“Do you remember when…?” The beginning of so many conversations about Whiteman’s Department Store. It was the site that created many memories for many people in Camden, and with the many changes occurring it is a treasure trove of the old town.
Do you remember when Whiteman’s opened? Perhaps the most iconic Camden business, it was started by two brothers, George Spencer and Charles Thomas Whiteman in 1878 as a farm produce store. It would pass through four Whiteman generations and employ many Camden residents. Whiteman’s quickly became the heart of the town. The stores originality and longevity added to it being not only the “centre of Camden’s business activity” but also as “a meeting place where friendships were made and sustained” (Wrigley, 2007).
Do you remember when the staff at Whiteman’s were a “happy family”? Andrew Whiteman recalls how his family took pride in the long association with staff, who would work there for many years. Pauline Hamer, one of the many long time employees, remembers Mr. Whiteman, whose hallmark was with fairness and concern for his staff (Walker, 2007). It was a common feature for longtime staff to teach and nurture the new additions with patience and care. Joy Faulkner recalls, on her first day in 1958, that although leaving home with plenty of time, she found herself waiting at the wrong door. Once finally let in, Keith Whiteman remarked with a friendly smile, “you are late”(Walker, 2007).
Do you remember when Whiteman’s closed? In 2000, after 122 years in operation, Whiteman’s closed its doors for the last time. Judy Whiteman recalls in an oral history interview that it was a big shock to her, and a shock to everyone in Camden. “It’s always been Whiteman’s”, she recalls with a distinct fondness. Although the store closed, the arcade is still affectionately called Whiteman’s Arcade. During the 2007 renovations, the street level had many original features restored and images of the old facade added on tiles as a tribute to the buildings heritage. With all the development happening in Camden, and with new business ventures and stores coming every year, who knows what will be followed by those nostalgic words, “do you remember when…?”
Whiteman, J. (2009). Oral history interview with Penny Sexton.
Walker, G. (2007) Memories of Whiteman’s. Thirlmere, N.S.W.: C. Davies.
Wrigley, J. (13.07.2007) Memories of Whiteman’s department store.