I was saddened by the news last week that Toombul Shoppingtown is to remain closed after flooding earlier this year.
You see, Toombul and I go way back 😉 .
We were both born in the same year (1967); my grandparents lived nearby, so chances are I visited the centre while still in a pram – not that I remember of course!
What I do remember though is:
- My first ever visit to the cinema to watch a movie on the big screen! Which movie though remains shrouded in mystery. I could have sworn it was Mary Poppins – I have vivid memories of the colourful scenes – but that was released before my time. The other possibility is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was released in Australia for Christmas 1968.
- My grandmother (a keen knitter and seamstress – she would have made her dress in the photo above) buying yarn from Barry and Roberts department store, and treating me to a packet of Jelly Tots (tiny sugary jubes).
- The big T out the front.
- The rocket! There was a little playground outside which featured a tall rocket, and climbing to the top was quite the highlight of any trip to Toombul. (It probably wouldn’t be allowed now, considered “too risky”.) You can see a pic of the Rocket on the Queensland Places website.
- A coffee shop near Barry and Roberts which was my mother’s favourite. She was quite partial to a cappuccino and slice of lemon cheesecake on our shopping trips!
- I’m pretty sure there was a childcare centre, where parents could leave their tiny tots and shop in peace for an hour or two – seem to remember we dropped my younger sister/s and brother there upon occasion (being school age by then, I would have been too old).
- Just across from the cafe was a donut shop – my baby sister (5 years my junior) would always excitedly exclaim “DONUTS!!!!!” whenever we went past. (Pretty sure she would have thrown a tantrum too if we didn’t stop for said donuts 😉 .) Hot cinnamon donuts – a smell I will forever associate with Toombul!
- We also loved window shopping at the pet shop, entranced by the puppies and kittens on display and wishing we could take one home with us.
- I bought my first ever record album at Toombul: ELO’s Greatest Hits. Clearly I had impeccable taste even as a 12 year old 😉 .
- My first ever purchase of my own clothes, also as a 12 year old – a tartan skirt, grey boucle sweater, a grey tab sleeve shirt from Best and Less, and black espadrilles – the height of fashion in 1979!
After my parents split up, my father moved into a unit in nearby Clayfield so I was a frequent visitor at Toombul. At that stage my favourite haunts were the fashion stores – Splendiferous, Arpel, Katies and Sportsgirl. Other major tenants in the centre at that time included Miser Jones, Best and Less, Kmart, David Jones, and Toombul Music.
Fast forward to the start of the long Christmas / summer holidays in November 1982, and I was doing the rounds of all the stores with my resume in hand, hoping to find a summer job. I’d just finished year 11 and was desperate for some work experience, and a bit of cash. It seemed I’d left it far too late, but some stores did allow me to leave a copy of my resume and only a couple of days later the phone rang.
I was offered a position as a Christmas casual at Angus and Coote Jewellers at Toombul, and ended up working for the company until I completed high school and then teacher’s college – although I transferred to the Strathpine store for a change of scenery in 1986.
Both shopping centres were on the train line which was important as this was how I got to and from work, even though I was quite nervous of the old noisy diesel trains. I used to pray for a train with the more modern silver carriages, as I found the timber “cattle class” carriages had doors that were almost impossible for me to open.
But then along came the electric trains which were air conditioned – very welcome in our summer heat!
As part-time jobs go, working as a sales assistant in a jewellery store at Toombul was considered quite glamourous – but I’m here to tell you it was anything but. I spent the majority of my time polishing the glass windows and counter tops, as well as dusting shelves, polishing silver, and other cleaning duties.
Having a job meant I needed a bank account, and I wanted to branch away from the Commonwealth Bank where I’d had a passbook account for several years. In one of my first steps into independence, I opened an account at Metropolitan Permanent Building Society at Toombul. (Metropolitan Permanent doesn’t exist now – I think it got absorbed into Suncorp.)
How excited I was that first Christmas, to be able to actually buy presents for my family!
In 1990 I married and moved to the Redlands on the other side of Brisbane – but I still visited Toombul on occasion. It was the ideal midway point for meeting up with friends still living on the northside.
One of my old school friends and I had an annual tradition of doing our Christmas shopping together at Toombul while our kids were at school; and I also caught up occasionally with old friends for lunch or dinner at the Sizzler restaurant.
One happy day, my sisters and I enjoyed a child-free visit to the cinema to see Bridget Jones 2, and laughed ourselves silly … that must have been around 2004/2005.
It was big news when David Jones ended its tenancy at the Centre after 35 years, in 2010. While it was replaced by Target, the last couple of times I visited Toombul it was obviously struggling, probably due to shoppers heading to the nearby DFO instead.
The years have rolled on and I cannot remember the last time I visited Toombul.
But I still can’t help but being sad that soon it will be no more.
If you have memories of Toombul, please share in the comments below!