Dominic Lopez OAM served the people of Mosman as Councillor from December 1968 to January 2012. This commitment to Mosman started in 1935 for the Lopez family when Antonio Lopez opened a fruit shop in Mosman Junction. Against this backdrop Dom reminisces about the family business, the goodwill of the customers and the changes in Mosman and Spit Junction.
Great memories about your father’s fruit shop – it had the best fruit and veg in Mosman !
Dom, you were a great and colourful figure, Mosman would not be what it is today without your stirring passion. We thank you for your contribution.
Dom , As a Councillor and Mayor of Mosman you set a Gold standard. Your pragmatic and very practical approach always produced the best result for the people of Mosman. I witnessed how much you cared, over a number of community issues we shared as Clifton Gardens and Mosman evolved over the last 25 years .
No other person has given so much of their time and passion for this ‘Pearl of the Pacific’.
This is a terribly sad day and your ever ready smile will be so missed. Your lifelong image of Mosman has been fulfilled, but Mosman has lost it’s greatest champion.
God Bless you Dom, now you can rest.
Had not seen you for many years and was saddened to see of your passing . Lots of memories of the Kinema and the milk bar. RIP Dom
Very sad to hear of Domenic’s passing,
I enjoyed watching Dom tell his story of the early days.Many of us from Italian heritage can connect with his story.
we also got to know the family from the Haymarket and Flemington Days. Beautiful memories R.I.P.
I serviced with Dom on Mosman council in the early 70’s as a Alderman for Balmoral Ward and I must say his love for Mosman had no bounds !! We remained close friends and many nights would I spend having a typical Italian Dinner with his family and wonderful wife before a Council meeting. I was so sad and upset when he died I lost a good friend and Mosman Lost a great son
I was so pleased that Mosman Council elected a statue to Dom he would of been so proud !!!
Feliz de poder ver estas hermosas imagenes de los hermanos de la nonna Catalina Lopes. Ella siempre hablaba de sus hermanos de Australia
Well, the situation was that he was absolutely amazed that you could open a business, go into the city, buy fresh fruit and vegetables with the old markets and come back and sell it and that people appreciated you giving them advice. In those days you used to serve them. None of this self-service nonsense, and he and mum built up a lot of goodwill by serving the people, and we even had customers that never came into the shop and we’d deliver an order every Friday to them. And I can remember when I was old enough to drive the truck I’d take orders around to them. It was like one big happy family.
Actually mum ran the shop when dad was interned during the war. If it wasn’t for the good nature of a lot of the customers that stood by us, because Italians were being terribly vilified by certain people for no fault of their own and dad was interned and mum had to operate the business and only through the goodness of a lot of people – mum was a seamstress and they’d give her work to do and they’d come and pick up their orders themselves, so we were able to keep the shop going, so mum really had a battle during the war and even in the history of Mosman that Gavin Souter wrote – he wrote about, you know, dad was worried about mum, she wasn’t too well, so to get leave from the internment camp at Taree he cut his leg and put caustic soda in it and the doctor said, ‘you’re a bloody fool, you could have gone down anyway’, so he had to come down and see her. But it was just, you know, real pioneering spirit. It was just wonderful.
Well, after the war it took off, everybody was happy and it was wonderful, the fact that the community embraced the Italians. There was a POW camp at Middle Head and the Prisoners of War dressed in their red dungarees were allowed the freedom of Mosman. And a few of them came back and settled, one in fact, is my godfather and he’s in his 90s now, he’s also quoted in Gavin’s book as well, but the business boomed after the war, it really boomed. Dad had come back and said, ‘righto, the war’s over, let’s get on with it’. I started school in about 1944 or something with the nuns and my brother started after that, but it was just a wonderful thing.
Oh, well the displays in the shop were absolutely – he prided himself on displays and later on they brought out the Apple & Pear Festival and he got a runner’s up and he said, ‘listen son, I want to win this’, and I took it in my hand – you know, you will never find a better displayer of fruit than me because I had the best teachers in the world, my father, Uncle Steve and Uncle Tony, they were brilliant.
And we bolted in. We beat Woolworths, Coles, the lot. They only started to come in with fruit and vegetables but dad was so tickled pink about it and then the Chamber of Commerce used to have a Christmas display window and we won that a few times. But there was that sense of feeling and it was a
lovely village and I’m terribly protective of that village down there I don’t want to see any big chain stores come in, it’s just a nice little area that I remember with a great deal of affection.
Sure, we had eight or nine fruit shops, eight or nine butcher shops, we even had two, or three shoe shops, chemists were quite a few. We had five different grocery stores there, plus your little corner stores and that,
and of course that’s all changed now the shops are still there but it’s now al fresco dining, which of course has a great Italian flavour to it.
Because there were no cool rooms he had to buy virtually daily. The fruit was all right because the fruit would keep but bearing in mind you only had apples for about nine months of the year because there were no cool rooms so your apples used to cut out and that’s when the stone fruit came, and you had your stone fruit over Christmas.
But with the vegetables that was the tricky part of it. You know, fresh fruit and vegetables were available at, you know, Tony Lopez, so he would go to the market everyday and buy the vegetables and the odd fruit that he needed. But we never threw anything out. He knew exactly how many bushels of beans to buy, peas, lettuce – the carrots and potatoes would keep, but your stuff like your spinach and that – and he would go in everyday and knew exactly what he wanted.
Our big day – the weekends were big of course, and we used to deliver on Saturday so Thursday – it was a big market because you needed to get the stuff ready and I just could never get over it, and I loved going into the markets with him. It was just fabulous. I used to stand on the back of the truck to make sure that nobody pinched anything off it. Then when I got a bit older and stronger I was allowed to pull the barrow. And I tell you what, when you’ve got 20 fruit cases on the back of a barrow you know … but it was an absolute art form.
When the cool room came in it completely revolutionized – because you’ve only got to go to the markets twice a week and you can keep stuff in cool rooms forever.
Oh, no he loved the shop he would come there everyday even when he was more or less retired he’d come everyday and he was like an institution, he’d sit on that seat out the front. The school kids would say hullo to him and being on council he’d take messages for me. People would come and – ‘yeah, Dom (indistinct) you tell me what you want, you write it down and I’ll fix it up for you’. He was a great man.
Oh, the music, well he loved the music, I mean – he just couldn’t think that in a shop you couldn’t have music, in those days your radios weren’t terribly interesting. I mean radio today has brilliant music stations, but in those days we had the old radiogram out the back and of course once you could stack eight records – this is before the 33s and 45s, he would stack the records on and put a speaker in the shop and people used to love to hear the speaker, they loved to hear the music.
I remember on one particular day a Mrs. Adams came in, a lovely customer from Ruby Street, a lovely person. You see, the people weren’t snobs in those days they were very affluent people and dad just picked her up and they’re dancing the waltz in the shop and the customers are standing around watching. And that’s what it was like you see?
Spit Junction used to be the busy place and Mosman Junction was like the back end of Mosman, but to Mosman Junction’s credit it has built up a tremendous amount of goodwill with the people – I mean, Sheeney’s butcher shop was just outstanding. Bruce has now finally retired but his father ran a top shop there. Mr. Pissola down the other end of town, he ran a butcher shop, and it was like comparing Double Bay to Newtown. See, the bottom end – Mosman Junction was like Double Bay and Spit Junction was Newtown. If you wanted anything cheaper you’d go to Spit Junction.
That would have been, well I was still at school, the 40s and 50s. Because when they widened Spit Junction it totally, you know, it totally changed – the outlook of the shops were cut back and they lost a lot of parking. The traffic has had a lot to do with Spit Junction, yet it has come back bigger and better than ever, Spit Junction has – with those lovely big shops there, and of course Bridge Point has been an absolute find for their – brilliant.
Oh, Bob Dyer was a marvelous customer. I remember the time when he bought this big tuna, or whatever it was, and stopped the traffic in Military Road – delivered it to mum and he wanted some of mum’s famous spaghetti and meatballs, because when he come to the shop, he’d come and sit down and have spaghetti and meatballs.
In this particular time mum made this fabulous dish for him, and we delivered it down when he got his order. But no, Bob and Dolly and Mrs. Mack, his mother-in-law, they were great people – he stopped the traffic that day in Mosman. He had this beautiful convertible and he used to take us for rides, and then of course he left Balmoral and moved round to Bay Street because he had a mooring for ‘The Tennessee Two’, that was his boat.
Old Bob Dyer, we used to get free tickets to go and see ‘Pick a Box’, that was good. We had other customers Howard Craven was a customer in the shop. Oh, who else – Doctor Evatt would come in occasionally. There were some big shots lived in Mosman in those days. Yeah.
When our shop had to go seven days a week it was unbelievable – nothing worse than being in the shop on a Sunday, but I made good weather out of it because I had Benny working with me, he was a bloke that was a casual but used to help on a Sunday and he was a great chef, and when my turn came every other Sunday I’d be there and I had Benny with me. We would put on the best Italian food and people would come in – they could smell the aroma – ‘what’s that’ – ‘come inside and join us’. We’d sit them out the back with a glass of wine and a plate of spaghetti and they’re into it. ‘I’ll be back again’. (laughs)
But it was like that, and of course on Sunday night when we came to close the shop we were virtually blotto – you know, pie-eyed but I got home all right. And listening to music all day of course, the music was on, because then we had – they brought in the tapes and I put tapes on with this big ghetto-blaster I had, but I put on the good stuff – Perry Como, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day – people you can understand, people I grew up with.
Yeah, I used to work in the shop when I was at school. Help on Saturday mornings, I’d play cricket and baseball but it was just – it was a lovely way to – you know – kids – ‘gee, you’re lucky you get your fruit for nothing, gee you’re lucky you’re right on the main road’. You know the pictures are just over the road, ‘gee you’re lucky. You’d have kids around – ‘gee, your mum’s a good cook I like the way she does her spaghetti’.
You know, that was it -no, it was a great life, it was a tremendous life and I’m still here. I’m still here in Mosman. There is no way I will leave the beautiful ‘Pearl of the Pacific’.
Mosman is the pearl of the Pacific, the people the shops. The heritage, and last but not least this wonderful council of which I’ve put a hell of a lot of into.
Yeah, I’ll talk about meeting Zena, that was – you know, it had to happen. We used to frequent the Montana milk bar, the most famous – that used to frequent, apart from me, was Ken Irvine, and the Montana milk bar had a jukebox and a pinball machine and it was near the Kinema theatre where we would go very Saturday night in our Ivy League shirts and that. Anyway, the Montana milk bar changed hands. This bloke called Alfio Laspina bought it so that he could keep his daughters under his wing, not have to send them out to work. He was always worried about meeting the wrong kind of bloke.
So we’d still keep going there and she absolutely grew on me. You know, I used to go there and I’d find myself going there and buying a milkshake, not that I wanted a milkshake, and talking to her. And then when she’d serve me the milkshake she’d put a straw in it, but she’d squeeze the bottom of the straw and I could never suck the milkshake and then she’d laugh at me.
When I’d give her the change we’d squeeze hands, I said ‘oh righto’, I bought her a friendship ring, then it got to the stage where I was in the shop mostly helping. Dad would go ‘oh yeah well go and buy an ice cream but don’t be too long’. So I’d go over and buy an ice cream, and an hour later, he said, ‘you know, come on you’ve got to get back to the shop and work, you can’t be …’ but he was very fond of Zena.
Anyway, she was 16 and I was 19. She got engaged when she was 21 – officially engaged so we had a long … married at 22, I think I was 25, and it was just wonderful. I miss her hell of a lot. Gee I miss her.
But she was great she filled in, and as Mayoress, she was – she absolutely wowed them. She just had that common touch, that’s it. No snobbery about it, but the problem was being a very young Mayoress everybody was trying to latch onto her. So – you know ‘go easy’. But it was nice … it was something I’ll never forget and so they had the milk bar and we had the fruit shop, and what better could you get, you know, two local businesses merging like that. But no, she was wonderful, a wonderful mother, a wonderful wife.
Yeah, we went to the Kinema. Well, earlier on at interval she used to be allowed in free so I used to sneak in to just sit next to her but I couldn’t walk past the shop because they’d spot me so to get into the Kinema, I’d go out the back into Muston Street. I’d walk right around Muston Street, come up Almora Street, sneak over the road and sneak in the side door of the picture show, which was on the other side of it. I’d sneak in, and then the usherette would say, ‘she’s sitting over there’, or shine a torch. See – young love. And of course when the music ‘young love’ came out, oh gee, not the Tab Hunter version, the Sonny Jones, ‘young love, first love ….’ oh, it was a beautiful song.
You know, I would dearly like to go back 60 years – no 50 years will do me, or 55, it would be nice. But you know, Mosman’s my life and it’s been terrific and I want to be around a bit longer yet.