Historic carousel on death row
2 Feb 11 by Tim Williams
THE historic Semaphore carousel - a source of countless memories of childhood innocence, first loves, weddings and milestone birthdays - will be sold and could be lost to the area after almost 75 years.
Moving on ... Brent Leighton is selling the Semaphore carousel.
Owner Brent Leighton will this month advertise the carousel, believed to be the oldest of its size in Australia, in a national sideshow trade magazine for $600,000.
The Seaton resident said the sale was prompted by the imminent retirement of volunteers Ernie and Kath Makepeace, who have maintained and run the merry-go-round for 23 years.
Mr Leighton, 70, said he had decided against selling his travelling catering business to run the carousel himself because the catering business was less time-consuming.
Mr Leighton hoped a local buyer would keep the carousel on the Semaphore foreshore, but ultimately the market would decide what happened to it.
“Anybody who approaches me about it, I will try to sell them the idea of leaving it where it is,” he said. “It would be a mammoth job to move it. I think the people of SA would like to see it stay where it is too - it’s a bit of an icon.
“You’ll never get rich with a merry-go-round but they’re a prestige thing to own.”
Hanna Grant, who takes a slice of the carousel’s profits by hiring it out for parties and wedding receptions through her Alberton-based Party On Wheels business, said it was “making money OK”.
But she believed it was likely to be sold and taken interstate or overseas.
“I for one am going to miss it if it does,” Ms Grant said.
Mr Leighton has owned the merry-go-round since he took over in 1979 from his father, who had bought it at auction six years earlier. Its operating costs are about $8000 a year including site lease and rates from Port Adelaide Enfield Council, electricity and public liability insurance.
Mr Leighton said his “last resort” would be to sell individually the 40 wooden horses, which would fetch up to $8000 each.
“The Yanks (Americans) will pay all sorts of money for them,” he said.“They just put them in their lounge room.‘The carousel helped put Semaphore and Adelaide on the international tourist map when it was used in the Japanese Ultraman film in the 1980s and featured on a Singaporean travel show in the 1990s.
Mr Leighton this week met with Port Adelaide Enfield Council staff to see if it would consider buying the carousel, but Mayor Gary Johanson said it was not a viable option.
Mr Johanson said there were more pressing demands on the council’s money, such as sporting grounds, and it also lacked the “specialised expertise” to maintain the attraction.
DOING THE ROUNDS
The carousel was built by Len Northey, who operated a silent cinema in Henley Town Hall, and was originally on the Henley foreshore from 1929.
The 40 horses were made by wooden rocking horse and toy maker Robert Bartlett in Melbourne.
The ride was moved to Jubilee Oval, in the North Adelaide parklands, for the centenary of South Australia in 1936.
It was then shifted to Semaphore in 1938.s
The original brass poles were shipped from England, but chromed over in 1948 so they were easier to clean.
The ride used amplified music when most carousels relied on steam organs.
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