Channel 7 Interview


P: “I’m the caretaker of a nostalgia factory.”

P: “A custodian of old things.”

L: “We’re not just talking about a cabinet or two. Phil Sunman has millions, yes that’s right, millions of collectable treasures hidden away behind this unassuming shop front on Goodwood Road in Goodwood.”

L: “It’s Aladdin’s cave of bows buttons and boxes, porcelain and postcards, glassware and shop goods.”

L: “Phil this is the most extraordinary collection, when and how did it all start.”

P: “1994, I retired from the South Australian education system, I was a school principal then. I was unemployed for a week and I thought gee what am I going to do. So I turned to one of my passions and that was collecting, so I started this shop.”

L: “So, what did you start collecting, was there something that caught your eye first, were a collector of books or postcards or China, what was it initially.”

P: “According to my mother at the age of three I had the biggest dinky toy collection on the block. This is in 1952 and I was trading in dinky toys at the age of three with the bigger kids on the block.”

L: “And that trading has never really stopped. Now almost anything you can think of you’ll find somewhere in Phil’s collection and if he hasn’t got it he’ll certainly do his darndest to find it. Making him a favorite of local filmmakers as well as collectors.”

P: “I know Scott Hicks has been in, lots of people making movies where they want very specific things. So we help provide the information and the exhibits we lease them out and sometimes sell them to the film companies.”

L: “Phil’s treasure trove also houses a veritable feast of South Australian history, with an extraordinary collection of memorabilia such as postcards, diaries and photographs tracing the life of our state back over generations.”

P: “Some of the stories are the most amazing, for example, a collection of Gallipoli postcards that was brought in here not long ago. A 17 year old boy from Adelaide in the 10th battalion writing back to his mother via the post cards, very sad”

L: “Is it a special feeling to be a custodian of history?”

P: “Yes, it’s a big responsibility, you feel like you’re a gatekeeper into nostalgia and it’s wonderful when you have children come in. I often have students and their teachers have asked them research the hills hoist clothes line. So we go to the photos and we show them the hills hoists.”

L: “Well I have to tell you Phil I won’t be bringing my four little ones in here, it terrifies my just walking around.”

L: “You do, as I said, have an extraordinary collection and things just I have never seen before like the antique supermarket. Where do you find those, original cakes of soap in original wrappers?”

P: “A lot of that came from auction, it’s what we call new-old stock. Shops that have closed down in the 50s and early 60s.”

L: “But I can’t imagine people would keep those things.”

P: “They do, they do, in old sheds, a lot of that came out of a shop, an old grocers shop that had closed down in the 1950s and the family had kept it in a shed, so we had packets of corn flakes and Weet Bixs right back into the 50s and the packaging collects, they love to get their hands on the old packets and tins, old calendars. There’s an apothecary display from an old chemist shop on the port road, so all the bottles and the chemist jars. It’s an incredible collection.”

L: “So can you name for me, just the one thing that’s really surprised you?”

P: “A ventriloquists dummy, a magnificent dummy that was brought to me last year, this chap, he was in his 70s was a performer here in Adelaide on radio and early television. He brought his dummy in and said Phil what do you think of this? I thought, I’ve got to have it!”

L: “But like all passionate collectors Phil always has one eye open for that next have-to-have.”

P: “What I would like to get my hands on, more of the South Australian early historical items, we do have a large collection of that now but I would like more and I love the photographs. The cameos of history, you know, that frozen in time to look at King William Street when we had the tram system running through, not like it is today, but the old tram system and the steamers pulling in at Port Adelaide and the two winged airplanes landing at Parafield Gardens and the John Martins Christmas pageant”

L: “Phil, I have to ask you, is your wife also a collector?”

P: “As mad as I am. Just as passionate.”