Big Cans of Sydney

Summer in the Sydney suburbs brings still hot days and long afternoons when the hours seem to move slowly in the humid air. On the hottest of days there can seem to be little respite, and the only thing that might offer some relief is a cool drink from the Mixed Business on the corner, a big BIG drink.

img_7716

Of all advertisements Coca Cola’s are the most ubiquitous, decorating the awnings and walls of almost every corner store that ever was. They’re so pervasive that it’s easy for the eye to skim over them, and usually mine do, although there’s something stoic about these big cans that captures my attention. Here, stranded above an ex-corner store in Summer Hill that now sells bodybuilding supplements, is one such big can, still advertising the “Mixed Business” that was once below. As I look at it I imagine a giant lumbering up Old Canterbury Road, thirsty, reaching out to wrench the can off the side of the building …

Over in Maroubra is another Big Can, on a long-shuttered Mini Mart. The white cord leading down from it makes me wonder whether the can once lit up at night. While the big cans are familiar to me, I have no memory of seeing them softly glowing atop the awnings when I was a child in the 80s, surely the era of the Big Can.

img_7737

Other big cans have been repurposed, such as this one on Booth Street in Annandale, now promising pizza, a somewhat less enticing proposition when available in a can. The pizza shop is on the corner has turned into a chicken shop these days, which means it probably, unlike the examples above, sells Coca Cola.

img_7754

Sydney’s most famous Coke sign is, of course, the one that has been at the top of William Street since 1974, and was recently restored. When it was taken down off the wall in 2015, some obscure painted shapes were revealed. These were discovered to be the remains of a 1973 artwork by Roger Foley, a.k.a. Ellis D Fogg, who had been commissioned to “project images of moving liquids” on the wall.

dsc07806

Some preferred this to the Coke sign, but now the sign is restored to its previous intensity, its neon glow a beacon to those approaching from the west. Some of Coca Cola’s other initiatives – such as the 1996 Coca Cola Quayside museum at Circular Quay, have been less enduring. For the $5 entry you could drink as much Coca Cola as you wanted at the “Fountain of Drinks”, discover the history of the beverage and buy trinkets from a gift shop in the shape of a Coke bottle. There is scant information about this short-lived museum online, although this 1996 review from Architecture Australia provides an arch overview of the experience:

The museum’s content is equally straightforward and presents an almost fetishistic, single-minded focus on the product. Its manufacturing and marketing history fills a sequence of handsome ash-veneered showcases, whilst aurally and visually dominating the centre of the museum is the video wall—showing, to the irritating accompaniment of an animated narrator who ensures that our attention span is limited to 30 seconds, the history of Coke and its advertisements against a backdrop of 20th century events—war, sport and pop music predominate.

coca-cola-quayside-genuine-russell-yoyo-rare-_1

Buy a souvenir yo-yo from Coca Cola Quayside.

Back in the present, I am on the search for more Big Cans as I travel around the suburbs. Last night was the hottest on record, and summer is far from over. I will need some big refreshment to get me through.

img_0917

Update: some additional Big Cans of Sydney, thank you Kirsten Seale for tipping me off about the Kingsgrove Can:

img_7784

And Kylie for the Bexley Can:

img_7798

Advertisements

12 Comments on “Big Cans of Sydney”

  1. joannekarcz says:

    Love this look at suburban Sydney. Not knowing about the BIG cans I didn’t even see the one when I discovered Summer Hill for my blog recently. I’ll be looking out for them on future suburban discoveries. Thanks for a new insight.

  2. jml297 says:

    It is amazing what you see when you look up, and I particularly enjoyed the repurposed big can – such a lot of effort to mark its original branding. And the big ice cream at the end was perfect! Thanks for offering a different perspective with humour 😊

  3. Tim says:

    Where is that large Picnic located?

  4. Matt Devine says:

    LOVE your work Vanessa!

  5. sydneypk says:

    Nice one again Vanessa. I fondly remember the Coke museum even though I don’t drink a drop. Looking forward to your next publication. PK >

  6. Andrew Chau says:

    Intriguing snippet into the changes of shop fronts and advertising!
    I saw a giant can in Arncliffe opposite the station, never noticed it until you wrote about them!

  7. Geoff Moulds. says:

    Hi,Great Reading.I Was Looking For More Info On Quayside When I Found Your Article.My Friend Has One Of Those Large Cans In His Coca Cola Collection At Cooma


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s