Pooh Reflecting

Pooh Reflecting
Pooh Reflecting

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My First Job

When I asked Mum and Dad if I could go on the Geography excursion to Broken Hill I was told I could, but I had to pay for much of it myself.  That meant I had to get a Saturday morning job.  Dad knew Mr Norman Sharpe, owner of Sharpe's Emporium, an institution in Morwell.  Before I knew it I had a job.  It paid less than $2 for 3 hours work - 9:00am to 12:00 noon.  Dad made up the pay to $2 each week, and that paid for my trip.  I didn't spend a penny of my pay before I went away.  I think the trip cost about $40 all up.
Sharpe's!  What a place.  According to the Morwell Historical Society - * Sharpe's Drapery Store - Established in Commercial Road in 1924, ceased trading in 1984.  I began work there in 1963, about mid-year I think.  I spent some time in the Men's Wear Department, some in Haberdashery, but most of my time in the Ladies' Underwear Department.  One of the jobs for all the Casuals on Saturday morning was to unload Mr. Sharpe's car when he arrived with new stock - especially shoes!  Boxes and boxes of shoes which immediately went on sale for $2 a pair.  Over the years I had numerous pairs of shoes from the Saturday morning arrivals!  I'm sure some of the stock in the shop had been there since 1924!
This from the Morwell Historical Society newsletter of April 2009:
Latrobe Valley Express
18th May 1966
Over $120,000 has been spent by Mr. Norman Sharpe, proprietor of Sharpe’s Emporium, Morwell, in reconstruction and re-fitting of the department store in the last six years.
The latest renovations, which cost $40,000, have given the emporium situated in the heart of Morwell’s commercial world, a modern display window front plus extensive interior alterations.
To mark the “new look”, Sharpe’s are conducting a special opening day sale, commencing next Wednesday, May 25.
On the opening day the eldest of the Sharpe brothers, who helped establish the original Gippsland store at Sale 50 years ago, will be in attendance.
The Sale business, which was sold only eight years ago, preceded the Morwell store by nine years.
In the 41 years which have followed, Sharpes Emporium has progressed with the times.
“With the $120,000 I’ve spent in providing better facilities and display room since 1960 I could have bought all the land in Commercial road in 1925”, Mr Sharp recalls with a grin. In those days the price was around £5 per block.
He started in a small shop with one lad and a girl as assistants, eventually purchasing adjacent premises from a saddler and a grocer.  Today the Emporium, which boasts a wide range of mercery at extremely competitive prices, employs a permanent staff of 45.
Mr. Sharp says he is able to provide the valley with bargain prices because of both a long association with the trade, and the fact that he is in daily contact with manufacturers and fashion houses.
He spends two days per week in Morwell, where the store is under the management of Mr. Albert Robinson. Mr Sharpe and his family were closely associated with a store in Northcote known as “The Beehive” and today is closely associated with Norman’s in Bourke Street Melbourne.
Sharpe's Emporium, Morwell - 1970s
Before I began work in the shop I remember it used to have a unique system of sending cash to the cashier in the office.  This was a a sort of flying fox arrangement where the money and docket was put in a tube and sent whizzing away overhead to the cashier who would send back the change if required.  We used cash registers by the time I worked there.
At the end of my first year in the store I was offered a holiday position, so I worked full time for the six weeks of the school holidays.  It may have been longer as I remember that if we had a job to go to we could leave school a couple of weeks earlier than the end of term.
Previously Norman's Corner Stores, Bourke Street
At the end of Form 6 I was in a quandry, because Mr. Sharpe offered me a holiday job in the office of the Morwell store, or a shop assistant's position in his Melbourne store.  Although I would have loved to work in the office, I opted for the Melbourne position.  By this time I had become a personal friend of Mr. Sharpe and his driver Max.  I often used to get a lift to Melbourne with them when they returned after the shop closed at lunchtime on Saturday.  I would go to Melbourne to stay with friends and return on the train on Sunday night.  When I was working in the Melbourne store Max used to take me to lunch at different hotels around the city.  I didn't realise it at the time, but I think he was courting me - whereas I only saw him as a good friend.  Norman's Corner Stores was on the corner of Bourke and Russell Street in the city.  It was several floors high, and each floor was a different department.  I worked in the Ladies' Wear department.
Norman's Corner Stores, Bourke Street

It was a sad day when Mr. Sharpe died, and even sadder still when his children sold the Morwell store.  They had a massive sale - but they had taken all the quality stock back to the Melbourne shop so that all that was left for the sale in Morwell was outdated items that no-one really wanted.  As I said, I'm sure some of it had been there since the store opened in 1924!  Norman's Corner store in Melbourne operated for some time, but it too has now gone.  Looks like it is now a Hungry Jack's!

Scroll to page 61 of this document to read some interesting facts about Norman's Corner Stores as a Heritage Building.


  1. I too workes at Sharpes from 1980 - 82. It was my Saturday morning job also. It was an amazing shop.Full of old stock and vintage displays. I think back and would love to scour those dressers now! I did keep the paperwork for a layby I had. Still have it in a scrapbook!

  2. Nice to hear from someone else who has memories of Sharpes. I have my first ever payslip tucked away in a box. Mr. Sharp was a lovely man.

  3. I spent my Saturday mornings and school holidays at Sharpes during 1966 and 1968 in the mens wear department whilst still at High School. I did not go too far when I started full time work next door at the ANZ bank. Old Mr Norman took a bit of a shine to me as he knew my grand mother quite well, he even offered me a job in his Melbourne store which I declined. I have great memories of working at Sharpes those that I can remember were Robert Johnson and John Dunstan. My Name is Brian Love and I am now retired and live in Bendigo.

  4. Old Mr Sharpe .... what an institution that man was! Like others, I started at Norman's Corner Store during school holidays, at the Melbourne store. Oh what fond memories of trying to not tangle those darn telephone cables on the switchboard .... and the response from Mr Sharpe if I accidentally cut him off from his call WHILE he operated the lift!! Such wonderful memories!! I am in my sixties now and live in Qld

  5. I had a relative who worked I think in the Melbourne one. Black straight skirt and shirt. The police thought she was a widgie until she showed them her badge