine shillings and sixpence) hand written in red accompanied the shiny, wooden, stilted figure of a woman, who stood with one foot slightly forward on a fixed pedestal and her right arm extended towards the glass. The dress she was wearing must have been quite expensive because Nan looked at it for quite a long time before saying that she couldn’t afford it. I don’t recall the style or fabric of the dress, only the look of disappointment and fatal acceptance on my grandmother’s face. This was my earliest remembrance of going to Richmond and quite a novelty because we had only ever shopped in Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn. After remembering those large red numbers on the sale sign I have no recollection of any other color for almost everyone I knew back then wore dark or muted clothes, probably because they were still wearing the clothes they wore during the war or because they couldn’t afford to purchase anything new. I only ever remember my grandmother owning one coat, which I’m fairly sure was a long length dark blue Astrakhan, which hung in the wardrobe and was brought out every Winter for as long as I lived with her. It was the time of ‘making do’ make it do, or do without and it probably derived from Nan living through the depression and having to make the best of what she had.
When I was in Swan Street, Richmond on Friday, taking photographs of the facade and clock tower of Dimmy’s Department Store, which has been gutted to make room for a Supermarket on the ground floor and fifteen New York style apartments on the upper level, I recalled this early memory, which seemed to fit the cold, grey Melbourne day. However, my memories of Dimmy’s are not limited to this early childhood memory for many times as an adult I’d drop in to see what I could get for a bargain.
Richmond has certainly changed from its ‘working class’ beginnings, with its shops that sell $125.00 champagne and the $500,000 to one million price tag for new apartments, but at least the developers have promised to keep the iconic Dimmy’s ball and clock tower, a remembrance of things past but not forgotten.

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