The Luxurious Way To Travel – Rose Bay Flying Boat Base

Rose Bay Airport Sydney Front copy

The image above, from a 1930s postcard, depicts a Rose Bay which is long gone, but which lives on in many people’s memories. Rose Bay Flying Boat Base was home to the Qantas Flying Boats which were, pre and post World War II, a luxurious way to travel overseas or around Australia.

Although the flying boats many people remember best were the Catalina’s, one of which some might have seen in the recent International Fleet Review fly over in Sydney, the postcard shows some of Sydney’s first flying boats, the Empire Class. The first of the Empire Class flying boats arrived in Sydney in 1938, just before war broke out, while the Catalinas actually arrived during World War II. The flying boats were used extensively in the war effort, but were almost obsolete following the war, as other planes were now able to make the long flights for which they had been used, but more quickly. Soon they were being used once again as a slower but more luxurious way to travel.

Many Sydney residents may also remember the flying boats through Sammy Sparrow who was a regular feature on Garry O’Callaghan’s 2UE radio program. Sammy Sparrow would come on air at about 8:15am to entertain young listeners who were about to leave for school. My Mother remembers that when Sammy and Garry said the flying boat was coming in to land, it was time to leave. When Sammy married another Sparrow, Eleanor, the flying boat carrying them off on their honeymoon flew low over Sydney. The flying boat service ceased in the 1970s and Rose Bay Flying Boat Base closed in 1977.

The Scenic Railway

The Scenic Railway Katoomba Blue Mountains Front copy

This week, with school holidays upon us, The Past Present is focusing on a holiday favourite – The Scenic Railway in Katoomba. This postcard, which dates to around 1935, shows the Scenic Railway in its early years as a tourist attraction. Although today we think of the Scenic Railway, the steepest incline tramway in the world, as a kind of tourist rollercoaster, it began its life as a working tramway, servicing mines.

The Scenic Railway was just one part of a network of tramways which serviced kerosene shale and coal mines in Katoomba. The tramways were built to bring coal and kerosene shale to the railway siding which was constructed in 1882. By 1895, the mines in the area were struggling and when in 1925 the Katoomba Colliery was registered, the tramways were decrepit. The Katoomba Colliery aimed to reopen the mine situated at the bottom of the hill, and sell coal to the Katoomba Power Station, the local hotels and residents. They needed a way to get the coal to the top of the hill though, so they set about fixing up the tramway which became known as The Scenic Railway.

In the late 1920s, the Scenic Railway had its first non-coal related passengers, a group of bushwalkers who were hauled up in a coal skip. Management realised the potential of the tramway and built seats into some of the coal skips. When The Great Depression struck, the mine closed, but the tramway continued to operate, now focusing on passengers and tourists. They replaced the coal skips with a specially built passenger car called ‘The Mountain Devil’. The rest, as they say, is history!

On A Soapbox In The Domain

The Domain in Sydney on Sunday afternoon

The Domain in Sydney on Sunday afternoon

The photo above, another from the collection of an unknown photographer, was taken some time in 1936. It shows a typical Sunday afternoon scene in Sydney’s beautiful Domain. The Domain has always been a centre of social activity, and during its history has attracted not only picnickers, but public speakers who took position on their soapboxes and spoke to the assembled masses. In fact, the Domain has even been described as a social safety valve, with many social causes and conflicts being aired and debated in the beautiful grounds.

Freedom of speech was celebrated at the Domain, but it was not always peaceful, or indeed appreciated by the authorities. At the time when this photo was taken, during The Great Depression, speakers in The Domain often spoke on political subjects, and violence was not unheard of. Both speakers and crowd members were sometimes even arrested. The photo shows an altogether more relaxed scene, with two speakers shown, but who knows what happened before, or indeed after the snap was taken!

Ultimo Power Station

Wool train along side R.R. Power Station on Hay St. Australian Mercantile L. and F. Co. Ltd. Wool storage beyond power plant.

Wool train along side R.R. Power Station on Hay St. Australian Mercantile L. and F. Co. Ltd. Wool storage beyond power plant.

This week, in honour of History Week, which this year focuses on photographs in Australia, The Past Present is showcasing one of the striking photos in the collection. With ‘Picture This’ in mind . . .

This photograph, taken in Ultimo in 1936 is a stunning snapshot, capturing a Sydney which is now long gone.

In the foreground of the photograph, a train is waiting. The train was a wool train, carrying one of our most significant agricultural products at the time. Australia was the nation which rode the sheep’s back, with some of the largest flocks in the world and our wool trade was extremely lucrative. It has been many years since Sydney has seen a wool train like this!

The image in the photograph above also shows a building which has, and continues to play an important role in Sydney’s history. Built between 1899 and 1902 the building was specially constructed as a power station to supply the tram network of Sydney with electricity. The power station was the first major power station to be built in Sydney but when the tram services ceased in 1961, the building was abandoned, standing derelict like so many of the other old industrial buildings. In 1979 the building was given a new purpose and new lease on life when the NSW State Government announced that the Museum of Applied Arts And Sciences would move into the old building. Today, many might recognize the building as The Powerhouse Museum.

Botany Market Gardens

Chinese Gardens in depression among sand hills on north shore of Botany Bay

Chinese Gardens in depression among sand hills on north shore of Botany Bay

This image, another from the amazing archive of images taken by an unknown photographer circa 1936, documents a Sydney institution. The area around Botany Bay and La Perouse was in use as market gardens and small scale farms over 150 years ago. In fact, land around the La Perouse area was cleared as far back as 1788 by Count de La Perouse to grow vegetables for his return journey to France. The earliest known name for the area is ‘The Frenchman’s Gardens’.

The market gardens at La Perouse, areas of which are still operating on land adjacent to Botany Cemetery, were established as far back as 1830. Although originally run mainly by Europeans, after the 1850s gold rush, many Chinese families took up areas of the market gardens to grow and sell vegetables. By the 20th century, these market gardens were mainly run by Chinese families. The Chinese grew not only the ‘common’ vegetables of the time, supplying Sydney markets, but also many of the more unusual Asian greens.

This image, of gardens on the North Shore of Botany Bay not only shows the expanse of land used for growing vegetables, but also the dunes which were once so prominent in Botany. Many of these dunes have long since disappeared due to sand mining.

Over The Fence – Glebe

Rows of chimneys etc in Glebe

Rows of chimneys etc in Glebe

This image, one of many documenting Sydney in 1936 which were taken by an unknown photographer, is an extraordinary piece of photographic work. The image is dominated by the repetitive houses, chimneys and backyards, each almost identical to the one before. In the alley behind a couple of dogs can be seen, while a woman is captured chatting with her neighbour, who is almost hidden from view, other than her arm and part of her dress. It is a scene which would have been repeated throughout Sydney, and in other built up areas of Australia.

The photo also captures a piece of Australian heritage which is fast disappearing. The image, showing the rear of terrace houses in Glebe, captures not only the row of chimneys which the photographer notes, but also the row of outhouses, or as Australians tend to refer to them, dunnys.

A dunny is an outdoor toilet, situated at the rear of the property. In the 19th and well into the 20th century Australian toilets were situated outside, away from the house. They were often a can or pit, and were probably very smelly, which may account for their relative distance from the house! The lane behind the houses, where the women are talking, would have been a ‘dunny lane’, built to allow the nightsoil collecter or dunnyman to collect the used can, remove and replace it. As the 20th century progressed and indoor plumbing became the norm, many of these old outhouses were demolished. In fact, so many have disappeared that those that remain have sometimes had heritage orders imposed to prevent these important parts of our architectural and cultural heritage disappearing entirely.

Celebrating New Beginnings – Canberra

Residential district and Hotel Ainslie in North Central part of Canberra lowland.

Residential district and Hotel Ainslie in North Central part of Canberra lowland.

This week is a time to celebrate New Beginnings at The Past Present. Not only are we finally launching our blog, but we are celebrating 100 years since Canberra, Australia’s Capital City, received its name. To celebrate, the Past Present presents an image of a Canberra which is long gone.

When Canberra received its name in 1913 it marked a new beginning for the area. Europeans had been in the Canberra region since the 1820s, and Aboriginal occupation by the Ngunnawal People dates back even further, to 21000 years ago. Yet up until the new name was given to the area, Canberra had simply been a farming community. The new name commemorated the past, being derived from the name Canberry, which was the name of the sheep station established by the first European settler in the area, Joshua John Moore. The sheep station in turn had possibly taken its name from the Aboriginal word for the area. Yet the name also pointed to a more illustrious future for the region. In 1901 Australia had become Federated and a National Capital had to be decided on where Federal Parliament could sit. The Canberra area was chosen as the site in 1908 and the Australian Capital Territory was declared in 1911. A competition was held to design the Capital City for the area, which of course Walter Burley Griffin went on to win. The city would need a name though and when this name, Canberra, was officially declared in 1913, Canberra’s future was assured.

This photo was taken in 1936 by an unknown photographer. It shows Canberra as young city, with few buildings. Indeed many of the buildings we recognise today were not yet completed, and some were not even underway. (Old) Parliament House had opened less than 10 years before, the Australian War Memorial would not be completed for another 5 years, the National Library as we recognise it would not be opened for more than 30 years and the National Gallery would not even be built for nearly 50 years. The Canberra captured in this image is still a small, rural community, with an important future ahead.