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The Best of Bob Byrne’s Boomer Columns

REMEMBER your first John Martin’s Christmas Pageant?

Taking a ride in Samorn’s elephant cart? Leaving Rowley Park Speedway with lumps of clay in your hair? Or an afternoon tea with mum or grandma at Balfours Tearooms?

Remember Amscol, Menz Yo-Yo Biscuits, Woodies lemonade, Burger King and the Lightburn Zeta car? What about Rundle Street before it was a mall, the Cactus Garden, King Neptune at Darlington, Downtown,Magic Mountain, Marineland or Dazzeland?

Contestants line up for the 1954 Sunday Advertiser Beach Girl Quest at Semaphore beach.
Ascot Park Infant School primary students Robert and Terry, both 5, on their first day of school in 1960.

If you grew up in Adelaide during the Baby Boomer years, chances are you’ll remember them all.

In 2013, I was invited by Greg Barila, social media editor of The Advertiser, to write some nostalgia pieces for the newspaper’s website. He had been following posts on my Facebook page, Adelaide Remember When, and thought they could work well for the online edition.

Jill Pengelley, editor of the newspaper’s weekly Boomer pages, thought the articles would be ideally suited for that section. And so I began writing my stories for the paper on a regular basis.

Now, more than three years and more than 100 columns later, I am still finding plenty of memories to share and have lots of tales left to tell.

Our childhood years were filled with homemade billycarts, forts and tree houses, catching tadpoles in the creek, Yes, What? on the wireless, Sunday roasts, getting the cuts at school, second hand pushbikes, Vicks VapoRub, swinging on the Hills Hoist and playing cricket or footy in the street.

If you remember the newspaper and magazine stands in the city, then you’re been around for a while. This is from 1970.

As teenagers, there was Myponga Pop Festival, The Beatles at Centennial Hall, parking at Glenelg beach, the local drive-in pictures, a hamburger at Burger King and a milkshake at Sigalas, the bands, the dances and your very first car.

There were the great traditions of Oakbank at Easter, Carols by Candlelight at Elder Park, cricket at Adelaide Oval — “the world’s prettiest cricket ground” — and icons such as John Martins, the Regent Picture Theatre, Holden at Woodville and Elizabeth, Chrysler at Tonsley Park and the Adelaide Grand Prix. So many, many memories we have to share.

I don’t claim to be a journalist or any great writer. My background is in radio as an on-air personality — a profession that I loved and worked at for 40 years.

As a presenter on 5DN’s breakfast show in the 1980s, I started a segment called Adelaide Remember When, during which I played a sound bite from an old news event and would ask listeners to call in with their own memories of the incident.

The city comes to a stop as people get out of their cars and stand in silence on King William St for a minute’s silence on Remembrance Day in 1955.
The Burger King on Anzac Highway at Everard Park, some time between 1962 and 1972. picture Adrienne Peel

I was always amazed at the range of emotions triggered by very memorable moments, ranging from sadness and loss, all the way through to happiness and extreme joy.

After leaving radio, I took a sales position with The Advertiser and at the same time started my Facebook page, Adelaide Remember When.

The page followed in the steps of the radio segment.

Amscol ice-cream vans on the Torrens Parade Ground, circa 1950. Source: State Library of SA

Within a few months, it had more than 10,000 followers, and by the end of 2014 my first book Adelaide Remember When was published.

My new book, The Best of Bob Byrne’s Boomer Columns, is a celebration of the memories and the years, the people, places, events and experiences that shaped our city and a generation.

Many of the stories have been inspired by pictures and comments sent in by readers to the newspaper or the Facebook page.

Don Dunstan celebrates the end of six o’clock closing in 1967 at Challa Gardens Hotel. Picture: Advertiser Library

It is full of the joy of nostalgia and something of a contemporary history of Adelaide’s Baby Boomer years.

When we reminisce, we share a walk down memory lane. We rejoice and rediscover childhood adventures, remember again the joy and freedom of our own teenage rebellion, admire once more our forgotten heroes and relive those years we had in the sun.

In this new book, I’ve selected what I believe to be the best memories — or, at least, those that received the greatest response with letters and comments when published in The Advertiser.

The Best of Bob Byrne’s Boomer Columns, out now, is published by New South Publishing, RRP $29.99.

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