The Australian Milk Bar

The Milk Bar is an instantly recognisable and distinctive feature of suburban Australia. As the place where most children spent their pocket money and had their first experience as an independent consumer, milk bars provided an oasis of bright lights, strong advertising imagery and – most importantly – lollies, Chiko Rolls and a copy of the newspaper for mum and dad.

These shared personal experiences have resulted in an enduring interest in Milk Bar related paraphernalia and ephemera, thanks to the bold and bright tin advertising signs, colourful displays of sugary foods and a deep sense of nostalgia for past visits. The rapidly vanishing genre of corner stores still hold a place in the heart of most Victorians, as do the memories of meeting friends after school for a milkshake and far too much 5 cent pick’n’mix. Who wouldn’t want to live out the childhood fantasy of having a personal lolly dispenser? Gone are the days of digging deep into your pockets for loose change to spin the dial for a jaw-breaking gumball – instead, you can be in charge of the key.

And nothing quite captures a sense of time and place more than possessing one’s own Peter’s ice cream cone sign. The classic shape and functional light up design ensure that these signs continue to be highly sought after – an example was recently sold in our December Collectables auction for over $1,000.Eamon Donnelly’s newly published homage to these humble institutions, The Milk Bars Book, captures the last of the independent milk bars around the nation, as he explores the history of these shops as well as that of the people behind them. The colourful coffee table book contains snapshots of the uniquely Australian businesses, compiled by Donnelly as the travelled the country for over a decade, alongside personal stories from milk bar owners, to create this permanent record of collective nostalgia. As Eamon is himself a collector of milk bar memorabilia it is only too fitting for Leonard Joel to partner with him on the launch of The Milk Bars Book, in conjunction with the March Collectables auction.

Stay tuned for more information on the book launch!

Nora Merralls
Collectables Manager