Chermy Butchers


In loving memory of George & Evelyn Lemke and George & Dora Lemke

"My earliest memories of the Butcher Shops started with my grandfather's shop on Gympie Road, probably around 1952. It was very exciting to be around the shop as it was always busy with lots of chatter, stories, jokes and laughter. As I became a little older, I used to fold newspapers which were used to wrap the meat and that was a good way to earn some pocket money. I also remember going with Dad and Grandpa to get a truckload of bamboo. There was a property around Zillmere/Geebung which had a huge clump of bamboo and they used to cut what they required and then this would be cut into skewers. These skewers were used to secure the rolled roasts. Eventually skewers were bought commercially. I loved school holidays as Dad would take me with him on the delivery run to the Wesley Mission Aged Care homes, and I quite often scored some treats from the Sisters in charge. I remember Dad's shop being built at Corrie Street and how happy and proud Dad must have been. Don Wilson first started as an apprentice with my grandfather, and then worked for Dad at Corrie Street until Dad's retirement." Ron Lemke

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"It seems like only last week when I'd visit Grandpa at his shop and house on Gympie Road, and when Dad opened up his shop in Corrie Street. I have very happy memories of Grandpa - he was always very patient and ever so wise. And the best treat of all for me was spending the afternoon and evening on Christmas Day with Grandma and Grandpa at their house, sitting on the big verandah around the "real" Christmas tree with all its simple trimmings, listening to Grandpa and Dad swap butcher shop yarns, and eating watermelon while overlooking the old horse sheds in the back yard.

I remember Dad taking Ron and I along with him during our school holidays in his famous blue Chevy truck on his delivery rounds to the nearby retirement villages and chatting with the kitchen staff across the huge kitchen benches about the cuts of meat, sausages and of course the weather." Margaret Mayhew (nee Lemke)

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"Watching and listening to Mum answer phone calls on the big old black telephone which had a handle and two connected calls to Grandpa's shop and one to Dad's shop. So this would have been in the late fifties when Grandpa still operated his shop on Gympie Road and Dad had opened his shop in Corrie Street. Sometimes when a call came through from a caller wanting to place their order, Mum would have to press one of the buttons and wind the handle to connect the caller to either Grandpa or Dad. After several unsuccessful turns of the handle Mum would quietly get a little frustrated as she knew that Grandpa and Dad would be giving their 100% attention to their respective customers who would just love to have a chat, or rather a gossip, to their friendly butcher. Eventually a successful connection would be made and Mum would gently replace the telephone receiver and hurrumph, say words to the effect of "Those jolly customers...I wish I could get as much attention as they do from your Father!" and quietly return to her ironing or cooking the evening meal. Oh the lot of the butcher's wife...and not to mention the boiling, washing and ironing of all those black and white striped aprons, white coats and shirts. But it was that telephone I distinctly was very high-tech for those days and the sounds of the winding handle and the ringing will stay with me forever. They were special days and Mum played a key role of course. In very fond memory of my Mum who was Dad's rock." Margaret Mayhew's memories of her mother, Dora's involvement as the Butcher's wife.

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I started working for George Lemke senior at the age of 15, in the old shop on Gympie Road and over the years we became very close friends.

How enjoyable it was working in a local butcher shop in those days even though the hours were long. One got to know many of the customers very well.

I remember that we made our own dripping by boiling up the suet in the wood fired copper in the back yard, pouring it into vats until it was set and then every Wednesday we would cut the dripping into one pound blocks and wrap in greaseproof paper. These sold like hot cakes.

Many customers bought their purchases on credit in those days.

Quite often I would listen to recitations of poetry composed by George Lemke senior who was fondly known as "Pop" to many people.

In 1960 I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to work for George Lemke junior after Pop retired. This was in the new shop up in Corrie Street.

I have many happy memories of working for two very fine men, Pop and George Lemke.

I was eventually given the opportunity of taking over the Corrie Street shop when George retired.
Don Wilson (originally an apprentice to the Lemkes' before taking over the Corrie Street shop)

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"Some of my earliest memories were visiting Uncle George's shop at Corrie Street at Chermside with Mum and Dad to pick up our meat supplies. Uncle George and Don wore dark blue and white striped aprons and they had great big knives that hung off their waists. I remember the sound of the steels they used to sharpen the knives. I never touched the knives but I am positive that they were razor sharp.

The floor and the shop were always cool when we arrived. Uncle George would be standing over the counter (he was so tall) and he always had time for a chat. He or Don would bring out the large meat carcasses, throw them around like a bag of potatoes, and dissect them on a cutting block in the middle of the shop. Then they'd wrap them up in white paper.

I remember that there was an old grey cash register but they didn't use it to add up the individual items - that was done on the white paper before wrapping up the meat. At the end of the sale they'd push a button and we'd hear a 'ting' sound. I knew then that it was almost time to go home because there was always that little bit extra piece of news to be shared before we left.

I must admit that I never made any connection between a sheep carcass and 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' which is just as well because I loved the roast mutton that we used to get from there - especially cold and on sandwiches the next day - Heaven!!" Kay Harding (nee Jackson)

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"I remember when I was young, going with my pop to deliver meat to the home of Auntie Mary and Uncle Alec Hamilton and Joan. Auntie Mary would go to her great big pantry and bring out cake tins full of baked surprises! I always liked going to the Butcher Shop and talking to Don - he was younger than my pop and uncle." Lynette Bodley (nee Jackson)

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A Butcher's Daughter Daughter Remembers

All the butchers wore striped aprons but Pop was the only one who wore a starched white coat as well.

Huge timber blocks (situated behind the front counter) where all the
Meat was cut up into the various cuts. Each afternoon the blocks were cleaned off meticulously using a sharp metal scraper.

Vats "out the back" where meat cuts were miraculously turned into "corn meat", and of course the machine which turned out the best sausages.

Happy atmosphere in the shop - jokes flew back and forth between customers and butchers.

At busy times (probably Fridays and certainly Saturday mornings) various ladies who lived close by came in to 'wrap' the meat - first the meat was placed on white paper then wrapped in newspapers - all set up on the counter ready to go. They also took the money and gave change.

As a child I was allowed to go with Pop on the horse and cart to deliver meat to customers in Chummy Town where a lot of English families settled. This area is now West Chermside.

Later on Saturday mornings I went with my brother George in his truck, travelling further afield and delivering meat to homes in Aspley, Zillmere, Geebung. We always stopped at the Aspley Post Office where we could buy soft drinks and biscuits. (Dads Cookies were one of the few brands of biscuits available during the war and we made short work of those packets).

Every night after tea Mum set herself up at the dining room table and glued all the ration coupons collected that day in the shop on to plain sheets of paper. This happened during the war and for a time afterwards.

Mum was always ready to administer home first aid etc. when any of the butchers' hands came in contact with their ever sharp knives. Bandages were always kept in the house for this purpose

Gwen Jackson (nee Lemke)
Daughter of George Edward Lemke

History of the Chermside Butcher Shop

Photo taken in 1909 showing Conradi's Butcher Shop and residence on the west side of Gympie Road near Sparkes Street. (Hamilton Photo Collection)

Corner Sparkes Street and Gympie Road, Chermside

First butcher shop 1890's Opened by Daw and Slack
2nd butcher shop 1899 + George Conradi
3rd butcher shop 1912 + George Edward Lemke & Jack Frederick Lemke
1929+ Jack Frederick Lemke
1930 George Edward Lemke
1960 Site sold to the Shell Company

The first butcher shop was opened near the Sparkes Street corner by Daw and Slack in the 1890's. It had an open front enabling easy inspection of the meat.

George Conradi was the next owner.

Conradi's butcher shop - 1909, with residence beside the shop
Photo courtesy of The Chermside and Districts Historical Society archives

George Edward Lemke* worked for his brother-in-law George Conradi before he, together with his brother Jack bought the business. In 1912 a new shop was built on the site. The shop had an ice box cooler until a diesel powered cold room was installed. The site was sold to the Shell Company on 17 May 1960.

In a survey at the beginning of 1973 over 250 businesses were counted in the Chermside area, including 7 butchers.

The Family Tree

Standing on the wooden steps of the shop the butcher on the left is Jack or George Lemke and on the right is Vic Bunkum. The shop is open fronted with carcasses hanging, sheep on the left and beasts on the right. (Photo courtesy David Teague)

* George Edward Lemke was one of 5 children born to a Pioneering Family of the Albany Creek area, William and Wilhelmina Lemke. George was a butcher. Evelyn Elizabeth Bunkum, the youngest daughter of William and Selina Bunkum, married George Edward Lemke on 3 April 1915. They had two children, George and Gwen.

GEORGE (Jnr) b. 19/7/1918 - married Dora Emmerson

3 children:
Heather b.1942 m. Ian Dineley (children William and Elizabeth)
Ron b.1947 m. Carmel Kelly (children Adrian m. Felicity Galvez; and Rowan)
Margaret b.1950 m. Geoff Mayhew (child Martin m. Danielle Carter - children Samuel and Zachary)

GWEN b. 29/10/1931 - married Ian Jackson

3 children:
Kay b.1956 m. Robert Harding (child Ryan)
Lynette b.1960 m. Peter Bodley
Brett b.1963 m. Mary Haworth (children Kirsty and Tamara)

Evelyn Bunkum was sister to George Conradi's wife, May. At one time George worked for his brother-in-law, George Conradi who owned the butcher shop near Sparkes Street, Chermside from 1899. Later George Edward Lemke and his brother Jack bought the shop and were the third owners of the first butcher shop in Chermside. The shop was on the second block south along Gympie Road from Sparkes Street.

Gympie Road

At the turn of the century, Gympie Road only occupied part of the area set aside for it. The rest had grass, small bushes and a few large trees on it. It remained a nightmare in wet weather until the Kedron Shire Council built it up with material from Sam Maundrell's quarry at Aspley. The wet weather problem was solved but this material was extremely dusty in dry weather and became a problem with the increase in motor traffic. One woman remarked to Jack Lemke, the butcher, 'Isn't it a dusty day?' Lemke replied, 'Yes, it is dusty. Why the dust is blowing the wind away.' This problem was solved when the road was bitumen surfaced in 1924.

In approx 1937, George Edward Lemke had his home built on the Gympie Road site next to the butcher shop.

This photo taken from the east side of Gympie Road over the tram tracks enclosed by twin rose beds. The Lemke home was on the corner of Sparkes Street from 1937.

Sparkes Street House

Photo of the extended Lemke family was taken in 1973 at the original Sparkes Street home. L to R: Kay Jackson, Carmel Lemke (nee Kelly), Ron Lemke, Ian Jackson, Brett Jackson (front), George Lemke, Geoff Mayhew, Margaret Mayhew (nee Lemke), Dora Lemke (nee Emmerson) and Gwen Jackson (nee Lemke).

Before this time, the Lemke family lived in a lowset house in Sparkes Street.
This house was later raised.

A Family Affair

George Lemke's business card. These were becoming popular at the time and two characters were popular figures on many cartoons.

As in many family businesses, George's wife Evelyn helped with the butcher shop in a variety of ways. Their son, George William Lemke, at around the age of 14 commenced work in his father's butcher shop. He would deliver the meat by horse and cart to outlying farms and he often talked fondly about taking the horses down the road to be shod at Vellnagel's opposite Marchant Park. His fondness for horses rapidly changed after receiving a nasty kick to the back of the head. Also, Gwen their daughter helped with some deliveries, so it was a family affair.

An advertisement in the short lived Chermside Gazette or 1953

George William Lemke told the story of a prank he and his mates played on the local pie-man at the Dawn Theatre. The pie-man used to tie his horse and cart to the front fence of the house next door to the theatre and sell pies at interval and after the movies had finished. While the movies were being shown he would go inside to watch the movies. George and his mates noticed this after a while and one night, while the pie-man was inside the theatre, they sneaked out, unhitched the horse from the cart, took the horse through the front gate and re-hitched it to the cart on the other side of the fence. They took great delight in watching the pie-man in his predicament.

Vic Conradi

Photo taken in 2007 showing the house in Shorncleffe where Vic Conradi lived while he operated a local butcher's business.

Vic Conradi, George Conradi's youngest son b.1913 also worked in the family butcher shop, before opening his own shop at Shorncliffe. From here he delivered meat all over the Redcliffe Peninsula pedalling a push-bike to do so.

The site of Vic Conradi's butcher shop on the corner of Pier Avenue and Yuandah Street, Shorncliffe.

Thomas Victor Bunkum

Vic Bunkum (1873-1932), butcher with his meat delivery cart.

Thomas Victor (Vic) Bunkum also worked for a time for George Lemke. Before this he operated a butcher shop at Newmarket in the early 1900s. Tragically, in 1932, while Vic was delivering meat to a resident along Gympie Road during a storm, he touched a power line which had fallen across the property, and was electrocuted. At the time of Vic's death, all power lines were bare metal. As a result, a move was made to have all wiring, from the power pole to the consumer's home insulated.

Vic Bunkum's Butcher's Shop at Newmarket. The photo is dated about 1910 and shows a closed in shop rather than the open front of earlier times. The one sided weather board wall with external studs is clearly shown as is the common transport of the day.

Corrie Street Butcher's Shop

The Corrie Street Butcher Shop opened by George William Lemke to service the large new housing development in that area.

In the mid to late 1950s, George William Lemke opened his own butcher shop in Corrie Street, Chermside. Through his hard work, honest reputation and great personality George William Lemke quickly attracted a following of loyal customers.

From 1953, the Queensland Housing Commission owned a large portion of land, including the land where the Corrie Street Butcher Shop was built. Searches with Brisbane City Council have revealed that the following building applications were lodged in relation to the Corrie Street property:

Application No. Type of Approval Date of Approval
6724B Butcher's shop 15 December 1953
6944G Shop Addition 18 August 1960
586-75 Extensions to Butcher's Shop 09 April 1975

Over the years, several people were employed at one or both butcher shops. Don Wilson was one who worked for George Edward Lemke and George William Lemke for many years. Don started his apprenticeship with George Edward Lemke in approximately 1957 at the Gympie Road shop, and then moved to the Corrie Street butcher shop. He later took over this shop and worked until 1987. Ron Smith also worked for 'Pop' Lemke before becoming a Methodist minister.

Time change and while the shop is still in place the function has changed. Now it operates more as a traditional 'corner store'.

Old Gympie Road Changes

In 1960, the front block and butcher shop of the Gympie Road property was sold to the Shell Oil Company. Cars were the new popular means of private transport; they needed petrol and oil.

The old familiar face of Gympie Road was going to change with the disappearance of the traditional Butchers shops. They would be replaced with Supermaket shelves of meat all carefully packaged, weighed, priced and ready to go to the check out.

George Edward Lemke is leaving the shop where he spent his working life. It provided him and his family with a good life, but the time has come.

The butcher's shop was a family business with the owner living on the job and now the owner is going to retire.

Finally he closes the door, the old life is over and a new one about to begin.

George Edward Lemke passed away in March 1964.

New Gympie Road Appears

After the sale to the Shell Company, the Lemke family home was moved to the block behind in Sparkes Street. The Butcher shop was demolished and replaced with a Shell Service Station which extended to the corner of Sparkes Street.

The family business has been replaced with an international company controlled from somewhere on the other side of the world. It is owned by thousands of shareholders and employs, or leases the business to, local people.

The stream of customers walking into the old butcher's shop was replaced with a stream of thirsty automobiles coming in to be filled up.

The changes continue and the service station gives way to the automobile spare parts industry. What will the next change be?

In more recent years, the land was sold to Supercheap Auto, another very large company which employs local people on wages.

Geoge William Lemke Retires

In 1970 George William Lemke retired and left his Corrie Street butcher shop in Don Wilson's capable hands. After this time, George returned to butchering on a casual basis. He was in great demand managing shops or relieving staff. He also enjoyed working as a TAFE instructor to apprentice butchers.

Also in 1970 George and family moved to the Lemke family home at Sparkes Street, Chermside, from their home at 688 Gympie Road (corner of Wallace Street) Chermside.

Sadly, George William Lemke passed away in January, 2004.

George W Lemke's house at 688 Gympie Road on the corner of Wallace Street.

The house in Sparkes Street where the Lemke family lived for many years. The photo was taken in 1998 not long before the house was demolished or moved.