No milk today…

Thuy and Long in their Surrey Hills milkshop
Thuy and Long in their Surrey Hills milkshop

Arriving in Darwin on board a fishing boat in 1977, Long Bahn made his way to Adelaide where he was to meet his future wife, Thuy (pron. “Tee”) Cao. Thuy too had escaped Vietnam by boat. She had lived for a time in a Thai refugee camp but finally, in 1978, flew to the safety of Australia, landing in Adelaide. In 1980 Long and Thuy travelled to Melbourne where Long obtained a position on RMIT’s technical staff – a position he held until 1996. Thuy was a factory worker until their first child, Vincent, was born in 1982, followed by Lynette, in 1985.

From 1987 they had milk bar businesses in South Melbourne, Blackburn North, Richmond and finally the Milk Bar/General Store in Surrey Hills in December 1995. In October 2017 they farewelled the neighbourhood they’d loved and felt a part of for 22 years: the school children who dropped by on their way home from school for a bag of lollies or an ice-cream; nearby residents who’d regularly buy milk, the newspaper, a greeting card, or a forgotten grocery item for that night’s dinner.

After working seven days a week from 7am–9pm, Long and Thuy retired to a more relaxed lifestyle enabling them to worship at the Temple on Sundays, be with their grandchildren, and later on have a holiday together. For the past 30 years their short holidays have been taken separately with one person remaining to run the shop.

Since arriving in Australia as refugees 40 years ago, Long and Thuy worked very hard and all their customers thank them for their kindness and friendship and wish them a long, happy and healthy retirement. The “boys” in the Red Brick Cafe put on a lovely afternoon tea for Thuy and Long.

When the doors closed in October 2017 it marked the end of an era of there being a Milk Bar/General Store on the corner of Mont Albert Road and Wells Street for nearly 100 years. Over that time, there have been various traders including a butcher, fruiterer, grocer, post office and interior decorator occupying the three shops at 215- 219 Mont Albert Road; a café/coffee shop continues to trade at number 215. In the near future, apartments will be built on the 217-219 site. The popular Red Brick café will remain, as will the heritage-listed verandah, fronting both the café and the former Milk Bar/General Store.

With assistance from Susan Quarterman