Episode 25: Bells Milk Bar


This week we are taking a virtual tour of Australia’s longest running milk bar.

You might expect it to be based in Sydney or Melbourne but that’s not the case. This piece of history can be found in the remote mining town of Broken Hill.

So pull up a chair and get ready to devour a milkshake at Bells Milk Bar.


While we associate milk bars with the 1950’s and 60’s, Bells Milk Bar started it’s life much earlier than that.

It was in the 1880’s when the F. Fenton Confectioner store opened.

A young fellow named John Joseph Longman and it was his young bride, Minnie Pearl Davis that would go on to make the milk bar that still exists today.


Tragedy struck the couple in 1918 when John Longman didn’t return from World War One but Minnie kept the business running.

It had it’s first name change to Pearly Longmans and then in the 1920’s to Pearly Bells after her marriage to Les Bell.

As Broken Hill started to boom as a town, the Bells were able to do redo the store and it was in the late 1930’s when the milk bar was born!

Jason King, the current owner of Bells Milk Bar, says Minnie Bell was the true pioneer of the milk bar. She was known to be up and have the store open early in the morning and wouldn’t close until she had looked up and down the street and made sure there was no one around who might want to come inside.

It was in the 1950’s the Bells was handed down the family line. mavis_Bell_12014

Minnie’s son Les Bell Jr and his wife Mavis took on the milk bar just after their marriage.

They hired architects and transformer the exterior of the milk bar to take it from the 1930’s into the 1960’s.

And the work they did has stood the test of time with the outside of the building looking nearly exactly as it did in early 1960. BrokenHill_BellsMilkBar_027

The other thing that hasn’t changed since Bells was booming in the 1950’s and 60’s is the menu.

You can still order traditional spiders, milk shakes (both hot and cold) that are made with cordials and flavouring that are Les Bell Jrs recipes.

jukebox dancebells milk bar

Bells Milk Bar serves not only as a living museum where you can enjoy a traditional milkshake in an old school milk bar, Jason King has also used the old shop owners residence to create a museum.

It includes the history of milk bars in Australia as well as a mid century kitchen and living space just the way they used to be in 1950’s Australia. BrokenHill_BellsMilkBar_025

All this talk of milkshakes has us planning our trip to Broken Hill.

You won’t be disappointed it’s like no other city in Australia.

In fact the whole town is on the heritage list because of it’s old buildings and social importance to the creation of the union movement and rich mining history.

You can hear more about the incredible history of Broken Hill and Bells Milk bar in our latest episode.

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Jason King, current owner Bells Milk Bar

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