Milk Bar

Angus O’Callaghan’s Milk Bar appears at first glance to be a familiar image. Even forty-five years after it was photographed, many Melburnians will recognise this type of corner store with its newspaper posters and signs for ice cream. This streetscape, with its hipster fashions, retro cars and houses, might have been photographed yesterday in Carnegie, or Brunswick or Caulfield. But where exactly? It is said to be somewhere in the bayside area, but even the photographer cannot recall where. Even the most minute examination fails to reveal where it was taken — the photograph is curiously devoid of the usual details that would enable it to be found on a map. One cannot even assume anything in the image still exists.

Sands and McDougall Melbourne Directory, SLV

To find where the photograph was taken, one must glean every observable fact. The shadows tell us something of the milk bar’s orientation. Depending on the time of day, it was either the southern side of an east-west road or the western side of a north-south road. Given that only morning newspapers are advertised, Mr O’Callaghan was probably facing west. The angle of a gabled house in the street behind the milk bar provides another clue. Such bungalows were built with their frontage parallel to the street, so we may assume the street itself ran at the same angle to the main road. As this street also met the main road at a right angle, it follows that it bent in a dog-leg fashion close to the intersection.

Milk_bar_plan

Plan of Milk Bar in relation to roads, showing POV and direction of sunlight

In summary, the milk bar was probably on the southwest corner of the intersection of a main road and a smaller street with a distinctive dog-leg bend, and immediately to the north of a small used car yard. To the west was a gabled house. The main road was probably quite busy owing to the pedestrian crossing and the car yard. But searching Melbourne’s bayside suburbs and beyond for this intersection on Google Maps is a futile task. Every instance proves to be a false alarm; none matches the peculiar streetscape and treelessness of the photo.

Fortunately, the incongruity of a Victorian-era building so close to gabled bungalows tells us something about the main road — it was well established in the 1930s as it ran through new suburban estates. The only road matching that description in the bayside area is the Nepean Highway in Brighton, which was was widened so extensively in the late 1970s that maps were redrawn. Any search for the dog-leg intersection, which may have been demolished, must continue on a map that predates the widening project.

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Morgan’s Street Directory, 1946

The State Library of Victoria has recently made historic Melbourne street atlases online, and they reveal four matching intersections between Bay Street and Centre Road at the time of the photograph. By using Google Street View, one can see a house in Roseberry Avenue that — despite massive renovation — retains gables matching the house behind the milk bar. A search of the Sands and McDougall 1969 directories for the Nepean Highway at the corner of Roseberry Avenue reveals a ‘Confectioner’ at number 348. Adjacent to the south at 350 was Bern’s Car Sales. Cross checking with that year’s telephone directory confirms that the ‘confectioner’ was indeed a milk bar. If not for the existence of the gabled house, the location of this iconic photograph might have been lost forever.

What 3 Words geolocation: given.scuba.maps

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