Shark StoriesThe Woy Woy area had no supermarkets or anything like that when I was a kid there — no large multi-purpose shops at all, in fact. All the shops were clustered together on the main street of each of the main shopping centres — Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina, and Gosford — and you bought fruit at the fruit shop, meat at the butcher’s, hardware at the hardware store, bread at the baker’s, shoes at the shoe shop, newspapers at the newsagents, etc. The fruit shops were open to the street, with stands of fruit you could touch and walk around; the butcher shops all had sawdust floors and shiny chrome railings around the counter at (adult) thigh height to rest your shopping bags on; behind the counter men in white and blue aprons and work overalls handled the meat and ran the various saws, etc. You typically went shopping — and returned with the shopping bags — on the bus (and, of course, you used your own (usually string) shopping bags…). Each smaller community (e.g. Booker Bay) typically also had a corner shop or something similar where you could buy small amounts of most items, including hardware; these were usually open later than the main street shops (e.g. to 8pm rather than 5.30pm). As with most of the rest of Australia, shops never opened on Sundays, closed at 2pm on Saturdays, and usually closed at 5.30pm (or maybe 6pm) on weekdays (pubs closed at 10pm).
Alternatively, at least in the early days I can remember, some of the local grocers would come around once or twice a week to each street with open flat-bed trucks of produce ready-to-sell; if you were a known regular customer, they would visit your house directly, or you could phone them up and have them visit the next time they were in the area. Mr Soloman used to do the local stuff for where we lived — and my mother would often enough buy vegetables and fruit direct from his truck once a week (for me, Mr Soloman was a cheerful and endless source of shark attack stories, local kids’ gossip, folklore, etc.).
Sharks were common mythical currency for us kids in Woy Woy – at least two people I knew (Barry the milkman and someone else whose name I can’t remember) had actually been attacked by sharks in the area (and had amazing scars to prove it), and you could occasionally see the odd shark swimming off Ocean Beach. A dead shark once washed up on the beach in front of our house -- a smallish (2m?) grey thing with gashes along its side. Since we all swam constantly at Ocean Beach or in front of the house, shark stories were very real, and I’ve never quite got over the sudden terror you feel when you’re swimming or on a board and you see a shadow pass below you.