Fruit still dancing after nearly 70 years


An original 1950s mural was uncovered at Bells Milk Bar during lockdown renovations and the ‘dancing fruit’ was as fresh as ever.

“We took the ceiling panels off for painting and we could see the tops of the murals,” said Jason King, the owner of Bells.

“The previous owners, Les and Mavis Bell, had just put a new gyprock wall over it.”

“They didn’t use any glue but screwed it straight to the existing wood.”

Mr King believes that the mural was boarded up because the milk bar had no insulation.

“Behind the wooden wall was a storage room with tin walls and there was a high tin ceiling,” he said.

“When they put a suspended ceiling in, it changed the height of the walls and the top of the mural couldn’t be seen so it was covered over.”

The original ‘dancing fruit’ mural was painted by Mrs Lenore Andrews, an art teacher at Broken Hill High School in 1950, when Don Mudie was a student there.

“She was Lenore Bate and came to Broken Hill and married a Broken Hill man, who was also a high school teacher,” he said.

Mr Mudie recalls parking his motorcycle out the front of Bells with his apprentice mates and he says he remembers the shop’s colourful interior.

“I remember having milkshakes at Bells in the early 1950s and seeing the original murals,” he said.

“The refrigerator where they served you, behind the counter, was painted a bright orange.”

The owner at the time, Les Bell Junior, added his own colour to Patton Street.

“He was a very good roller skater and cyclist,” said Mr Mudie.

“He’d go up Patton St on one wheel.”

“Les was quite a lively type of chap.”

His fawn-coloured Jaguar car was a highlight on Patton Street.

“It was a Mark V, with the number plate LB 879.

“LB stood for Les Bell.”

The amusement continued at Bells throughout the decades and Bruce Kerr painted the current mural above the counter in 1972, with an alien, and painted a copy of the original mural.

Mr King was able to uncover the original mural because of a state grant to refresh the existing mural and expose the original one.

“I’d always thought about it but it was not until lockdown that I could take that gamble and it paid off,” he said.

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