Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Rushcutters Bay - The old Sydney Stadium

All 10 photographs are explained right at the end. Take in my mournful narrative first.

This has been one of the most mournful posts I have prepared; and over a building!

The 'original' Sydney Stadium was demolished in 1970 to make way for the construction of the Eastern Suburbs railway. It was really just an 'old tin shed' but was regarded with affection by Sydneysiders of a certain age. It was a basic structure clad in corrugated iron. It was not lined. The seats/chairs were on risers, with the stage in the round. It was neither heated nor airconditioned. The stage had to be moved 90 degrees BY HAND every so many minutes.

And its existence has been obliterated. It took me over two hours this arvo to track down the plaque that I had read existed. Bah! Humbug! Along the westward flowing New South Head Road is a 12' high densely packed row of Murrayas. I had to push into them to identify the plaque. What a shame! And the intersection has been altered out of all recognition. I guess 40 odd years will do that.

The Sydney Stadium was built in 1908 as a stage in the middle of a paddock, and was intended to be used to stage boxing and wrestling matches. The first match, between Tommy Burns and Jim Johnson attracted over 200,000 fans. It took them a few years to even put a roof over it. In the early '50s it started to attract popular singing groups under the auspices of the promotor Lee Gordon: Buddy Holly, Bobby Rydell, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and The Beatles. My memory is of going to experience Peter, Paul & Mary at the height of the 1963/4 folk craze. I still remember the thrill of the noise of stamping and clapping on the wooden floors as they controlled a round of 'Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham'. Oh, those were the days!!

Photos 1,2 and 3
The lead photo is of the crowd swarming across New South Head Road in 1955 to hear Frank Sinatra. The next two shots I took trying to recreate that intersection.

Photos 4, 5 and 6
The large photo is the plaque, and what a soul-less example it is! The next two photos show its situation. Sad and pathetic behind a hedge, with newspapers swirling around in the wind. Down the driveway of a petrol station.

Photos 7, 8 and 9
The large photo shows the entry and the front to New South Head Road in 1961. See the GM-Holden car of that era. I can remember those hoardings quite distinctly. And two programme covers from an enthusiast's website.

Photo 10
Was taken by Ern McQuillan in 1968 and is an aerial shot of the site, showing the octagonal shape of the Stadium plus all the field behind it. The dark line running diagonally across is the drain into which Cascade Creek - which runs down from Trumper Park - had been funnelled. That is another sad tale of neglect and environmental vandalism! You can see Rushcutters Bay and the park with its line of fig trees.

Boo hoo!!


PerthDailyPhoto said...

Well it's 11.30pm here in Perth and I'm sitting reading and enjoying your post immensely. Really love looking at comparison images of then and now, sad to think this place of many memories is no longer, not even replaced by a bigger and better Stadium. Hope you have a good Wednesday, I'm off to bed!!

Mark & Matt said...

The Tommy Burns v Jimmy Johnson fight is one of the great social history stories of Sydney. I never new this building but understand your sadness. Tin buildings are just fantasic.

freefalling said...

Like most aspects of life, why can't we learn the art of compromise?
Why do we have to obliterate the old to make way for the new?
Why can't they co-exist or evolve into something else?
Gives me the shits.

And what are self-supporting trousers?
Maybe they would be helpful for you re your latest post at PtD??!!

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

We have oblitterated our treasures, whether they be buildings or forests. In the case of this stadium, it was not the value of the building itself but the importance of the time and era... now lost forever.

I agree with you... boo hoo.


Rae Walter said...

What wonderful memories there must be for many people of this stadium and it's signature events Julie. Unfortunate there is such a lack of interest in preserving this history.

Joan Elizabeth said...

I guess the plaque was to appease people at the time. Interesting question this history thing. Some things have to go to make way for progress and perhaps the memory isbetter than the clapped out old building it would be today.

Julie said...

It was a clapped out old building all its life, Joan. Very little had been done to it, and it simply would not be tolerated AT ALL in this day and age. But there is so little memory left of it.

And where the ES railway comes out into the light over this gully is just such an eyesore.

I guess there is no money to smarten up something like this.

Jim said...

Had no idea about the history of this. I've often wondered what was there before they built the railway line.

Julie said...

Jim jim jim ... you are so YOUNG!!!

Mary Ann said...

I've been well rewarded for coming to your blog, Julie. I love posts like this one, explaining things I wouldn't even know I didn't know.

Julie said...

*grin* ... I know what you mean, Mary Ann. Like with your blog: you give names to architectural features that have their equivalent in my neck-of-the-woods.

Dam said...

I saw pp&m at the Sydney Stadium. I was single back then & shared at flat Kings Cross. I remember the looking at the tin roof & wooden structure well as we waited for pp&m to appear. I think they were about 40 mins late getting on stage & people were getting a bit restive, but as soon as big, beautiful Mary appeared all was forgiven in an instant. A great concert & an unforgettable nights performance by all three real singers given with generous enthusiasm. A standing roar of approval from all present that night !!!