In 1995 Grant Shallard, a graphic designer, produced the “DINKUM COLLECTORS CALENDAR” featuring 12 keen Aussies and their collections, a showboat of yesteryear. It was as memorable as a dinner of tripe and rhubarb puddin’, with a dose of Hypol before bed. These Aussie collectors all had one thing common: they LOVE their collections. How did Grant get interested in collecting?
“As a graphic designer I have an interest in early packaging design and how manufacturers designed, packaged and presented their products during the early part of the 20th century. Packaging in the old days was often more Australian than most things done today. The containers were designed by artists and illustrations were done by hand, not computer. I really do believe that the people who designed our early packaging were true artists, and they’ve yet to be recognised properly. The value of these items hasn’t been recognised yet either, but they are a good way of tracing how we have developed as a nation.”
Misspent youth? Useful education? Or my uncle’s shop?
Way back in the dim, dark ages of radio (pre-TV) I spent many hours with my ear glued to the Bakelite box, listening to Superman, Tarzan and Hop Harrigan. Then along came TV, and I spent more hours entranced by Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Rin Tin Tin and Sea Hunt.
Misspent youth? But it gave me a valuable and fascinating insight into the world of entertainment: it’s trivia, memorabilia and collectables.
Another influence was my uncle’s general store in country Epping as it was then: I was always fascinated by all the smells, packaging and advertising that was part of a country general store. That fascination has never died.”
The shop – Peter & Pam, Oatmeal boy and Mr Peanut
Peter’s produced two of my favourite items to promote its ice-cream: the cardboard Peter’s Boy and Girl, Peter and Pam. They were a familiar sight on milker counters during the 1940s and 1950s. Bench-top cut-outs were a popular way of promotional advertising before TV, then large circular newspapers and magazines came along. Everyone knew the Peter’s Boy and Girl – they were typical images of the era.”
The major companies of the time produced images that are unforgettable, and they are important because they were uniquely Australian. These days with improved communication and travel we are influenced by the rest of the world, but during the first half of the last century Australia generated its own creations.
McKenzie’s Oatmeal, now Uncle Toby’s, also used the image of a young cherubic-faced boy to sell its products. The pudding-basin hairstyle and clothes worn by the child instantly date the large canvas-backed wall-hanging to the 1920s.
These large hangings were used instead of advertising hoardings in the earlier part of the 20th century. The company reps rolled them up and then delivered them to selected shop owners. I love the look of these because it is obviously from another time. These days the kid would be wearing a baseball cap and Reeboks.
Give-away gimmicks were also a popular way of catching the public’s attention. Whereas advertising cut-outs were cumbersome and took up precious counter space, novel figures were smaller and lent themselves to new possibilities.
Mr Peanut, created by the ETA company in the 1930s was a popular character with adults and children alike. The plastic peanut on legs, complete with wobbly head, was a familiar figure in milk bars.
And Freddo the Mouse
Freddo Frog has stood the test of time and is still instantly recognisable. Freddo is interesting because few people know that Freddo was actually going to be a mouse, not a frog. The late Sir Macpherson Robertson wanted to produce a one penny chocolate mouse. But it was Harry Melbourne who came up with the idea to produce a frog, in those days kids always had and loved pet frogs.
‘Freddo the Frog’ rolled off the tongue much better than ‘Freddo the Mouse’ so the mouse was sent packing. It was named after Fred McLean a foreman in the MacRobertson’s packing room. The mouse had the last laugh though, he went to Hollywood and got a job with Walt Disney and became famous in the movies.
Some products go missing
We can also see our changing values and attitudes in say a tin of Piccaninny Paste Wax Floor Polish which promises to clean floors with ‘Twice the Shine in half the time!’ It has definitive racial overtones and would never be allowed now: it’s a reflection of past attitudes and shows how much society has moved on. (Editor’s note: we show this for the purposes of historical reference and do not endorse any derogatory associations with the First People’s past, present and emerging.)
Hats on or off
One of my unusual collections is a set of miniature replica Stetson hats. They are perfect replicas of the full size Stetson and were introduced by the company during the 1920s to save sales reps carting around full-size hats around the country to buyers. The full size hats used to get squashed after a period of time and didn’t look very impressive to potential buyers. They came in their own little box and could be popped in the sales rep’s suitcase. When the rep was trying to make a sale he’d pull out the small hats in perfect condition.
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