Thursday, October 29, 2020

Pearson’s Fish Cafes–part III

We pick up our story in 1930, at the onset of the Great Depression which had rippled out from the US in 1929. Jack Lang, the fiery politician starts his second term as premiere of NSW. Jack Lang *loves* the Pearson’s Fish Cafe in Pitt Street Sydney, and his presence there is frequently reported over the coming decade.

Jack Lang (1876-1975)19300708 Forbes Advocate - Sydney Sidelights - Lang likes fish

LANG The Turbulent Years

1932 – Jack Lang opens the Sydney Harbour Bridge on 19 March. (Noted for context)
19320121 Sun (Sydney) Lang subpoena19320817 Sun (Sydney) No Questions while Mr Lang has his lunch
1932 - Australia Day (January 26) – three historic figures from Australia dine at Pearson’s at the same time: Jack Lang,  aviator Air-Commodore Charles Kingsford-Smith  and Olympic multi-medallist swimmer Andrew “Boy”Charlton.

19320126 Sun (Sydney) Notables - Smithy, Lang and Charlton

Charles Kingsford Smith (1897-1935)Andrew "Boy" Charlton (1907-1975)

19320424 Truth (Sydney) - Jack Lang - excerpt

1932 – A new Adelaide venue is opened in Haigh Buildings, Rundle Street, run by the Hamiltons. The Sydney venue is mentioned but none of the three Melbourne cafes. All of the first-generation Pearsons ended up in Sydney so it is possible that the Melbourne venues had been relinquished.

19320316 News (Adelaide) - Adelaide's New Restaurant

1933 – Daily Commercial News and Shipping List reports a registration of Pearson’s Fish Cafes Ltd. Capital: £2,000. To take over Pearson's Fish Cafe and carry on the business of proprietors of fish and oyster cafes, First director: J. C. Miller. (Sydney 13/3/33.)

19330317 SMH - Company News

The Sydney Morning Herald lists subscribers as Francis Olof Pearson, Vera Louise Pearson, Annie Pearson, Sven Laurence Pearson and Beatrice M. Pearson. 

Beatrice is Laurence’s wife, married in Melbourne in 1919, her occupation listed as Cafe Manager.

Vera is my great-grandfather Walter’s second wife from 1928.

  • Annie Pearson passes, aged 78.
  • Annual Fishmonger’s Dinner is held at Pearson’s (Sydney)

19350529 Sun (Sydney) - Fishmongers Dinner19371103 Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) - Sargents Caterers buy Pearsons

1937 – Sargents (Pies) acquires Pearson’s Fish Cafe. It’s not clear what the Pearson family involvement is at this time, or how this relates to the venues in Victoria and South Australia. The Queen St Melbourne cafe must now be closed due to the re-building of the site.

1940 – Air conditioning is installed in the Pitt St cafe in 1939 and becomes a draw-card for patrons requiring a war-time oyster.  A series of staff wanted ads continues through the 1940s, with applicants referred to Mrs Pearson.

19400124 Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - It's Cool in Pearson's Fish Cafe (ad)

1951 – Pearson’s Pitt St cafe is now trading as Bamboo Chinese Restaurant

19510206 Sun (Sydney) Pearson's is now the Bamboo19560629 NSW Govt Gazette - Pearson Fish Cafe Limited trading as Bamboo Chinese Restaurant

1962 – Pearsons’ Fish Cafe Limited is struck off the NSW Companies Register.

19620119 NSW Government Gazette - company name struck off register

I think I have one more post in this series to cover some material falling outside the company chronology. I will have to do further research to uncover what the ultimate fate of all the venues was. Undoubtedly some further tidbits will arrive when these posts get picked up in searches.

Pearson’s Fish Cafes–part II

Picking up from my previous post:

19130811 SMH - Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide

1913 – A notice in the August 11 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald announces that Pearson’s Fish Cafe is now open in three cities across NSW, Victoria and South Australia. The notice is repeated on August 25. A wine license is applied for in December 2013.

1918 – A few articles in The Age and Port Fairy Gazette about the price of fish and the potential of the fish industry where the Pearsons are quoted.

1921 – Daily Commercial News and Shipping reports the registration of Pearson’s Cafe, Ltd on June 2.

19210622 Daily Commerical News and Shipping List (Sydney) - registration

Pearson's Cafe, Ltd.— Regd. June 2. Head Office: 173 Pitt Street, Sydney. Victorian agent: William Garfield Hamilton, 230 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Capital, £15,000 in £1 shares. Directors: Annie Pearson, William Garfield Hamilton, Sven Lawrence Pearson, Francis Olaf Pearson, and Charles Alfred Pearson.

Note that neither Walter (my great-grandfather) nor his sister Annie are directors. Annie’s husband William Garfield Hamilton (married 1910) is a director and the Victorian agent.

The reason for Walter’s non-appearance is clear from a story in The Sun dated a week earlier: “Cook Who Gambled” detailing his bankruptcy from betting on horse races. The story appeared directly next to the day’s race results.

19210526 The Sun  - The Cook Who Gambled  Walter Pearson

1921 – Both the Melbourne and Sydney cafes start appearing in social columns of journals as disparate as Table Talk and The Hebrew Standard of Australia

1924 -  Pearson’s Fish Delicacies Pty Ltd is formed in Victoria to “acquire the business of Pearson’s Fish Delicacies and Cafe, 91 Fitzroy St, St Kilda. Capital £5,000 in £1 shares. Directors: Ella Eleanor Margaret Pearson (wife of:), Charles Alfred Pearson.  The business was already trading in 1923:

19230302 Prahran Telegraph - banner advertisement St Kilda1932 Ella, Barbara and Charles, Annie Pearson c 1932[6]

The photo above taken c1932 shows (L:R): Ella Pearson, daughter Barbara (1913-1997), Charles , and mother Annie Pearson.

1924 – A second Melbourne city fish cafe is opened at 126 Queen St in the old Gordon & Gotch headquarters, with the health of “Mr and Mrs Pearson” (which ones?) toasted by members of parliament. That building was replaced in 1936 by the Art Deco ACA building taking up 118-226 Queen St. The new location s only ten minutes’ walk from the 230 Flinders Lane cafe.

19240830 Argus (Melb) Items of Interest - Queen St cafe

1928 – A waiter is arrested for selling liquor without a license at the Sydney cafe, as reported in The Labor Daily, March 21.

19280321 Labor Daily article19290612 The Sun - Pearsons and Pelican

We’re about to hit the 1930s and there’s so much more! Stay tuned for The Codfather Part III

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Pearson’s Fish Cafes–part I

I’ve had a run of distant Australian relatives contacting me this year via – a sign of extra time for the housebound to do genealogical research. My most recent contact has been with Arleen, whose son-in-law is connected to the Pearson family which is my Swedish lineage.

I’ve written a number of posts about my search for information about my great-great grandfather Sven Pearson (Malmö 1856 – Adelaide 1900), and my questions about that have been largely satisfied – although I have a niggling feeling that there are cousins in the American mid-west who have fallen through my search spotlight.

A little less is known about the Pearson descendants in Australia: cousins of my grandmother and their children. They scattered quickly from Adelaide in the late 1800s through to Melbourne and Sydney in the first decades of the 1900s. The great impetus for that was the family business: seafood restaurants, most notably under the banner Pearson’s Fish Cafe (s) . The picture below shows the most famous branch at 173 Pitt St Sydney, next to the GPO - roughly where Tiffany jewellers sits today.

173 Pitt St Sydney2020 Pitt St today

Last night I spent a few hours trawling through Trove, the Australian national online archive which has generations of scanned newspapers and gazettes, all text-indexed, if somewhat imperfectly via OCR of densely type-set materials. This, dear reader, is what I found. 

Sven married Annie Lyons in 1880, probably not too long after jumping ship in Adelaide. They were both about 23, and produced five surviving children Sven Laurence, Annie, Charles, Walter and Francis (Frank) through the 1880s. At the time of his marriage, his occupation was recorded as “dealer”, and by the times of Walter’s birth in 1887 he’s an Unley green-grocer and restaurant-keeper, and he is recorded as living in Harley St, Hyde Park at the time of his early death in 1900. By coincidence I lived a couple of blocks from there when I worked in Adelaide for several months in 1990, and now I live a few blocks from where widowed Annie lived in Sydney in the 1930s.

1891 – The Express and Telegraph reports the dissolution of a partnership between Sven and Dave Clinton in running a stationer shop on Hindley St.

18910103 Express and Telegraph (Adelaide) - Sven dissolves stationer's shop

1892 – The Evening Journal names Sven as one of eight bookmakers charged with “unlawfully using for the purpose of betting with persons resorting thereto, an enclosure at the Old Racecourse, …. on Cup Day May 24.”

1895 – The first references found to a seafood restaurant are Persons Wanted advertisements placed in The Express and Telegraph

  • (Feb 9): RESPECTABLE Girl wanted, fond of children, as General Servant; also Young Girl to assist in restaurant. Apply at Pearson's Fish and Oyster Rooms, corner of James's-place and Rundle-street, late Oriental Tearooms, between-3 and 4, afternoon. (I assume this means that the premises were previously Oriental Tearooms.)
  • (Sep 20): KITCHEN GIRL. 15. Apply between 3 and 4. Pearson’s Fish Luncheon Rooms, corner Rundle St and James Pl.
  • (March 26, 1896): SMART Girl, about 17 or 18, wanted. Apply at S. Pearson’s Fish Restaurant,corner James Pl and Rundle St, between 2.30pm and 5.

18950209 Express and Telegraph (Adelaide) - Pearson's Fish and Oyster Rooms18960326 Express and Telegraph (Adelaide) - Smart Girl wanted

1896 – Applies for a wine license at the above premises

1897 – Advertises FINEST WINE FOR FISH, GRAMP'S CARTE BLANCHE, By W. P. AULD & SON. FINEST FISH LUNCH at S. Pearson's, James-place.

18971125 Advertiser - Finest Fine for Fish (ad)

1900 – Sven passes away July 24, aged only 43. A funeral notice gives his nick-name as “Sweeny” and a new address at Regent St in Millswood.

19000726 South Australian Register - Funeral notice for Sven 'Sweeny' Pearson

1908 – First reference to Pearson’s Fish Cafe, in a Wanted ad for a “strong young girl” for the kitchen. Ads for staff are common, interspersed with sale ads for horses, carriages, a sailing dinghy and “Wanted: B-flat clarionet, 13 keys”. Not sure which of the young Pearsons was learning that instrument.

1910 – The Herald (Victoria) has a notice July 5 for a new Melbourne fish shop: The well-known firm of Pearson’s, who have carried on business in Rundle street Adelaide, for nearly 20 years, today opened a branch fish cafe at 230 Flinders lane, close to Swanston street. To mark the occasion, a number of eminent citizens,including members of the State and Federal parliaments at the invitation of the firm partook in a tastefully-prepared fish luncheon. The cafe, which occupies the whole of the downstairs portion of the building, is effectively lighted by numerous electric bulbs. Being painted white throughout, it has a bright and ?? appearance. A string band played selections during the luncheon.

19100705 Herald (Vic) New Fish Shop19100714 Herald (Melb) - recently opened (ad)19101210 Advocate (Melbourne) - New Fish Cafe (ad)

19100908 Table Talk - ad
1912 – My grandmother Marjorie is born at the Regent St, Millswood house of her grandmother. The house name is “Malmo” after Sven’s birthplace. Other records show the house had that name still in 1943, but I don’t know the street number. (At least three newspapers record the same birth notice.)

19120712 Express and Telegraph (Adelaide) - birth announcement for Marjorie at Malmo

1913 – Daily Herald (Adelaide). A January 16 article “The Fish Trade – Its Ups and Downs” interviews the genial Mr Pearson. I take it that would be eldest son Laurence Pearson (age 32) – a 1909 newspaper report has his unattended pony and cart bolting from the outside of the cafe.

19130116 Daily Herald (Adelaide) - The Fish Trade (excerpt)

There’s another half-century to the story of the Pearson’s Fish Cafes, which I will save for another post.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

NSW Road-trip, Day 1: On the Road to Gundagai, Junee and Temora


Gustav and Logan saw us off at 7.30 this morning as I aimed to reach Junee by lunchtime. The beginning of the journey had a long underground stretch as we entered the new M8 road tunnel starting near Sydney Park, emerging eight minutes later on the M5 motorway. Aside from a couple of roadside stops to empty Raff, it’s fairly dull highway driving until Gundagai. This retraces some of the journey I made five months ago to collect Raff just as the state borders were starting to close down.


At Gundagai, I pulled in for an obligatory doggy photo of Raff with the famous statue of the Dog on the Tucker Box. It’s not especially big as Australian roadside monuments go (you’ll see what I mean in later posts, but don’t forget The Big Banana), about comparable in size to Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid.

It’s encrusted with three generations of plaques noting the various political luminaries who have paused in its presence. The one right at the front notes Air Marshall Sir James Rowland, Governor of NSW at the time (1987). Recent family tree researches show that his wife, Lady Faye Rowland (nee Doughton) was a cousin of my great-grandmother, the swimmer Beatrice Kerr.


The road from Gundagai winding backwards to Junee is exceedingly pretty, fields of canola like a bucket of yellow paint thrown over the landscape.


2020-09-06 Junee RaffThe Licorice & Chocolate Factory occupies a restored flour mill in the small Riverina town of Junee. Despite the proximity of Junee to Temora where I lived for nine years, I have a feeling that today is the first time I’ve actually set foot here rather than being whisked through on the way to another small Riverina town. The Factory was very busy for this Sunday lunch, with probably a few hundred people eating, shopping and viewing the attached display of vintage vehicles. I collected a bag of goodies – licorice boxes and chocolate pizza - from their store, only needing to keep it all cool and collected for the thousands of km of road ahead of us.



At 3 o’clock we finally reached Temora, where I attended school from age 10 (Year 4) until I finished high school and went off to live in the big city. It had only just dawned on me that today was Father’s Day, so I firstly drove out to the airport to visit the park named for my late father Graham. He passed away suddenly in 1999, a few months after I’d moved to Seattle, and not many months before his 60th birthday when he was to visit me in the US of A.


The last time I’d visited was for the park’s opening in September 2001 – a timing that left me temporarily stranded in Australia as the imminent events of 9/11 closed down international air transport for a week or more. The location of the park near the airport reflected just one of Dad’s many contributions to the local community, setting off the train of events that led to the opening of the Temora Aviation Museum shortly after his death. The ubiquity of Tiger Moth plan emblems through the town twenty years later shows how much this benefitted the community – even the hotel that Raff and I were booked in to had the emblem.


Prior to leaving on this road-trip I located all the off-leash areas in the towns where we would be staying so that I could take Raff out for “zoomies” in between his car confinements. This large stretch of grassed area proved ideal for him to burn off energy and sniff around. A couple of friendly horses in a paddock across the road gave me an opportunity to introduce Raff – all parties were very well behaved, rubbing noses across the fence.