Sydney nostalgia

Seeing some of your own words in print is good for the soul.  It happened to me several times when I wrote historical surveys for my church’s annual national directory.

Last week I gratefully received my latest ego boost: a complimentary copy of a book to which I had contributed a family photo with a few lines of comment.  Retro Sydney was written by Ian Collis and published this month (November 2012).  Most of the photos on the 336 pages were taken by the author during the 1950s and ‘60s – a fruit of being a keen amateur photographer in his early years.

Ian Collis is now the Head of Statistics at FOX Sports, and his love of sport and statistics is clear from his introductory reflection on each of the book’s sections as well as from his other publications.

The book has sections on the beach, the city, the suburbs, the Queen’s first visit to Sydney on 1954, the traffic, the Royal Easter Show (still in Moore Park), the harbour, the Bridge and the building of the Opera House, sport and recreation, and (last but surely not least interesting) fashion.  Each of these sections brought home many fond memories and as a history aficionado I found Ian’s introductions informative as well as nostalgic.

You wish… The view south from the corner of York and Grosvenor Streets about the mid 1950s.

Ian’s love of statistics adds a punch as he tells the story: his account of the massive change in the mix of public and private transport between 1946 and 1971 added substance to my general impressions.  But his photos also help tell the story: although I was often in the city as a young lad between 1951 and 1961, I was amazed that I’d forgotten about the lack of traffic and traffic lights in the inner city’s streets during these two decades.  But photos don’t usually lie.

Of course I was more familiar with some sections of the book than others.  I grew up in a different part of Sydney from that Ian Collis often photographed, but my father’s work involved visits by car all over the metropolitan area at the time and I sometimes came along (to keep me out of Mum’s hair and help Dad stay alert), I have a good friend who lived in North Parramatta at the time, and I was in the city most weekends.  So I easily recognised and remembered most of the views in the book; so much so that I picked up several incorrect captions!

Retro Sydney is a coffee table book and companion volume to Ian Collis’ earlier Old Sydney – a Pictorial History, published 5 years ago: this book reviewed 200 years of images of the city I love and call “home” more than any other.

Retro Sydney is a strong dose of almost pure nostalgia for the Boomer generation.  But it is also spiced with facts and figures, many of which will I am sure revive warm memories and provoke some fruitful thought and debate.


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