THE SATURDAY SHOP
The good ol’ days, by Ruth Spencer
This 1964 photograph of La Gonda House at 154 Queen St is a fairly typical street scene at first glance: that’s until you spot the window washer on the 3rd floor. He’s polishing the street-grime off the windows of Chic Fashions Wholesale Millinery with the kind of casual disdain for health and safety the 60s was famous for.
La Gonda House was something of a one-stop shop for your glamour needs, with clothes on the ground floor, hats on the third and jewellers G&G Heinrich on the top. Once suitably attired you could pop to the Quintet Coffee Lounge for a restoring beverage. Quintet did open sandwiches and Cona coffee; Cona coffeemakers used a vacuum system contained within two futuristic glass globes. Auckland Museum owns a souvenir 1959 tea towel printed with a Coffee Guide to Auckland, which is how we know what Quintet offered. One of 33 coffee venues listed, Quintet was up against tough competition. The Bali Hai in Chancery St had smorgasbord lunches and dancing, and the Paris Boulevard on Queen offered lunch music and cabaret.
The man in the centre of the photo is attempting to fold himself into a Renault Dauphine, with an engine in the boot and a boot at the front for whatever he bought at La Gonda. The Dauphine would have been assembled in Petone, at the Todd Motors plant; the year this photo was taken they made 199 of them. The car in front is a Ford Escort. It has gained a towbar and lost a rear bumper in possibly related incidents.
The ground floor of this building is occupied these days by Photo Warehouse, and the top floor is currently available for sale. Window washing and Bali Hai smorgasbord lunches sadly not included.