Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Nosey takes an interest in finance

I had the day off work today to go to the RPAH Allergy Clinic in Camperdown. Thankfully tests showed that I wasn't allergic to cock.

Maybe that's why they call it a prick test. Tee hee hee.

Actually, 'cock' apparently refers to cockroach. I told them they should have splurged to get the extra letters added to the stamp.

Having the day off work meant I could finally accommodate the opening hours of the Newtown & Enmore Starr-Bowkett Co-Operative Building Society. You would have walked past this place, just opposite @Newtown, many times.

And maybe you've even stopped to look at these signs in the window.

I have long been intrigued by this place. They offer interest-free loans via a ballot system in return for paying a monthly fee to the co-operative, which you start paying even before your number has come up in the ballot. This seems to be an extremely novel and ye olde worlde way of obtaining a loan, which appeals to me greatly. Starr-Bowkett societies were started in 1862 by Thomas Edward Bowkett, a radical philanthropist and unionist who wanted to emancipate the working classes from the 'trickery and deception' of the loans schemes offered by 'artful money lenders'. Here here. In 1984, the Newtown-Enmore branch paid out more than a million dollars in ballots.

Now the Newtown-Enmore branch is the last one operating in Australia, but sadly, as they told me today, they're not accepting any new members. They're simply paying out the loans that are still in the ballot, and then closing down. Financial deregulation has squeezed them out of the market. It's a real shame, as you would think that in the current anti-bank climate, they could undergo a revival. Think of the PR opportunities in this:

In 70 years Starr-Bowkett societies in NSW have suffered a total loss of less than $4,000, and in 100 years of operation, the Newtown-Enmore Starr-Bowkett Societies have never had to call in a mortgage, as the personalised knowledge inherent in the Society has allowed repayments to be rescheduled to meet the member’s changed circumstances.

I've always thought when walking past this place, 'Gee, it's amazing that it's still going', so I guess I can't be too surprised that it's not. I once met a nun who said they were no longer accepting new members of her order; it would just end once all the existing nuns died. I often wonder about how that last nun would feel, having given her life to something that no-one wanted to replenish and that would have no legacy.

I feel the same kind of nostalgic hopelessness about the Starr-Bowkett place. Now every time I walk past the sign in the window I'll be wondering if it's the last ballot results which will ever be pinned up.

Quotes and info on Starr-Bowkett societies sourced from a paper here. Amazingly there is no Wikipedia entry on the subject.


suzysiu said...

Oh thank you! I, and those I have walked with, have been curious!

Karen said...

What is the thing that you did react to (not cock)?

Nosey in Newtown said...

It's hystamine, the control, so that's all fine. Turns out I have an intolerance for salicylates, but only when they're really concentrated, preserved or in combinations. They make me puff up and get hives in a most embarrassing fashion. Most recently when it happened, I was at work and Warren casually said to me, "Um. Your lips are really large".

Karen said...

But that is delicious tomatoes and aspirin right? I don't like it. What if you need to take aspirin?

Nosey in Newtown said...

It's just an intolerance, not an allergy, so it means that I only get a reaction when the salicylates are highly concentrated (like in chilli jam) or in combination (like with alcohol). Plus it will apparently come and go throughout my life. So fear not, dear Karen!

Anonymous said...

i on the other hand am allergic to 'cock' (maybe that explains why upon seeing a roach scutter under the cupboards i yell at the top of my lungs 'kill it kill it!' whilst tearing my forearms to a bloody mess). ugh. good there are no cockroaches in krakow. what makes me more itchy though is cat lick/ dog lick and mites. i like the fact that the testers have small amounts of dog lick in those tiny little allergy containers that the scraper goes into. these tests make me itch for two days. my lips also go itchy from tomatoes. but only the proper type that actually taste like tomatoes. no itch from steroid ones.
also it is a nice sentimental sigh to think that once the world of credit, had a human face.


Jason said...

I stumbled across your site from Cheeky Monkey transport where I bought my bicycle and I cycle to work every day - which happens to be at the Allergy Unit!
I am an IT geek there - so you probably didn't see me.
When I started there, I got a prick test and had a mild reaction to "cock"!
BTW the link you posted to the Allergy Unit is wrong. It should be

Have fun noseying around Newtown :-)

Nosey in Newtown said...

Thanks for the comment, Jason! And for the link.

I have to say that my experience at the Allergy Clinic was one of the best medical experiences I've ever had. The allergist entertained all my questions about how they get eau de dog hair in those little jars and about the clinic's regal-looking crest, plus all the staff seemed unfazed by the swarms of rampaging children everywhere you turned (which personally made me feel like I was perhaps allergic to children). I hope it's fun to work there.

Your comment has made me think I should post links to my favourite Newtown businesses, like Cheeky Monkey. Might do that right now!

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered about that building society and tried to remember its name to google once home.

*puff* five seconds later...

Benno said...

And now the Star-Bowkett building is being redeveloped:

And somewhat hilariously the DA directly quotes wikipedia, which in turn references this blog post... and now the circle is complete.