Life in Bondi (NSW) before TV

Peggy Kelsall

When I was a child the main form of entertainment for children and adults was the local movie theatre. Within a radius of about five miles from my home in Bondi there must have been at least ten of these theatres.

"Saturday arvo at the pictures" was almost a ritual for children. At these matinees you got two feature films and an assortment of cartoons and short documentaries for sixpence. Weeknights patrons were treated to the main feature film, a supporting film and short features. Going to "the pictures" for the grown-ups was a real "dress up" social occasion. If you and your boyfriend were going to spend the evening at one of the posh movie houses in the city you both wore your best "going out" clothes and he would arrive with a corsage for you to pin to your coat. After the movies it was customary to go to one of the city coffee houses for supper.

Ballroom dancing was another popular form of entertainment in the '40's and '50's, before the arrival of TV. The Trocadero dance hall in Sydney, with its large dance floor and resident band of talented musicians was probably one of the best known. However there were smaller suburban dance halls where people could go on Fridays and Saturdays to dance to music supplied by gramophone records.

Radio serials provided plenty of entertainment for housewives at this time. The ABC had a long running serial, "Blue Hills". I can recall three commercial radio stations in Sydney in the '40's and they also had daytime serials. For children I guess the most popular serial would have been the ABC's "The Argonauts". This was my favourite, because not only could you receive achievement certificates – if your work was read "on air" you received a cash prize as well.

In Bondi we had several tennis courts. Tennis was a popular pastime for children and adults. The courts were owned by Council and available day or night at no charge. Walking was also popular and on balmy summer evenings families would stroll along the Esplanade at Bondi Beach, perhaps buying a supper of fish and chips or an ice-cream cone from the local milk-bar.

Once TV arrived the whole pattern of family living changed. Rather than going out to play tennis or for a stroll along The Esplanade, people stayed home to watch "the box". The large movie houses in the city stayed open, but the small suburban ones soon closed due to lack of patronage.

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