You just never know when a social occasion will turn into a lesson on a little piece of Mullumbimby's history.
At the recent Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce Christmas party at the Main Arm General Store , Gerard noticed the pizza oven and wondered it if may be been the same one he had used in his very first paid job back in the early 1980s.
Back then Gerard started as a baker with Smith's Cake Shop, Burringbar Street, Mullumbimby. Their oven was located in Mrs Smith's house in Argyle Street.
The oven's current owner, Marianne Dichiera said it had come from The Empire Cafe where it was used by Luciano and Maria Torresi.
Is so happened that their daughter, Elsa was on hand at the party too and was able to confirm that indeed the oven originally came from Smith's Cake Shop!!
After our post on Social Media, local historian, Susan Tsicalas was able to uncover more of the oven's history which was published in the monthly newsletter of Mullumbimby Museum.
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Some of our most popular posts are those that include stories about local history. Many members of our community had memories of Smith's Cake Shop in Mullumbimby.
There was a vacant block next door between the cake shop and the National Australia Bank with a brick fence which was perfect for sitting on to enjoy a cake or lunch whilst taking a break from work .
"Yep, Caramel tart or a lemon meringue and sit on the fence of the bank to eat it."
"I remember Smith's Cake Shop. I worked across the road at the Commonwealth Bank and the staff purchased many a morning tea and lunch. Was always yummy food."
"They were delicious. I often had my lunch there when I worked, the salad sandwiches were the best."
It seems caramel tarts were a favourite for many and my Mum even shared a caramel tart recipe!
"I used to buy caramel tarts from Shirley at their Brunswick shop"
"Caramel tarts from Smith's Cake Shop."
"There were the absolute best. Anyone got the recipe?"
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 egg yolk
slowly add 3/4 cup milk
Stir on stove until thick, adding more milk to get right consistency
"Thanks for the recipe, they sure were the best and also pie with peas."
Not only were caramel tarts legendary, but their sponge cakes were also a popular choice, not to forget the traditional pie with peas and potato!!
"No one has ever, or will ever make a sponge apple pie like the ones I used to buy from Smith's cake shop. Heavenly."
"I too can remember Smith's Cake Shop and the Butterfly Cupcakes."
"Mrs Smith's sponge cakes and butterfly cakes were the bomb diggerty."
"Made the best sponge cakes ever."
"I remember the shop, loved the cakes and pastries."
"If I remember correctly, they had great pies with peas and potatoes?"
Not only the workers enjoyed their lunches at the cake shop, but also the kids enjoyed a stop at Smith's either on the way to or from school. People also have fond memories of those who worked there: Mrs Smith, her daughter Desley and Shirley Walker.
"Musk sticks and ABBA cards on my way to school."
"I used to buy a bag of mixed lollies."
"Yes, I too remember Smith's Cake Shop. Mrs Smith's daughter lives in Casino. I also remember a wonderful woman called Shirley who worked for many years in Brunswick Heads."
"My Mum worked there for nearly 10 years."
According to Susan's research, at some stage thereafter, the oven made its way into the Empire Café, but by the time Luciano and Maria Toressi purchased the café in the mid 1980s the oven was no longer operational. It was resurrected when Luciano went ‘up the coast’ to learn from some Italian pizza shop owners how to make pizzas, then opened the first pizza shop in Mullumbimby.
"Really! Remember it well, worked there back in the day with Louis & Maria and Elsa! Awesome."
"That pizza oven paid my parents' house loan off and paid for a trip to Italy to see their family and a new car so it's a very sentimental item for me. When I look at it, we were the first pizza restaurant in Mullum, and my Dad was a bloody good pizza maker. Cheers to Marianne and Alex, I hope it has brought them as much love and happiness as it did for us."
We next find the oven in the Bangalow Bakery, but how and when it got there
remains a mystery.
In 2002 it returned to Mullumbimby when rescued by Seymour Walters of ‘Doughboy Bread’, who used it to make sourdough.
It finally ended up in the Main Arm Store when current owners, Marianne Dichiera (on the right in the photo) and her husband Alex, acquired the oven
from Seymour five years ago as part of a major update and upgrade of their
store. (Marianne also makes great pizzas).
The oven is a ‘Sterlec’ made in Australia, probably Melbourne, in the 1960s. Seymour describes it as a simple but efficient oven, a good workhorse. He remembers it having Bakelite switches.