Folks it’s hard to describe just how big a deal it was when Big W opened in the 1970’s. Thanks to our new Mall, Gladstone had ‘Come of Age!’
Oddly enough, we ‘Came of Age’ again much later when our first legal brothel opened, but that’s another story.
Anyway, if you want to know how much things have changed since then, let me describe the wonders inside this glittering, one-stop shopping showcase.
Apart from clothes and toys, there was a garden nursery, a cafeteria (best ‘chips’ n gravy’ in town!), hardware and timber supplies, and a sporting goods section which also sold dinghies and small outboard motors.
That was my favourite area! I’d spend ages in there hefting the Slazenger cricket bats and Kookaburra cricket balls, swinging the John Newcombe tennis rackets and Jack Nicklaus golf clubs, or pawing the various rifles.
That’s right kids, you could stroll into Big W, buy your groceries, a pair of purple, nylon, flared slacks, a sheet of plywood and a gun. No, I am not making this up! I double-checked with my mate Steve who worked on the gun counter for a while.
Now, they didn’t sell handguns, but you could buy anything from an air rifle to a pump action shotgun, and all the ammo you could carry.
I can’t recall when the guns finally disappeared off the shelves for good, although they were temporarily locked away immediately after the train and hospital payroll robberies, but that folks, is also another story.