WARRACKNABEAL 150 – Memories of Warracknabeal. The Tarax Bar: The best in town
WARRACKNABEAL’S Tarax Bar was a mixed business selling fruit, vegetables, sweets (loose and packaged), soft drinks, ice-creams (both cone and stick), cigarettes and various other lines associated with a mixed business.
One of these was freshly roasted peanuts. The peanut roaster was fired up every Friday and tempted the townsfolk with the inviting smell of freshly roasted nuts.
In the early days the locals came for their milkshakes and soft drinks and to listen to the juke box.
The shop also had the Tattersall’s agency, so regulars would come in to buy their weekly Tatt’s ticket, all of which needed to be written out by hand.
Sydney George Denham returned to Warracknabeal after serving in the AirForce during WW2.
He worked with his father in the local Ice Works and when that closed, purchased the Tarax Bar in 1946.
The Tarax Bar got its name from the Tarax soft drink company. It was named and signed as this because it was the sole supplier of Tarax soft drinks in Warracknabeal.
At the time, it was also the only shop in town that sold Street’s ice-cream.
The shop had folding doors at the front and each day he would open them up and set up boxes with all the fresh produce in them.
The bulk of the produce was kept out the back and Syd had a reputation for keeping the good stuff out the back for his special customers.
Funny though, because everyone was a special customer to Syd, so most of the veggie’s were served from the back.
The shop would open every day of the week around 8am and not close until around 8 or 9 oclock in the evening, except on Saturday and Sunday, when it would close early in the afternoon.
The Tarax Bar was a meeting place for the lads who didn’t go to the pub for the ‘6 o’clock swill’ or, a post pub point for those who wanted to continue conversations about sport; local facilities; politics etc.
Syd was very involved in the community and given his passion for sport, was not shy about sharing his knowledge and opinions on what constituted a good player; good games and success in all sports.
He was a player and secretary of the football and cricket clubs; representative on the Wimmera League Tribunal, Anzac Park Trustee, life member of Anzac Park and Chair of the Water Board which meant that many people came to the shop as much for a chat about concerns and thoughts as to buy their supplies.
His annual holiday was the trip to Melbourne for Country week cricket with the boys.
He always brought home peace offerings. He was loved and admired by many locals for his generosity, hospitality and contribution.
In Early 1951 Syd had back surgery as a result of a war injury and wasn’t able to work for 12 months.
Joyce Heenan and Kevin Chase managed the shop during this time, with Kevin continuing to work there until the late 60’s,early 70’s.
When Kevin moved on to Adelaide, Syd’s wife Bailey worked with him in the shop until shortly after his death in 1979.
The Denham’s sold the shop in 1980 and Bailey continued sharing her talent with food through her catering for social events; teaching adults and kids how to make bread and canape’s particularly.
Bailey and Syd had 5 children, Doug, Jan, Di, Mike and Anthony, all of whom worked in the shop after school and at weekends from around the age of nine or 10.
Their jobs were bagging potatoes and peanuts, stacking shelves with fruit and vegetables, delivering orders on their bicycles, filling the lolly jars while sneaking a few as they did this, taking the chocolates off the shelves in the very hot summer days and putting them in a cooler spot, sorting the fruit and veg to pick out the not so fresh pieces, riding over to the Chinese market garden near Woodbine (Bong’s) and Stan’s garden on Craig Avenue to pick up fresh, locally grown seasonal vegetables.
Leon Toy from Horsham, nephew of Bong and son of Stan Toy, fondly remembers Syd and thanks him for his support.
As the kids got older they would serve the customers their fruit and veg; serve ice-creams and drinks and make milkshakes which were the best in town.