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Elijah Thomas & Hannah Louise Gray
Melbourne Businessman of the early 20th century
Submitted by Scott Brown


From The Southern Cross News, Prahran, Victoria - Letters to the Editor March 1980.

The City of St Kilda, is I believe, one in which under today's standards of living tends to highlight somewhat "short term" achievements in community activities.
I beg leave to draw to your notice, many years of business and active community involvement by one of the "older" families in this area which is coming to a close.
My reference is to the Thomas family who have for as long as I can remember (back to 1930's) conducted E.Thomas Pty. Ltd., Mercers and Men's Wear in Fitzroy Street. If my memory serves me rightly, it was established by Elijah Thomas in Grey Street. This gentleman was a distinguished figure in the community, known by his waxed moustache, furled umbrella and cane, perfectly dressed wearing at all times a black bowler hat, truly one to be respected.
The tailoring side of the business was for many years carried out by his son H.B. (Harry) a local Justice of the Peace, most active in St Kilda Community Welfare.
The family, father and sons, Harry and Franklin, were with their families very active members of the Methodist Church congregation.
There is a St kilda landmark tucked away in Enfield Street, "Restormel" owned until recently by the family which could be related to St Kilda's history. I do not know any of it's history but I'm sure it would prove interesting.
Many of the Thomas family are leaving St Kilda, I believe this is regrettable and their past is worthy of note.
K.N.G. Rial,
Parkdale.

From The Southern Cross, Wednesday March 5 1980

END OF AN ERA FOR FAMILY SHOP
It's a brand new shop in Fitzroy St, St Kilda. The name "E.Thomas" is painted on the window where on display is an elegant hand tailored suit and some shirts, socks and ties. The year is 1920. There have been a few changes over the sixty years that led up to 1980. Members of the Thomas family have carried on the business in the same vein as the founder, selling hand tailored suits, shirts and accessories.
Over the years the window displays have been created with the same artistic care - fashions have altered , of course, and prices - where once the tag on a suit was four guineas, it would be $200 or more now.
However, at the end of this week it will be all over.
The window will be bare. Inside the shop the shelves and fittings will be empty, the wooden models nude.
The Thomas family has decided the business has served St Kilda well for 60 years and the time has come for retirement.
The shop and dwelling, designed all those years ago by the late Sir John Monash, have been sold.
Elijah Thomas came from England in the early part of the century and started his tailoring business in Fitzroy Street, opposite the St Kilda Park School. he moved from there to Grey Street where he remained until the shop at 107 Fitzroy Street was built with two upper floors which were the home for him and his wife and two sons, Harry and Franklin, and daughter Elaine.
The boys were well trained by their father. Harry learnt the tailoring trade and Franklin the shop management, window dressing and sign painting.
They both married and had families and on many occasions some of the children may have been seen in the shop earning their pocket money by serving on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings.
Franklin, now in his 70's, still helps in the shop. His wife a tailoress has also been involved, and his sister Elaine Wale does the books.
Harry continued to do the tailoring until a year before his death in 1978. His widow, Dulce, still calls into the shop each day.
Their daughter Shirley and her husband Roy Neal came into the business more than 20 years ago and with Franklin have carried on until today.
"The decision to sell was given a great deal of thought," Mrs Neal said.
She said some of the customers have been coming to the shop for 50 years.
"So many people who come into the shop have become not just customers, but real friends," Mrs Neal said.
[The article was accompanied by a photo of Roy and Shirley Neal and a copy of the original E.Thomas Letterhead.]


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Last modified: May 20, 2006