The Evolution of Emmotts by Shirley Jurmann
From front verandah of “Merlyn” in Campbell Street to Harris Scarfe in Vulcan Street
Abraham Emmott was born 29th July 1814 in Addingham, Yorkshire, England. In 1837 he married Elizabeth Watson. Along with his wife and six children he arrived in Australia on the “Ellenborough” on 14th November 1855. A son James had died on the voyage. On arrival Abraham obtained employment with Newton Brothers in Sydney where he worked until 1859. He then came to Moruya and established his “Beehive” store in Campbell Street in the old Erin-Go-Bragh hotel (later called “Merlyn”) which had been moved from Broulee. He at first rented this building and then when it came up for sale, bought it.
The business was very successful largely due to the courtesy and attention of family members. Making customers comfortable and happy was a high priority. As well as serving the local community Emmotts supplied food and hardware for the diggers at the
Nerrigundah and Araluen goldfields. In January 1864 Abraham’s son John was at their branch store in Nerrigundah. Most of the store owners had large quantities of gold on the premises. John went to bed in a room next to the store. While he slept thieves removed a panel from the wall and stole the day’s takings of gold dust. In April 1865 John was returning from the goldfields with some gold. He was attacked, shot in the leg and robbed of gold, a gold watch and other valuables by the bushrangers, the Clarke Gang. He survived but was left with a limp.
New larger shop premises were erected on the corner of Queen and Vulcan Streets in 1862. In 1888 an imposing residence was added next door. In later years the store was taken over by sons John and William. Around 1900 one of the people working for J. and W. Emmott was William Connors. He later went to Sydney but returned some years later to be the manager of the grocery department of Emmotts store. He later moved on to manage a store owned by the Bodalla Company at Bodalla. He continued on as manager when this store was taken over by A.F. Emmott and later bought the store from Mr Emmott.
In 1901 the question of street lighting was being discussed. The Acetylene Gas Company was asked to supply one street light for a trial of one month. Councillors were concerned about the expense but private use became more frequent as systems were improved. Emmmotts store was lit by acetylene gas for the first time in May 1902.
During the time of J. and W. Emmott , William lived in the residence until his retirement in about 1910. Grandson of the original owner (also called Abraham or A.F. Emmott) next took over the store. When he married in 1911 the residence became the home of his family. In her “Memories of Vulcan Street in the 1920s” daughter May Koellner nee Emmott described the interior of this house and her memories of living there.
The store was large by small country town standards and sold just about everything. Most supplies, except for locally bought produce, had to come by boat. These supplies were picked up by horse drawn vehicles at the wharf and taken to the store. Deliveries to homes and farms were also at first by horse drawn vehicles. In 1912 Mr S. O’Cass was the driver of the delivery van. When delivering goods to Mogo he left the van and horses on the top of the hill near the school. The horses took fright and bolted, crashing into the bridge. The vehicle was somewhat damaged. Around 1915-16 Sid Louttit drove the delivery van. In her 1916 diary Caroline Collett mentions family members at Mungerarie getting a lift to or from town in the Emmott van. Sid farmed nearby. The comfort of customers was a prime consideration with chairs at all the counters. There was no self-service. Customers were served by a courteous employee . Groceries were on shelves behind the counter as were other goods in all departments.
In 1927 Abraham junior wanted to pursue his farming interests at Bodalla and so the store was sold. It continued to trade under the name “Emmotts”, with J. P. Sheridan and later his son Bernard as managers.
On the other side of the residence was another small store which in the late 1930s, early 1940s was a crockery and kitchen ware department of Emmotts. Vic Louttit was in charge of this until he left to enlist in the army in WWII.
In 1959 the business would be 100 years old. The premises needed to be modernised and expanded. It was decided to demolish the residence and rebuild the store. By August 1958 John W. Brown of Moruya had commenced the demolishment and reconstruction work. According to the “Moruya Advertiser” the store would be on ultra-modern lines. There would be a super-market with the latest American style refrigerator. All other departments would have the latest type fixtures, featuring goods on open display. The building was to be built in four stages, the first to be built on the vacant land right on the corner. When this stage was completed some departments would move into this, the other parts would be pulled down in stages and rebuilt. The old residence, part of which was being used as a part of the store and as storage space, would also be pulled down. By April 1959 a section of the new front was completed and work was progressing rapidly. A “Colour Parade” being held by British Paints and their distributors Emmotts, was so well attended it could not be held in the advertised CWA rooms so the newly completed super-market section of Emmotts had to be used.
In August 1959 Douglas Thomson declared the new premises open. There were various competitions with prizes held during the week. Entries exceeded expectation so Emmotts came to the party offering extra prizes. One competition was a fancy dress one with separate sections for adults and children.
Best 1859 style costume prizes were awarded to Mrs H. (Flo) Louttit and Mrs E. Whipp. Flo’s costume was indeed authentic as the dress had belonged to an ancestor of Ilma Walter who generously lent it to Flo. Most Original was given to Mrs A. Holmes.
Most Comical was won by Mrs Facer of Narooma. Each of these winners received a 5 pound open order.
In the children’s section the best 1859 style costume was won by Robyn Fairlie. Most original was won by Maurice Elliott and most comical by Paul Flynn. Each of the children received a 2 pound open order.
Over 100 entries were received in the drawing competition. 16 years and under was won by Terry Gray. 12 years and under was won by Stuart Veitch. 9 years and under was won by Bruce Brown. Consolation prizes were won by Jeanne Martin, Diana Pitt, Ronald Clarke, Shirley Lamont, Dawn Lamont and David Pheeney.`
The celebrations and bargains continued all week culminating in the Pony Club Parade on the Saturday. A competition was held for the “Best Kept Pony and Equipment”. The judges were Col Donnelly, Les Jeffery and Mr G. Smith.
The prizes were awarded as follows: 1st Brian Clarke, 2nd Bill Louttit, 3rd Terry Heffernan. Consolation prizes were awarded to Kathy Louttit, Yvonne Irving, Rhonda Mills and Lloyd Donnelly.
Another competition was held to guess the number of revolutions a “Fler” Chair would make in a working week. This was won by C.J. Dempsey of Kiora.
The shop expanded. A new hardware and building supplies section was opened where Woolies is now. A furniture department was opened in the old Amusu Hall, now Silly Willy’s. Another department opened further along Vulcan Street in the old Commercial Bank building, later CWA rooms and later still a chemist and now Firefly Interiors. This building had been purpose built by John Emmott in the early 1880s and was bought by the Bank in 1928. It was used as a bank until about the early 1950s when a new bank and residence was built on the opposite side of Vulcan Street.
The store continued to trade for around another twenty or so years under the Emmotts name until it was bought by Fosseys. It was later Grace Brothers, J.B. Youngs and later still Allens. Around this time some Year 12 students had some fun on their muck up day. They painted Emmotts on the front window, crossed that out and put Fosseys, crossed that out and put Grace Bros, crossed that out and put J.B. Youngs, crossed that out and put Allens. The frequent name changes were confusing. It now trades as Harris Scarfe, still providing the district with a great department store. It no longer has a grocery or supermarket department or hardware section or furniture department but many a tourist’s visit to Moruya would not be complete without a visit to this store.
Some people who have worked at the store over the last seventy or so years include: Elva Barrington, Jan McGuiness, Judith Rootsey, Joy Clulee, Reg Burns, Geraldine Heffernan, Jack McNamara, Bob Wilkins, Gordon Smith, Bob Dalby, Jill McDiamid, Barry Cowdroy, Jean Robbins, Norah Smith, Barbara Lamont, Corinne Millard, Yvonne Irving, Alex Wedutenko, Patsy Stubbs, Beverley Spicer, Dolly Windley, Mrs Warburton, Helen Brogan, Joan Beashel, Pat Curtis, Joan Burke, Margaret Gould, Ida Heffernan, Flo Louttit, Doug Gordon, Peter Bannon, John Hay, Mrs Shipp, Gordon Smith, Gordon Parrish, Keith Pickett, Brian Pollock, Col Jay, Keith Hazell, Lil Cooper, Rusty Russell, Alan Head, Dawn Head, Jimmy Streeter, Keith Woods, Shirley Barrington, Nell Constable, Kay Heffernan, Brian Turnbull, Mick O’Grady, Stan Honan, Pat O’Grady, Cecil Clark, Os Tessier, Marcella Lynch, Mylie Lavis, Reg Heffernan, Bill Turner, Albert Ferderer, John Flynn, Barry Irwin. Chris Heffernan worked there in school holidays from the time he was about twelve. J.P. Sheridan and son Bernard were managers at various times. For a lot of Moruya people a job at Emmotts or their successors was their first job on leaving school. For some it became a lifelong career.
MDHS Pioneer Directories
“Memories of Vulcan Street Moruya in the 1920s” by May Koellner nee Emmott
Various publications of the MDHS
Interviews with locals including Bill and Ruth Louttit, Rankin McCarron, Fay Heffernan nee Cowdroy