Monday, 11 May 2009


“Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth.” - Thomas Carlyle

I was in Sydney today just for the day for work. Getting up early in the morning has never fazed me and I have never used an alarm clock – I just set my own internal clock and usually wake within 5-10 minutes of the time I “set”. However, in winter it is rather hard to get up at 4:30 am when the house is cold and dark and then have to prepare oneself for a 6:00 am flight. The mystique of travel rapidly wears off, when one travels so often on such short trips for work…

Sydney is a lovely place to visit, but I don’t think I would like to live there (although one never knows, I am quite adaptable). Even today with the busy schedule I had to deal with, there was time in between catching the train to look out on the Harbour and see the Bridge and the Opera house from Circular Quay, the lovely parks and gardens (the Sydney Botanical Gardens are lovely), the city heritage buildings. The weather of course helped – a beautiful warmish autumn day with sunny skies and fine, still air.

Nonetheless, I was not being a tourist, but rather going about the work commitments, which thankfully all went well. A bonus was that I could catch an afternoon flight back home, rather an evening one!

One of the Sydney icons is the Luna Park, situated in Milsons Point, a very prominent Harbour site across Circular Quay and almost under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The origins of Luna Park go back to Coney Island, U.S.A., part of metropolitan New York, where in the late 1800’s a number of competing amusement parks sprang up. Elmer Dundy and Frederick Thompson developed an amusement called “A Trip to the Moon”, which was extremely successful. In 1903 they opened their own amusement park on Coney Island and called it Luna Park in acknowledgement of their successful ride.

Soon Luna Parks spread throughout the world. American showmen, brothers Herman, Leon and Harold Phillips with J.D. Williams, opened Australia’s first Luna Park at St. Kilda in 1912. Showman David Atkins noticed its enormous success and convinced the Phillips to open a Luna Park in Glenelg, Adelaide in 1930. Ted Hopkins an electrical engineer joined the Park just prior to its opening to complete the electrical and mechanical installation. Despite several successful seasons, the Glenelg park was forced to close because of friction with the local residents and a local council that resisted any changes or expansion of the Park.

Herman Phillips and David Atkins commenced a search for a suitable place to relocate the South Australian Luna Park and found the vacant Harbour Bridge factory site at Milsons Point. Under the guidance of Ted Hopkins, Luna Park Glenelg was dismantled, packed up, transported by ship and unloaded onto the Dorman Long wharf and reassembled in Sydney. When the doors opened at 8.00pm on the 4th of October, 1935 it cost 6d to enter (3d for children) and 6d for most rides. The Big Dipper and Coney Island cost 9d. The Park was an instant success. After the first year, the admission charge was removed and Luna Park proudly advertised “Admission Free”.

Since then, the Luna Park has opened and closed numerous times, has had to weather fires and other tragedies, has narrowly escaped redevelopment several times. After many trials and tribulations, including dismantling of the famous face, selling off of many rides and periods of closure that threatened to obliterate its tradition, government and private enterprise collaborated and finally, the Park re-opened on the 4th of April 2004, complete with face lift and multi-million dollar renovations. It has operated non-stop since then.

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