Esda Sales and Service (Esda) was an agency of the South Pacific Division under the auspices of its treasury department1 located in New South Wales, Australia. Initially its office was situated in Hardy’s Chambers, 5 Hunter Street, Sydney.2 Subsequently, its operations moved to the Division Services Building at 83 Hunter Street, Hornsby, on the northern edge of metropolitan Sydney and close to the South Pacific Division headquarters.3 Esda Sales and Service was discontinued at the end of 1988. Many of its functions were transferred to the South Pacific Division under what was known as "Central Supplies."
Formerly known as the Division’s Buying Agency which had existed from as early as 1935,4 Esda assumed its title from a similar organization of the same name operating in Washington, D.C.5 Its function was to provide goods and services to missionaries, ministers, and church members in the division. Esda was able to provide resources specific to the church’s mission, including visual aids such as 35mm color filmstrips of Bible doctrines and church-produced material for Sabbath Schools as well as branch Sabbath Schools, Sunday schools, and community Bible schools. It also obtained ministry-related equipment such as slide projectors, generators, and photographic equipment for both clergy and laity. Other items included drums of Weet-Bix (from the church-operated Sanitarium Health Food Company), flour and honey for missionaries, and shoes and shirts for members. Local churches could purchase electronic organs from Esda. It supplied Pathfinder uniforms throughout the division. In fact, Esda sold almost anything to missionaries and homeland members at a good price.
The Australasian Record regularly carried advertisements for Esda items. For example, on June 22, 1953, the following example appeared:
NOW AVAILABLE: A completely new set of beautiful natural colour inspirational filmstrips: 20th Century Bible Course No. I. Bible doctrinal truths, beautifully illustrated in brilliant 35mm. colour filmstrips. Full 30 film lecture set. Special offer while stock lasts: Double frame £35 8s. 9d.; Single frame £20 ls. 9d. Esda Sales and Service, Hardy's Chambers, 5 Hunter Street, Sydney.6
At its outset, Esda operated at a time when Australia and New Zealand had only a limited number of discount stores and many missionaries lived in isolated areas. From its inception, Esda faced the steady increase in the availability of local business houses that were able to sell merchandise at attractive prices––a situation that challenged the discounts that Esda was able to give. It ultimately led to Esda losing the majority of its revenue to local businesses. During the 1950s and 1960s, however, many members and missionaries used Esda to meet their individual needs and those of developing institutions.7
A typical day at Esda included a diverse range of activities. Laity and ministers would arrive to purchase Pathfinder uniforms, blankets, a twin-tub washing machine, or a Salad Maid hand grater for vegetables. While there, discussions may have taken place with the manager regarding the discount that could be gained by Esda sourcing a new car. Away from the showroom, the purchasing officer may have been making telephone calls to find an outlet for a replacement engine for a mission station’s electricity generator or the best supplier for a motor bike for another mission location. In the packing room, staff would prepared items for posting in the homeland or for transit to the mission field. The storeman would likely then go to the customs building to arrange for the export of goods to a missionary family.
Esda’s personal touch was well known by missionaries. Women would order personal items such as swimsuits and hair dyes, each item being obtained by Esda staff from local suppliers and shops in Sydney. Esda’s reputation for being able to find a wide range of goods led to a steady increase in the volume and range of items customers ordered.
In addition, Esda became involved in the active support given by church members to overseas missionaries, particularly those serving in the South Pacific. In Sydney members could leave with Esda goods such as clothing and used tennis balls for fumigation, so long as they were packed and ready for despatch, with postage affixed.
Missionaries and members appreciated the dedication of Esda’s staff. The managers during its existence were Gordon Hopkins, Henry Miller (1949-1969);8 Warrick Stokes (1969-1973);9 Ted Jones (1973-1974);10 Daphne Bell (1975-1985);11 Bill Ackland,12 and Doreen Pascoe after the service moved into the basement of the division office.
Bell, D. M. “ESDA and Varivato.” Australasian Record, August 27, 1983.
“Brother H. G. Miller . . .” Australasian Record, August 18, 1969.
“Esda Sales and Service . . .” Australasian Record, May 25, 1975.
“Esda Sales and Service . . .” Australasian Record, September 21, 1985.
“From 1935-1941 . . .” Australasian Record, August 18, 1958.
“A. E. Jones . . .” Australasian Record, February 12, 1975.
“Mr Bruce Jackson . . .” Australasian Record, February 12, 1973.
Nixon, Roger, Bert Godfrey and Russell Stanley. “Alfred Edwin Jones obituary.” Adventist Record, November 30, 2002.
“Now Available.” Australasian Record, June 22, 1953.
“Retiring soon . . .” Australasian Record, April 27, 1985.
“Still another advantageous move . . .” Australasian Record, April 5, 1954.
“Up in Sydney . . .” Australasian Record January 22, 1973.
“We are indebted . . .” Australasian Record, June 14, 1954.
Wilkinson, R. W. “Sonoma’s Development.” Australasian Record, July 21, 1975.
Unless otherwise credited, the information in this article is written from the personal knowledge and experience of the author as the eldest son of a long-serving director of Esda Sales and service, Henry Miller.↩
“Still another advantageous move . . . ,” Australasian Record, April 5, 1954, 16.↩
“Up in Sydney . . . ,” Australasian Record January 22, 1973, 16; “Esda Sales and Service . . . ,” Australasian Record, May 25, 1975, 16.↩
“From 1935-1941 . . . ,” Australasian Record, August 18, 1958, 16.↩
“We are indebted . . . ,” Australasian Record, June 14, 1954, 16.↩
“Now Available,” Australasian Record, June 22, 1953, 7.↩
R. W. Wilkinson, “Sonoma’s Development,” Australasian Record, July 21, 1975, 8.↩
“Brother H. G. Miller . . . ,” Australasian Record, August 18, 1969, 16.↩
Ibid.; “Mr. Bruce Jackson . . . ,” Australasian Record, February 12, 1973, 16.↩
Ibid.; Roger Nixon, Bert Godfrey and Russell Stanley, “Alfred Edwin Jones obituary,” Adventist Record, November 30, 2002, 13; “A. E. Jones . . . ,” Australasian Record, February 12, 1975, 16.↩
D. M. Bell, “ESDA and Varivato,” Australasian Record, August 27, 1983, 7; “Retiring soon . . . ,” Australasian Record, April 27, 1985, 16.↩
“Esda Sales and Service . . . ,” Australasian Record, September 21, 1985, 16.↩