My Strange Experience in Shopping Arcade
My photographs (below) show the Gallery Level because that’s where my true story took place. In those days we called it the balcony level but it still has the bespoke, original shops with artisans working in the background as customers window-shop or browse the fine wares on display.
The main photograph (above) was taken entering Brisbane Arcade from Adelaide Street, City. Partially visible lower right hand corner shows Keri Craig Boutique Emporium to downstairs level. The iconic The Pen Shoppe (left) is small yet packed with the most incredible items you could imagine, and not all pens!
From memory, Brisbane Arcade was not as well lit as it is today and the atmosphere always seemed rather sombre with its darker wood and ‘proper’ shop assistants watching their customers, patiently waiting to be called to assist. Even today, nothing ruffles the ambience, no piped muzak or microphoned spruikers shouting about sales, and never discount bins.
If you desired a sophisticated clothing boutique with timeless elegance or a discreet luncheon you slipped into Brisbane Arcade. You hoped it would rain so you could buy that beautiful umbrella or stylish coat. The hustle and bustle of the city faded away and you knew you were somewhere special. Artisan jewellery, watches, ballet wear. And it didn’t get any better than hand-made Darrell Lea Chocolates deliciously displayed for special occasions. Unfortunately they now come from supermarkets, blocked in cellophane wrappers with lurid colours.
Every time I walk into Brisbane Arcade, the elegance, intimacy and history surround me. In fact I feel I am no longer in the 21st century and I love it.
So, where does my spooky story start? As Mary Poppins (Queenslander P L Travers literary creation) aptly says “Let’s start at the very beginning…”
Well, maybe not at the very, very beginning but certainly two young women deciding on where to go for an end-of-term treat. Unfortunately the divinely delicious Room With Roses café was out of our price range.
The idea of a tea-leaf reading Fortune Teller lured us up the polished stone steps to the gallery level and…
My personal reminiscence is of the Fortune Teller, or Teacup Reader, on the upper level, midway along the gallery walk. I cannot recall the woman’s name but even now I get shivers thinking of that cubbyhole café. In 1973, as a Stott’s Business College end of term treat, my friend and I decided on a special tea-leaf reading.
When we arrived, for some reason I declined and just drank my cup of tea and ate a slice of cake. But my friend opted for a reading. I cannot remember the price of afternoon tea (or a reading) but past documents show a jar of Maxwell House instant coffee was 30 cents back then.
Anyway, it was a real pot of tea with leaves and when my friend finished her beverage, the cup was upended into the saucer. The leaves left behind in the china cup were those the mystical woman read aloud. She told my friend that there were “lots of feathers” in the cup, lots of birds. She said that my friend had a trip ahead, she would leave and go somewhere “very important”. I cannot remember all that was said, we were too amazed to speak. My college pal lived on a poultry farm at Redland Bay and she was due to fly to Canberra ACT where she had been successful in obtaining a job in a ministerial office—I will never forget that tea-leaf reading moment.
Add your memories—
Memorabilia Time! My favourite umbrella was obtained from the brolly shop in Brisbane Arcade, pale blue fabric with cane handle, and I have gifted many items from the abundant The Pen Shoppe. Around 1975 I purchased (from the chemist shop) an original USA Diamon-Deb metal nail file which I still own and have travelled extensively with it. Another memorable purchase in 1981 was a beaded headpiece for my bridal veil from the wedding shop near Darrell Lea Chocolates. Over the years I have enjoyed morning teas and shopping forays in the delightfully small yet visually splendid shops in Brisbane Arcade and truly believe this glittering jewel will live on for future generations.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
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