Luna Park is still 'just for fun'
29th September 2010, Emma Page, Mossman Daily
NANCY Bonham closes her eyes. She can smell hot waffles and fairy floss floating on the breeze, hear the lively chords of carousel music and see the grotesque ghost train skeleton looming larger than life.
It’s October 4, 1935. North Sydney’s famous face, Luna Park, opens to the public for the first time.
An eight-year-old Mrs Bonham walks hand-in-hand with her grandpa, Robert Douglas, through the gaping mouth of a silver-painted, colossal moon face as it swallows a wave of visitors.
“It was absolutely marvellous, the park was so big I kept getting lost,” Mrs Bonham, now 83, said on the eve of the park’s 75th birthday.
“I can remember the Big Dipper and the River Caves, which had all these different scenes you passed by on a little boat.
“My favourite was Coney Island - I’d sit in the middle of the joy wheel while it went round and round so I wouldn’t fall off.”
Mrs Bonham also recalled with vivid accuracy Coney Island’s distorting mirrors, barrels of fun, slippery slides and wind machine that ``used to blow your dress up’‘.
Do you have any special memories of Luna Park? Tell us about them.
When the doors opened in 1935 it cost a sixpence to enter (threepenny for children) and sixpence for most rides.
But some things haven’t changed as Mrs Bonham said “you had to line up for ages” in 1935.
Mrs Bonham still has a lion biscuit tin that she won, a Luna Park medallion and a ticket book of free rides from her first and early visits to the park.
Mrs Bonham grew up with her grandparents in Crows Nest but now lives in Toukley.
She returned to the Park for a photo shoot with the Daily last week.
The diminutive woman, garbed in her Sunday best, threw caution to the breeze as she relived those early memories on the ferris wheel and Coney Island.
“The park doesn’t seem any smaller but it doesn’t have the same charm that it used to,” she lamented.
Luna Park will celebrate its 75th birthday on Saturday.
There will be free entertainment by juggler The Great Dave, hoola-hooping circus act Hu-La-La, local roving band Hot Potato and a birthday parade featuring dancers, stilt walkers and acrobats, from 2pm.
John Farnham will perform in the Big Top on Monday, the park’s actual birthday.
The park has enjoyed a rich and colourful history since opening in 1935 and most people today can quote its famous “Just For Fun” theme.
Luna Park historian Anne Doughty said the site had undergone a “rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs” over the past 75 years but was “here to stay”.
“There is a need for people of all ages to have a place to go to have fun, Luna Park is the only amusement park in Sydney and it’s in a great location,” she said.
Australia’s first Luna Park opened in St Kilda, Melbourne on December 13, 1912 followed by one in Glenelg, Adelaide on October 8, 1930.
The Glenelg site turned a profit for four years but lost support from the council and was auctioned off in April 1935.
An alternative site at the foot of Sydney Harbour Bridge was located and about 1,300 tonnes of rides were dismantled and sent from Glenelg to Milsons Point.
The State Government and North Sydney Council agreed an amusement park would stimulate commercial activity at a time when employment and spending were low.
Sydney’s Luna Park ran for nine-month seasons until 1972, when it was opened year-round.
But it was shut down in June 1979, following the Ghost Train fire, which killed six children and one adult and demolished most of the park.
It has since been reconstructed and opened and closed several times, the last official reopening being in 2004.
Friends of Luna Park, a group founded by former and current Luna Park artists and concerned citizens, successfully lobbied the government to pass the Luna Park Site Act in 1990.
The act made the site Crown land dedicated for public recreation, amusement and entertainment.
Today, Luna Park is listed on the State Heritage Register and plays host to big ticket events.
Luna Park Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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