Blast from the past

6 02 2018

I was hunting around in the bottom of some kitchen drawers the other day when I found an unopened packet of foil trays. I have no idea why I never used them back in the day, but there they were — in all their 1980s??? glory! How on earth they’ve followed me from house move to house move is anyone’s guess! (I’ve moved houses at least seven times since 1982)

Dating them is difficult, but I took a stab at it based on the information on the packet and the 87c (!) price tag.

So, how to date them… First, I looked for clues in the words and images on the front and back of the packet, then the fonts used, and finally the price sticker.

The images showed some fairly classic dishes and images I associate with stylised depictions of Australian life from the 1960s through to the 1980s, and perhaps beyond — the Sunbeam Electric Frypan, the spindly 3-legged BBQ, the styles of food (jelly moulds or garlic bread, anyone?), the plastic mugs in the picnic set… The women’s hairstyles and clothing could be anything from the 1960s through the 1970s, but perhaps not into the big-hair days of the 1980s — they all look a little more staid than that.

The measurements are all metric, so this packet must have been produced after 1974 when Australia switched to the metric system. For a period of time (perhaps one to two years?), measurements were often provided in the old Imperial system as well as metric, but this packet only has metric measurements. So it’s definitely after 1974.

That very rounded font screams the late 70s/early 80s, to me. However, I don’t have any evidence as to what font it is, or when it was widely used.

The biggest clue was the price tag. After getting over the 87c these 5 trays cost me, I saw that I’d bought the packet from Coles. And Coles had kindly printed their logo on the price tag. After a bit of Googling, I found that that style of logo was prevalent in the early 1980s, but had gone by the late 1980s/early 1990s, and was completely gone by 1991. The Victoria Library has digitised quite a lot of the Coles Myer history, including many of the annual reports, all of which have a logo on them. Based on those reports and some searches for Comalco Alfoil ads on YouTube, I estimate I purchased this packet around 1982 or 1983.

As a retail brand, Comalco Alfoil basically isn’t known in Australia after about 1990 — at least, not according to the searches I did. However, they were big in the 1960s through to the late 1980s, according to some Google searches. Leigh-Mardon, the manufacturer of the packet, were still going until they went belly-up around 2017. (As an aside, ‘Leigh-Mardon’ rang a bell with me — I remembered they produced the barcodes we used on the books in the school library I ran back in the late 80s and early 90s!!)

The other brand, of course, is Coles. When I was a kid growing up in Western Australia, there was only one Coles store as far as I can recall, and that was the big emporium (not called a supermarket then) in the centre of Perth. We lived in the country, so as a kid, the big treat the few times we went to Perth was going to Coles Cafeteria for lunch! Coles supermarkets came much later to Western Australia, possibly in the 1970s? I’d have to hunt through some of those old annual reports to find out when.

So, with a little detective work, I’ve narrowed the time frame down quite a bit to probably somewhere between 1981 and 1984 (I was living in Canada in 1986, so it certainly wasn’t then).

Of course, the bigger question is why on earth I kept them all these years!