Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ballaarat: Golden City: A Pictorial History by John Reid and John Chisholm, photography by Max Harris.

Ballaarat: Golden City: A Pictorial History by John Reid and John Chisholm, photography by Max Harris.  Hardcover book published by Joval 1989, 160 pages with black and white photographs throughout.

“BALLAARAT, GOLDEN CITY chronicles the romantic history in photographs of Australia’s most famous city. Its pages mirror the transition of Ballaarat from a field of gold and blood to a bustling city nestled idyllically around Lake Wendouree. This major chapter in Australia’s history comes alive as you look across Ballaarat Flat in 1860, just 6 years after Eureka, and see the landscape transformed by the miners in their desperate search for gold and the city they built to the west. Ponder the deep shaft mines with their poppet heads and almost hear the booming stampers crushing the quartz to release the gold. Wander down Lydiard Street past the Mining Exchange, the banks, the hotels and the warehouses and become immersed in what it was like to live in Ballaarat almost a century and a half ago. Marvel at the hopelessness of the Chinese lepers ostracised by society, the wonderment of school children gathered around an Edison Cylinder Phonograph and the romance of the Ballaarat Cycle Club’s pennyfarthing excursion to the Ballaarat Gardens. Chuckle at the football team which dressed in anything as long as it was blue and the quadrille and iron quoit teams with their stiff and starchy collars. And more. The lake, the statues, the gardens, the zoo, the coming of the railway and the sooty splendour of the Phoenix Foundry, the churches, the schools and the public buildings . . . all part of the history of the Golden City we call Ballaarat.” 

In fact we now call it something a little different to Ballaarat.  Ballaarat is now known by the name of Ballarat, after Ballaarat combined with some other local government areas in 1994. It’s all just a minor difference but a difference it is.  I think that the title is a great introduction to a book that demonstrates the way things have changed in Ballarat… which is why I’ve mentioned it here. 

I’ve written about living in rural Victoria many times, and indeed, I don’t live that far from Ballarat (formerly Ballaarat) and have been known to do my weekly grocery shopping in that historical throbbing metropolis. On these shopping excursions I do of course inadvertently visit many of the spots shown in the book, but I must confess that i've never visited the hopeless Chinese lepers and that i had no idea that there was ever a zoo there.   

Lake Wendouree, a Ballarat landmark, ex Olympic venue and must see tourist spot, is well represented in the book and it was only a few days ago that I sat by it’s shores and ate my lunch.  None of these people (photo below) were there at the time, they’d be very old if they were, but there were some pesky swans that tried unsuccessfully to steal my chunky beef burgundy pie (not shown in photo). 

I like these sort of books.  They are a reminder in a very in your face way of the way things once were.  When I first acquired this title I was happy to sit down with a cup of coffee and flick through it and was very pleased each time I saw something I recognised.  I reckon most people would feel the same way and would enjoy this nostalgic journey. There is of course the whole “every picture tells a story” aspect which even though I’m not part of the original story, I’m now a small part of the later story and looking at these photos there are many stories which whilst not always within my own comprehension or nostalgia, are of interest. 

This is not the first copy of this book that I’ve acquired, but this copy is in much better condition that the previous one.  And will it sell?  Sure it will.

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