Take a trip down memory lane as we look at the at the icons of a bygone era.
AWAY WITH THE FAIRY BREAD
Remember when, as a kid, your birthday party was just a simple neighbourhood affair? My grandchildren seem to be at a birthday party almost every weekend, most times held at a professional venue and costing god knows what.
Whenever there was a birthday celebrated back in the day, there would be a party for all the neighbourhood kids because school friends mostly lived too far away. There'd be raspberry cordial to drink, little cakes in patty pans, chocolate crackles, and fairy bread with hundreds and thousands. The decorations were usually handmade with crêpe paper and there would be a little paper trumpet to blow.
BACK TO EARTH
It was on March 5, 2002, that the final Ansett Airlines flight, AN152, left Perth bound for Sydney. Founded by Reginald Myles "Reg" Ansett in 1935, Ansett had been a significant player in Australian domestic air travel for nearly seven decades. The very first flight – by a single-engine Fokker Universal – had departed Hamilton, Victoria, bound for Melbourne, on February 17, 1936.
In the 1990s, Air New Zealand became a 50 per cent shareholder of Ansett and eventually went on to acquire full ownership in February 2000. Unfortunately, due to some poor business decisions, Ansett became more of a liability than an asset and in September 2001, Air New Zealand placed the Ansett group of companies into voluntary administration. Sadly, 16,000 people lost their jobs.
UP FOR ADOPTION
Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage in the early 1980s. I recall the story that they started out as "The Little People" and were never offered for sale as such but were "adopted", each coming with its own name and birth certificate.
The change of name to Cabbage Patch Kids was made in 1982, when toy maker Coleco started to mass-produce the dolls but kept the idea of each one having a name and birth certificate.
The craze lasted for about three years in Australia, and I remember my youngest daughter insisted on taking her two adopted "children" with us on holiday to New Zealand. I believe she still has her Cabbage Patch dolls to this day.
THE BIG FREEZE
A Sunny-boy was one of the great favourites from the school tuck shop. Sunny-boy was orange flavoured and one of a range of frozen products in similar packaging: Razz was raspberry and Glug was sort of cola flavoured. And if you found the words "Sunny-boy Free Drink" inside, that's what you got!
Despite this, its popularity didn't last. "The Daily Juice Co. can confirm that we have regrettably had to make the hard decision to stop production of the icy treat, Sunny-boy, as of August 2016," a spokesperson for the company said. "Unfortunately, Sunny-boy has experienced a sustained reduction in consumer demand over a long period of time, making it necessary to delete the product from our range of water ice treats."
Here's another great Australian invention, the Esky. First registered as a trade name in 1952, the term is now so commonly used in Australia that it's become the generic name for many types of portable coolers or ice boxes. As such, it's part of the Australian vernacular.
The original Esky was created by Malley's, a Sydney refrigeration business, and the company asserts it was "recognised as the first official portable cooler in the world". According to Malley's, some 500,000 Australian households owned one by 1960, a remarkable figure in a country of approximately 10 million people.
WORLD'S TASTIEST WORMS
Suzi Catchpole from the Essential Kids website laments the fact that, because of changes to the biscuit by the manufacturer, Arnott's, it's no longer possible to make Vita-Weat "worms".
"There probably wasn't a single kid of the 1980s who didn't know the catchy Vita-Weats jingle off by heart, thanks to its TV ad," says Suzi. "At the 17-second mark there was an image of a young boy squeezing Vegemite and butter 'worms' through those fabled holes … curling as they grew longer before finally being destroyed with a lick of the tongue.
"There's a ritual involved in eating VitaWeat worms; it's as much a part of me as the smell of Reef Oil in summer, of the rush of wind through my hair as I ride a bike." I can only agree, Suzi.
FLY ME TO THE MOON
Anyone remember playing on one of these? In the early 1960s, a Blue Mountains Council engineer, John Yeaman, visited the US and brought back plans for a playground "rocket". Funded by the Rotary Club of Blackheath, the first Blackheath Rocket was built and installed in the Blackheath Soldiers Memorial Park by Blue Mountains City Council.
Over the years the park became known to locals as the "rocket park". Dick West, who owned a welding business in Blackheath, went on to make rockets that popped up in playgrounds across NSW, as well as in Queensland and South Australia. In 1997, the original rocket, along with other heritage playground equipment, was removed due to insurance issues. Blackheath Rotary Club has since set up a Gofundme campaign to raise money for a new rocket.
This is the first known recipe for chocolate crackles – a favourite snack for generations of Aussie kids. It appeared in an advertisement in the Australian Women's Weekly in December 1937, under the entirely accurate headline: "Gee, they're good!"
The ad was placed to plug the vegetable fat Copha, one of the key ingredients of the crackles. Another key ingredient is crispy rice cereal, and in 1953 Kellogg's, the manufacturer of Rice Bubbles, nabbed the trademark for "chocolate crackles", which it still holds.
In 2003, Kellogg's reportedly stepped over the line when it attempted to (gasp!) trademark the recipe itself. Fortunately, the story was more media beat-up than corporate power grab – it's all but impossible to patent or trademark a recipe.
This is an edited extract of Australia Remember This Too by Bob Byrne (New South Publishing), on sale now.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale January 20.