Hold the Traffic! I have another coffee story to write.

June 18, 2012

Don’t you love entering competitions? The promise of a luxury holiday, cash … or in this case something more modest: the opportunity to have your happy snap displayed in a public space.

ABC Open, in conjunction with the Historic Houses Trust, is running a competition called ‘Now and Then’, where you reframe an old photo within a new one to show how the setting has changed over the years. It’s a great idea, and has already attracted some inspired entries. 

After trawling through my albums I found just the photo I needed: me, on a Vespa, circa 1959, outside the   Caffè Sport in Norton Street, Leichhardt. Vroom vroom. Not quite Roman Holiday but you’ve got to start somewhere.

Every Saturday morning my mother, father and I shopped on Parramatta Road between Catherine and Norton Streets. It’s hard to imagine, but in the 1950s and 1960s the area was abuzz with activity and an interesting mix of butchers, fruit shops, delicatessens – and ladies’ frock shops. We’d then meet friends at Caffè Sport for a cappuccino or two. At four and a half years of age, I still had my training wheels on and hadn’t quite graduated to a macchiato.

Their coffee drunk, most of the men would go to the pub across the road and the women and children stayed put. I loved listening to the chat from the mainly Triestine clientele, but was especially transfixed by one of my mother’s friends who used to sink her enormous front teeth into her Savoiardi biscuits post-dunk, and suck them in before they became slush and plummeted into her caffè latte.

But back to my mission trying to recreate the Girl on the Vespa image. It didn’t matter that the camera battery was flat when I arrived in Norton Street last Saturday morning, as the combination of torrential rain and bumper to bumper traffic led to mission impossible. I’d overlooked the fact that vehicular traffic has increased in 50 years and the blank pub wall I needed to shoot had a constant foreground of moving cars. Not one single break in the traffic for the entire 20 minutes I stood there (broken up with a quick coffee fix). I’m planning a return visit this week sometime between morning peak hour and sunset, when I’ll stop the traffic if I need to with a sign ‘GO BACK. Desperate Competition Contestant at Work’.

Scene on vespa from Roman Holiday

This is the shot I was going for. Oh well.

If only I had an original interior cafe shot, with its La Pavoni coffee machine working non-stop, I could use that as my Plan B and avoid the traffic.

‘Now and Then’ competition details.

♦ I welcome your thoughts or retorts. The Comments button is only a click away…


  1. I love the photo of you as a little girl!!! How cute. Such a great post!!

    • Thanks. Yes, it’s one of my favourite photos from my albums. Love your blog too – lots of great adventures to be had on a vespa, I’m sure.

  2. Hello … I have just discovered your wonderful blog, while searching the web for an early cafe in Leichhardt. That’s a lovely photo of you on the Vespa. I briefly lived in Five Dock, so I’m familiar with current cafe trends, but I”m writing a novel set in 1961 … my characters like going to Leichhardt, and I wanted to write without error. I know the Caffe Sport, now called Bar Venezia ? I think in recent years. Please can I send you my few queries by email? I hope to hear from you, I’d be very grateful. Julia

    • Hi Julie – thanks for the compliments. If you’d like to contact me, you can email on ambras [at] optusnet [dot] com [dot] au

  3. Love this – story and photo! (Is this the same as Bar Sport on the corner of Parramatta Rd and Norton St?) Hope you get the perfect shot and win the competition!

  4. Hi Verena. Yes, it’s the cafe you mention, still going strong. Hope all’s well in your world. cheers, Ambra

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