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Cafe Society...

By the late 1930s more cafes and takeaways had opened in Darwin. One of the most famous in the pre-war period was ‘Zero in the Tropics’ owned by the Kafkaloudis family. Jacquie O’Brien remembers:

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Yes, Zero in the Tropics was a building which was at the corner of Cavenagh and Bennett Street and Zero in the Tropics is renowned for having the first ice cream ever in the Territory – in the Northern Territory. I remember that the type of ice cream first was like a cylinder block of ice cream which was covered or coated in chocolate and they were wrapped up in a waxy type of paper. They were called – oh I can’t remember, anyhow, they had the first ice cream; it was a tremendous treat.

Apart from selling actually ice cream from the shop he used to have a little pony cart from which – he made the ice cream in an ice cream churn and we used to buy threepenny cones off him from the ice cream cart as we came out of the school grounds.

[Northern Territory Archives Service NTRS 226, TS 98 and NTRS 219 TP 256, Jacqueline O’Brien]

After the war the Commonwealth had plans to rebuild the city of Darwin differently. In the end, these plans did not eventuate, but in the meantime, leases were only offered short-term and the economy was slow to pick up. Lou Stewart, who became President of the Darwin Housewives’ Association was particularly enterprising. She recalled in 1949:

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Zero in the Tropics café, Darwin, 1943

Joe’s Snack Bar, Darwin, n.d. c.1950s

Family and guests, Chin wedding, Oriental Café, Darwin, n.d. c.1960s

My bakehouse and house had been bombed. There was a derelict house just alongside the railway line near Daly Street bridge. We had to put up blankets for the walls. I settled the children in and my eldest daughter and I went to town and leased a restaurant caravan that was on the ground between Smith and Mitchell Street. There I sold hot pies and pasties and sandwiches, tea and coffee. I would cook them at home and take them down to the store.

[Northern Territory Archives Service NTRS 226, TS 123/1 and NTRS 219, TP 319, Lou Stewart]

During the 1950s more cafes opened up in Darwin. Some of the newer immigrants to Australia and Darwin brought the new treats of coffee and continental cakes. They also saw the potential of changes in technology would bring to life in the tropics. Lucy and Steve Entner made an innovation in 1954 that soon all cafes and eating places in Darwin would follow to this day:

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We started out in the Kool-A-Bar, we shifted to the Knickerbocker… It was the first air-conditioned lunch in Darwin, our place was first air-conditioned lunch in Darwin…

And some local people warn us we will lose business because people doesn’t like air-conditioning. It’s not very healthy, and like that, but I proved it, it’s wrong. They were absolutely wrong…

At least thirty per cent more business…

[Northern Territory Archives Service NTRS 226, TS 724 and NTRS 219, TP 890, Lucy and Steve Entner]

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