In the 1950's, Sydney was NOT famous for the coathanger bridge nor Bondi Beach nor the pokies ... The BIG attraction was a gorilla called King Kong at the Taronga Park Zoo. This amazing performer had the huge crowd shrieking with laughter as he offered up what passed for a soft-shoe-shuffle or juggled his food bowl. The onlookers numbered more people than crushed into Flemington to watch Vo Rogue race in his heyday.

Marchants lemonade and Tarax soft drinks and Choo-choo bars and Fizz Wizz. Sugar cigarettes were called "Fags" and a suitable morning tea for a growing child was a meringue decorated as a birds nest.

The front window of the local fish and chip shop had water running down it in a continuous ripple.

Dad put an empty hessian bag on his shoulder before carrying in a block of ice for the ice chest.

Sweet biscuits (Arnotts, Brockhoffs or Swallows) were not sold in packets. When you went to the grocer, the biscuits were kept in large tins and weighed in paper bags. Children bought thruppence worth of broken biscuits as a treat.

Going to the beach involved a beach coat (made of coloured terry towelling) and a beach bag. Inside that bag was a small drawstring purse which contained a round mirror in the bottom. If you were lucky, you had a floatie made of rubber in the shape of a long flat pillow or a legless pony. The girls' bathers were made of cotton, covered in frills and gathered at the back with shirring elastic. And you were never allowed to swim until half-an-hour had elapsed after you had eaten (even if only a mintie!) Oh, yes! And you were doused in suntan oil (eg Skol) which contained not a skerrick of sunblock.

Summer holidays in Melbourne meant a visit to Bourke Street in a red-rattler train. The windows of Myers (it was always "Myers" not "Myer" back then) glowed with Christmas-flavoured fantasy. And there was a huge blow-up Father Christmas outside Foys. He beckoned with a finger. But most important was lunch at Coles Cafeteria with distant aunts and scary cousins. It was essential to have a frog in the pond for dessert.


There was a dear little train at the Melbourne Zoo which travelled over the penguin pond. I cannot even begin to describe the terror of riding on the back of the elephant. And the bears were in pits, begging for food to be hurled at them. Lions prowled up and down in tiny cages. There was lots to see: but nothing like the excellent, sympathetic displays now.

Television started in 1956. It was not unheard-of to find the family gathered around the giggle-box, staring at the test pattern. Prior to television, we had the radio. That was real entertainment. And if the villain was about to nab the heroine, one stared at the radio!

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