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Lost Attractions in South Australia

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au/
Published August 13th 2015
Do you remember?
Lost Attractions in South Australia

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Targa Adelaide, One of Our Lost Attractions That Will Return


Adelaide loves a good party, and wherever you find competition and racing you can usually find a party. Think Oakbank and the Melbourne Cup. The Tour Down Under. And of course the legendary parties during the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide in the 90's.

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Unley Soapbox Derby, Cross Road Fullarton 1941 (Image: State Library SA B7798/542)


It's nothing new though, even a soapbox derby in 1941 attracted 15,000 spectators. Over 100 contestants raced down Cross Road from the old gum tree to Fullarton Road at speeds up to 70km/h, while a support crew of 1000 worked behind the scenes. Our tastes must have become more sophisticated, because the derbies disappeared in the 1950's.

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The Birdman Rally Adelaide in 1980 (Image: Xaragmata)


Fast forward to the zany Birdman Rallies at Glenelg in the 1970's when huge crowds turned out to watch contestants try to fly 50 metres unassisted and win a $10,000 prize. The Milk Carton Regatta in the 80's was just as popular - and most contestants got just as wet - until the public liability insurance problems froze them.

Lost and Abandoned Amusement Parks

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Magic Mountain at Glenelg (Image: AtD on Wikipedia)


When it comes to attractions in Adelaide that have now gone, we really miss our amusement parks. Nostalgia pages on Facebook regularly revisit the dizzy heights of Dazzleland in the Myer Centre, Magic Mountain at Glenelg, and the Ferris wheel on top of the Cox Foys building. I wonder if they were as popular when they were still open?

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Luna Park Glenelg 1930 (Image: State Library SA B7477)


Luna Park at Glenelg must have been an amazing sight when it opened in 1930 with a crowd of tens of thousands, but it only lasted about five years before being relocated to Sydney. It seems we didn't have the numbers to support it.

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Abandoned Amusement Parks: Lakeside Leisure Park


Another of the amusement parks that has long gone is Lakeside Leisure Park at Hackham which probably closed in the 1990's. Only rubble remains on the deserted site south of Adelaide.

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Decaying Slides at Puzzle Park Adelaide


The closing of Puzzle Park is still mourned by many. Another victim of the rising cost of public liability insurance, the rusty remains of Puzzle Park still lie in solitary silent splendour.

Forgotten Theatres and Cinemas in Adelaide

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Colonel Light Gardens Picture Theatre


Theatres and cinemas in Adelaide were once major community hubs, but the arrival of TV and videos changed that forever. Picture theatres around South Australia were transformed into supermarkets and shops, but you can still see signs of their original purpose if you look.

The Colonel Light Gardens Picture Theatre could seat nearly 2,000 people and drew many locals to its matinee and evening sessions. It even hosted future Prime Ministers during the 1941 election campaign, and a tram stop right outside made going to the movies a breeze. Today it's just a chemist shop.

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Former Roxy Theatre, Anzac Highway Glandore


When the Roxy Theatre at Glandore was opened in 1937 more than 1,000 people showed up to watch Piccadilly Jim. In recent years it became a Blockbuster outlet, but has since closed in an ironic sequel.

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Former Radium Hill Drive-in 1952 (Image: State Library SA B70347)


Drive-ins also went the same way as most picture theatres, and now only the Mainline at Gepps Cross remains. At least it's more comfortable than the Radium Hill drive-in was in 1952.

Motor Racing in Adelaide

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Spectators Watched Cars Speed Past the Charleston Hotel for the 1939 Australian Grand Prix


We've had a passionate love affair with motor racing in South Australia. The last Australian Grand Prix before World War 2 was held at Lobethal in the Adelaide hills in 1939: watch a documentary including actual race footage here. The Lobethal track was also used for motor cycle racing until the government banned street racing in 1948, although some would say that the tradition continues.

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A Motorcycle Rider Near Lobethal


Rowley Park Speedway opened in 1949 in a residential area of Brompton. It thrilled spectators for 30 years before closing, but you can walk past its former location on a walking tour of the historic areas in Bowden and Brompton.

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Plaque Commemorating Jack Brabham Win at Australian Grand Prix Port Wakefield


Jack Brabham fairly flew around the Port Wakefield circuit in a Bristol powered Cooper T40 to win his first Australian Grand Prix in 1955. Could this have been the most fun Port Wakefield has ever seen?

The Formula 1 Grand Prix is another of the lost attractions in South Australia, but at least we can console ourselves with the Clipsal 500 to keep our adrenalin racing.

Lost Museums in South Australia

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Dr Torr's Beach Museum at Brighton in Adelaide


Museums in South Australia have popped up in quite unexpected places over the years. The Beach Museum at Brighton was run by Dr Torr in 1938 and held a collection of Chiton molluscs collected at Marino Rocks. Shell Land at Glenelg seems to have solely shown shells, but both museums have now disappeared without trace.

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Shell Land Postcard


Rowley's Waxwork Museum popped up at the Bijou Theatre for a period in 1898, with wax figures of the royal family and notorious criminals - an interesting combination. War museums also appeared regularly in country areas after World War 1, including at Mount Gambier and Wallaroo.

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Bijou Theatre, King William Street 1892 (Image: State Library SA B13272)


The Telecommunications Museum at Electra House lasted nearly 20 years before becoming another lost Adelaide icon. Later a place for urban exploration in Adelaide, it has since been tastefully converted to a restaurant and bar.

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Why? Remember long lost attractions in South Australia.
Where: Adelaide, SA
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Your Comment
That Radium Hill show would have used film in 16mm size. Operated by the local school or church, or by a travelling showman, 16mm was how films reached small country locations. Out in the donga in 1951, there was even a 16mm show at Athelstone!
by daviddon@dodo.com.au (score: 2|548) 238 days ago
There were two cinemas in Prospect Road central, with another down in Kilburn and a big one up in Main North Road.
These days, we should take note of the variety of programs, mainstream and oddball, new release or vintage, at the Mercury Cinema, 11 Morphett st, City. Friday morning Seniors shows there are very popular.
by daviddon@dodo.com.au (score: 2|548) 753 days ago
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