Back to the future 1950’s style

Our closest shopping centre, Malanda, has managed to keep its small village, laid-back country-style of life. With a population of approximately 2000. No Macdonald’s golden arches on the skyline, no Woolworth’s or Coles or any of the other large multinational companies have infiltrated the shopping area. Local businesses supply all your needs. It is existing in a time warp.

So “G’day Mate” come with me for a stroll along Main Street 1950.

One side of the main street is dominated by the Malanda Pub,  characteristically built from the timber of local trees and is reputed to be the largest timber hotel in Australia.

Next to the pub is the excellent Spar supermarket. No reason to drive 20 kilometres to Atherton for Woolworth’s supermarket as Spar has a wide range of groceries, the fruit and vegetables are fresh and the staff are friendly.


Malanda’s Spar Supermarket has been named the top Spar outlet in the country.

Michael English, who runs the supermarket with his son Jeff, said the award was a recognition of customer service.

“It’s the staff who do it for you, they keep the standards going,” he said.

“Looking after the customers, that’s the main thing.”

He said there were about 150 Spar supermarkets in the country.

“We are only little people, battling,” he said.

The English St store, was originally opened on the other side of the road by his father, Tom, in 1960.

Including part-time employees, Mr English said there were about 80 staff on the books at the supermarket.

On the other side of English Street a row of old-fashioned buildings are very reminiscent of the 1950’s. Like the 1950’s the shops all close on Sunday.

English Street Malanda on a Sunday

English Street Malanda on a Sunday

Another unique building in Malanda is the heritage Majestic Theatre. (click here for the interesting story of the cinema’s history)

A Brief History

The Majestic Theatre is one of the oldest continually operating country picture theatres in Australia. It is an icon of national cinema heritage and Far North Queensland settler history and architecture.

In 1928, the township of Malanda thrived thanks to gold finds at nearby Boonjie. This, and the subsequent opening of the Gillies highway to the coast, prompted Patrick “Paddy” English, to take advantage of the tremendous potential promised by the latest sensation in public entertainment-the “Cinematographe”. Paddy was the son of dairy pioneer, farmer and entrepreneur James English, who built the Malanda Hotel, renowned today as the biggest all-timber building in the Southern Hemisphere. In December 1928 construction of the Tableland’s first and finest “moving picture Emporium”, the Majestic Theatre, was completed.

Majestic Theatre

Majestic Theatre

How appropriate does it look with the old school bus parked in front.

How appropriate does it look with the old school bus parked in front.

Walk across the beautifully landscaped park where the children’s playground is painted to match the flowering shrubs and you will come to the heritage building that houses the Post Office with its bank of private mail boxes. The locals gather here to collect mail and catch up with the latest news and gossip.

Post Office

Post Office

Streets and houses nestle into a rainforest back drop

Streets and houses nestle into a rainforest back drop

Let’s stop for a cuppa, the bakery is a popular place for locals to meet and the occasional tourist to find. No frills and fancy tables but the pies and pastries are baked on the premises and served with a smile.

The Bakery

The Bakery

Next door is “Wait a While”  the local art and craft shop, many of the articles are created by local artists. The standard is high, paintings, pottery, woodcarving also shoes and clothing and home decorations and artefacts. It is a large shop with plenty to browse around. So take your time. When I chatted to the owner she told me that the original shop had been demolished by cyclone Yassi in 2011 but in true Queensland spirit they just moved all the precious art work they could salvage to this present shop and carried on with business.

Another interesting feature of the town is the mosaics. They pop up on walls all round town and make very informative reading

The story of the mosaics

In 1998 the Eacham Shire Council successfully applied for funding from the Australian Federal Government as part of the Centenary of Federation Celebrations. A committee of interested local people was formed, and they decided to put the money towards an ‘Arts Trail’ linking the five towns of Eacham Shire. Malanda was able to utilize the talents of local mosaic artists Natalie Foster and Felicity Wallis. The artists held public meetings to hear stories and to work on a design plan. They proposed a series of nine mosaics, each being a window into different aspects of the past, present and future. The quiet country town revealed such a depth and richness that the artists were posed with a challenge how best to reflect its character in just nine images. They decided to hand-make ceramic border tiles, each one telling more about the theme of the central mosaic. All the designs were completed by January 2000 and the Mosaic work began in a dingy council shed in February. Later on the artists also applied for, and received, an extension grant from the Regional Arts Development Fund. The last mosaic was finished in June 2001. Many of the local businesses provided financial and in kind support. Five provided wall supports!

The completed works are sure to last many centuries thanks to the quality of their construction and installation.


Detailing the floods, cyclones and devastation that has hit the area

Detailing the floods, cyclones and devastation that has hit the area

This one was on the wall outside the local Mitre 10 hardware store


Of course there had to be a record of the dairy industry. I had to stop to look closely at this farmer putting his milk cans out. It is so life-like, an amazing sculpture and a tribute to the hard-working dairy farmers.


This sculpture is standing outside the library and you can see another mosaic on the wall.

This sculpture is standing outside the library and you can see another mosaic on the wall.


Malanda may be small but it is large in spirit and friendliness. The locally owned and operated monthly magazine “What’s on where to go” is an indication of the amount of activities in the area. 3 pages are filled with clubs to join, places to visit and activities to see.

There is still more to show you, but now I have finished my shopping, Jack is waiting patiently and it is time to head “home”.

“See you later”

Always plenty of seats around to find a place in the sun to read.

Always plenty of seats around to find a place in the sun to read.

Categories: Atherton Tableland, Australia, Malanda, photos, travel | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Back to the future 1950’s style

  1. Shirley Wainwright

    My childhood hometown! Brings back so many memories …….


  2. what a sweet spot in the world. Thank you Pommepal for sharing it with us.


  3. What a wonderful place to call home!


  4. What a charming place to shop, Pommepal. That sculpture would definitely have fooled me too. 🙂


  5. I just love it. I think we live in an Austrian equivalent with all the old buildings, and our biggest shop is also a Spar! Shame is a new shopping centre has been built, but will be filled by exisiting business moving into it, leaving our market square empty…….I feel a blog on the subject coming on!!!!!


    • That is so sad when you travel through a town that has had the centre die because a modern shopping mall has been opened. We see it every where when we travel. That is why I love this little town so much.


  6. What a wonderfully unique place. Somewhere that Coles and Woollies haven’t infiltrated – amazing!


  7. How perfectly delightful!


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