Way back when, Wednesdays

What every child wants for Christmas

What would your children like for Christmas? Parents start putting toys on layby from the time of the mid-year sales. Or they race around the shops in December looking for the popular and sometimes expensive toys.

Search online and you will discover that a range of toys such as the Slime Factory, the Furreal Roarin Tyler and the Robo Alive lizard are in demand this Christmas. Santa is also stocking up on the cute L.O.L Surprise Dolls, the My Little Pony: My Magical Princess Twilight Sparkle and the Hatchimals. Lego and Star Wars related merchandise are listed as perennial favourites.

Would you like to encourage your children to play outdoors? Perhaps Santa could bring each of them a pair of stilts and they could have races! The North East Leader, a Messenger Newspaper printed this advertisement for Gimpy brand stilts on page 17 of the edition dated 7 December 1966.

Stilts

In a simpler time, kids probably had a lot of fun playing with their stilts over the summer holidays. Library staff who were children in the 1960s reflected on some of the Christmas presents that they received. Most parents never bought anything on credit. Only store-cards (which could be used exclusively in the issuing store) were available in Australia up until 1974 https://www.finder.com.au/credit-card-history and people usually could not afford to buy expensive gifts. Some toys were homemade. Intrepid woodworkers made and sold playsets such as a wooden hand-painted service station for toy cars. One member of our staff remembers that her uncle made her some furniture for her doll, a small wardrobe and a bassinet. Or you might gladly receive homemade clothes for your dolls. And you would have been very fortunate to receive several presents in your Santa Sack.

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Recollections of commercially made Christmas gifts include skipping ropes, Tonka toys, little cars, minature toy household appliances including a sewing machine and washing machine. There was also a treasured spinning top!

 

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A metal spinning top

 

little washing machine

Mini washing machine that really worked!

Childlike dolls, Mattel’s Barbie and Skipper and Sindy manufactured by English company Pedigree were on many girls’ wish lists. Board games such as snakes and ladders and quoits were popular gifts as they encouraged family interaction.

Snakes and Ladders

Skipper

Or you could have lots of fun with dress up outfits like cowgirl and cowboy costumes or a nurse’s uniform (perhaps you were lucky enough to also own a toy medical kit with a stethoscope).

Most toys manufactured in this era relied on children using their imaginations or being physically active to have fun, rather than the use of technological components.

You can still buy stilts for kids online. The design is still basically the same. Modern stilts are made from metal or plastic and the height can be adjusted to fit the child. Some can also be strapped on. Parents might be concerned about accidents and broken bones. Unlike in 1966, it is now recommended that children wear safety gear when using stilts, such as elbow and knee pads and a helmet.

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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

Everything old is new again

Why is the woman in this photograph trying to look attractive in a swimsuit, while lying on an ironing board? The Leader Messenger printed this story advertising the locally produced Slant Board, on page 11 of the edition dated 11 June 1967.

Slant board lady

Doing just ten minutes of exercise while lying on a slant board relieves tension in your nerves and muscles, increases circulation, strengthens your back and shoulders and leads to weight loss. The slant board is even better than a nap, a physiotherapy session and can help people who suffer from respiratory illnesses.

Were some of these amazing claims somewhat exaggerated? Possibly.  Nevertheless, exercise is good for you.  More modern forms of the slant board exist today.  You can use the decline bench with weights to build core and abdominal strength.  Advocates of ‘Inversion therapy’, where which you lie on a slant board with your legs raised above your body, believe that this practice can relieve stress, ease various types of back pain and improve your breathing.  They revere the work of Dr. Bernard Jensen DC (mentioned in the Messenger article) who discovered and wrote about the positive health effects of slanting in 1933.

Advertising tactics have not changed. Health conscious Americans and Hollywood celebrities use the slant board, so you should be modern and buy one too.  It looks like using the slant board will make you look glamourous too.

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Way back when, Wednesdays

Your friend in the kitchen

Kenwood Chef advertisement.png

Kmart advertised the Kenwood Chef Food Preparer on page 17 of the Leader Messenger dated 16 December, 1970.  One reader of Way back when, Wednesdays recently commented that she asked for a Kenwood Chef mixer, rather than a ring on her first wedding anniversary.  And with good reason.  Generations of cooks have used the Kenwood Chef. It is not only a well-built, highly efficient mixer but a classic piece of versatile cooking equipment.  The Kenwood Chef remains very popular across Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe.

The Kenwood company was founded on the guiding principles of quality, innovation and design. Managing director, Ken Wood began trading in the English town of Woking, Surrey, as Woodlau Industries Ltd in 1947. His aim was to produce luxury items and promote them as necessities. He began marketing a toaster and a food mixer with two beaters. In 1950 Mr Wood completely redesigned the mixer.  He added other functions besides beating and he called it the Kenwood Electric Chef.  The Kenwood Chef would go on to provide genuine competition for the American made Sunbeam Mixmaster.

An ultramodern design was needed for the modish 1960s. So, Ken Wood commissioned Kenneth Grange to restyle the Kenwood Chef in 1960. The rounded curves of the 1950s mixer were replaced with a high-tech squared off look which is still in use today.  1960s housewives aspired to own a Kenwood Chef, which wasn’t cheap, hence the payment plan advertised above.  This ‘Food Preparer’ was the ideal labour saving device in an era where home cooking and dinner parties were fashionable.  The mixer was marketed as having ‘planetary action’, scientific jargon which appealed to 1960s shoppers. The beaters moved in an elliptical orbit, while rotating at the same time, like the celestial bodies. The Kenwood Chef came with several mixing attachments, including the logo stamped K-beater and a dough hook.  If you purchased extra attachments the appliance could even peel, mince and slice. The liquidiser could make breadcrumbs, purees, soups, mayonnaise and cocktails! Advertising for the product used the slogan ‘Is there anything the Kenwood Chef can’t do?’

1970 Kenwood Chef

The Kenwood Chef in 1970 (www.museumofcroydon.com)