Monday, 6 November 2017

Isador Magid and Narre Warren

The City of Berwick Civic Centre was opened in December 1978 on land donated by the developer, Isodor Magid, whose Overland Construction Corporation built the Fountain Gate Shopping Centre, which opened in March 1980  (you can see where Magid Drive and Overland Drive at Fountain Gate got their name.) Mr Magid also developed the innovative Fountain Gate Housing Estate off Tinks Road, in the mid 1960s.  The Civic Centre became the City of Casey Civic Centre and has now become redundant due to the construction of Bunjil Place, which opened in October 2017.

In my mind, there are two people who had a profound influence on the development and direction of the town of Narre Warren - Sidney Webb in the nineteenth century and Isador Magid in the twentieth century. I have written about Sidney Webb before - around 1888, he built the first shops in Narre Warren, he agitated for the Narre Warren Railway Station to be built, which opened 1882 and he donated land for the school and the Mechanics' Institute.  Fast forward 90 or so years and another force  hit Narre Warren when Mr Magid opened the Fountain Gate Shopping Centre, which had a major effect on how we shopped - traditional local shopping strips began to decline as people flocked to Fountain Gate (and still do).  The Shopping Centre also encouraged other development - such as new housing estates, new businesses  and new transport links.  Even though Sidney Webb's Webb Street shopping has declined in importance as a shopping strip in the face of Fountain Gate Shopping Centre, I fully believe that Sidney Webb would approve of  Isador Magid's shopping centre as both men obviously had the same  entrepreneurial flair and vision. 

Before Fountain Gate, Isador Magid developed, amongst other things, the  Princes Domain housing estate in Hallam in the early 1960s and the Mountain Gate Shopping Centre at Ferntree Gully in 1961 (perhaps inspiring the name for Fountain Gate). He donated land for the Alexander Magit Memorial Infant Welfare and Preschool Centre in Harwell Street in Ferntree Gully, which was established in 1967 and has just celebrated it's 50th anniversary. The Centre was named in honour of his father, Alexander Magit (the family surname was later changed to Magid). You can read about the Centre's 50th anniversary on the City of Knox's website here. Another development was the  Brandon Park Shopping Centre at Wheelers Hills which opened in 1970. 


Isador Magid received the Key to the City of Berwick at a ceremony held May 20, 1993. This was the highest award the City could bestow, according to the Mayor, Cr Trevor Smith.
Berwick Journal  May 31, 1993


Apart from his property company Mr Magid was involved in many philanthropic activities however there is an interesting 'twist' to his story and that is, he was responsible along with his business partners George Shannon and Henry Korbritz, for introducing Twisties (that gastronomic delight!) into Australia. According to Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia that is an interesting (but sometimes not always accurate) source of information for popular culture -  In the early 1950s Melbourne businessman Isador Magid imported a rotary head extruder from the United States which initially did not work. After bringing out a technical expert from the USA as well as receiving valuable advice from the CSIRO, Magid started producing Twisties. The product was popular but large scale distribution was difficult so Magid decided to sell the machine and the brand in 1955 to Monty Lea from Darrell Lea for £12,000. Monty and his brother Harris experimented with the machine further using rice and various flavourings. Twisties became popular in Australia - some of its early success is attributed to promotional activity that included advertising the product on Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton's TV show In Melbourne Tonight, making it one of the earliest products advertised on that program. After an unsuccessful attempt to launch Twisties in the UK and competition for shelf space in Australia the Lea brothers agreed to sell the Twisties brand to the Smith's Snackfood Company.

Isador and his wife Ira, had arrived in Australia from Shanghai in 1948. They had four children  of which two pre-deceased them. In the 1986 Queen's Birthday Honours list Isador received an A.M. 'for service to the Community, particularly the Jewish community'.  He died in November 2004 at the age of 91.