Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Snapshot: 1989

Source: Anonymous. 1989. "Santa swaps sled for sailboard." The Daily Telegraph, December 26: 9.

For a Christmas Flashback, I've decided to go back a quarter of a century ago to 1989 to give a small snapshot of how the city marked Christmas.

1989 was a big year. Communism was falling apart in Eastern Europe and here at home, sharp increases in Interest Rates were beginning to hit with families and businesses on the nose.

As we know, the arrival of Santa to our department stores and shopping centres marks the start of the Christmas season in November. Grace Bros made sure it was grand with an estimated 200 000 people gathering on city streets on a very wet November morning (November 11) to welcome him to the city for their first ever Christmas Parade.  There were plenty of stars involved including Grace Bros Ambassador Deborah Hutton, Kay Cottee (Sailor), entertainer Normie Rowe and pop star Colette.

Source: Anonymous. 1989. "Ah, music to pour over." The Daily Telegraph, November 13: 3. 

Advertisement for the parade.

Source: Coles-Myer Limited. 1989. "Grace Bros Christmas Parade (Advertisement)." The Sunday Telegraph, November 5: 26. 

The official program.

Source: Coles-Myer Limited. 1989. "Grace Bros Christmas Parade (Advertisement)." The Daily Telegraph, November 11: 20-21. 

1989 was the first time that all retailers were given permission to trade on Sunday's, but only on the two Sundays before Christmas (December 17 and 24). The previous year, Grace Bros had experimented successfully with Sunday Trading at its city store. This was not welcomed by the Allied Shops and Trades Union nor the Churches, but despite that many workers elected to work on both Sunday's attracted by double pay for the hours worked. People enjoyed the convenience that came with it knowing they had extra time to shop. Westfield claimed that 50% of its shoppers wanted Sunday trading. NSW was now another step closer to seven days a week trading. With Christmas Eve (December 24), it was generally the larger shopping centres that stayed open. Stores like BigW which had shops in smaller shopping centres. For instance, Bonnyrigg did not open while their Westfield Miranda store traded.

Below are several reports on Sunday trading from December 17 as covered by The Daily Telegraph, in its edition of December 18.

But even during the week you had plenty of time to shop with extended shopping hours. Westfield's trading hours for the week before Christmas gives us a good idea how late they traded. Compared to today it has changed little, except with weekends with an extra hour or two to trade.

Source: Westfield. 1989. "Open Today and Every Day until Christmas (Advertisement)." The Sunday Telegraph, December 17: 149. 

And an example of how the major retailer's restricted trade to larger centres. This one is from Coles New World Supermarkets.

Source: Coles Myer Limited. 1989. "We've extended our Christmas shopping hours... (Advertisement). " The Daily Mirror, December 22:13.

Peter Fitzsimons of The Sydney Morning Herald spent the Thursday evening before Christmas (December 21) at Grace Bros in the city. It was chaotic, and for some, it was their best chance to get their shopping done. Notice the time on the clock below.

Source: Fitzsimons, P. "To some, night is the time for shopping. " The Sydney Morning Herald, December 23: 2. 

And below a few of the Christmas specials provided by the department stores and supermarkets.



Coles-Myer Limited. 1989. "Great fashion gift ideas at Target (Advertisement). " The Sunday Telegraph, December 17: 144-145.

Coles-Myer Limited. 1989. "Gift ideas for all the family at Target (Advertisement). " The Sunday Telegraph, December 17: 146-147.

Grace Bros

Source: Coles-Myer Limited. 1989. "Extended Hours for Shopping...Last Minute Gift Ideas (Advertisement). " The Sunday Telegraph, December 17: 26-27.


Source: Coles-Myer Limited. 1989. "Million dollar Summer Price Clearance (Advertisement). " The Daily Mirror, December 20: 52-53. 

Norman Ross

Source: Norman Ross Discounts. 1989. "Appliance and Toy Clearance (Advertisement). " The Daily Mirror, December 20: 16-17. 


Source: Woolworths. 1989. "Lower Prices For Christmas (Advertisement)." The Daily Mirror, December 20: 44-45.

In a report in The Sunday Telegraph, on December 24, retailers were reporting that business was "steady" and earnings would be slightly ahead on the year before, despite the tough economic times settling in.

Carols in the Domain had grown through the 1980s into a major community event and was held on December 16. The Sunday Telegraph reported on December 17 that 90 000 had attended the carols, hosted by Barry Crocker. For the record, it was sponsored by ESSO.

Source: Anonymous. 1989. "Sea of candlelight." The Daily Telegraph, December 24, 2. 

Over the past week, we have been treated to a terribly tragic event, right on the eve of Christmas with the siege at the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place.17 people were held hostage for up to 17 hours by gunman Man Haron Monia, a self-styled Iranian Cleric on Monday. The siege ended when police raided the cafe at approximately 2:15 am on Tuesday. Lawyer Katrina Dawson and store manager Tori Johnson were killed. At this stage, we know that Johnson was executed by the gunman Haron Monia, and hence led to the raid

The reaction by Sydneysiders has been of great shock and sadness which I have seen during the week, with thousands lining up to remember Dawson and Johnson at a floral memorial two blocks away from the cafe. Martin Place may be the scene of the crime but it also is the place where Sydney gathers. It has bought the city together, particularly given that Christmas is a time that we come together. We are good at doing that. We have also come together to grieve collectively for the dead. It also demonstrates true resilience. The fact the city is continuing on as normal is a sign of this. People are still working. People are shopping and making use of what the city has to offer. At the same time, we are taking time to reflect on it.

By the end of the week, we had learnt that a mother had killed her seven children and one nephew at her home in Cairns, which has given the nation yet another Christmas tragedy.

1989 also bought on its own tragedy during the Christmas season, which bought sadness upon the nation, though it would not measure to what saw last week. However, the loss of life was far greater than what we saw at the Lindt. 36 people were killed when two buses collided on the Pacific Highway near Clybucca Heads on the NSW North Coast. The incident occurred in the early hours of December 22. This is the worst ever loss of life on Australian roads. The collision had occurred two months after a coach collided with a semi-trailer, near Grafton, killing 21 people.

I found a video on Youtube of assorted reports relating to the crash as screened on Seven Nightly News in Brisbane on the night of December 22.


The 1980's was a bad decade for those who enjoyed speeding or having a few drinks and driving home under the influence. They got an even worse Christmas present to end the decade off, with bigger penalties for drink driving.

Source: Roads and Traffic Authority (NSW). 1989. "From Now On, Don't Even Think About Breaking The New NSW Drink-Driving And Speeding Laws (Advertisement)." The Daily Telegraph, December 20: 6

Those who used the Illawarra and South Coast Rail Lines had to deal with trackwork forcing them onto buses or their cars.

Source: CityRail. 1989. "The good news. The bad news (Advertisement)." The Daily Mirror, December 22: 18. 

The pilot's strike which had caused chaos for air travellers was also at an end, just in time for Christmas meaning one could fly to see their loved ones or take a break from normal life.

On the day itself, thousands of backpackers led by the British converged on Bondi Beach for their Christmas celebrations, a tradition that continues decades later.

Source: Fulson, A. 1989. "Streakers, trees and Englishmen out in the Bondi sun." The Sydney Morning Herald, December 26: 4. 

Newspapers were not published on Christmas Day, but the big news continued. On Boxing Day, we were hearing that Romanian Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife had been executed by the Romanian Army following a Kangaroo Court trial. Just days earlier, he had been overthrown by the people of Romania.

The video itself of the execution.

Warning: The images may be confronting to some people. 

Just days before Christmas, US President George Bush sent in the US Army to overthrow General Manuel Noreiga. He surrendered on January 3 1990 while seeking refuge in the Vatican's Diplomatic Mission in Panama City.

Later that week, an Earthquake struck Newcastle, claiming 13 lives on December 28. Most deaths were in the Newcastle Workers Club and several died in Beaumont Street, Hamilton. The tremor was felt in Sydney. A tragic end to the 1980s.

If you want to see a bigger copy of any of the images, hover your mouse above the image and click them. From me, I wish you all a very safe and wonderful Christmas. May God be with you and watch over you.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, this is a great reminder of what was going on in this year. Provided some good and sad memories.