Archive for September 28th, 2009


Woolworths was started in Sydney, December 6th, 1924 (85th anniversary coming up soon!)by Percy Christmas, who was born in Kiama and son of the local Bank manager, Robert Christmas, (and grandfather Charles Christmas) and his wife Mary Caroline King

The Kings are a very well known family around Kiama, even today, and include such respectable members such as Alexander King. J.P. (farmer, storekeeper and magistrate)and Moses King (Mary’s grandfather) and her sister Ada King, who married Sir George Fuller who went on to be Premier of NSW and therefore Percy Christmas’ uncle.

Here is the entry for Mary Caroline King.

Her father was Alexander King (Not surprisingly an Ulster Protestant born in Armagh)and her mother Margaret Marks.

Here is the Christmas family tree (well-decorated I am sure)

Percy was the eldest, with two brothers (Raymond and Cecil) and two sisters (Kath and Florence). Percy was born ‘Harold Percival Christmas’ on 5 May 1884 at Kiama, New South Wales. He was educated at educated at Neutral Bay Public School and in 1898-99 at Sydney Church of England Grammar School. His father was Robert Christmas and his mother Mary Caroline King and his grandfather was Charles James Christmas.
Here is the bank (now Westpac Kiama) where his father Robert Chritsmas was manager from 1881 to 1883.
City bank 1874
and here are notes about his tenure!
R Christmas appointed manager 1881

and in 1883
R Christmas dismissed 1883
The Australian Online biography has this to say:

“CHRISTMAS, HAROLD PERCIVAL (1884-1947), retailer, was born on 5 May 1884 at Kiama, New South Wales, eldest son of Robert Christmas, bank clerk and later manager, and his wife Mary Caroline, née King.”

This section is from

“Woolworths opened its first store, the Woolworths Stupendous Bargain Basement, in the old Imperial Arcade in Pitt Street, Sydney, on 5 December 1924. Its nominal capital was just £25,000 and although 15,000 shares were offered to the public, only 11,707 shares were subscribed for by 29 people, including the five founders – Percy Christmas, Stanley Chatterton, Cecil Scott Waine, George Creed and Ernest Williams. One of the foundation investors was Preston Lanchester Gowing, the then chairman of Gowings.”
Here is an article and a picture of the original basement!
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“However, according to Ernest Robert Williams, Percy Christmas dared him to register the name Woolworths instead, which he succeeded in doing after finding out the name was available for use in New South Wales. Accordingly, Woolworths Ltd in Australia has no connection with the F.W. Woolworth Company in the United States.

The new Woolworths store was innovative; it was the first variety store in the world to use cash registers that print receipts for customers.”

Why does Woolworths have the red and white lettering in its logo?
" In 1928 he opened a second branch in Pitt Street, and introduced the distinctive red and white uniform for shop assistants who knew him as 'Father Christmas!' "
Red and white are the colours of Father Christmas!

There is a great history of early Woolworths here
ScreenHunter_02 Sep. 28 12.58
and also a book called ‘The Woolworths Way’ a great Australian success story 1924-1999
by James Murray also exists.
“The founders of Woolworths Limited were Harold Percival Christmas, Stanley Edward
Chatterton, George William Percival Creed, Ernest Robert Williams and Cecil Scott Waine.
Percy Christmas and Stanley Chatterton had opened a first-floor Frock Salon in the Queen Victoria
Markets (now the Queen Victoria Building) at the corner of Market and George Streets, Sydney.
The business named S.E. Chatterton Ltd was soon successful and making a handsome profit so
Scott Waine, a partner in the chartered accountancy firm of C. Scott Waine & Mitchell, joined
them to attend to the financial side.
By 1924 it was obvious that the premises of S.E. Chatterton were too small and another branch
seemed the solution. Chatterton and Christmas were offered portion of the basement of
Imperial Arcade currently occupied by the newspaper, ‘Smith’s Weekly’ and a billiard saloon.
The floor was on several levels and the atmosphere unsuitable for a retail business however
property was offered for a 41/2 years’ lease at a weekly rental of £42/10/- ($85) equivalent
32¢ per sq. ft. per annum so they decided to lease it despite its unsuitability for Chattertons.”

Here is an account of the first opening of Woolworths Stupendous Bargain Basement!
ScreenHunter_04 Sep. 28 13.03<
"On Friday, 5th December, 1924, Woolworths
Stupendous Bargain Basement opened for
business in Sydney’s Imperial Arcade. The
opening advertisement said: ‘Every city needs
a Woolworths: Sydney has it now. Every man,
woman and child needs a handy place where
good things are cheap.’
At 9am it seemed that every man, woman
and child was waiting for the roll-up wooden
doors of the store to open. Queues at the two
entrances stretched out of the Imperial
Arcade and along Pitt and Castlereagh Street.
Inside all was ready. Staff had been at work
since 6.30 am. Stock was piled high on the
dark wooden counters, held in at the front by
wire netting and separated by wooden
The doors went up and the crowds poured
down the two narrow stairways. Some,
unhappily, went over the banisters.
Ventilation was poor, it was a hot December
day, and very soon customers were fainting
and the lunchroom had to be converted to a
casualty station.
There were bargains galore. Cup, saucer and plate, usually 2/6 (25¢), only 9d (8¢); cut glass
engagement rings 2/- (20¢); on the sixpenny (5¢) counters were scrub brushes, jars of Vaseline,
vegetable shredders and all over Sydney people were carrying straw brooms. They were a special
at 1/- (10¢) – unwrapped."
Harold Percival Christmas’ obituary notice in the Sydney Morning Herald June 20th, 1947.
ScreenHunter_01 Sep. 28 16.17
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On a further ‘Christmas and Kiama’ note there was the well known Jamberoo illustrator Jack Waugh who did a well-known Arnotts ad for the Australian Women’s Weekly that was reproduced a number of times



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