A VISIT to Orange this year brought back childhood memories on a tour of old haunts.
A humble hardly-changed first home in Churchill Avenue with fibro walls, large garden and a metal fence where there use to be palings; the next a fancy brick veneer in Green Lane almost invisible behind a wall of trees and shrubs; the heavily fortified home of Rudolph H. with the German eagle still prominent; the old and rustic but charming high school where the one-eyed science teacher made us stand on our seats if we didn’t know chemical symbols (I ended up hanging from the ceiling); the newish, now matured and manicured high school where we had ritualistic fisticuffs between years four and five in 1961; the Olympic pool where I always came off second or third behind a Deen, Taylor or Dumbrell, and where dad somersaulted gracefully backwards and forwards off the three metres board; the infamous site of the hostel between factory, railway line and saleyards, now full of machinery and storage sheds instead of cold, barren Nissan huts; coffee in the post office instead of sending a telegram.
We noted many changes; many more shops in the main street including a Woolworths, a Collins bookshop and some arcades; numerous orchards replaced by vineyards with colourful invites to quaff the latest drop; many new streets with curves and wriggles outside the original square grid; a botanic garden; the beginnings of a ring road to take traffic out of Summer Street, a complaint already heard in the 1960s; the sky-scraping trees in Cook Park twice as tall; a revived Cadia gold mine that used to be a mysterious hole beyond where affable farm caretaker Johnny Bummerloh lived; a vibrant cultural precinct with a gallery housing paintings by Ian Fairweather, one of my favourites.
Orange was alive, optimistic, proud and expanding, but, sad to say, some things were still neglected. The roads to and from Canobolas were narrow, winding, without a verge, badly cambered and patched beyond patching. Riding our bikes there would now be suicidal. They haven’t received the same care and love as the lake surrounds or other areas.
With a last sweep of the autumn-coloured checkerboard, it was with mixed feelings and some sadness that we turned south-west on the Cargo Road to enjoy the incredible views and roller-coaster descent to Canowindra, Cowra and home. That was a road we didn’t travel when we lived there. But the road less travelled can be the most interesting so that’s how we’ll come back next time.
I presently live in a solar passive house in Canberra, another ‘cool’ cool-climate place almost as good as Orange.
Back to Canobolas with love.