Christmas 1899
This is an advertisement in the Courier, for Christmas 1899.

CHRISTMAS IN THE SHOPS
SHAW AND SONS

Messrs. Shaw and Sons have the advantage of
very central premises in Queen Street and most
commodious they are, too, or they would never
contain anything like the amount of stock that is
now to be seen by the visitor. This firm deals
extensively in furnishings and builders’ ironmongery,
in addition to carrying a full assortment of glass
and chinaware, fancy goods, toys, &c. As a
matter of course, these latter lines are just now
mostly in evidence. Charming ornaments of in-
numerable kinds, dinner, tea, and dessert sets,
electro-plated ware, cutlery, &c., are much in evi-
dence. In the way of toys, the manager, giving
a comprehensive sweep of his hand around, says,
“We have everything,” and it really seems to be
no empty boast as the eye falls in rapid succession
on dolls, mechanical toys, and what not. To
those whose minds and purses run to something
substantial in the way of a present for their
friends, there is a good stock of jewelry to select
from, silver and gold brooches, Waltham or Water-
bury watches, &c. The windows are bright with
electro-plated ware, and leather goods, ladies’
purses, travelling companions, and gents’ goods
are in varied supply. Biscuit-china figures are
quant and dainty, while the epergnes surprise one
with their freshness of design and colour. Cricket
goods, for the boy’s 5s. bat to the weapon as
used in Australia national cricket victories, give
promise of some happy athletic days during the
holidays, and to those who prefer other pleasures
there are tennis sets and innumerable other classes
of sporting requisites. Indoor games for the even-
ings are displayed side by side with ice chests
and refrigerators, such as everyone can find a use
for during the present weather.

The Stores

The Stores

NOTE: SOME OF THIS INFORMATION IS LIKELY INCORRECT, AND WE HAVE LIMITED HISTORICAL DATA

In the later part of the 1800’s, George Shaw moved from Ireland to Brisbane. I don’t know why, or how, or the skill and money to establish a shop, but the Brisbane Courier shows the Christmas advertisement above, at 1899. The 1893 Brisbane Flood apparently destroyed the shop in West End, and from there George Shaw moved to that part of Queen Street near Edward Street. Later there was the Granite building, and the Albert Street shop, with a temporary shop in Woolloongabba.

There was another shop for ironmongery in the same general location, all this happening around the corners of Queen and Edward Streets, owned by an Albert Shaw, who serviced Queensland with a well regarded business and reputation. Albert moved to Perth in his later years to be with a Church. The church was always a part of city life, and there are historic photographs of Sunday School processions in Queen Street. I believe this information is correct. However, it is my understanding that there were several Shaw families, a name perhaps as common as “smith”.

George Shaw’s shop was a “grocery” shop, which sold all manner of things, including sewing machines and pipes. There was probably some connection to Albert Shaw as the population was not large like today. George Shaw had a genealogy connection with the writer and social commentator George Bernard Shaw, who was on the other side of the ancestry tree; if you imagine a tree that goes up the left fork to the parent, then down on the right, I imagine. My mother said Harold Shaw (my Father’s father) had letters with the writer.

Among George’s sons, there was a world champion shooter.I get mixed up at this point with who is who. I think there was the first George Shaw running the hardware/grocery store, he had children, (there was likely at least one other George Shaw at the same time) one of those children was also called George Shaw. He was the shooter. From his children, one was Harold William Shaw, who had one child, my father George Robert Shaw. Dad (George) had three children, George Raymond (Ray), Laurence William (Laurie) and Warren James.

My father’s father, Harold, I believe is the shooter. But this gets confusing because I am told one of the Shaw’s went to World War I, so maybe it was not Harold, I don’t know, and was in the Light Brigade, but I found no reference to that person in our actual family line. Anyway, the champion shooter had lots of medals which can be seen in our family photos. These vanished in the 1990’s when Mum and Dad shifted house, the assumption being the removalists stole them. I have seen and touched the medals, but I never liked them. Some were gold. They were small.

So the shooter wanted to set up his own store after George sold out to Woolworth’s, somewhere around or after 1917 when he was in the Granite building. The newspaper said he sold his stock to them. The new store also had fishing gear. I understand the Albert Street shop opened in 1936 (I thought it was 1939) and was co-owned, with some controversy and dislike around how that happened. My father had to buy out the shares to get full ownership.

I do know that the Albert Street shop then called George Shaw Sport’s Store had an uplift with the cabinets, flooring etc., but the laneway behind the building for deliveries and rubbish always smelt the same, even to this day. That shop had a safe for explosives, so I think Dad sent licensed material to Dalghety – not sure if Sydney as well, probably just Brisbane, or perhaps for people making gun shots and bullets.

This store had some bad history of not making good revenue because some staff stole goods, and gave rediculous discounts to friends and of course the public. In those days everyone asked for a discount and I hated those negotiations during a sale. One thing though, I really disliked guns, and did not sell them, but I was familiar with good quality, so to this day I would recognise something of a higher quality. Dad also sold pistols to the police and had a metal lockup cabinet for that. Security in those days was minimal compared to now. Dad did have an alarm system, which was wires, real metal wires, and those went off a lot of times, so he would be called in during the night from our house in Moggill to turn them off.

Despite the rough times, the store had some people we really liked and remember very fondly.

The store was broken into via the attic at least once from the adjoining Dentist upstairs. The grouting between the bricks was like powder! When the building was sold, around 1976 (?) Wallace Bishop bought it for around $300K I think, but it is now worth millions of dollars. They had to put in metal rods to hold the building together. I recall wanting and saying they should keep the building no matter what, but unfortunately not and none of Dad’s sons, like me, wanted to carry on the business, at all.

The building is very small too. I used to dream how it could be turned into a private house in the city!

We had a gun workshop. I used to carry firearms down Queen Street to Robinson’s Sports store. Later we had to ensure guns had carry cases. Then soon after, of course, no guns allowed. That is how it was then.

I recall when a white painted line was put on the footpaths to keep people left and right. Unbelievable stupidity, so even as a kid in high school I knew that. And of course we would then get aggravated if someone walked on the wrong side. Incredible. We used to judge people from overseas in particular, as they obviously drove on the wrong side of the road. Such is childhood.

In those days hunting was quite well known and there was nothing wrong with animal skins, and trophy heads, as you can see in the photos. When the store sold we had the big animal head at home and it dripped, from the mouth I think from memory. Again, I know how amazing texture and quality of a good animal skin is, because we touched them and saw them as kids, but nowadays it is offensive.

When I visited Denver in the late 1990’s I went into a store and immediately knew which was their best buffalo skin and the owner said it was not for sale. They are exquisite to touch, but rarely seen now. I mean it was normal to have tortoise shells too! We did not have ivory, thank goodness.

The bible says one day righteousness will cover the earth, and animals will be joined back to mankind, so I would kind of say when and if that happens, one can enjoy the beautiful colours and textures of animal skins in the live, rather than stripping them off killed, dead animals for the self-pleasure that gives some sociopaths!

We did not keep any firearms in our house either. This was a rule Mum insisted on.

Back to the history…

 

The original store sold everything you could imagine. The store at one point moved into the new Granite Building, (1917) which no longer exists. It was a classy commerce building for the day, and had one of the major banks.

Shaw and Sons was later bought out by Woolworths. The stock was put on sale, and the remainder was not re-sold as Woolworths used its own lines.

From other reading, I am fairly sure the back area of these stores around Edward and Queen had a gay hangout area – people often did not live in privacy in their homes, but rather in terrible accommodation rooms, so no surprise about that.

The store name changed in 1934 to George Shaw & Co Pty Ltd, selling Firearms and Fishing products. I assume the difference between 1934 and 1936 had something going on until Albert Street store was established. The rumour is that George did not like the idea of his son having the specialist store. I gather sports items were still included. Fishing was a “good man’s” sport in those days. There was an advertisement for the first use of a new mosquito repellent for fishing. There was some protest when fishing licenses were attempted to be brought in, but licensing thankfully never succeeded at that time.

It is hard to recall childhood memories with Harold Shaw, and I don’t know the history of the transition from Harold managing the store to my father George purchasing the shares. In the 1960’s I recall the name of the store was George Shaw and Sons, Pty Limited. I think the store in Woolloongabba was used while the store was upgraded. I just remember the train soot in Woolloongabba.

I was told that one of the Shaw’s was an alcoholic and died from alcohol poisoning when he collapsed on the grass one night after leaving the ferry to go to his Kangaroo Point home. I am also told that Harold was not interested in the shop at some point, and got involved with another or other ladies, and alcohol. We do not know the details of course, so it could be unfair to say these things, however, Bill Ward said it simply was not true that he was alcoholic. But this does not take into account the bottles under Harold’s house, or that he would use language we remember in the back of our minds as small children where he would say in a guttural voice, booger you. It does not matter now, but it does mean the shop was not carefully owned and managed, which meant issues when Dad took over management. Bill Ward, though, was a really good, kind and aware person.

I have various memories of the Albert St shop in the 1970’s and the city activities – such as going to the cinemas – Mary Poppins, Earthquake, Jaws. It was in the shop I played with an IBM golf ball typewriter. We had Bakelite telephones to play with. Up from us was a deli that sold real milk shakes and rocky road, deep fried potato scallops and Chiko rolls with salt. This has impacted our lives permanently, but I myself refrain from these “foods” and I have no Chiko rolls! But I do love Ekka pluto pups.

Dad’s store sold firearms, fishing, archery as a new line, ammunition, explosive powder, binoculars and telescopic sights, later pistols that the police purchased, trophies, torches, hunting gear, and knives – big knives. There was a gun smith workshop on the upper floor. Dad tested a firearm in the workshop which failed, and splinters of wood flew out, and Dad got tinnitus. He could have lost his life.

I always really disliked selling retail, and never understood the selling points. Dad learnt his detailed knowledge from another person who passed it on. When I was in high school, a double bladed Gerber hunting knife fell off a glass showcase cabinet while I was showing it to a customer. I think he disappeared before the ambulance came. It did not cut my tendon – which is so amazing.

The shop bought out Watsons Sports store, and then sold every sporting good you could imagine. I never liked selling retail, and people generally asked questions just to feel comfortable, I think.

I would like to note that my Dad knew all the key sporting players in Australia. There is not one person who controlled a major brand that he was not business friends, or friends with, including big names such as Winchester, Tasco or Alvey and more. Dad went fishing with some the big names every year at Fraser Island, piling up the beer cans into a pyramid trophy on a table top.

When Dad backed a trailer into the shop laneway he narrowly missed the walls, to load up boxes of trash from the back of the shop. We would burn various records as they expired after a legal period of time.

Now, there are various microfiche digitised articles from newspapers about the store, and the Shaw’s, but such services now require fees, so we have stopped pursuing those records. We have some anyway.

In terms of family history, we do have some information to follow through on with the Lamont family, if we do continue that. We get distracted of course onto other things.

This article does not go into various homes the Shaw’s owned in Brisbane.

My Dad stressed out severely when AMart came to Australia. Dad has no education as we do now. His mother encouraged him not to do school work when he did not want to. Today in management crisis we would employ an agency to help. Not then. Dad sold to Robinson’s Sports Store. We did not like it, and felt Dad was being humiliated by some staff in how they treated him, and some lies they used to get rid of Dad.

As a kid I strongly disliked the Robinson staff – my intuition knew fully well there were what I felt as bad people around me – I can’t ignore those strong vibes I had. As it turns out, there were suspect dealings with Dad not receiving all his Super payout, something odd happened with selling stock and being threatened, and then there was a ruling where Dad’s accountant did what was legal at the time, but in retrospective legislation he lost his life’s savings from the business in the Bottom of the Harbour Scheme that was aimed at another business that caught Dad up. I can’t excuse that, as we know in our conscience if we are doing something wrong, but there you have it.

Dad said to me one day after all this as he looked back over the years, that if he had the knowledge about what AMart (from USA) was doing, he would have done things differently.Who knows, we could have been running a sporting empire! What matters most though is the love in our hearts, as that is what we forever have.

My “uncle” Bill, Bill Ward, helped me get my first job in the QLD Government Department of State Works. His shares in the store were bought out. He told me that there was a will written that stated the Albert Street building was never to be sold. That will was never found, and it upset Bill. Bill was deeply upset over the strong constraints of the pension. He had no children from his wife. I used to play their pianola. Uncle Bill divided his inheritance between us three sons, which helped stopping me from being on the street penniless when I got ill in 2010, so his decision on this was far reaching.

This content is based on limited knowledge and on memories, so again, please take it only for what it is.

Above Left: Harold with my father George, and big fish!
YES – No fishing licenses. This was a BIG DEAL in those days and people fought not to have licensing. The council took that freedom away, which in my view does effect our sense of who we are. Anyway, that is what it is.
Above Right: The two shop windows. The left had a room with a gunsmith workshop, and the right had a small partitioned room with basins for chemicals working on gun barrels etc. and a testing apparatus that was highly dangerous, not by intention, but lack of knowledge in those days.

Above the windows was the attic, incredibly hot, I mean, beyond belief, probably dangerous. This is where some retail stock was, but mainly old tax records etc. The mid level of the building had the office, Dad’s manager’s office, retail storage shelving, toilets, eating area, and packing bench.

The concrete stairs went down to the lower retail level, with office at the back behind the sporting goods section, and safe, and small area for throwing out cardboard boxes, then the back of the laneway.

Indicative diagram of the gunsmith workshop in the room behind the two windows, noting the attic above:
These layouts would not be permitted today.

Above: views of the laneway in more recent times

Photos from George Shaw Sport’s Store, Albert Street, Brisbane

A PDF document that includes various photos of staff and other people. Please note, no one has been contacted for reprint permission, but we assume this is okay as we own the original photos. Any issues, please contact us.

These are COPYRIGHT.

Our originals are much higher quality.

The last two images are from Robinson Sport’s Store.

George Shaw Sports Store 1908-1979