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Up On the Roof at Cox Foys

In the mid 50s Cox Foys opened a new department store in Rundle Street with a rooftop funfair for the kids. There was a giant Ferris wheel, train rides, a merry-go-round and other rides that mum would take us to as a treat after shopping in the city. Unfortunately very few photos remain of the once popular rooftop playground but I’ve managed to find a few to share with you in this post.

Photo from Screen Gems 1954 film promoting Adelaide to the rest of the world. This is the how the  Ferris wheel  looked from the street

Photo from Screen Australia 1954 film promoting Adelaide to the rest of the world. This is the how the Ferris wheel looked from the street

On our Facebook page we’ve had many nostalgic comments about the rooftop fun fair, most posters recalling it was something that generally occurred on a shopping trip to town and was seen as a very special treat.

Michael Noble posted “I am old enough to remember Cox Foy’s fun park — mum would take us there, then we would go to the John Martin’s restaurant, another department store that no longer exists”. Necia Nicholas wrote “Thankyou for this memory. It has bought back wonderful memories of trips into town with mum and brothers during school holidays when I was aged 5-9 (1964 – 1968). My favourite ride was the Flying Pigs. I would spend hours on it under the watchful eyes of my brother”.

Julie McShanag also remembered it. “I used to harass my mother terribly until I got there then didn’t want to leave!! We used to have lunch at Coles. There was a huge cafeteria upstairs. Pie with chips and gravy and jelly with fresh cream, yummmmmm” while Tracey Findlay recalled “My Nana would always take me to town in the school holidays. We would dress up, she would take me to Cox Foys for a play and then to John Martins for lunch meat pie chips and gravy. Going to the city was a treat”.

Many posters had vivid recollections about the Ferris wheel; Corian Verhoeven Kolega relatrd how she will “never forget that Ferris Wheel on the top of Cox Foys! I was about 13 years old

Darren Wirth shared this photo from the family album of some of the play equipment and the murals on the roof at Cox Foys

Darren Wirth shared this photo from the family album of some of the play equipment and the murals on the roof at Cox Foys

and took my niece Tania who was 7 at the time on the Ferris Wheel. It was a Friday night and all of a sudden a storm rolled in cutting off the power. We were stuck on that thing for over half an hour swinging on the top in the rain and wind. I have been frightened of heights and Ferris wheels ever since”! Panda James commented “It was a huge treat for my sister and I on a trip into town. If we were patient with the boring shopping mum had to do and didn’t whinge, then we would head to Cox Foys for lunch or afternoon tea then head to the roof for THAT ride on the Ferris Wheel..not a huge wheel but it already towered over anything else in the city…I loved the ride with the little boats that went around in a circle of very dirty water. Lol..Mum always said don’t put your hands in the water! If we were really good we were treated to a Fairy Floss too”.

Sadly, nothing but memories remain of the Cox Foys rooftop funfair and there are very few photos. I found a still shot from a You Tube video of Adelaide made in 1954. ARW Facebook poster Darren Wirth shared a couple from the family album and there’s also a photo from the Advertiser archives, but that’s about it.

Cox Foys  was eventually sold to Harris Scarfe and closed in 1977.



28 Responses to Up On the Roof at Cox Foys

  1. Robyn McCallum October 13, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    Going to Cox Foys was a real treat. My Grandmother had a members or shareholders card so we always got some sort of discount. Lunch was at the cafeteria on the floor below I think. I particularly loved the Puss in Boots puppet story display.

    • John Hams November 5, 2014 at 10:34 am #

      I have written a letter to The Advertiser ‘Boomer” re: Christmas Train from Gawler & I mentioned Cox Foys if your interested. It should be in this Monday the 10th Nov.

    • Bill Kane December 3, 2016 at 10:37 am #

      I use to operate that ferris wheel when I was 17. I remember having to balance the weights of the carriages. Actually it wasn’t that safe because I used to operate the levers and sometimes it would slip. Then I would have to go on the other amusement attractions so I never did it for the entire day. Fond memories. You are only 17 once

  2. Danny Bocchino November 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    I still remember going to the old ‘Cox Foys’ rooftop area with my mum during the 1960’s.

    My mum and I always went on the ‘big’ Ferris Wheel, that was quite near to the edge of the building’s short walls of its rooftop.

    When it (Ferris Wheel) had to briefly stop and, we were on the highest point of it and you looked straight down, all the pedestrians walking along Rundle Street’s footpath looked like ants.

  3. Andrew Venning November 27, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    I remember going to the Cox Foys cafeteria around 1969 when my father was transferred down to Adelaide from kadina. I was 16 at the time and was fascinated by the attractions in the ‘big city’. I loved going up all the escalators to get to the cafeteria and ordering sweet rockmelon with vanilla icecream. Mmmmm!

  4. Sue Smith May 11, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    I remember the thrill of going there with my Mother during our visits to the City in the late 60’s.

    The lift ladies were so lovely, they obviously realized that migrants were ‘doing it tough’, and if I remembered my manners, they nearly always gave me a free ticket for the ferris wheel.

    Mum and I would always have lunch in the GPO cafeteria, as my Dad worked for the PMG the lunches cost next to nothing.

    Then, on the way home we would have scones & tea at the railway station.

    What lovely, simple times they were.

  5. paul s June 15, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

    I remember going to cox foys rooftop with my brother when we first arrived as migrants in the 60s
    we had seen nothing like it in manchesters working class areas and thought it great
    we would have a pie with chips at coles cafeteria and thought we were real grown up.

    • david munro-ford July 12, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

      i remember going to Cox Foys roof top every Friday after school with my mother from around 1958 to 1964.It would have to be part of my fondest memories as there was no such thing as computers etc and we loved going out as a family and making our own fun.So sad to see it close. Myers tried it But it didnt last oh well

  6. Bernie Bradford August 29, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    Wow.. I’d forgotten about this one. Our dad took us to this mid to late sixties & my brothers & sisters got to ride the Ferris wheel high above the city. Even getting into a lift to go up the top floor was an experience for us country kids…

  7. Sean December 10, 2015 at 11:21 pm #

    My first job during school holidays was driving the train 1972 , put a year or two on my age but wasn’t fooling anybody in my white overalls with legs and sleeves rolled up. Sneaking a puff on a fag as you go through the tunnel, Christmas carols on loop soon got to you . good memories

  8. Peter fielke March 1, 2016 at 6:43 pm #

    The redevelopment of cox bros building did not take place until the late fifties as I was working at cox bros when this was undertaken. I started work in 1958 so the photo taken could not have been taken in1954.

  9. Peter Firth April 8, 2016 at 9:32 pm #

    When I left school at 15 (1970) I got a job as a sales assistant at Cox Foys in the kitchen electrical dept where I worked with a charming old guy called Karl Keller, a retired electrician. The staff canteen sold chips and gravy go 5 cents. Happy days.

    • Peter Keller December 30, 2023 at 2:49 am #

      Hey Peter, the charming old guy you worked with was my uncle, Carl Keller. I remember visiting him at Cox Foys with my parents when we would come to Adelaide from Snowtown. I remember going on the little train and the Ferris wheel on the rooftop. Would love to go back up there again but you can’t anymore.

  10. Veronica January 2, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

    Remember my siste Sylvia working in Manchester in Cox Foys, I was working in Harris Scarfes, would have been early 70,s.
    Loved the canteen, where we would have afternoon tea (must have had tea breaks at the same time) there mint slice and coffee still hold a special memory

  11. Frank O'Kane February 28, 2017 at 11:52 pm #

    My mum and dad and 5 young children took us up on the roof of Cox Foys in the early seventy’s
    I am now living back in Scotland as we left Australia in 1973
    Great Memories

  12. Kevin J. Tysdall April 11, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    My mother, when I was a child, told me that Mr. Foy was an Uncle. Mr. Foy must`ve been a distant Uncle, as my mother never told me what his Christian name was & I never had the privilage to meet him.

  13. Stephen Greateich February 9, 2019 at 10:42 pm #

    Does anyone remember playing the “tiger moth” game where you could shoot down the red baron if you were good enough!

  14. Sharon Gray May 15, 2019 at 1:56 am #

    We only lived in Adelaide for 2 years (1964-65) when I was 7/8, but I remember the Ferris wheel and Puss in Boots especially. My sister and I used to love going there. I seem to remember you bought a book of tickets so you got to ride on everything.

  15. Mark Dillon August 13, 2020 at 10:30 pm #

    I am 58 years old and that was like the royal show when you’re 5

  16. John Lambert October 28, 2020 at 10:16 pm #

    I worked therefor the3 years before it closed down. I started in Menswear which was in the basement then menswear moved to the first floor. Good days and lots of nice people to work with.

  17. Huw JORGAN November 18, 2020 at 7:41 pm #

    I worked on the funfair in 1966 and 1967. What a hoot, an old chap used to organise us all to run the various rides – flying pigs, merry go round, ferris wheel, train, etc.

    I remember as a 16 year old going to the Cox Foys Christmas party in the cafeteria. The drinking age at the time was 21 but they kindly shared their booze with us. Wonderful memories.

  18. steve cahill November 19, 2020 at 10:53 pm #

    i still remember my mother taking myself and my brothers to cox foys back in the sixties ..we could hardly wait to get to the top and get on the ferris wheel .I can remember looking down the side of the building and hanging on tight because we were so high up and so close to to edge .we would then go to the cafeteria afterwards i am sure it was on the floor under the roof top .Can remember getting the large plastic trays and selecting our lunch from their great selection of food .How lucky were we to have these wonderful memories of growing up in the sixties .

  19. Jonathan Allcock March 30, 2021 at 12:37 am #

    I Loved cox foys when my mum used to take us in 69 to 71 when unfortunately they headed back to uk, that Ferris wheel was brilliant ❤

    • Tracey Hale November 27, 2023 at 3:47 pm #

      I remember too, mum worked as a lift attendant for a short time, wore cute outfit, she said it was one of her best jobs. Willie the wombat was up there in a cage, great memories

  20. geoffrey paul SPRINGBETT January 10, 2022 at 10:38 am #

    I remember a “speed boat” in Cox Foys in the 50’s it went down a slide and finished with a dolphin popping up. I can’t find any detail about this boat I rode in it many times after school filling in time to catch the bus home.

  21. DAVID GREEN July 15, 2023 at 12:13 pm #

    I never had the pleasure of experiencing all that fun and excitement as a child. Normie Rowe sang the song “I, i who have nothing” with the Lyrics-but i could only watch you with my nose pressed up against the window pane. I would walk down below looking up at the Ferris wheel and be drawn by its charm. Back in the 60`s children were free to roam and i would venture on my own when sent to John Martins to shop for things i did not want. I remember catching the woman manned lift to the floor below then 1 flight up and looking at all the rich kids with their happy smiling faces!
    I am now 70 and still remember like it was yesterday.

  22. Lee wikinson December 7, 2023 at 2:03 pm #

    When I was about 10yr old dad was the caretaker of Cox bros and we lived in a house on the roof, a wonderful artist was head of arts dept who did all the price tickets by hand and he painted two huge paintings of queen Elizabeth and prince Phillip for the royal visit, probably 1953.

  23. Bev Taylor March 1, 2024 at 8:32 am #

    Hi Bob i remember Cox Foys very well. Before the fun park was there my friend lived in a small penthouse with her mother and father. Her father Victor Simpson was the security manager of Cox Foys. As 12 year old girls we had a wonderful time up there and roaming rundle Street of a Saturday afternoon. I spent many school holidays with them and have fond memories of walking around the shop after the cleaners had left and loking over the wall from the top into the traffic in Rundle street. Love your columns.
    Bev Taylor

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