By Patricia M. Limbert


It is my hope that this story captures the beginning, the progress and the success, plus the highs and lows of the Thrift Shop.

As there has been very little input from other sources there may be inaccuracies and if anyone or any specific event which is of importance to this history has been overlooked, I apologise.

Pat Limbert PHF

Almost thirty years ago, something very important for the Club occurred at a Rotary Committee meeting held at the home of John and Phyl Bohnsack.

Phyl had been involved with the Girl Guides who, up until a short time previously, ran a very successful Thrift Shop. This had lapsed through lack of parental support, but she felt that our Rotary Club with about 80 members and many enthusiastic wives could make such a venture worthwhile. She mentioned this at suppertime, and although this was an International Committee meeting, not fund raising, the members present were sure the idea should be put to a club meeting.

At the Club meeting on July 29th, 1973, John presented a feasibility study of such a shop for consideration, and it was adopted by the Board at the next Club Assembly. So it was from Phyl's suggestion that the Thrift Shop evolved. At a subsequent meeting it was proposed that a women's committee be formed and most importantly a suitable venue be found.

Of course, to put this project into being, stock was a major factor. Where would it come from, how much would be required to make a beginning and what type of articles would be most saleable. Good clean clothing, bric-a-brac, kitchen utensils and books were suggested as a starting point. All Rotarians and wives were asked to go through their wardrobes, look in the bottom of the cupboards and search drawers for such items.

On September 23rd, 1973, it was announced that a shop would possibly open in October, as, after enquiries to the Unley City Council, a shop would be available on Glen Osmond Road, Parkside.

As stock which was being stored at 8 Arthur Street, Unley (the business premises of Harvey Limbert) was coming to hand at a good rate, and as John and Phyl and an enthusiastic group were keen to get going quickly, the Council allowed the Club the use of two rooms in the Institute prior to the Chemist shop being available.

By November 18th, 1973, there was a Thrift Shop well and truly functioning. Pat Limbert had worked up a roster system whereby two helpers were on duty from 10.00am to 12.30pm and from 12.30pm to 3.30pm, Tuesday to Friday. These helpers were mainly Rotary wives and a few friends. After a couple of months Past President Arn Hammond took over the rostering duty.

As the stock came forward, it had to be sorted, checked for cleanliness and then priced and displayed. A lot of guess work went into the early trading, but it was a lot of fun with a great deal of satisfaction.

One of the helpers driving down Glen Osmond Road to do her first day in the first week, said to herself, quote "What in the hell am I doing, I've never worked in a shop, let alone a second hand shop". However, that day passed without any traumas and in no time the topic of conversation at Ladies' Nights and other functions was about the Thrift Shop. With the price of goods being in most cases 5 cents, 10 cents and 20 cents, it was satisfying and even exciting to bank $10 as the day's takings. An account at a local bank was opened, and as each day finished the helpers were responsible for banking the cash, leaving a small float and the key for collection the following morning.

It certainly was a successful launching and on December 16th, the Club was advised by the Council that the shop next door but one to the present venue was now available at a peppercorn rental. By February 17th, 1974 after a working bee of club members and wives, the change over was complete and "our shop" was ready for business.

It was interesting to note that items such as XOS frocks, men's ties, a doll's pram, a pedal car and even a lawn mower were in demand proving that a Thrift Shop was necessary in the community.

As we saw the project coming to fruition and taking a prominent part of Rotary activities; this a point worth noting. The funds raised by the Club in 1973-74 were $5,870 with the Shop contributing $4,500 of that amount.

At the end of almost 12 months trading, at Club Assembly on June 6th, discussion and consideration to the future of this project was aired. The Board decided that the Shop would be maintained as a fund raiser and appreciation was expressed to John and Phyl for their organization and supervision.

Whether it was location or circumstances, but disturbing and enlightening happenings occurred here. One "gentleman" flashed a helper and her reply was, quote "I've seen better on my 8 year old grandson - put it away". Or the time when three came in dressed as women and made female purchases. After they boarded the bus going to the city, one helper said to her partner, quote "I think they were men, they had hairy legs - I've never seen anything like that before". Another gent trying on a suit in the fitting room, asked for another one and when the assistant obliged, he was starkers and glad to display all. It's good to say that these and other instances were all managed with great finesse and without harm to anyone.

A Street stall was conducted in front of the Unley Post Office on Saturday April 5th, 1975 to clear surplus summer stock. To draw the shopping crowd, cakes and produce were also available. Rotarians were asked specifically to help the ladies with this extra effort.

After Arn Hammond's demise, Clem and Cath Colman in November, 1980, took over the responsibility of preparing the rosters and also the required supervision. In June, 1981 Clem reported that the takings for the last 5 months were $3,471.

A working bee was organized to paint and re-arrange the shop to make working conditions more pleasant for the increasing numbers of helpers. From then onwards 3 Rotarians per fortnight were listed on a cleaning roster.

The cash box was now inadequate, so the Board sanctioned the expenditure of $200 for a cash register - unfortunately this was badly damaged sometime later when the shop was broken into.

Working from the Glen Osmond Road shop for 20 years, there was a continuous stream of clientele coming from the Glenside Hospital. They needed what we had to offer at a price they could afford. Also being on a bus route was good for business.

It was during this time that Pauline Daly took over the roster system from Kath Colman and also worked as co-ordinator. These were onerous tasks and accomplished with diligence and dedication for 10 years.

The demand for stock was never-ending and all Rotarians were encouraged to watch for new avenues where items may be available. This applied especially to small electrical household items - working or note. Harvey Limbert was helped by a friend, Neville Ellison, a resident of Unley, with repairs. He was willing to give his time and expertise to help the Club.

At the 1988 District Conference at Victor Harbour, the Thrift Shop project was entered for the best fund raiser and much to our delight we won the award. Former member the Late Werner Bley was mainly responsible for that excellent display.

It was decided at this stage to open on Saturday mornings 9.30am to 12.30pm, hoping that retired Rotarians would be involved.

After many years of service Pauline relinquished the responsibility of the rostering to John Calder and also her co-ordinating role to Josephine Blowes, a friend of Rotary, who was a volunteer of 6 year's standing. The time and effort Pauline and Ken have put in since the opening has been inestimable and they intend to carry on but with a little less onus on Pauline.

During 1990 there was much discussion re fund raising in general. What if, for some reason, the shop had to cease operation how would the Club meet its commitments. In fact the following year the Unley Council advised the Club it would have to move as the property was up for sale. It was put on a weekly occupancy until the sale took place. This created more discussion and as every one including the ladies on the roster were keen to keep the shop functioning, a new venue had to be found.

A submission was put to the Council for the use of 78 Edmund Avenue, Unley as a new site, but this had a negative result.

The Glen Osmond Road property was sold January 8th, 1993 and we were told to vacate by January 14th, 1993. Harvey made a survey of the district and located a shop in the Arkaba Shopping Centre which was suitable, but with a rental of $80 a week, which was considerably more than previously paid. However, it was felt the location to be the best available.

A dramatic effort by the Club members and the ladies resulted in a smooth transfer for the opening on Saturday, February 6th, 1993. The takings that Saturday were $200 and the following Tuesday $140. It was unbelievable.

More helpers are always being asked for and it is most interesting that a number of volunteers coming forward are not Rotarians or wives but friends of Rotary. An afternoon tea was held in the Sturt Club to celebrate 20 years of operation and more importantly to thank the volunteers for their support. The shop could not be successful without them and this function has been held annually ever since.

The rosters which are now planned and printed on a three monthly basis are being handled by Rotarians. Over the years this work was done by the late Past President John Calder, Past President Geoff Ring, ex member D. Pope and now Past President David Payne is responsible for the task.

With the change of site to amore "up Market" exposure it was necessary to present a higher quality stock even though the prices would be kept to a reasonable level. It has always been the intention to have a good standard shop, but perhaps now it is most important to check all donations as they come in for any defects and put aside such items.

To improve the general display, it was decided that a dress model would be an advantage, so Gordon Vogan, who was President-elect at the time, went to the city and procured such a model in its natural state and carried it on a bus back to the shop. We do not have on record what the bus driver or passengers might have thought or said.

As more televisions, video recorders, hi-fi systems and microwaves etc. come to hand, Harvey after checking for serviceability has in many cases found it necessary to have the assistance of qualified technicians. He has two, one in Westbourne Park and the other at Hove, who are prepared to do any repairs at a minimal cost.

With an article and photo in the Messenger Press, the Club and Rotary in general have received good publicity.

The owner of the shop found it necessary to move the shop from 13B to No 11, as it was required for the Post Office. That was in June 1996.

Mention must be made of the record day November 19th 1996. Taking for the year to date were $44,698, which was $5,000 up on teh previous year; the month of October delivered a monthly record of $5,405 and on November 19th the daily takings of $534 was another record. It was great day for Don and Shirley Emmett.

In January 199, the club was negotiating a new lease with the new owners of the Arkaba, but this did not take place, as we were told to quit the premises in one month. A Thrift Shop was considered not to be suitable in the up grading of the complex.

It was imperative that a new location be found promptly and Harvey scanned the Advertiser, Shops to Let, as well as driving up and down every street looking for any empty shop. Rossiters Mall had a possibility, but when the owner (he was overseas) was contacted he also said no to a Thrift Shop in his mall. So off again and Highgate Mall, on Fullarton Road was surveyed. There was nowhere near as much vehicular or ambulatory traffic as at the Arkaba, but it was felt with extra effort and promotion it could be successful. A lease was prepared and all ready to be signed but the other lessees objected to a Thrift Shop in their vicinity, Three No's and back to square one.

In desperation Harvey and Don Emmett went back to the agent of Rossiters and were advised that the Travel Agency on Unley Road was moving two doors north and their shop would be available. How lucky was the club that the Highgate shop keepers said NO!

This move was a big gamble, but with hard work and enthusiasm fom all the volunteers it proved to be a winner.

The opening day April 12th 1999 was a Saturday, and on the following Tuesday takings totalled $1,085.

This shop was larger, carpeted and air conditioned but needed more shelving and when this was finished it had an attractive presentation. The quality of donations coming in from all sources was of higher standard so it immediately provided better stock.

Many folk who come to the shop do so to buy, but others come in to browse as we carry an interesting quantity of bric a brac. It has been said by a regular customer who comes from an exclusive eastern suburb, quote "This is not like any other Thrift Shop", so we have a reputation to be maintained.

There has been further publicity in the Messenger Press and also an article in the Rotary Down Under.

A sign showing Unley Rotary Thrift Shop with insignias each end has been erected on the fascia board and a listing of the projects funded by the shop is now available for all customers to read. It is now found to be necessary that 2 Rotarians be rostered on every Saturday morning.

Certificates of Appreciation were approved in November 2001 and mailed to all volunteers. Lapel badges are being organised for volunteer identification.

Josephine, as co-ordinator has gathered around her a group of ladies who are proficient in sorting and pricing and who are prepared to put in the long Saturday mornings. Their effort is much admired. It seems, Jo herself has dedicated her "retirement" years to the service of the Thrift Shop and for that "Thank You" is scarcely sufficient, but what more can be said. Another valuable effort Jo puts in, is taking to auction good quality jewellery, chinaware and other rare items so as to obtain the best possible profit; e.g. a 1886 Sampler bringing $900 and a Tin Toy $200.

Don Emmett has been a tower of strength. His wisdom and advice on all matters practical have been much appreciated and very often acted upon. He is to be commended.

It was decided by the Board to establish a Thrift Shop Standing Committee chaired by the President-elect. This committee meets regularly once a month and reports to the board.

This committee asked the Club Secretary to check the Insurance Policy as to whether the volunteers were, in the case of any misfortune, adequately covered. This is so.

Although the demand for stock must be made continuously, it is amazing that donations of the large kind are always forth coming, therefore it was necessary to have a storage facility close by. Following conversation with the R.S.L. the possibility of a shed being erected at the rear of their hall in Arthur Street was considered. This was OK'd by the Board, but the R.S.L. offered the use of an existing shed and it was decided to be a better proposition. In a reciprocal arrangement the club offered to paint the gutters and outside woodwork of their heritage listed hall.

It is necessary that we look at how the club has benefited financially by the existence of the shop.


First year of shop operating:
Ten years later:
Further 10 years (approx)
In 2001-2002

It is estimated that by the end of 2002 almost $700,000 will have been achieved. One might ask what other fund raising efforts are being promoted.

Enough of facts and figures, as there is a very human scenario to this saga. Many folk who come to the shop to buy, do so because we have a good range of clean ladies' and men's wear and that is what they need and can only afford. Secondly, the number of volunteers has increased dramatically by the addition of Friends of Rotary and we welcome them. They consider it a worthwhile community service. The ratio of helpers is 22 friends, 17 Rotarians, 16 partners and 10 associates.

Lastly, but not least, many of the ladies and men perhaps have made new and firm friends by working along side each other for a few hours each time rostered. May be the association has been there for years, but now it's friendship. How important is that.

In 2001 the questions "Where have we come from; where are we at; and where are we going?" have been asked.

You have read where we have come from, and where we are at and I trust there is someone out there who, in the future, will tell you that we are still going forward with this, I hope, never ending story.