Nostalgia is associated with a yearning for the past, its personalities, and events, especially the “good old days” or a “warm childhood”
Here are a few nostalgic memories of mine that all relate to my life before I moved to Tasmania.
As well as being a historic locomotive built in 1936, the sight of 621 about to depart Adelaide Station with an excursion train brings back memories of the happy times we had riding on steam trains all around South Australia.
Here are David and I with our dog Tessie standing outside our old house which we had just sold. Nearly 17 years ago now.
This photo of the Canine Grand Prix was taken on Pit Straight sometime in the late 1980s. It was a fun event held on the Grand Prix circuit in Adelaide the week before the big race. We loved Grand Prix Week, the side events, walking around the track after the roads were closed, seeing the cars being assembled and the four days of the F1 event itself. The racing was close and you never could be sure who would win. I don’t think F1 today is half as good.
A group of my old workmates from the Railcar Depot in Adelaide.
I lived in the suburbs of Adelaide for most of my life. Since we moved in 2002 I’ve only been back a handful of times. When I did go I often photographed places in the city, mainly because I was fearful that they might not be there or would be changed beyond recognition the next time I visited. These photos were taken in 2011, 2012 and 2016.
When we visited in 2011 and again in 2012 there was a lot of construction going on in the city. John Martin’s department store had already been demolished and Harris Scarfe’s store was about to follow.
On my last visit in 2016, I chose not to visit Rundle Mall and instead spent time around Elder Park, the Festival Centre and Adelaide Oval. Adelaide Oval had just been redeveloped and since I was there they are now “improving” the Festival Centre.
My sister, cousins and I had a reasonably free childhood once we came to Australia. Our home was in Elizabeth, north of Adelaide. We could play in the street in front of our houses or go to a nearby park which didn’t require crossing the main road. We older ones could walk to the local shops for ice cream or comics and sometimes to another park when the “Trampoline Man” came for a few days in the school holidays. Our suburb was pretty quiet except at around 4pm when the local factories let out and all the workers came home.
When I was around twelve my eldest cousin and I were both allowed to go to “the big shops” at Elizabeth Town Centre or the library alone.
Even though they allowed us our freedom I’m sure our parents worried about us and we did get into trouble if we went off without telling them where we were going or failed to return at the appointed time.
Naomi and I arrived in Australia with our mum on 23 January 1966. Three days later on 26 January, three young children, Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont disappeared from Glenelg beach not far from Adelaide. They were never heard of again.
If ever our parents needed a cautionary tale there was one. They impressed on us that we should not talk to or go off with strangers. It certainly made an impression on me because the eldest girl, Jane was the same age as me. To our parents’ credit, this didn’t stop them from letting us go places on our own but I know that mum always worried until we returned safely and I am sure my aunt and uncle did too although my cousins were not fond of walking so their dad would usually get a call to pick them up from wherever they had gone or be asked to drive them here or there. Naomi and I usually walked everywhere.
I found this post that I wrote a couple of years ago so I decided to rewrite it a bit and run it again for those who came in late as they say in the Phantom comics. Feel free to skip it if you have read it before.
Naomi and I went to the Hobart Model Railway Show. It is usually held at the Tasmanian Transport Museum in Glenorchy. It is always a busy day for them and they fired up their M class steam locomotive on the Sunday.
Seeing a live steam engine made us nostalgic. We spent a lot of our teenage years traveling on steam excursions around South Australia. Naomi said that she thought that those were probably the best times we had in our lives. I tend to agree. We were so lucky that we were in the right place at the right time to do that.
It all started when I was about thirteen. We were in Adelaide with mum one day when I saw a big sign advertising a school holiday trip on a steam train. I asked mum if she would take us as my birthday treat. She agreed and we had such a good time we wanted to go again. The next year mum let us go by ourselves and soon we were regularly doing trips on Saturday or Sunday afternoons around the suburbs.
I remember how in 1972 we got a brochure in the mail with the latest trips being run and one of them was a weekend trip to Victor Harbour, a seaside town about 50 miles away from Adelaide. I was fifteen and we didn’t really expect that we would be allowed to go away overnight without an adult but we asked anyway. Much to our surprise mum said we could go if we could get someone older to go with us. We produced a seventeen year old cousin and that was acceptable. We took sleeping bags and slept in the carriages in the station yard. Can you imagine the horror of parents today if three teenage girls did that? Naomi was only thirteen. Rail fans, then and now, were predominantly men a lot older than we were. However, in all the time we went on trips together we never felt unsafe or had any trouble with men. Most were just surprised that two girls would be interested in trains.
After that trip we went as often as we could afford. Once I turned sixteen we were allowed to go without a chaperone although our cousin sometimes came along too. At that time there were still many country towns that could be reached by rail and as we were too young to drive it was an ideal way to see the countryside in safety. We went to country shows and festivals like the Cornish Festival in the “copper triangle” of Moonta, Wallaroo and Kadina and the Orange Festival in the Riverland district visiting towns like Loxton and Berri. We went on evening trips where there were “listening stops” where everyone could get out of the train usually somewhere in the countryside. You stumbled into a dark paddock and waited while the train reversed back down the track a mile or so and then came forward working hard and whistling. Most people said that for recording the conditions were better at night. We enjoyed standing in the night air listening although we never became avid steam sound recorders. Sometimes we’d stay on the train and watch the people instead especially if it was raining.
Sometimes we went on dinner trips where we’d be served a meal in a 1920s Pullman dining car and other times it would be a run round less used suburban lines to factories or to the docks. When we were a little older we visited wineries although we were always more interested in the trains than the wine. We went on other weekend trips too and even joined the Australian Railway Historical Society. Naomi reminded me how at the meeting where we were accepted as members we got a round of applause when our names were read out. We are not sure if that was because we were girls or because we actually turned up at the meeting as most new members never seemed to be there when their names were called.
We enjoyed the meetings which were held once a month on a week night We’d catch a bus, train or tram down to Goodwood where the meetings used to be held in a hall there. There were a lot of reports read out but the one we always looked forward to was the Tour Manager’s Report. This was the one where you would find out what trips were being planned for the future. We always wanted to go on all of them of course. After the business part of the evening there would be an interval when we’d buy a drink and browse in the book sales area. We could buy books and videos or souvenirs like postards, teaspoons, badges and T-shirts. The sales were one way that the society raised money for their restoration projects. After the break we’d have entertainment, usually a slide show or films, sometimes professionally made but more often than not made by members. Many were excellent, occasionally they were terrible but everyone was polite and always applauded anyway. We still laugh over the memory of the awful slides a member brought of his trip to England. There were numerous slides of clouds taken from the plane and a lot of his railway photos were out of focus. We had a really hard time not laughing.
Traditionally the evening ended at the Pie Cart in front of the Adelaide Station where those of us catching public transport home usually ended up buying a hot drink or snack. Occasionally once we got to know people we’d be offered rides back to the city. I have one hazy memory of several of us squashed in to a Volkswagon Beetle with our bags, a picture someone had bought and Naomi somehow squashed onto someone’s knee in the back because she was the smallest.
I can still remember the sheer excitement I felt on the morning of a trip. We’d get to the city early and would run up to the end of the platform to watch the locomotive arriving. We were not the only ones, there was usually a crowd of other rail fans with cameras and families with children doing the same thing. “Look, there’s the smoke.” someone would say. “There’s the whistle, here she comes.” and soon we’d see the engine and tender reversing into the station and backing onto the train.
We’d stand on the end platforms of the old wooden carriages or stick our heads out of the windows risking getting soot in our eyes. Many rail fans wore goggles but we never did. Sometimes we took a packed lunch and a thermos of tea which we frequently seemed to break. Other times we bought box lunches usually consisting of a bit of chicken, a bit of ham, piece of cheese, bread roll and a pickle followed by a slab of fruit cake. We still call that particular light fruit cake “railway cake” when we see it. If we were still hungry we could buy sweets, potato chips and drinks from the baggage car later.
Those were such great days, we met lots of friendly people, saw places, laughed a lot and learned new things. You really could not ask for more than that.
Today I’m going retro with this old photo I had scanned onto the computer. Australia’s most famous motor race the Bathurst 1000 is being run today. In years gone by David and I would often spend the whole day watching the race on television. He loved it. As time passed I tended more to watch the start with him and pop in and out to check on the progress of the race while doing other things. That’s what I am doing today so in honour of Bathurst, 9 times winner Peter Brock and David here is Peter Brock in his famous 05 Commodore. This was not taken at Bathurst which we never visited but at a support race for the Australian F1 Grand Prix in Adelaide. The photo was most likely taken with my old Pentax MG .
Today the Australian Grand Prix was held in Melbourne, won by Sebastian Vettel for Ferrari. It was the opening race of the season and quite an enjoyable race to watch despite the retirement of our Australian driver, Daniel Ricciardo, and the constant complaining of Lewis Hamilton on the radio to his engineers. It was a popular win with the commentators and especially with the “Tifosi” the Ferrari fans. I hope we will see a variety of winners this year as the racing is more interesting when you can’t be sure who will win and that has not been the case for many years.
I have posted these photos before, they were taken long ago in Adelaide when the race was held there. I still have many photos from the years between 1985-1995 but so far these are the only ones I have scanned. Although safety was not as good in those days I did love F1 then as it was exciting to watch the likes of Senna and Mansell, Piquet and Prost battling for the championship.
Pit Straight Adelaide c1989. The Start / Finish line was about where the building on the left is.
Before I came to Tasmania I lived in South Australia. My family arrived there in 1966 and I grew up living in the suburbs of Adelaide. I had come there from England and even at the age of eight I had a strong sense of place. I much preferred my new home in Elizabeth, north of Adelaide, to the grey, ugly place I had come from. I liked the feeling of open space, the wide streets and the flowering trees. When I was taken to visit Adelaide for the first time I liked the parks and gardens and the dignified old buildings I saw around the city.
As I grew up I loved the city even more and spent a lot of time in the city parks and on North Terrace, home to the museum, art gallery and the State Library. In the seventies the Festival Theatre was built and although I thought it was a little odd-looking and had weird art pieces dotted around it I was proud of it. It was finished three months before the Sydney Opera House. Over the years I lived there I attended many concerts and plays at the Festival Theatre both indoors and out.
I enjoyed browsing through the many department stores in Rundle Street, Harris Scarfe, Myers with its bargain basement, David Jones the posh store with marble tiles where a man played a grand piano near the entrance and the basement food hall smelled of baking, Cox Foys had its roof top fun fair and views of the city and suburbs and of course John Martins, the Pageant Store, which had the best toy department. As a teenager I was introduced to the eastern end of Rundle Street by my stepfather. There were European style cafes and interesting little shops selling imported goods. Central Market at the other end of King William Street was another fascinating place. Later when Rundle Street became a pedestrian mall it was fun to ride the glass elevator up to the top floor of Cox Foys and stroll in the mall enjoying the buskers performing there although you did have to dodge Hare Krishna disciples selling their books as well. At least they were easy to spot.
In 1985 Adelaide hosted its first Formula 1 Grand Prix. It was held in the parklands at the eastern end of the city and for the next twelve years we were regular attendees enjoying not only the racing but the associated events and the carnival atmosphere that the event brought to our city. I was working for the government operated transport system by then so I was in the city every day, sometimes working at the Adelaide Railway station. It was handy as I could spend an hour or so browsing in the stores after work or run up to Central Market for fresh fruit and veg before going home. On late shifts I’d only have to pop outside on to North Terrace to buy a coffee at the Pie Cart.
I can’t recall exactly when things started to change. I think it was when a lot of older buildings started to be demolished or to accidentally burn down while their future use was being disputed. I know I felt it was the beginning of the end of Adelaide and me when we lost the Grand Prix to Melbourne and when I heard that John Martins department store was to be closed.
Since then I have seen a lot more unwelcome changes to the city that I once loved. The beachfront suburbs are almost unrecognisable to me now as the old houses are replaced by large, square townhouses with tinted windows and no gardens. “Johnnies” is gone, Cox Foys is long gone, Harris Scarfe survives but their old building has been demolished and the new stores are tiny and seem to have little in them.
Harris Scarfe, Rundle Mall entrance May 2011. Demolition had already started.
Harris Scarfe during demolition May 2011
Harris Scarfe store closed 2011.
The Festival Theatre complex is getting a revamp which it probably needs but I feel a little sad that the weird sculptures will be gone and the amphitheatre where we sat on the hot pebbles and watched local bands play seems to have disappeared underneath the new walkway that goes over the river. I do quite like that though. I watched cricket at Adelaide Oval on television recently and it does look good. I think I’d enjoy seeing a match there but I liked the old grandstand with its red roof and the old gates at the front entrance as well. Luckily the old scoreboard is heritage listed so that can’t be touched nor the big old Moreton Bay Fig trees nearby.
Another thing that I do like is that the tram line which used to go to the seaside suburb of Glenelg has now been extended through the city and down to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. Not only that but you can ride from there to the city for free.
The biggest shock I had on my recent visit to Adelaide was at the railway station. That has changed so much over the past fifty years and even the past twenty since I worked there. The Pie Cart is gone, not considered good enough for the patrons of the Casino or nearby hotels. The Casino has been inside the upper floors of the station for many years but since I was there last it has expanded into the foyer, Marble Hall, we called it where the ballroom scene from Gallipoli was filmed and where, some years before that David and I had our wedding photos taken. It was weird to sit at the bar with my sister-in-law Louise and remember that and to look around to the stairs that used to lead to the offices where David worked.
Down at Port Adelaide things have changed too, most of the industry has gone and so have most of the ships. Port Adelaide has become home to several excellent museums which is great but I was angry the other day to hear that the big shed where the market has been for so many years will be demolished. No doubt something ugly and expensive will be built to replace it.
I’ll never forget the happy times I had in Adelaide and I’ll always visit there, at least in the cooler months, because I have family and friends that I want to see but I don’t feel that it is the same place that it used to be. I suppose I have changed too but even if I had stayed there I know I would not like the changes that have happened so I’m glad I left.
I started to write this post intending it to be a rant. I had just heard about the demolition of the wharf shed and although I was half expecting it I was still very angry about it. As I wrote more I became more nostalgic for the city I knew. My last trip back reminded me of the things that I liked about Adelaide which is alway at its nicest in spring but I don’t feel the same way as I used to. I have never been divorced but perhaps this is what it feels like?
I believe that smaller cities like Adelaide and Hobart would do better to preserve the character they have rather than trying to become miniature versions of large cities like Sydney and Melbourne. I see scary signs of it happening in Hobart as well. Many people who read this may not agree with me, it’s progress, I know it is. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.