Lazy Luddite Log

29.9.11

Milkbar Fetish

I have a thing for milk bars. These corner stores that are ubiquitous in residential areas of Victoria sate both my desire for the comforting and familiar and my sense of curiosity. Referencing them has even helped me define my attachment to suburbia. In this post I assert how I must always live within walking distance of a milk bar.

The comforting and familiar part of my attachment makes sense. They have existed all my life. They have common characteristics - a small shop with a residence above it for the family that run it which sits in the backstreets of a neighbourhood rather than on major intersections as the more recent development of the petrol-selling convenience store does. They are there to provide one with things one needs - the milk and bread. Of more significance however - they provide pleasures in the form of crisps and soft drinks and ice cream. Indeed in my childhood it was usual for a milkbar to sport a big plastic imitation ice cream cone over its entrance. In childhood those things enticed me to come inside for lovely vanilla goodness.

However there is curiosity too. These shops are all distinct. They have unique characteristics deriving from changing eras of architecture and the different practices of those who operate them. A franchise fast food restaurant will always have a look consistent with its brand and that look is regularly updated. In contrast the advertising and fixtures in a milk bar show a layering of history. Yes there is the latest packaging for some products but away there on the wall is an old faded poster from last century. Could you go a Chicko Roll?

Still if I had to prioritize my needs then I would rank comfort and familiarity over curiosity. The familiar faces of those operating my local milkbars (I get two depending on whether I am walking to the bus or to my creek) are some of the few local faces I know at all in this era of anonymous living. While I lived interstate for 12 months (now itself 18 months or more ago) I would visit this neighbourhood and be asked why I was so scarce by a local milk bar operator. It is nice to be remembered by a smiling face.

And how could I forget the practical aspects of my interest in milk bars - an excuse to go for a walk and get my iced coffee fix! Sunshine, exercise, fat, sugar and stimulant all rolled into one experience.

Cross-posted here.

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