Sunday History Photo / NSW

Submitted: Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 07:02
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Harry ‘Tiger’ Edwards operated a pie cart at Woolloomooloo just before WWII, taking advantage of custom from the navy dockyards. He enlisted in 1938, was invalided out in 1942, then returned with his pie caravan in 1945. Famous for its pie and peas, Harry’s Cafe de Wheels was patronised by sailors and celebrities, prostitutes and late-night revellers. The original caravan is now in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.


While 1938 is claimed as the establishment date for Harry’s pie enterprise, an entry in The Digger’s Scrapbook website records that he operated his cart at Woolloomooloo for two years before enlisting in 1938. During Harry’s time in the Middle East, he was nicknamed “Tiger” due to his boxing prowess and the name stuck. Harry returned to Sydney, driving a taxi and a fruit truck, then operating a mobile canteen at sporting matches from an old ambulance. He set up the first Harry’s Cafe caravan outside the Garden Island Naval Dockyard in 1945. As well as pies, hot dogs were included on the menu to cater to the taste of visiting American sailors.


The caravan acquired the name Harry’s Cafe de Wheels to comply with regulations that required it to be moved at least 1 foot a day. However, it appears that the wheels were stolen, so for many years Harry’s Cafe de Wheels had no wheels at all, It was referred to as Harry the Axle's for most of the sixties throughout the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. The pie cart became a Sydney landmark with a list of visiting celebrities that included Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum, Marlene Dietrich, Kerry Packer, Elton John, Sir Richard Branson and even Colonel Sanders.



Harry "Tiger" Edwards opened the original caravan cafe, named simply Harry's, near the gates of the Woolloomooloo Naval Yard in 1938. He served with the AIF in World War II, during which time the cafe was not operational. The cart re-opened upon his return from the war in 1945.
Harry's specialises today in the same basic food that was popular back in the 1940s, such as pies and mushy peas. During the 1970s Harry's introduced hot dogs, mostly to appease the American sailors.
Harry Edwards retired in 1970 leaving an operator in charge of the van, then sold the business to Alex Kuronya, a Hungarian-born refugee from Austria, in 1975. In 1978, on the official 40th anniversary of the pie cart, Harry’s de Wheels cafe was formally commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy as one of its ‘unsinkable’ ships, and was called: HMAS Harry’s! The ceremony was performed over a glass of champagne and a pie by Rear Admiral David Martin. Harry died in 1979.


Historical locations of Harry's Cafe de Wheels on Cowper Wharf road, Woolloomooloo. A:1938-39, 1945-81. B:1981-82. C:1983-84. D:1985-91. E:1991-present day. Note: Map shows current position of Cowper Wharf road. The 1981-82 location was on the footpath of Cowper Wharf road before the road was relocated further west in 1982.
Alex Kuronya donated the original caravan to the Powerhouse Museum in 1985, but continued to operate the business in Woolloomooloo until selling it to Michael Hannah on Australia Day 1988. The business now has franchises throughout Sydney and beyond, while the original site has National Trust classification.

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Reply By: Member - Peter H1 (NSW) - Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 09:27

Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 09:27
As a taxi driver in the 60-70's I had many a pie there.

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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 10:17

Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 10:17
And here I thought Adelaide has the pie cart thing sown up :)
Many a night in town we ended up at the pie cart for a pie 'floater', pie upside down in a bowl smothered with minted peas, and generous qty of tomato sauce on top !!
Pretty sure they are still there (used to be in Hindmarsh Sq, also at North Tce train stn too at times), I just don't go near Adelaide city nowadays unless I really have to.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 11:41

Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 11:41
Les, Adelaide certainly was the first to establish Pie Carts having about twelve of them from 1880. During my youth there were only three carts left in the city, located outside the North Terrace railway station, on King William Street near the corner of Rundle Street, and at the Post Office corner of King William St & Victoria Square. Another was in my suburb on Norwood Parade.
Post-theatre patrons in their finery could be seen partaking of a 'floater' along with us lesser mortals. At the end of trading late each night a horse towed the carts off into the night. The last I saw operating was just the one at the Post Office and even that may now have changed?

But I think Adelaide can lay claim to the traditional term "floater". It only became a "pie floater" when the 'pasty floater' option was introduced. ('pastie' if you wish)

And thanks Doug, I can remember visiting the Wooloomooloo cart many years ago. There was also a similar (stationary) vehicle serving Mackay in Queensland some years ago.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 11:47

Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 11:47
Whoops yeah, Victoria Square, that's the one I recall mostly.
Of course it was motorised then :D ;)

I am not 100% sure, but maybe Adelaide carts had minted peas vs interstate moral peas ??
Growing up in Nth QLD, we had local pie ships that would lift the lid and put normal makes peas under the lid, quite good, but nothing like good ol' minted peas :)
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 11:49

Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 11:49
Lol, moral peas ?
Of course this should be normal peas !

This phone stuff while away is difficult not used to autocorrect.
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 23:32

Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 23:32
Lived in the City and Kentown back in the mid 60's for a few years. Anytime I was coming home late at night after a few drinks (or usually many) I would go to the GPO on the corner of Flinders & King William streets for a pie floater and a chat with the other drunks. Those were the days, could not do it now.
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Reply By: Member - Terry W4 - Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 10:22

Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 10:22
My father was in the RAN (retired from HMAS Melbourne in 1962) and I went to school at the nearby St Mary's Cathedral Boys High School. Remember Harry and the cart well. Used to meet dad down there some times before getting the train home to East Hills from St James station.
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Follow Up By: DBN05 (tas) - Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 19:20

Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 19:20
Thanks Doug, As always great story, just as a side note used to go to Harry's a lot, but in the late 70s I used to drive train out of East Hills
Small world and its getting small while we grow older.

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Reply By: Member - Peter (1) - Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 14:34

Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 14:34
G'day Doug,
You certainly brought back memories with this one. Many a time during the Sixties I partook in a 'pie and peas and a goffa (soft drink, usually a coke)' before returning on board after a night relaxing and taking in the joys of Sydney after dark.
The reason the van had no wheels was because of complaints from 'some' locals about the riff raff hanging around late at night making lots of noise, the Sydney council enacted an old by-law about parking a vehicle in the same place for a extended length of time and gave Harry a ticket requiring him to move the van every night. Harry removed the wheels and replied he was unable to as it was a fixed building, he also got backing from the Navy to remain and the Council relented and issued a special permit.
AAAH the good old days, certainly brought back memories.

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Reply By: d04 - Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 22:17

Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 at 22:17
i also remenber staggering back to the ship at some ungodly hour only to stop at harry's to try and sober up a bit but i also remember nothing tasted better than a pie and peas, i was back there a couple of years ago same place pie and peas again, wonderful memories.
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Reply By: Pete Jackman (SA) - Thursday, Nov 19, 2015 at 05:23

Thursday, Nov 19, 2015 at 05:23
Had many a pie and peas on the way back on board. The original site just opposite the main gates was the best.
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