BEER WITH A BIBLE SOCIETY LOGO is only an oddity for the rest of the world; in South Australia, it symbolises the duality in Adelaide’s colonial heritage, such as having many churches but even more pubs.
A special batch of light beer featuring the Bible Society Australia’s logo on its cans and Bible verses on its cases was produced by Coopers Brewery in 2017 to mark the 200th anniversary of the society.
Oddities were intrinsic to South Australia’s European history as a place settled with a strong push from outsiders: the Protestant Dissenters and nonconformists. A Methodist lay preacher Thomas Cooper, founder of Coopers brewery in 1862, was one of those Dissenters.
Outsider is an apt term for Adelaide’s founder William Light. Born in Malaysia with a childhood in Penang, Light carried the social burden of being regarded as a half caste: “Light by name, William is ‘Mr Brown’ in looks”.
Light ended his dying days in Adelaide generally shunned by society, not least because he was living with his mistress Maria Gandy. In 1926, Theberton, the cottage that Light built for himself, was demolished. Replacing it was a brewery producing light beer.
South Australia never fulfilled the vision of founders such as Edward Gibbon Wakefield for a colony of middle class bourgeois respectability. (Not as though Wakefield or his brothers were role models.) Prostitution was soon rife and the first convict-free Australian colony was also the first have a police force.
South Australia attracted educators who were creatively different such as John Lorenzo Young and his school or creatively suspect such as the Elder Conservatorium’s Joshua Ives. The creativity and contractions added to the state’s many oddities.
But some oddities came out of the state’s better ideas such as leading Australia (and much of the world) in its drink container deposit laws.
This spawned the cohort of small entrepreneurs checking bins along streets for empty cans – possibly even light beer cans with Bible Society logos.
TOUCHES OF THE EXTRAORDINARY ABOUT START OF COLONY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA
John Hindmarsh’s (1836-38) time as South Australia’s first governor was characterised by disputes with supporters of the resident commissioner. Hindmarsh’s main compensation was his financial gain. Hindmarsh, like others, saw possibilities in land speculating. He made his move even before the City of Adelaide and large sections were surveyed by William Light. With credit from George Fife Angas, Hindmarsh bought five preliminary land orders for £80 each and, when town acres were allotted by ballot, he chose four in Adelaide and one at Port Adelaide. When other Adelaide acres were auctioned, he bought 14, mostly in North Adelaide, for £74 10s. A high-priority draw secured him a 134-acre section at Walkerville that sold for £1500. Section 353 – 34 acres bounded by Port Road, the River Torrens and what’s now South Road – was bought by Hindmarsh in 1838 for £73. He sold it to a group for £1,000 to begin Hindmarsh suburb. A section at Rosetta Cove gave him a crude wharf and rent from whalers. Hindmarsh removed critics, such as colonial secretary Robert Gouger and emigration agent John Brown, from the governing council. Both were replaced by suitors of the governor's daughters. Third to go was advocate-general Charles Mann, replaced by George Milner Stephen, who knew no law but joined the suitors and married Hindmarsh’s daughter Mary. Hindmarsh’s wife Susannah managed the sale of her husband’s land, with her £12,000 account by far the largest in the Bank of Australasia's Adelaide branch when she left to rejoin her husband in England in 1841.
Key figures in founding South Australia’s justice system, Edward Gibbon Wakefield and John Jeffcott, both experienced the English system as defendants. South Australia’s early legal system was decided before the colony was settled, based on Wakefield’s ideas formed while in London’s Newgate prison from 1827 for abducting a 15-year-old heiress. The prison time led to his study of emigration and his solution: systematic colonisation. His also produced ideas on the justice system by investigating fellow prisoners: their punishments and prospects. This led to his Facts Relating to the Punishment of Death in the Metropolis (1831), and The Hangman and the Judge (1833). His Sketch of a Proposal for Colonizing Australasia was printed in 1829. John Jeffcott was appointed chief justice of Sierra Leone and the Gambia in 1830. He returned to England in 1832 on leave, extended on medical grounds. The next year, he was knighted and about to return to Africa when, in a duel at Exeter, he shot and killed Peter Hennis, a young doctor. Jeffcott sailed for Africa before he could be caught. A warrant was issued for Jeffcott's arrest. No one wanted to press the murder charge and it was arranged that, if he returned to England for trial, no evidence would be put. He surrendered at Exeter Assizes in 1834, was arraigned on the murder charge and acquitted. He was unemployed 1834-36 before being appointed to South Australia.
South Australia's first judge, Justice John Jeffcott, only had a few months as head of the colony's fledgling judiciary. He drowned at the River Murray mouth on November 19, 1837. (South Australia lost another supreme court judge, William Wearing, to the sea in 1875, when the Gothenberg, bringing him back from the circuit court in Palmerston, later Darwin, was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef.) Jeffcott was appointed the colony’s first judge in England in 1836 but, settling his affairs (he'd been acquitted of a murder charge in 1834), meant he didn’t arrive in Adelaide until April 1837. Jeffcott “admitted three Englishmen to practise in the roles of barrister, solicitor and proctor” to start the South Australian justice structure. At the first criminal courts sitting, he congratulated the colony for, unlike others, allowing trial by jury. William Light was jury foreman. The court admitted the public prosecutor as a practitioner. Seven prisoners were presented on charges of burglary, break and enter, and rioting. Dismayed at the “dreadful dissensions” between governor John Hindmarsh (supported by Jeffcott) and his opponents, Jeffcott soon was looking for a position elsewhere. He was given leave to go to Hobart Town to consult with judges there on South Australian legal legal difficulties. On November 19, Jeffcott was waiting to board his ship in Encounter Bay when the whaleboat he was in capsized.
A quirk of Adelaide social life in the 1840s were the Aboriginal-organised Sunday corroborees. The corroborees became so popular with settlers that Aboriginals used them as a source of cash and advertised through the newspapers. Regular corroborees in Adelaide in the 1840s originated from the Kaurna tribe hosting visits by Murray Lakes and Murray River Aboriginals to see the European settlement. The corroborees persisted, despite noise complaints from North Adelaide residents. The colonial secretary told Aboriginals protector Matthew Moorhouse to tell “Natives encamped near Adelaide” that “this is now a Christian country” and the Sabbath must be kept holy without noise. But corroborees became peace, command or gala performances for well-to-do colonists and visitors. Painter W. A. Cawthorne, deeply interested in Aboriginal culture, had a 1848 Mechanics’ Institute debate with crown solicitor Charles Mann, arguing that nurture not nature decided civilised and uncivilised. To highight the debate, a parklands corroboree was promoted, attracting a big crowd and raising £4. This was the first of more entrepreneurial and commercial corroborees that lost authenticity. Aboriginals began organising corroborees to raise cash and advertised through the newspapers. Corroboree performances raised an average of £2, a valuable alternative after the Aboriginals lost another source of revenue when cutting and sale of tree timber was banned. They ended with the 1850s Victorian gold rushes but Aboriginal corroborees at Adelaide Oval in the 1880s attracted 20,000 on the first night.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S EARLY UNDERBELLY EXTENDS TO THE HIGHEST LEVELS
George Milner Stephen was an extraordinary product of the feud between South Australia’s first governor John Hindmarsh and resident commissioner James Hurtle Fisher. A brilliant student born into a well-connected English family (he was related to British Colonial Office under secretary James Stephen), George Stephen arrived in 1829 in Hobart Town where his brother Alfred was crown solicitor. George Stephen became a supreme court clerk. During 1837 in South Australia, advocate general and crown solicitor Charles Mann resigned after siding with James Hurtle Fisher in the dispute with Hindmarsh. Hindmarsh, who heard from judge John Jeffcott that Alfred Stephen had resigned in Hobart as crown solicitor, wrote to Van Diemen’s Land governor John Franklin inviting “Mr Stephen” to accept the vacancy in Adelaide. Franklin was surprised to get a request from George Stephen, for leave to visit Adelaide to consider the offer to him as crown solicitor, and an advance of £100 for law books. In 1838, George Stephen left amazed people in Hobart to become South Australia’s advocate-general. Since resident commissioner Fisher wasn't attending council of government meetings, when Hindmarsh was recalled to England in 1838, Stephen was senior council member and thus acting governor. Stephen became involved in land speculation, also involving Hindmarsh and his wife, with accusations of forgery and perjury. Stephen was later acquitted of these charges but he resigned his public offices, sold more land for himself and Mrs Hindmarsh – and married one of her daughters, Mary, before sailing off to England.
From hero to zero. Alexander Crooks, famous for catching out W.G. Grace, became the aptly named culprit blamed for the 1880s collapse of a major Adelaide bank. The spread of railways had fuelled the colony’s 1880s land boom and speculation. In February 1886, the shock came when the Commercial Bank of South Australia closed its doors at 74 King William Street. Shareholders meeting at Adelaide Town Hall were told the bank had lost money in mining speculation and the blame was sheeted home to its manager: Crooks. It also embarrassed the bank directors, including members of Adelaide’s social elite such as Richard Tarlton and Henry Ayers. Ironically, Crooks, a bank clerk, had come to the notice of that elite in 1874 in a moment of cricketing fame when, representing South Australia against an All England XI at Adelaide Oval, he took a spectacular boundary catch to dismiss the legendary W. G. Grace (for six runs). Crooks was soon treasurer of the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) and, by 1885, he became its chairman. A large part of the bank’s cash deficiency turned out to be money misappropriated by Crooks as SACA treasurer. The bank shareholders’ meeting called for Crooks’ lynching. He avoided that but served eight years in Yatala prison. The bank went into liquidation.The South Australian Cricket Association avoided that, helped by a secret loan from the brewer Edwin Smith.
SOUTH AUSTRALIANS BOLDLY GO THEIR OWN WAY ON INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL STAGE
South Australia responded with novel solutions to the financial crisis created by the exodus by 1852 of more than a third of the colony’s male population to the Victorian goldfields, taking most ready cash and causing a run on the banks for coin. The South Australian government introduced the Bullion Act in 1852, transferring gold into legal tender and enabling uncoined gold to be assayed. This gold came from the South Australian diggers in Victoria. A fixed price of £3/11/- an ounce was authorised to be offered for all uncoined gold brought back to South Australia. An assay office opened in Adelaide to receive the successful South Australian prospectors’ gold and to melt and purify the parcel of each depositor into a separate ingot stamped only with its weight. To further attract safe and guaranteed deliveries of gold to Adelaide, a monthly armed escort under the control of police inspector Alexander Tolmer was set up to bring the gold back from Victoria. The first escort arrived at the Treasury Building in Flinders Street in March, 1852, and offloaded 5,000 ounces. The total gold assayed in 1852 was worth £1,449,873. In 1852-54, gold brought into South Australia was valued at £1,820,369. Twenty-two and a half ounces of gold could buy 80 acres and diggers were keen to embrace this. Sale of rural crown land reached £400,000 in 1854, with diggers returning from the gold rush using their ingots. This fuelled a rural boom, with a flurry of railways built.
South Australia’s time zone is an international oddity. By having a half-hour interval from adjacent time zones and by having its time meridian outside its boundaries, South Australia departs from the international norms. The standardising of Australian time started in 1892 when surveyors from the six dominions met in Melbourne and accepted Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as the basis for three zones: western, central and eastern. From 1895, Western Australia would set its clocks eight hours ahead of GMT, South Australia (and the Northern Territory which South Australia then governed) by eight hours, and Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania by 10 hours. But, in 1899, as a compromise especially to rural interests, South Australia advanced central standard time by 30 minutes. Attempts to correct this half-hour oddity have been raised in 1986, 1994 and 2015. Broken Hill in far west New South Wales also adopted central standard time, since it had a rail link to Adelaide, but not Sydney, at the time. Another small anomaly is the unofficial central western standard time, used in an area of the south eastern Western Australia and one South Australian roadhouse. Towns east of Caiguna on the Eyre Highway and Border Village, just over the border into South Australia, follow central western standard time. This zone exists for about 340 kilometres and takes in the tiny roadhouse communities of Cocklebiddy, Madura, Eucla and Border Village.
George Dodwell, South Australian government astronomer 1909-1952, is most widely known for his hypothesis that the Earth’s tilt was changed around 2345BC, possibly by a comet’s impact, leading to Noah’s flood of the Bible. The nephew of astronomer royal Frank Dyson, the UK-born Dodwell was educated at Prince Alfred College and Adelaide University, graduating in mathematics. In 1899, Dodwell became junior computer (calculator) at Adelaide Observatory on West Terrace and succeeded Charles Todd as government astronomer in 1909. Among Dodwell’s work as astronomer was a magnetic survey of South Australia. This led to study of latitude variations and the tilt of Earth’s axis. This started in 1934, after be obtained a copy of an ancient manuscript of medieval Belgian astronomer Godefroid Wendelin on the Earth’s tilt. Dodwell's own Adelaide data from experiments with sundials didn’t match those used by ancients to measure the Earth’s tilt. But Dodwell concluded there was consistent evidence that the Earth's tilt was altered by a catastrophe around 2345BC. This catastrophe claim won pockets of belief including those who attributed it to destroying legendary Atlantis. Dodwell wrote the 400-page “The truth of the Bible” (1959) on his hypothesis, although an earlier version had been rejected by the Royal Astronomical Society. Dodwell was a fundamentalist Christian. He was trying to align the comet hit and Noah’s flood, according to chronology calculated by bishop James Ussher (1581-1656), based on the Bible, and concluding that Earth was created at 6pm on October 22 4004BC.
ADELAIDE ACCUSTOMED TO ABSORBING EXCEPTIONAL IDENTITIES FROM THE 19th CENTURY
Edward Wright was one of South Australia’s first flawed geniuses. A graduate in medicine from Edinburgh University in 1813 and experienced in public hospitals, Wright, a member of many learned societies, became apothecary, surgeon and superintendent at Bethlem Royal Hospital (Bedlam) in London in 1818. He was dismissed in 1830 for drunkenness, neglect of duties and undue familiarities. He tried to clear his name and then went to Syria. He returned to London but failed to find a suitable practice. Interested in the settlement of South Australia , Wright joined the managing committee of the South Australian Literary Association. In 1835, the South Australian colonisation commissioners rejected Wright’s bid to be medical officer but he and his family were allowed free passage to the colony. Wright bought land in Franklin Street, Adelaide, and his medical patients included prominent settlers. Wright didn’t bother to enrol in the colony’s medical register yet he appears to have been a good practitioner in the days of cupping and leeches. But, at 18 stone, he was reckless, overindulgent and always poor. In 1845, Wright, seemingly intoxicated, prescribed large doses of morphia for a Thebarton hotel landlord imprisoned as a mental case at Adelaide Gaol. Tried for manslaughter (and discharged on a technical point), Wright claimed in defence that the victim had “taken only the quantity becoming a gentleman after dinner”.
Charles Cameron Kingston was a notorious giant among politicians in the 1890s when he led the South Australian government for a then-record six years and a leading member of federal parliament after 1901. He was a radical South Australian premier who introduced votes for women and a state bank plus many social and industrial reforms. The most colourful episode in Kingston's political career came in 1892. Richard Baker, a prominent conservative in the Legislative Council, denounced Kingston as a coward, a bully and a disgrace to the legal profession. Kingston sent a pistol to Baker with by a letter appointing the time for a duel in Victoria Square, Adelaide, on December 23, 1892. Baker informed the police who arrested Kingston when he arrived holding a loaded revolver. Kingston he was tried and bound over to keep the peace for 12 months. This was in force when he became premier in 1893. Victoria Square was the scene of another incident in 1895, when the South Australian Company manager, provoked by Kingston, thrashed him with a riding whip and drew blood. Kingston wrested the weapon away. Kingston's preoccupation with politics may be linked to his tragic family life. His wife Lucy took in a child that Kingston had fathered with another woman. (Kingston’s body was exhumed in 2008 because two people thought they might be descendants of one of at least six illegitimate children he is believed to have fathered.)
Vaiben Louis Solomon had the briefest term as South Australian premier – seven days – in 1899 while representing the Northern Territory (then part of South Australia). Solomon was born in Adelaide, the son of Judah Moss Solomon, a member of the Legislative Council and Adelaide mayor 1869-70. Educated at John Lorenzo Young’s Adelaide Educational Institution and Scotch College, Melbourne, he returned to Adelaide and joined the firm of Donaldson, Andrews and Sharland, who sent him to Kapunda where he developed a taste for amateur theatricals. Solomon’s wish to marry Mary Ann Wigzell, a gentile, against his father's wishes, was a possible factor in his move to the Northern Territory in 1873 where he became “Mr Everything” because of business pursuits. He was nicknamed “Black Solomon” from the time, on a dare, he painted himself black and walked naked through Palmerston (now Darwin). He chaired Palmerston’s first municipal council and, in 1890, was elected with J. Langdon Parsons as the territory’s first representatives in the South Australia parliament. Their campaign advocated a White Australia Policy. A big personality, Solomon served as government whip before becoming opposition leader in 1899, when he brought down Charles Kingston's government over moves to extend Legislative Council suffrage to all householders and their wives. "Sudden Solomon” was premier and treasurer for one week.
An Adelaide myth, verging on conspiracy, was that the Anglican Church had deprived the Roman Catholic Church of the large bequest from businessman Benjamin Mendes da Costa. The myth is rooted in da Costa’s Portuguese name, suggesting he was Catholic. But da Costa had Jewish lineage and, with his sister Louisa, was bought up in the Church of England as children of their father’s second marriage. (The first-marriage children were brought up Jewish.) Benjamin and Louisa arrived in South Australia on 1840. He set up as a merchant and bought property across Adelaide and South Australia, including 11 blocks on Hindley, Rundle, Grenfell, Currie, Gilbert and Pulteney streets. The da Costas only stayed in South Australia for seven years but, when Benjamin died in 1869, he left land for the site of St Peter’s Cathedral and his £20,000 Adelaide property estate to the Collegiate School of St Peter. The dispute over wording of his will was whether he'd left money to the Anglican bishop of Adelaide (Augustus Short), whom he knew, or the Catholic bishop. It's also a myth that the Anglicans won a legal case on this point. Da Costa had become friendly with Augustus Short, who founded Collegiate School of St Peter that started in 1847 at Trinity Church on North Terrace. Da Costa left his South Australian real estate to the Council of the Collegiate School of St Peter, subject to the life interests of 10 relatives. The last relative and last life tenant of the properties died in 1910 and the estate was vested in St Peter's. Its unimproved value was about £80,000 and, in 1910-15, it provided between one and two thirds of the college’s revenue. St Peter’s College sold Da Costa Arcade in 2005 but much of the estate remains as prominent city-centre locations.
Bert Edwards, one of Adelaide's most complex, combatant and controversial 20th Century figures, fitted the rumour that he was an illegitimate son of complex, combatant and controversial premier Charles Cameron Kingston. Jobs as a stall keeper, marine store dealer and hotel keeper led Edwards to holding licences for the Brunswick Hotel, the Newmarket Hotel on North Terrace, Adelaide; Victor Harbor’s Hotel Victor and British Lion Hotel in Hindmarsh. He also ran a tea room in Sturt Street in Adelaide's west end. In 1917, he was elected to the House of Assembly as Labor member for Adelaide and became a prominent Adelaide city councillor for the west end's Grey Ward. In 1921, West Adelaide Football Club nominated Edwards, a long-time follower, as its delegate to the South Australian National Football League's governing board. But Edwards was rejected on the grounds that he’d once used intemperate language at a junior meeting. Edwards refused to apologise, starting a standoff that came close to having that league disbanded and reformed without West Adelaide. Edwards served in House of Assembly until 1931 when he was been convicted of “an unnatural offence” with John Gaunt “Jack” Mundy, 16, a “sexually perverted boy”, and sentenced to five years jail. In 1961, Edwards endowed a men's refuge in Whitmore Square, Adelaide, and in 1963 he bought the property next door as a rehabilitation centre for prisoners. He contributed generously to a meals centre run by the Daughters of Charity in Hutt Street, Adelaide.
FROM PLACE NAMES TO BEER GLASSES TO PIE FLOATERS TO ICE COFFEE
“Barossa Valley” and “Thebarton” are spelling mistakes. Both are clerical errors in registering the names given by Colonel William Light to those places. “Barrosa” was the name given by Light to an area of ranges he surveyed in 1837. This was in memory of the British victory over the French in Spain during 1811. Light had taken part in that battle. “Barrosa” became “Barossa” in a clerical error. The same for Thebarton. Light had named his allotments to the west of the city as Theberton after Theberton Hall in Suffolk. This is where Light, who spent his infant years in Penang, had been sent at six to be educated by his father’s friend Charles Doughty. A typographical error in the publication of Light’s Brief Journal and assorted conveyancing documents of allotments had it spelt both as “Theberton’ and “The barton” from 1839. Other South Australian place names are burdened with obscure origins, such as Mount Compass: where governor George Gawler lost his compass in 1840. Many original names have been overthrown. Kilburn residents used to live in Little Chicago, Morphett Vale was once Emu Downs, Rosewater was Paddington, and Burnside used to be Slapes Gully. German names – such as Blumberg to Birdwood, Peterburg to Peterborough – were changed during World War I. Origin of Pinky Flat, beside the River Torrens, is uncertain but could be from pingku (bilby) in the Aboriginal Kauna language.
South Australia’s beer glass sizes and names – pint, schooner, butcher and pony – remain oddities with their origins clouded. Elsewhere in Australia, a pint of beer is 570 millilitres. In South Australia, it’s 452 millilitres. A South Australian schooner is 285 millilitres (slightly smaller than the interstate counterpart), a butcher is 200 millilitres and a pony is 140 millilitres. The story behind the smaller pint glass in South Australia provokes several theories. One is that the strong Temperance movement, which forced pubs to close at 6pm for most of the early 20th Century, also lobbied for smaller glass sizes. Or it may have been a product of World War I or 1930s Depression austerity. Various breweries offering imprecise bottle sizes began the practice of referring to “reputed” quarts or pints. The name “butcher” is uniquely South Australian. The most common theory about the name of the butcher glass refers to Adelaide’s Newmarket Hotel, on the corner of North and West terraces, near a 19th Century abattoir. The smaller butcher glass was said to be a favourite with abattoir workers, possibly because it wouldn’t slip through their bloodied fingers. Another theory is that the name is from the German “becher” for a drinking vessel.
The pie floater, fritz, frog cakes, Fruchocs, Yo Yo biscuits and the Kitchener bun are among South Australia's food oddities. The pie floater, honoured as a South Australian heritage icon, is a meat pie floating in a bowl of thick pea soup. The floater was originally served from mobile pie carts on the streets of Adelaide. Fritz or bung fritz is claimed as uniquely South Australian but there are versions in other states. The frog cake, in the shape of a frog’s head, is sponge and cream covered with fondant. After a trip to France, Gordon Balfour, nephew of John Balfour, a founder of Balfours Bakery, introduced the frog cake in 1922 when tea rooms were popular in Adelaide. Originally green, the frogs later had brown and pink added. Also declared a state icon in 2005 are FruChocs, chocolate-covered apricot balls, made by South Australian company Robern Menz that can trace its South Australian origins back to the Menz family from Germany in 1850. Also from the Menz family, Yo Yos became a standard South Australian biscuit favourite but, after Arnotts took over the company in 1962, they removed Yo Yos from their family assorted packets in 1997 because they weren’t popular enough in other Australian states. Kitchener buns are another distinctly South Australian treat called the Berliner before anti-German sentiment in World War I prompted its new name to honour of British field marshal Lord Horatio Kitchener.
US General Douglas MacArthur made his famous"I shall return" speech regarding the Battle of the Philippines while changing trains on March 20, 1942, at the now-railway-ghost-town Terowie. MacArthur, coming south from the Philippines, via Alice Springs to Adelaide, had to change, like all travellers, from narrow to broad gauge at then-busy Terowie. The general was surprised on his “secret” journey to be greeted by Terowie locals and the press as he changed trains. The town also was the childhood home of J.P. McGowan whose father worked for the then-bustling railways. McGowan became a prolific pioneer Hollywood film director specialising in serials with a railways theme, including directing a young John Wayne in 12 episodes of The Hurricane express in 1932. McGowan who over four decades acted in 232 films, wrote 26 screenplays and directed 242 productions, is the only Australian life member of the Screen Directors Guild (now Directors Guild of America). Terowie boomed from 1880 as a railways changeover point – part of another South Australian oddity: having three railway gauges. Different choices between the Australian colonies in the 19th Century had left the continent with the narrow, standard and broad gauges. South Australia was caught in the middle with all three gauges. when the railway lines going through it were converted to broad gauge, Terowie declined to a near ghost town.
FOOTBALL ON WORLD WAR I BATTLEFIELD; AN UNDERARM FURORE; INSPIRING BIRTH OF BARMY ARMY
South Australia’s 27th Battalion in April 1917 played in what has been described as “the most unique game of football ever contested”. The Australian football match between the 27th and the 28th Battalion from Western Australia was decided on a battlefield of the World War I western front in France. The playing area was among the heavy trench system of the German front line before the Somme offensive in 1916. The 27th defeated the 28th Battalion; another victory on its way to becoming the champions of the Australian army’s 2nd Division. Their 27th's brother South Australian Battalion, the 10th, became champions of 1st Division. The South Australian 27th and 10th teams would meet just once on the western front. The troops had to route march 12km to get to the site. The football teams were transported in wagons to save them for the game. When the troops met, one soldier reported that it was “like a miniature South Australia”. The 27th won the day by two points in a high-standard match. In 1919, the first post-war football match in Adelaide between the 27th and 10th battalions' ex Diggers was played within a Peace Day event. Afterwards, it became a traditional Anzac Day event at Adelaide Oval. A businessman, Mr Heylen, donated a trophy, and for 10 years the 10th, 27th, 43rd and an artillery unit, played double-header matches. The Anzac Day match tradition is continued by the South Australian National Football League.
Kamahl became one of Australia’s best-known singers through the Adelaide phenomenon of small-city social links bringing him contact with famous benefactors Don Bradman and Rupert Murdoch in the 1950s. From a Tamil background, Kamahl arrived in Adelaide as Kandiah Kamalesvaran from Malaysia in 1953 for secondary education at King’s College (now Pembroke School) in Kensington Park. He took up cricket again at King’s College and was picked to play for the district cricket club Kensington. He took a hat-trick with his first three off-spin balls and finished with 7/55. Later that day he met Don Bradman, who also had played for Kensington club and lived in Kensington Park. This was start of Kamahl’s friendship with Bradman. As Kamahl’s university studies floundered, immigration authorities attempted to deport him. He enjoyed singing and decided to try it as a career as “Kamahl”. Just before Christmas 1958, Rupert Murdoch, the young proprietor of Adelaide’s afternoon newspaper The News, went to a party at the Lido nightclub. The singer did four Nat King Cole songs and some carols. Murdoch ask Kamalhl asked if he would sing at his staff Christmas party. The next year, Murdoch put Adelaide’s first television channel, Nine, to air with Kamahl booked for the opening night variety show. Murdoch protected and promoted Kamahl in a move to Sydney where he gained permanent residency in 1966.
The world’s longest golf course starts (from the South Australian end) in Ceduna and continues for 18 holes spaced along the 1,365 kilometres of the Eyre Highway to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia (WA). The Nullarbor Link course, opened in 2009, was the idea of Alf Caputo and Bob Bongiorno, both active in the Eyre Highway Operators Association, over a bottle of red wine at Balladonia roadhouse, WA. Some holes already existed at golf course at Ceduna, Eucla, Norseman, Kambalda and Kalgoorlie. Another 11 holes were built from scratch at roadhouses, roadstops, on working sheep stations, wheat farms and alongside gold mines. These include Penong, Nundroo, Border Village, Mundrabilla, Cocklebiddy, Balladonia and Fraser Range. Their tees and greens are synthetic grass, amid the Nullabor Plains arid terrain . The Don Harrington Tee at Border Village in South Australia is named after a major shareholder of five roadhouses along the highway. The 72-par course was designed with help from professional golfer Robert Stocker. The longest hole is Dingo’s Den at 53m metres and shortest is Brumby’s Run at 125 metres. Wombat Hole commemorates the nearby colony of southern hairy-nosed wombats. A Skylab hole is near where pieces of the spacecraft Skylab fell. The longest distance between holes is 200 kilometres. Thousands of people, many from overseas, have taken on the course challenge. Players (travellers) use a scorecard bought in Ceduna or Kalgoorlie. On presenting the completed card, they can claim a certificate for playing "the world’s longest golf course".
Adelaide Oval is where England’s Barmy Army was founded in 1994, on the Hill underneath the famous scoreboard. On Day 1 of the 1994 Ashes Test, supporters of the English cricket team headed to T Shirt City on Hindley Street during the lunch break and ordered 50 shirts saying “Atherton's Barmy Army” with the Union Jack on the back. By the end of the Test, more than 200 shirts had been bought. Meanwhile, some more serious madness was brewing the South Australian Cricket Association’s attempt to install lighting to lure Australian football or rugby league to the oval during the winter months. But the cricket association had to battle Adelaide City Council, residents of North Adelaide and protectors of the oval’s look, who claimed towers would be a blight. After a radical solution to install retractable light towers was chosen, work began in 1995 but with delays and cost blowouts. The lights were used for two day/night cricket matches in December 1997 but, on Saint Patrick's Day 1998, the No.2 tower collapsed and two injured men were left dangling from a crane by their harnesses. After an inquiry and an expensive legal fight between the light's designer and the construction company, South Australian Cricket Association submitted new plans for permanent lights. It started a new battle but with design changes, the oval’s permanent lights were finally switched on in 2000. The entire exercise had cost about $20 million.
The driest state on the driest continent has produced an ice hockey team from an unlikely source in Adelaide. The Kaurna Boomerangs are Australia’s first representative Aboriginal ice hockey team. It emerged from the Ice Factor program started in 2005 to help at-risk students stay in school and out of trouble. A former program member Shaquille Burgoyne, with Jaidyn O’Neil, came up with Kaurna Boomerangs ideas, inspired by the 1990s Mighty Ducks films. Taking their Kaurna name from the traditional owners of the Adelaide plains, the Boomerangs got the chance to stage the first exhibition ice hockey games in 2019 in Darwin at the Arafura Games – a week-long international sporting event for Indigenous representatives from 33 countries. The Boomerangs team for the Arafura Games included one of its coaches and captain, Jarrad Chester, the first Aboriginal ice hockey player to compete for Australia. The other coach is Justine Shaw, the first Ice Factor kid, whose mother, Marie Shaw QC, started the program. South Australian Ice Sports Federation and the Ice Arena at Thebarton helped developed the program with Adelaide metropolitan high schools, starting with advice from Don Anderson a youth worker in alternative education at northern suburbs’ Parafield Gardens High School and a group of disengaged students ages 13 to 18. A pilot project led to the Ice Factor Program using ice hockey as a vehicle to develop a team and long-term life skills. By 2019,15 high schools were involved in the program aimed at youth at risk, because of absenteeism, behaviour or literacy.
CON POLITES'S SIGNS; THE ZETA; FARMERS UNION ICE COFFEE; DON DUNSTAN'S PINK SHORTS
Somerton Man remains one of Australia's biggest mysteries. He was found dead in a suit and tie, on Adelaide’s Somerton Beach on December 1, 1948. The coronial cause of death was probably from an unknown poison. Nothing identified him but a phone number and words from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam. A page of the Rubáiyát, with the words “tamam shud” (“the end”) were found in a secret pocket in Somerton Man’s pants. When the page of the book was treated with iodine, five lines of code appeared. It set off deeper theories that micro writing within the code referred to plans for the de Havilland Venom — a British jet. Somerton Man’s death coincided with a Cold War visit to Adelaide by British officials and weapons trials at Woomera — the later site of nuclear testing. The other clue in the Rubáiyát book was the phone number of a nurse, Jessica Thomson, who lived in Somerton Park, and died in 2007. Her family told 60 Minutes in 2013 she may have been a Russian Soviet spy who had a son with Somerton Man, also a Soviet spy and double agent.
The “Polites” signs that dominate Adelaide CBD commercial buildings reflect the astonishing rise of Constantine George Polites from 1959 as a property tycoon. Born in 1919 at Port Pirie to Greek farming parents, Polites grew up in poverty but set up a deli/snack bar at the age of 16. He moved to Adelaide at 19 and worked as a general hand at Woolworths in Rundle Street before starting businesses in Adelaide. Polites' first real-estate buys included a building in Grenfell Street, across from Harris Scarfe’s, in the 1960s. Polites put a blue-and-white sign with his name on each building be bought. Hindley Street has the greatest concentration of the signs as Polites bought and sold hundreds of properties in the 1970s and 1980s. He was also a noticeable figues around town, driving a 1977 Cadillac, usually smoking a cigar. Polites died in 2001 but his passion for property and doing deals has been passed on to the next generation of his family. The death of George Polites had at least two odd sequels. In 2011,10 shots fired were fired at the former home and, in 2016, his grave was desecrated in a macabre attack believed to have been sparked by a family feud. A dead cat wrapped in a towel was found inside a pet carrier when police excavated the Adelaide property tycoon's grave. The excavation was believed to be linked to a suspicious package found at an Adelaide home. Police removed that package and said it was not dangerous.
One brave Adelaide company made an extraordinary foray into making cars in 1963-65. The Zeta, made by Lightburn & Co at its factory in the Adelaide suburb of Camden Park, became an instant collector’s item because of its odd features and rarity. Set up by car enthusiast Harold Lightburn, the factory initially made goods such as washing machines and industrial products like concrete mixers. In the 1960s, Lightburn bought lapsed rights for a UK small sports car, the Frisky, From it, Lightburn introduced the Zeta in 1963, priced at £595, but sold fewer than 400. Zeta models were a sedan, sedan deluxe, utility and sports model. Lightburn also produced an electric “mobility-scooteresque” runabout. The Zeta sedan and utility were powered by a 324cc Villiers engine and were front-wheel drive with independent rear trailing arms. The sedan had no rear hatch so the front seats had to be removed to access the cargo area. The chassis was steel, with a fibreglass body. Windows were perspex except for the front laminated glass windscreen. The four-speed dog clutch Villiers gearbox had no reverse so the engine had to be switched off and started backwards to provide four reverse gears. The utility was the rarest, with only eight produced. Some were bought by Sydney City Council for its Hyde Park fleet. The two-seater Zeta Sports was introduced in 1964. Like the Goggomobil Dart, it lacked doors and bumper bars. Only 28 were sold.
Adelaide was called the “murder capital of the world” in the British TV documentary The trials of Joanne Lees in 2002. Statistically, this is absurd, with Adelaide and South Australia's s murder rate mostly below the national average at less than two per 100,000 people since 1989. But a string of bizarre homicides in the late 20th Century gave Adelaide notoriety. Most prominent were: • The Truro murders, named after the discovery in 1978-79 of the remains of two young women in bushland east of the town Truro. Later, the remains of seven women were discovered: five at Truro, one at Wingfield at and one at Port Gawler. The women had been murdered over two months in 1976-77. Christopher Worrall and James Miller died before they could be charged. • The Family was the name for a close-knit group of men believed to be involved in the kidnapping, drugging, sexual abuse and, at times, torture of young men and teenage boys in Adelaide and surrounding areas throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. This followed the murder of five teenagers between 1979 and 1983. • The Snowtown (or bodies-in-barrels) murders were homicides mainly in Salisbury North by John Bunting, Robert Wagner, and James Vlassakis between 1992 and 1999. The trial was one of the longest and most publicised in Australian legal history. The killers were led by Bunting to believe the victims were paedophiles, homosexual or “weak”. In some instances, the murders were preceded by torture, with efforts made to access victims’ Centrelink social security payments and bank funds.
Adelaide saw off the American retail coffee megalith Starbucks in the early 2000s. Starbucks opened outlets in Rundle Mall, Glenelg and Noarlunga in 2007 but they closed in July 2008 when the franchise shut down 75% of its Australian locations. Adelaide had already created its own coffee revolution in 2000 with Cibo Espresso opening its first outlet on the corner of Frome and Rundle streets in 2000. Cibo expanded to other outlets as it won the city over to an authentic Italian coffee experience. Cibo’s founders, Roberto Cardone, Salvatore Pepe, Angelo Inglese and Claudio Ferraro, had become renowned for the Italian experience they presented at their CIBO Ristorante in O’Connell Street, North Adelaide, from 1996. They were convinced Adelaide was ready for a real Italian coffee bar but it took a year to wean the city off scalding hot coffee and foamy cappuccinos. Surveys show Adelaide has the most enthusiastic coffee drinkers. Bean Bar is another Adelaide coffee company with outlets in the Adelaide CBD.
A STATE WITH A PROPENSITY FOR INVENTIVENESS STRAYING INTO THE WEIRD AND/OR WONDERFUL
Singer Mark Holden caused a very Adelaide sensation on his 2014 appearance on the Dancing with the Stars television show. His performance dressed as Bobo the Clown was condemned as “disturbing”, a “disaster on the dance floor”, “one of the scariest things I've ever seen” and “a train wreck”. Holden received four out of 40 (the lowest score possible) and was voted out of the show. Holden may have exposed a national clown phobia but he was paying tribute to Bobo as the phenomenally popular character of 1960s South Australia. Bobo the Clown, played by Charles “Hal” Turner, was a children’s character who first appeared on Adelaide’s Channel 9 and grew so popular that in the early 1960s that he was hired by new rival Adelaide TV station SAS10 and hosted its first program. This loss caused Channel 9 to come up with a new character: Humphrey B. Bear. After the Bobo incident, Holden released Holden Brothers Travelling Circus on CD/DVD, referring to his family background in circuses. Holden’s career had an intrinsically local start, from appearing on Ernie Sigley’s Adelaide Tonight in 1972 to phases as singer, actor, TV personality, record producer, songwriter and barrister.
The Nullarbor Nymph grabbed global media focus in 1971-72. It was a hoax around sightings of a half-naked woman living among kangaroos on the Nullabor Plain. The first report was by professional kangaroo shooters from Eucla in Western Australia, near the South Australian border. They claimed to have seen a blond white woman among kangaroos and showed a grainy amateur film of a woman wearing kangaroo skins and holding a kangaroo by the tail. After more claimed sightings, the story went world-wide and journalists descended on Eucla (population eight at the time). The incident was eventually revealed as a hoax publicity stunt. The girl filmed later, as the Nullarbor Nymph, turned out to be a 17-year-old model Janice Beeby. The woman in the original photograph used by the media to perpetuate the hoax was Geneice Brooker, partner of Laurie Scott, one of the kangaroo shooters. Scott admitted to the Sunday Mail in 1972 that the hoax was created by a passing publicist at the Eucla Hotel. In 1992, sculptor Dora Dallwitz’s research on the hoax led to several exhibitions. Nullarbor Nymph sculptures were shown in 1994 by master’s students, and in 2000 and 2004 at Topfloor Gallery in Adelaide. Dallwitz’s bronze sculpture, After the Nullarbor Nymph, was exhibited in front of the South Australian Museum and selected in the 2004 Sculpture by the Sea exhibition in Sydney. It is now in front of Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide. In 2012, a $25,000-budget film The Nullarbor Nymph was produced out of Ceduna, written and directed by Mathew J. Wilkinson.
The Maree Man – a 28 km by 4.2 km outline etching of an Aboriginal figure on the south east edge of Kati Thandi-Lake Eyre – is a mystery figure on the South Australian outback landscape. Maree Man was found by a Central Air Services pilot in 1998. Soon afterwards, Shane Anderson from William Creek Hotel, 200km northwest of Marree, said he had received an anonymous fax describing the location of the artwork that set off UFO and alien theories. The site was closed by the state government after legal action taken by Arabana Aboriginal Corporation as the area's native title claimants. State environment minister Dorothy Kotz called it environmental vandalism. But police found no evidence of an offence. One theory was that Maree Man was parting gift from the US Air Force after their time at the joint defence facility Nurrungar at Woomera, 1969 to late 1990s. In 1999, a plaque found buried five metres south of the nose of the figure featured an American flag and the Olympic rings. An inscription read: “In honour of the land they once knew . . .” But, in 2006, The Avertiser reported that South Australian artist and eccentric Bardius Goldberg, from Alice Springs, was the most likely creator of the figure. Flights over the site in 2010 began to be wound back as the figure deteriorated. In 2016, Maree Hotel owners Phil and Maz Turner and William Creek Hotel owner Trevor Wright joined to bring Maree Man back to life, with the blessing of the Arabana people. Two surveyors plotted the course using mapping software, before a grader cut 10cm into the ground to restore the outline.