xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: Royal Show Memories.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Royal Show Memories.

My earliest memories of the Royal Show were a mixture of merry-go-round rides, Chairaplane rides, dodgem cars, the Octopus, log chops, Professor Wilkinson doing tricks on a motorcycle, displays by mounted police on charging white horses, exhibitions of food and farm produce in the Centenary Pavilion, bustling crowds, strong animal smells, sample bags, hot dogs and fairy floss.

In those days  there were only three terms in the school year and the October Royal show fell outside the school holidays. The two big days of the Show were People’s Day on Wednesday and Children’s Day on Thursday. Wednesday was a public holiday and city schools were closed for both days. My parents used to take the family on People’s Day. I fondly remember the 1948 Show. It was about 10 months  after my family had moved from 164, Seventh Avenue Inglewood, to  number 8, Aberdeen Street. I was ten years old. My sisters, Valerie and Kathleen were aged 7 and 5 respectively.

My parents loaded the family into our blue Essex Tourer. Dad had folded back the canvas hood and the family set off from Aberdeen Street and into Beaufort Street towards the city, just like royalty riding down The Mall in an open carriage.

At that time, my older cousins, Maurie and Raymond Carr, who lived with us at Aberdeen Street, had two dogs, G.K. and Danny. G.K. was Maurie’s dog, a Scottish terrier he had named after G.K. Chesterton. Raymond’s dog, Danny, was a beautiful collie dog just like Lassie. Unfortunately, when Dad drove out of the side lane he did not close the gate. The family’s high-spirited departure had excited both dogs and G.K. and Danny soon set off after the Bourke family making their royal progress along Beaufort Street. 

Despite the dogs’ barking and yapping, my dad decided to keep on driving towards the Barrack Street Bridge. As he drove passed the Swan Barracks he waved his right hand and yelled at the barking dogs to go back. They took Dad's gestures as a sign of encouragement and continued bounding noisily alongside the open vehicle.

What had started out as a royal procession quickly degenerated into a scene out of Dad and Dave Come to Town.Dad drove his family in the open car and over the Barrack Street Bridge, escorted by the two barking dogs. Startled onlookers in the street looked at the passing parade, convinced that some rich squatter had arrived in town for the Royal Show with his family and farm dogs in tow. By the time the car reached Murray Street, the dogs had found other city distractions to occupy their attention and the Bourke family continued on to the Show without their canine escorts.


Every year, as soon as the family had entered the gates, Dad would pick out a landmark, such as the Ferris wheel or the main door of the Centenary Pavilion and say, “If you get lost go straight to the Ferris wheel and wait for your mother or me to come and get you. Do not go anywhere with anyone else.”

My mother was well aware of “Stranger Danger” long before the term became fashionable. She warned my two sisters and me to be particularly wary of ladies offering them lollies or any other inducements. She told us that quite often, evil men dressed up as women, just to trap little boys and girls. Filled with such foreboding we never wandered far from Mum and Dad. The other reason being of course that Mum and Dad had all the money that is so necessary to obtain the full enjoyment of Sideshow Alley.

When I was about twelve years old I started going to the Show on my own or with friends. I would save for several weeks, keeping my Show money under the carpet in my bedroom. Naturally, Dad would give me some extra spending money and my Aunty May was very good and always gave me a bonus in Show Week. Aunty May ran The Lucky Bunny lottery kiosk at 119 Barrack Street. She used to pay me five shillings a week to run the lottery ticket butts and the cash to the Lotteries Commission office in St Georges Terrace each day, after school.

My Uncle Ray would also give me a few shillings to spend at the show. I would take great delight in counting out my money, working out how many rides, sideshows, cool drinks, hot dogs and serves of fairy floss I could afford. 

On Show Day I used to arrive with what always seemed like plenty of money However, by late afternoon I would have only enough for my bus fare home, while still strongly desiring more rides, sideshows and food. In those days all cool drink bottles carried a deposit of tuppence. I would collect up as many empty bottles as I needed and cash them in to finance my next big showtime splurge. At least in those days the showbags, or sample bags as they were then called, were free.

Naturally, the main attraction for me at the Show was Sideshow Alley with its rides, dodgem cars, House of Horrors, Ghost Train, the Wheel of Death, Blum’s Boxing Troupe and various other sideshow tents. Two sideshows remained etched in my memory forever; one featuring Big Chief Little Wolf and another featuring the alluring fan dancer, Paulette.

Big Chief, Little Wolf was a Red Indian who became very popular in Australia after the war. He was a sensation at the big wrestling matches in Sydney and each year would tour the various Shows putting on exhibitions, demonstrating wrestling holds and talking about his colourful life. He always wore a huge Indian feather headdress and attracted big crowds wherever he went. On one earlier occasion, Dad took me to Reilly’s Hall in Inglewood to see Big Chief Little Wolf stage a boxing and wrestling exhibition against Paddy Boxall a well-known state champion boxer of the 1940s. Big Chief Little Wolf was a great entertainer and attracted huge crowds all over Australia.

Paulette was an exotic French lady who was, quite possibly, just an ordinary Australian girl from Bayswater named Beryl, making pin money at the Show. However, as Paulette, with her sexy French accent and exotic dancing, she had a lot of fans. Of course, her two biggest fans were the huge feathery blue ones she used so cleverly to keep her naked body covered as she danced around on the small stage inside the tent. She certainly aroused my interest in the female form and I spent a great deal of my hard earned pocket money visiting the creamy skinned Paulette, always in the hope that once – just once – she would drop one of those blasted fans. 

She never did.

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