Thursday 7 November 2013

Chartered decline

This is Geoff. He's a volunteer at the Zara Clark Museum in Charters Towers, which is a rather grand-sounding name for a little Outback town - but nowhere as pretentious as its original nickname: The World. That's still painted in the big water tank on the hill beside the town, but really it's a shadow now of its glorious gold rush self, when it was the second biggest city in Queensland. Back then, there were 92 pubs, and three calls a day at its very own Stock Exchange.

Now there are only 9 pubs, old men in hats with full beards busy themselves with tourism activities and one of the most splendid buildings (of many), an imposing brick edifice with lovely Art Deco leaded glass borders to the shop windows - Stan Pollard & Co, Drapers and Mercers - has had an abomination of a boxy painted wooden frontage attached to it by Target. Tch.

But down in the museum, the past is still treasured and the old Co-op is crammed with pianolas, saddles, a 1924 Chevvy (half wooden), a birthing table complete with stirrups, an SS uniform, a 'flying fox' change system from Pollards', school slates, fire engine, cloche hats and very much more. Including the toaster Geoff is demonstrating here, a nifty American invention that uses a spring and a swivel to prevent burnt fingers while turning the bread. He was still delighted by it - as were we, with the whole museum. Pretty well worth the 150km drive from Townsville.

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