I'm an experienced corporate communicator and editor with an eye for interesting events and an attachment to my trusty Oxford dictionary.
Published January 3rd 2013
Australia is blessed with many naturally big things like Uluru or the Giant Gippsland Earthworms but what about those giant man-made structures we're so find of? I'm not quite sure what they say about the Australian psyche. Maybe we're trying to compensate for our humble convict beginnings or the "tyranny of distance" that separates us from much of the world. Whatever the reason, there's certainly a plethora of mammoth monuments and colossal creations dotted all around Australia, and if you put them all together they'd probably stretch from Brisbane to Broken Hill.
Are they successful marketing ploys, examples of romance and heroic endeavour, cute kitsch or simply evidence of extremely bad taste coupled with money and steely determination? For me there are always questions that need to be answered because the stories behind these bastions of bigness are often more interesting than the edifices themselves. I'm reminded of the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal and want to know how many slaves died during the building or if any animals were harmed during production. But the biggest question of all for me is always, "Why?".
Here are 2 of Australia's favourite 'big things' and the tales of mystery and imagination behind them.
Firstly I loathe bananas - their smell, texture and taste do terrible things to me, and secondly, The Big Banana's slogan, "It's a whole bunch of fun" and cute monkey advertising, seem both numerically and geographically incorrect. But the story behind it sounds like a Hollywood plot line.
Picture this. Small Coffs Harbour banana seller with a roadside stall looks for a gimmick to make people stop and buy. He scrapes together £1500 (it was 1964) and engages an engineer, who cuts a perfectly good banana into 40 pieces to develop plans. Banana seller is joined by partner, business grows, is sold, expands some more, expands too much and goes into liquidation (not, I hope like bananas I used to find in the bottom of my son's school bag), is rescued and developed further (it now has unlikely attractions like ice skating and a toboggan run) and is still going strong after almost 50 years, all the while keeping Coffs Harbour on the map. Credits roll, not a dry eye in the house. Look in on your next trip up or down the Pacific Highway.
Larry, the 17 metre high steel and fibreglass colossal crustacean that looms over the town of Kingston, South Australia, also has a great background story. It almost rivals the development of penicillin in the serendipity stakes. Conceived in the heady days of the 1970s it was designed by Paul Kelly - no, not that Paul Kelly - who modelled the structure on a lobster that he bought and had stuffed, sacrificing it in the interests of anatomical correctness. A tale is told that plans were provided to Mr Kelly with measurements in feet and inches, but he misread the plans (in need of new glasses, maybe) and produced the final structure in metres. The rest, as they say, is history. It's now a thriving restaurant complex with a gift shop and tourist information booth.