Way back when, Wednesdays

We are not alone

In celebration of 40 years since it first release on 16 November 1977, plans are in motion to remaster the iconic science fiction adventure film Close Encounters of the Third Kind and re-screen it in cinemas. It used to take some months for a film released overseas to reach Australia. Only selected cinemas had the right to show certain films, so audiences flocked to the Hoyts Regent cinemas in the Adelaide Arcade.

On page 16 of the Leader Messenger dated 5 July 1978, Tea Tree Plaza advertised a promotion designed to tie in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. To generate interest in the film, Tree Plaza hosted a display about UFOs, which was put together by the Australian Flying Saucer Research Society, in conjunction with Hoyts cinemas. This promotion also featured a special event, which was a talk by a member of the Society, with the incentive of winning free passes to see Close Encounters.

Close encounters

At this time, people were receptive to new cinematic science fiction experiences. Steven Spielberg had terrified and thrilled audiences with Jaws in Australia in 1975. Star Wars had been monumental – it had set the bar for special effects and excitement, when it was released in Australia in October 1977. Everybody was waiting for the next blockbuster movie. Sessions of Close Encounters of the Third Kind on evenings and weekends would book out in advance.

If you don’t know the story, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is focuses on a group of people who experience some sort of paranormal activity associated with alien contact.

Two parallel stories are told. Strange phenomena and sightings of UFOs are happening around the world, which according to a scale devised by UFO researcher Dr. Josef Allen Hynek, is a close encounter of the first kind. A team of scientists and experts including French scientist Claude Lacombe and his American interpreter and cartographer David Laughlin, are investigating these related incidents. For example, military planes which disappeared in 1945 have suddenly reappeared in the desert but without their pilots.

In Muncie, Indiana, in the USA, Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss) refuses to accept conventional explanations for his encounter with an unidentified flying object. After this close encounter of the second kind, he becomes obsessed with pursuing the truth. Single mother Jillian Guiler (played by Melinda Dillon) and her young son Barry have similar experiences.

Integral to the film’s plot is a musical sequence of five tones enabling humans and aliens to communicate. In India witnesses report that UFOs make these distinctive sounds. Both Roy and Jillian have repeated visions of a mountain and the five musical notes run through their minds. When the scientists broadcast the musical notes into space they receive a response, a series of numbers repeated over and over. Cartographer Laughlin, interprets this data as geographical coordinates, for the Devils Tower near Moorcroft, Wyoming.

Defying a cover-up and military action by the American government, all of these characters follow the clues they have been given to reach a site where they will have a close encounter of the third kind: contact. The film was groundbreaking in its depiction of aliens as peaceful beings who wish to get to know humanity, rather than trying to take over the Earth or eat us. After their cinema experience, people could look up in the sky and think that perhaps we were not alone.

Alien

These were exciting times. Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a critical and financial success. It was nominated for several Academy Awards but the film only won one, for cinematography. It also won several other film industry awards. A disco adaption of the five note sequence charted as high as 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in March 1978.

John Williams would write many other beautiful, memorable film soundtracks and be arguably the best known composer of classical music in modern times. Steven Spielberg would direct a trove of acclaimed and popular films, and become the highest grossing director by worldwide box office ($9.246 billion) wikipedia.org. What would be the next science fiction/fantasy blockbuster? Superman released in 1978, which made a star of Christopher Reeves.

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Way back when, Wednesdays

Moonlight flicks in the Valley

Do you remember the Valley Line Drive-in? The Advertiser featured a story on closure of the Valleyline Drive-in Theatre on Tolley Road, St. Agnes, on page 111 of the edition dated Saturday 26 April 2003. After servicing the local area since the 1960s, the Valleyline drive-in closed on Sunday 4 May 2003. The final film to be shown was the comedy Anger Management starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson. The site was sold to the Stratco hardware chain.

Valleyline closure

If you have never experienced a drive-in theatre, you did not have to buy individual tickets to see a film. Customers just paid for the cost of your car, which was more economical for families. You parked in a designated area within view of the big screen and fitted a speaker to your car. Later, sound streamed through the car radio. In summer, it was pleasant to sit outside. Given that many older cars had a bench seat in the front, rather than two bucket seats, you could fit an extra kid in your vehicle!

What are your special memories of the Valleyline and what films did you go and see there? Members of our library staff remember the drive in as being good fun “I took my wife there on our first date” and “People beeped their horns when something ‘juicy’ came on the screen.” Another staff member recalls her brother hiding friends in the boot, to get them into Valleyline. Then they set up chairs to watch the movie. Or “I took my boys and they would lie on the bonnet of the car where it was warm.”

Valleyline

The Valleyline drive-in theatre

Drive-ins made a lot of money from canteen sales. You could purchase drinks and foods such as hotdogs, fish and chips, and even steaks at some locations. Unhealthy snack foods might seem ordinary nowadays but in the 1950s and 1960s a hotdog was very American and pretty cool. Being a family friendly venue, staff would even heat up your baby’s bottle. The canteens generally faced the big screen and were fitted out with speakers so the customers did not miss out on the film. There were also children’s play areas, such as swings situated under the big screen.

In the United States drive-ins had been in existence since the world’s first Automobile Movie Theatre opened way back on 6 June 1933. It took an act of Parliament to bring the drive-in to South Australia. During the second half of 1954, members of the South Australian Parliament debated the controversial Places of Public Entertainment Act Amendment Bill. In an era where people dressed up to go out, some parliamentarians feared that there would be a decline in the standard of dress.  Dressing casually and comfortably while sitting in your car would appeal to families and it was a major selling point for the drive-in theatre. Then there was the issue of safeguarding the morality of South Australia’s young people. Some feared that young couples would behave inappropriately while alone in a darkened car in a public place.  Future Premier Don Dunstan, who was a young man at the time, spoke in support of the bill.

Adelaide became the second Australian city (after Melbourne) to get a drive-in theatre when the Blueline at West Beach opened on 28 December 1954.  Valleyline commenced business on Friday 3 December, 1965 and it could accommodate 383 cars  http://www.campbelltown.sa.gov.au  Records differ as to how may drive-in we had theatres in South Australia at the height of their popularity. The article from the Advertiser states that South Australia used to have 24 drive-ins. According to http://www.drive-insdownunder.com.au/australian/sa_modbury.htm South Australia used to have 37 drive-ins.  The City of Campbelltown website states that there were 15 suburban drive-ins just in Adelaide.

Today, there are only two drive-in theatres left in Adelaide. Wallis Cinemas still run the Mainline Drive-in at Gepps Cross, even after having to make costly repairs to the main building when it was damaged by fire in March this year.  Cooper Pedy also has a drive-in, which is operated by community volunteers.  It is worth noting that outdoor cinema has made a comeback!  Moonlight cinema in Botanic Park is still popular and suburban councils hold film screenings in local parks during the summer.

So what factors brought about the demise of this cultural icon?  When most people had black and white television, going to see a film in colour was a novelty. By the 1980s people could watch films on video at home.  It became socially acceptable to dress casually when you went to the cinema.  While some drive-ins had two screens, new multiplex cinemas opened in suburban Adelaide, offering patrons a greater choice of films that screened concurrently, from morning to evening.  During daylight saving, movies shown outdoors have to start later, which is inconvenient for families with young children. The quality of the picture and sound of a film shown at a drive-in theatre could not compete with a film projected in a modern cinema. For example, the screen would appear darker at the drive-in. As drive-in theatres aged and ticket sales fell, operators had to make the decision as to whether it was cost effective to upgrade the equipment and facilities.

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Way back when, Wednesdays

Retro style at Myer

Did you used to enjoy eating at the restaurant in the Myer store at Tea Tree Plaza, Modbury? On page 22 of the edition dated 15 August 1973, the Leader Messenger promoted the Myer Restaurant in its regular feature Tea Tree Plaza News.

Myer restaurant

The Myer Restaurant was situated on Level 3 of Myer, in the area that is now Ladies Fashion. It offered patrons panoramic views of the Adelaide Hills from a large, rounded rectangular window. You can still see where the restaurant was located if you drive down Smart Road towards Reservoir Road and look for the window above the entrance to level 2 of the store, that faces the car park.

The Myer restaurant was self-service. Self-service was very much in vogue at the time. A customer at the Myer restaurant would line up, take a tray and push it along the guided rails as they proceeded along the servery and selected their meals, paying for their purchases when they reached the cash register.

The advertisement pictured says that the Myer Restaurant would appeal to families but it was a comfortable place for anybody to sit and relax during their time browsing the store. Dining there would transform your shopping trip into a special outing.

You could choose from a range of reasonably priced meals and beverages, including hot food, sandwiches and treats like cakes and colourful jellies. Part of the appeal was looking at the presentation of all of the different foods and choosing what you wanted. The décor was very fashionable for the time, with funky chairs and tables and burnt orange tiles on the walls.

My personal recollection of the Myer Restaurant in the 1990s is enjoying the huge square-cut scones, topped with jam and fresh cream and accompanied by a big mug of hot coffee on an icy winter’s morning. What are some of your memories of dining there?

Myer renovated the restaurant in the years preceding its closure and it introduced table service, which was what customers expected in more modern times.

Some readers might also remember that when the restaurant closed in approximately 2005, Myer donated several large photographic prints depicting our local history to the City of Tea Tree Gully Library. If you know when the Myer Restaurant ceased trading, please let us know.

Everything old is new again. Nowadays we have the IKEA restaurant which is also self-service and offers a range of interesting cuisine, cakes and on occasion that 70’s favourite, chocolate mousse. If it was still in operation, we might view the Myer restaurant as being retro and hip!

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Way back when, Wednesdays

What a funny old fellow

On page 6 of the edition dated 2 May, 1973 the Leader Messenger advertised that Humphrey B Bear would appear at St. Agnes Shopping Centre. His visit was in celebration of Mother’s Day and a retail promotion.  Despite being a children’s character, we all know that mums love Humphrey!  Everybody wanted a photo with Humphrey and a big bear hug.

Humphrey

If you did not grow up with Humphrey, he is a local television legend. He does not speak but communicates through gestures.  Humphrey wears a tartan waistcoat, a big yellow tie and a straw boater.  In true bear style, he loves eating honey.

Perennially young at heart, Humphrey turned 50 in May last year. Here’s Humphrey first appeared on Australian television on Monday, 24 May 1965, televised by Adelaide’s NWS9. Each episode of the show aimed to both entertain and educate its preschool audience while making children feel good about themselves.  Young children could identify with Humphrey as he explored his world of the Magic Forest, meeting friends, dancing and singing.  Humphrey learned from his mistakes but also had lots of fun.  Humphrey was always accompanied by a human companion who narrated his adventures.  One of the writers of the show, Anthony O’Donohue, also hosted it for an extended period.

Humphrey last aired on mainstream television in 2009. Humphrey became an international celebritity when an american version of his show was translated into different languages and screened in several countries. Humphrey was honoured to be declared official ‘Ambassabear’ for the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation in 2012. He was introduced to a new generation of children and the hospital successfully raised funds from sales of a limited edition plush doll and DVD.

In July 2013 Humphrey returned to television when his show was screened on Community Television stations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. In May 2015 the Sydney Morning Herald reported on plans to produce a high quality Humphrey themed animated television series or film.

Humphrey B. Bear is still making public appearances and drawing crowds at community events and school performances. He even has his own Facebook page.  Humphrey does lead a very exciting life!

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Way back when, Wednesdays

You spin me round

Hills Hoist at Myer.png

On page 18 of the edition date 18 July 1973, The Leader Messenger advertised a sales promotion for the Hills Hoist at Myer in its feature Tea Tree Plaza News.  Did you know that not only was the Hills Hoist a revolutionary invention but that it was created in Adelaide?

When her washing kept falling off a propped up clothes line, motor mechanic Lance Hill created the first ‘Hill’s Hoist’ for his wife. He built it in the back yard of his home on Bevington Road, Glenunga in 1945.  Mr Hills was not the first person to come up with the idea of a rotary clothesline.  Gilbert Toyne of Geelong had patented four rotary clothes hoists designs between 1911 and 1946.  In 1925 Toyne had designed a rotary hoist with and enclosed crown and a wheel and pinyon winding mechanism.

On Lance Hill’s original structure metal ribs spread out from a central steel pole. He strung rust-proof wire between the ribs, on which the clothes could hang. Lance Hill invented a way to raise and lower the height of the hoist and he attached a handle to make this happen. You could hang the washing on the lines with the hoist set to your height, then wind it up higher. Combined with the rotating square structure, this feature allows your washing to dry more effectively in the wind.  His design was so successful that Hill’s neighbours started putting in orders and he happily manufactured the hoists from scrap metal in his shed workshop.

In 1946 Lance Hill and his brother-in-law, Harold Ling, established the Hills business in Glen Osmond.  They bought some army surplus trucks to make deliveries. Lance and Harold opened a factory at Edwardstown to manufacture steel tubing in order to create a quality product at a reasonable price. Demand was high, even though the hoist sold for 11 pounds, which in 1948 was twice the weekly wage. Hills then expanded its operation to include the manufacture of other laundry products. Lance Hill was awarded a patent for his Hills Hoist in 1956. Renamed Hills Industries in 1958, the company exports its range of clothes lines around the world. The Hills Hoist is listed as a National Treasure by the National Library of Australia.

In recent times, with the rise in construction of medium density housing in Adelaide, such as townhouses, there is usually only room for a pull-out clothes line. Let’s hope that we will continue to see the Hills Hoist as an iconic fixture in the Australian back yard.

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