My Market Story

CELEBRATING 150 YEARS

South Melbourne Market My Market Story (facebook)

A huge thank you to everyone who contributed their wonderful stories, memories and photos, helping us piece together some of the Market’s colourful history.

We’re so excited to announce the winning My Market Stories who have each won a $250 Market voucher.

We hope you enjoy these stories as much as we did.

John Armitage

Nana lived in Princes Street, Port Melbourne. Two adjoining cottages, 99 & 101 as I recall. Dunny out the back, but at least it flushed. I was about 9 or 10 years of age and used to visit and stay with her during school holidays back in the early fifties.

Part of the visit would include at least one trip to “South Market” Nana and I would walk along Graham Street to Bay Street (no overpass those days, and definitely no way were we allowed to take the bus!). Then under the bridge to the York Street entrance where Ziggy’s Burhan’s Cafe is now.

The hustle and bustle inside the market square, the strident voices of the vendors advertising their wares and the distinctive smells of the butchers, the fishmongers and the delis loom large in my memory bank.

I can still visualise Nana sampling tasty cheese. The stronger it tasted and smelled, the better she liked it. Her lips would quiver with anticipation as the sample approached.

We’d march around the aisles, Nana in total control, chatting to the various stallholders. This was more than just a shopping expedition. It was a social outing. Of course I was proudly introduced to the stallholders and Nana’s friends, who would feign interest and pretend they remembered me from previous visits.

Nana had a canvas jeep, a two wheeler, and the purchases had to be carefully stacked with the meat on the bottom and the softer fruit and vegetables on the top. Her precious tasty cheese went straight in the handbag.

My reward for patience was a sugar-crusted jam doughnut from the van in Coventry Street, a real treat as doughnuts only existed in the imagination in the back blocks of Beaumaris where we lived.

Then the journey home. That walk back down Bay Street seemed to take forever, but it didn’t diminish my anticipation of the next trip with Nana to “The South Market”.

Now it’s my turn. Once, sometimes twice a week, we shop at “The South Market” and love it. May it never change.


Rhonda Daly

Our grandfather, Len Newman, was the caretaker of the South Melbourne Council and therefore the caretaker of the market from the mid 1950’s until his retirement in 1965. He and our Nana lived on site, in the little cottage which was next to the railway line, then the council depot then the Market. The cottage was there until the market upgrade.

Growing up we thought it just a normal home it was only much later we realised how very tiny that cottage was!! My grandparents had the most beautiful garden in the cottage which so many people would stop and admire. We have the most wonderful memories of a childhood among the market traders who all knew us.

I was born in 1954, my sister in 1950 so we were both quite young at the time. We lived in nearby Garden City and would spend most of our school holidays with Nana and Pa in the cottage. We would go on Market days when they were setting up early in the morning and help our Pa and the traders. Tom Andrews had the freshest array of vegetables and a lovely man we remember well. Mrs Boon had a shoe shop, the David Keys knitwear shop, the ‘big shop’ where we brought all our toiletries, personal products etc. The biscuit shop where Nana brought all her favourite biscuits.

These were days when most of the shopping was done at markets, long before supermarkets or large chain stores came along. We brought everything at the market, food, clothing, shoes, hardware, furnishings, linen, books . . . everything. We recall so many of the stores and traders and the most delicious fresh produce. Recalling these times brings back so many happy childhood memories to both my sister and I. The South Melbourne Market will always hold a very special place in our memories and our hearts.


Joseph Barker

People talk about love at first sight. But for me and Leonne nothing could be further from the truth. When we met my attitude was much more confused. I’d take one step forward then run a million miles the other way. Safe to say, we didn’t get on straight away.

Four years and quite a few disagreements later, we somehow ended up sharing a house with some friends. It seemed difficult to imagine at first how we would ever make this work. But then our friend Bernie started to take us every Saturday morning to an exercise class and then after that to the market in South Melbourne.

What began as a bit awkward and sometimes rushed drag race to grab fruit and veg evolved over time to become a dearly cherished ritual. From choosing flowers, to considering which fish felt right to talking to the staff at the stalls, we steadily became sold on the South Melbourne Market. Bernie stopped going to the exercise class after a while and well, this left just Leonne and I. Awkward! As it was just the two of us now, we eventually decided to car pool. Spending time this way driving into the city gradually became very special to me. At the market we loved to walk around and do everything together.

One day our friend Scott who runs Rods Fruit and Veg (our favourite stall) asked me how my wife was. I blushed and quickly corrected him that Leonne and I were not an item at all and made a hasty exit. But over time of this lovely Saturday ritual, my heart did start to melt. The idea of missing this time at the market would make me sad, I loved going each time and choosing what we wanted to buy. Eventually I came to the point that it was clear I wanted much more of this, I wanted Leonne to share my life.

Today we still come to the market each Saturday, but now Leonne is my fiancĂ©e (soon to be my wife).Whilst the market has amazing things, the best food and groceries what it actually offers is so much more – the chance for people to chat and connect, to have fun together, to congregate in a very cool way. The other day I told Scott that we were engaged and that after all he was right. I think I made his day. And I reflect now that without this place and the people who come I would not be here with my future wife. I feel our story goes to illustrate, doing simple things together can show you the truth of your heart. So not love at first sight but more like love at last over the broccoli.

Jospeh Barker Image from My Market Story


June Alexander

I am 80 and have lived in the area for most of my life. My first memory of going to the South Melbourne Market was 76 years ago. I sat on the crossbar of my father’s bike to go to the Market to get, what turned out to be, our Christmas dinner. I remember standing in front of a pen at the market with lots of chickens running around and adults making lots of noise, probably selecting a bird from the seller. On the ride home I had company on the bike as a chicken dangled from the crossbar next to my legs. I was too young to realise the significance of buying a live chicken and bringing it home after it’s neck had been rung. I still recall that memory well and have great delight in telling my grandchildren of my adventure and how we were able to have fresh chicken for Christmas long before supermarkets.