Terrazzo floors, lead lights and stained glass, stunning ornate timber balustrades

The iconic Brisbane Arcade – still just as spectacular today as when new, 95 years ago.

The people of Brisbane are so proud of “our Arcade”.

For me, a trip to the city always includes a visit to the Brisbane Arcade. It is where my sister Patricia and I worked and learned our sewing trade for Gwen Gillam designer from 1956 to 1964. The workroom was upstairs where we produced couture garments for her exclusive salon and Brisbane’s elite clientele. Forgive me if I sound proud … I am!

Ladies who were expecting were not allowed to stay employed back in those days and I had to leave once my daughter was born. Many of us “girls of Gwen Gillam’s” still get together regularly and recently lunched at Room of Roses where our happy chats take us back to our days where our workroom occupied the space where today, Room of Roses prepare our lunch. Hope there are no pin s still left in the floor! My memories are extensive and very joyful.

The two little old ladies in the imported linen store, Eastern Art Salons, with the most intricate embroidery, lace tablecloths, napkins, doilies, etc. There was always a long wait to be served as they painstakingly wrote out the receipt in their beautiful handwriting, with your name, address and the number and denomination of notes you paid with! All of my linen for my glory box was lay-byed from Fairways and paid off until the day I excitedly made the final payment and received my wonderful quality goods. The neatly dressed man who deftly worked the weights and scales while you watched to give your correct weight for a small charge. I could only afford one item of jewellery from Santa Fe. Their jewellery was displayed in Gwen Gillam’s store. Oh how I loved seeing it all! I still have my treasured piece of jewellery and have handed it down to my daughter. Not to forget the elegance of Robert White Jewellers which I believe is one of the Arcade’s oldest stores.

Kerry Craig’s store was then the Old Vienna Coffee Inn, owned by Mrs Walner, a café to be visited only on very special occasions, but we were allowed to call in to the kitchen back door and buy a sandwich for lunch! Oh I can still taste those delicious sandwiches!! I also loved the Rendezvous teacup reading rooms for lunch. Mrs Avery could make a delicious banana sandwich. There was a library next to our sewing workroom. She sold White Knights and other little treats – how convenient for us girls! Then there was Glamour, for glamorous lingerie. Sweida’s salon sold theatrical garments, wigs and make-up. Bernina sewing machine store, Roberts & Kane Solicitors, Punchbowl Photography, Invisible Mender, Lyn Paggot Tailors were next to the steps. There were no lifts in those days!

Mrs Thomas’ store, I think it was called Bo-Peep. No surprise there – they sold exclusive baby clothes and toys. I can still see all those stores s o clearly in my mind. Searls florist was downstairs at Queen St end. On our most recent visit, we had our photo taken on what used to be tram line in Queen St, by some young ladies who were about the same age we were when we worked there, over 60 years ago. We received a memorial keepsake bag and watched our Lord Mayor Graham Quirk cut the celebration cake.

My girlfriends, sister and I will continue to visit this iconic Arcade for as long as we can. How exciting to be celebrating 95 years of the Brisbane Arcade.

Beverly Lockett (nee Hanley)