Deeply etched in my store of diverse childhood memories are the many magical days (and nights) spent at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in the early 1960s.
I can quickly and easily recall with delight the clinking and clanging sounds coming from Sideshow Alley; the distinctive odours from the various animal enclosures not to mention the tempting aromas coming from the popcorn and hot dog stands. The vivid lights of the spectacular evening fireworks displays after the Saturday night Grand Parades instantly come to mind every time I remember my times there.
I also loved everything else about the Easter Show; the sumptuous and colourful fruit and vegetable displays from the different country districts; the arts and crafts exhibitions, the tiny newborn chicks, the stunning equestrian events and most importantly the dramatic traditional woodchop competition.
It was usually very dusty, often hot and it sometimes rained (being Easter) but nothing could dissuade me from joining the huge crowds swarming through the entrance turnstiles into the Royal Agricultural Society Showground at Moore Park with my family and sometimes a friend or two each year.
By the time Easter arrived each year my sister and I had been saving our pocket money for weeks in order to buy all kinds of souvenirs and show bags, ride the Ghost train, Roller Coaster and Giant Slide and have a go at winning a prize or two at the Laughing Clowns, Lucky Ducks or Coconut Shy.
Easter was one of the few times through the year when we were allowed to indulge ourselves with chocolate often from a Cadbury or Violet Crumble Bar from a show bag. But there were also free sample bags to collect, like one from the Commonwealth Bank containing a pencil, ruler, eraser and a money box or one from Dairy Farmers with a small container of chocolate milk and all kinds of educational material.
It was also hard to resist buying a sparkly doll on a stick or a whirly gig which, along with a bag of fairy floss would keep us amused in the stands while watching the evening events.
Some years later during my high school years at Sydney Girls High School (which was conveniently located across the road from the showground) my friends and I would sneak through holes in the fence on our way home and watch as preparations were being made for the show. Then on show days we would relive some of our childhood memories and buy a show bag or two and even go back on the Saturday night for the big events.
I took my young children to the Easter Show during the late-1980s before it moved to Homebush, and took one trip with my teenage son and his friends after it relocated.
I tried to relive some of my memories but like many events in your life this one was one that marked the beginning of a gradual disappointment of what had become of the Royal Easter Show as I could clearly see the increasing commercialisation of what was once such an enjoyable uniquely Australian family educational experience. My grandchildren have never been to The Show and probably never will because as my daughter reminds me every year about this time – families need to take out a second mortgage to afford it. Sigh.