My father Bill Nelson originally trained as a mechanic and during the depression worked at West’s garage in Wingham, but always had ambitions to own his own shop.1 In 1937 he managed to save enough to purchase the Blue Flag store in Manning Street, Taree. This little grocery shop delivered orders on a bicycle [ridden by Basil Cook] with a big basket out front. It put me in mind of Ronnie Barker’s ‘Open All Hours’. My father prided himself on helping all regardless of colour or ability to pay. During WW2 he felt obliged to help the war effort so joined the Airforce.2
My mother managed the shop and I spent after school hours riding a trolley on rails between the back storage shed and the shop and helping to bag lollies. Unicomb’s Bacon shop was one side and a dentist the other.3 After the war my father became enamoured of the self-service style grocery having seen this in the city and decided to borrow yet again and start ‘Food Fair’. I believe it was the first of its kind on the north coast.
However a large grocery chain came to town and set up their store where Bing Lee is today and called themselves the exact name. My father complained to the registration board but was told this chain was exempt!! They then proceeded to run him out of business by copying his specials and offering lower prices. Eventually the bank foreclosed, breaking my father’s heart. Food Fair went out of business around 1961. Bill then helped manage his family’s hardware store which incorporated the Blue Flag store until he died in 1965.4
Author: Elaine Hughes
1 NAA: A9301, NELSON William George.
3 Taree historic rate books 1932-34, Section 6 Pt 2, midcoaststories.com.
4 NSW BDM, Death Index for William George Nelson, 1965, Index No. 39680.