Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

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The Third Friday

 

above [1] La Porchetta above [2] La Trattoria below (A) Sofia's

Locations :

La Porchetta, 392 Rathdowne Street, Carlton [1]

La Trattoria, 406 Rathdowne Street, Carlton [2]

Sofia's 857 Burke Road, Camberwell (A)

Memories :

September, 2012 saw the twentieth anniversary of the famous Third-Friday lunches, so perhaps we might drift back in time and have a quick look at how they all started.

Way back in 1992, I was working on a contract at Telecom (the  new "Telstra" was still several months away) in Little Collins Street - nothing special insofar as the contract goes, but somewhat unusual as it was a comparatively rare assignment for me in the Central Business Directory.

Mike Spark was lecturing at R.M.I.T. and at some point we agreed to catch up for lunch one Friday at a pizza place on the corner of Elizabeth and Therry streets, just next to the shopping strip adjoining Victoria Market - Mike may remember the name of the place, but my forgettory has set in.

(As a matter of interest, the building appears to have been the first home of James McEwan & Co., then listed as ironmongers and metal merchants, later better known just as McEwan's in Bourke Street before being taken over by Bunnings around 1990. The site was a bank before being divided down the middle and the restaurant occupying the northern half - the dividing wall was removed after the restaurant closed and the entire building is now, horror of horrors, a McDonalds).

Lunch finished with "same time and place next month" - third time round I walked in and Mike was sitting with a tallish, grey gentleman who on closer examination turned out to be something called a David O'Connor, who I hadn't seen since probably fifteen years earlier when he headed off to the Middle East to fill a C.D.C. post.

The fourth month (I think August) saw the tradition begin in embryo form - Mike called on the Friday morning and said that the Elizabeth Street spot had closed, but to meet him outside R.M.I.T. on the corner of Elizabeth and La Trobe streets because he had somewhere else planned.

I'm not sure whether he mentioned whether he had someone else coming, but as I got into the lift in Little Collins Street, I bumped into Kevin Walsh who was working in the same building, and after I mentioned D.O'Ç. and explained where I was off to, he asked if could tag along.

We found Sparky and George Crawford on the corner and Mike mentioned a new place in Carlton called La Porchetta, so we after arming ourselves with a bottle red each, we piled into Mike's Fairlane and headed off.

The crunch came we arrived at La Porchetta and they wanted to charge (from memory) $2 a head for corkage (remembering a large pizza was only around six bucks at the time), so it was "up you for the rent" and we wandered a few doors up and found La Trattoria Ristorante E'Pizzeria.

All had a great time and I'm not sure whether we discussed it at the time, but George took on board the task of contacting a few others and the network started to spread - I should probably add that George at the time had an Aloe Vera franchise, so I suspect that after two or three minutes of extolling aloe vera in its various forms, the real question of "wanna come to lunch Friday?" was finally popped!

Or maybe it was the other way round.

But regardless of motive, George at that stage was the only one of us not working full time and it was his efforts that established the base for the remarkable history of the Third Friday.

La Trattoria  hosted us until around September or October, 1999.

I hadn't been for several months because of the Y2K rush, but was a bit surprised when George's monthly reminder revealed a move to La Porchetta - I don't recall whether he provided a reason in the email, but after making a special effort to get along, I found the La Trattoria building totally gutted and obviously under full renovation.

For around 13 years, I naively believed this was the reason for the move until the twentieth anniversary lunch in September, 2012 when Geoff Hipwell asked me to give a brief presentation on the history  to date.

I mentioned the move, only for someone with a bit of giggle to ask me the reason; although suspicious that this was a bit of a set-up, I mentioned that La Trattoria  had been closed and renovated, only to become rather more suspicious when there were one or two stifled laughs.

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Someone quietly mentioned a few minutes later that regardless of the renovation, the ex-Control Data crew had been told to take their business elsewhere due to some misbehavior of one or two that shall remain nameless (as long as their monthly cheque keeps arriving).

Regardless of the reason, the move would probably have happened anyway - La Trattoria's replacement, whilst they may have served pizza, went somewhat up-market and as La Porchetta had advantages of being cheap, BYO (with corkage by then a thing of the past) and capable of holding a reasonable number of people, especially for the pre-Christmas lunch, it was a logical choice - the assumption being, of course, that Carlton remained the suburb of choice.

Although there were great times for many years there, the twentieth anniversary lunch may have been the beginning of the end for La Porchetta - the service started to drop off dramatically (even to the point where Bob Jensen used his mobile to order coffee and after being  told that they didn’t do take-away, subtlety reminded them that we were the table of twelve down the back) and with no improvement after the management were told of our concerns, there was a quick round-table early in 2013 as to alternatives and a couple of people suggested Sophia's.

From Carlton to Camberwell seemed a quantum geographical shift, but with the majority of likely attendees now retired and no longer bound by work commitments to central Melbourne, a group of around eight of us decided on a trial run to check the food, service and convenience of the location.

The latter was of concern to me in Albert Park and reliant on public transport, but the reality is that it is a fraction quicker and less hassle to travel via Flinders Street with two lines serving Camberwell Station that to traverse through the city, and several others have found public transport a convenience.

Numbers-wise, the group has expanded from an average of maybe eight or nine in Carlton to probably 14-16 in Camberwell, although strangely enough, the 2013 Christmas lunch attracted only around 16 or 18 compared to upwards of thirty in previous years.

The lunches will probably continue until the last of us drops, and special mention must be made of the efforts of the late George, Geoff Hipwell and Bob Jensen have put in over more than twenty years to keep things running smoothly.

See you on the Third Friday of next month …