A post on the colour, spectacle and excitement of Dragon Boat racing caused me to reflect on how things are, were, and have been here in the North of the State. We are an area beyond the historic Goyder’s Line. What’s the Goyder Line, you may ask? George Goyder was the Surveyor-General of South Australia. Goyder spent years on horseback surveying South Australia and devised a demarcation line which separated land which was safe for agriculture, which received good rains to sustain crops, and land which was not, did not have rain to sustain agriculture but was adequate for light
grazing. This is the Goyder Line. By the late 1860s with agricultural land being scarce , the South Australian Government ignored the findings of the Surveyor-General and sold the land north. After all everyone knows that “Rain follows the Plow” For a few seasons the rains were good and crops grew in abundance and Goyder was ridiculed. The crops, ripe for harvest, swaying in the gentle breeze, looked like fields of gold and someone termed the phrase “The Golden North” a name that survives today in a few popular dairy products. By the mid 1880s the rains failed, drought came, winds came and the area became a dust bowl (Think Oklahoma), farmers lost everything and most just simply walked off their land. You will recall that I generally say that rain passes below us and where there are storms, we get a sideswip, that’s because the bottom of the Peninsula is within the Goyder Line, the top is not. I know, what has this got to do with colour, excitement and Dragon Boats? Well, simply a question was asked “How was your weekend?” Had I been asked that question 20 years ago, my answer would not have been what it was. A mere 20 years ago and this place was a hive of activity, social clubs, sport, fairs of various kinds – the second largest being the Food and Wine Fair, the largest being the Annual City Fair (Whyalla Show) the Christmas Pageant, the After Pageant Fair/ the Easter Parade / Australia Day. On a good warm day it was nice to go to the foreshore, have an ice-cream and watch the wind surfers. Or you could have a game of backyard cricket with the neighbours. In the evening you could go to live music at one of the many clubs – which club depended on who you were / Club Italico / The Croatia Club / The German Club/’The St. Andrew’s Society/ The Philippine Club / The Caledonia Club/ the Left Hand Club / The Irish Club/ there could be local up and coming talent or a singer or group from the Old Country. There was also live music at one or other of the hotels. The Sundowner Hotel was the place to be for the older youth – they featured rock bands – local, Adelaide, or inter-state. Every year there was “The Battle of the Bands”where rock bands from all over SA gathered in town to play and compete for a prize – I’m not sure what the winners got but I think it was substantial.
In the Golden North, in the 1880s rains failed and the seasons changed. Here, in the 1980s the the recessions came and the culture changed. People lost jobs and having lost their jobs sold up and left town. Houses took a long time to sell as there were just no buyers. The clubs began to close, shops closed creating more unemployment. A lot of things happened, not much of them good and the confidence just went out of the town. None of the clubs survived. Club Italico is kept open by a few old men who go there to play cards and the reason they do that is so that they can show that the club is still used and they can retain the license. All of the others have gone. We have tried various things and ideas over the last few years and some worked for a couple of years then died. Well, I don’t dwell on the past, although this post might seem like it. We weren’t always boring and once upon a time, we did have a very active social life in a very active town. Now, it’s just me and the dog – and that’s fine- although I have to say that the continual wind in this new climate is depressing at times.