Monday, 26 January 2015

Exodus - A critique of the latest Biblical epic

Exodus: Gods & Kings

Moses confront's Pharoah
Moses lays down his demands

Normally I probably wouldn't waste my time writing a post about this movie, namely because it was so boring, however I have felt inclined to make some comments on Hollywood's latest venture into the Biblical realm. Before I had even walked into the cinema I suspected that there were going to be some historical inaccuracies - that is always the case when it comes to Hollywood's journey into history - and I was also expecting them to use some creative license when it came to interpreting the source material, but in then end, what I got was this.

A question of brotherhood
There has been some debate amongst my friends as to whether Moses and Pharaoh grew up as brothers. When we were studying the source material (the Biblical book of Exodus) a few years ago we were under the impression that the idea of them being brothers was something that was added by Hollywood (and this goes back to Cecil B DeMille's Ten Commandments - a movie that I have yet to see). However, more recently, I got into a discussion with another group of Christians that I know and I have since changed my opinion. For instance, when Moses was rescued from the Nile by the princess he was brought into Pharaoh’s household, and his mother was given a wage to look after him (Exodus 2:1-10). Thus it is clear that from a young age Moses was living amongst the royal family of the Egyptian empire.
Now, the reason that I consider the brother theory to not only be important, but also to be worth seriously considering, is that Moses had access to Pharaoh, and not only did he have access, but he was able to make demands of him. If Pharaoh and Moses did not have a pre-existing relationship, then no doubt the first time Moses approach him and requested that the Hebrew be released from slavery he would have been executed. Plebians, and especially slaves, simply cannot walk into the throne room of a monarch, especially a monarch who believed that he was a god, and start making demands without finding themselves facing the pointy end of a spear. In fact, it is not until the ninth plague that Pharaoh tells Moses that if he comes before him again he will be executed.

Egyptian Chariot Drawing
According to the film, Moses rode one of these
Moses the Revolutionary
It is interesting that in this latest incarnation of the Exodus story Moses is painted as the leader of a band of rebels. This actually does not sit all that comfortably with me. They have suggested that Moses was a general, and that is probably not too far from the truth since the the ruling class did occupy the higher ranks of the military. However it may not have been the case that Moses was a warrior. It is also possible that he may have been a scribe or an administrator. However, considering that God gifts people for his purposes, and that Moses was put in charge of leading hundreds of thousands of refugees across some very hostile territory, having some military skill would have been helpful.
However the source material suggests otherwise. In Exodus 4, Moses argues with God that he is not a fit and proper person to take this role. He is not an elegant speaker, nor does he consider himself all that persuasive. This is not the confident Moses that we see in the film, but rather somebody who is forever trying to back out of the task that God has assigned him. In the film however we do not see that aspect of the debate. True, it is suggested that Moses and God have some disagreement, but there is not the debate and the discussion that we see in the source.
We also have Moses launching guerilla attacks against the Egyptians, and then God appearing suggesting that this way will take too long so instead God will do things his way. Once again this is drifting too far away from the source material. At no point are we told that Moses trained a band of Hebrews as guerillas (though just because we are not told that does not necessarily mean it did not happen, however I am more inclined to fall onto the 'did not happen' argument as opposed to the 'possibly did happen' argument).

Moses and the burning bush
One many depictions of Moses' encounter with God
A relationship with God
To be honest, it was quite difficult to work out whether Moses' encounter with God was a true spiritual experience, or simply an hallucination. The burning bush scene seems to suggest that it is an hallucination as Moses gets caught in a rockslide, is hit on the head by some rocks, and then has a vision of the burning bush. Throughout the movie, when God appears to Moses, he is the only one who sees him, and thus there is a suggestion that maybe he is imagining all of this. However (and I shall go into more detail below) the plagues that strike Egypt end up telling a different story.
The relationship didn't really come across as the relationship that is painted in the Bible. In many cases God seems to come across as some distant being who is working with Moses to free the Hebrews from slavery. Yet it is not a question of 'let my people go' but rather a question of dealing with Pharaoh's tyranny. The Biblical account does reflect both aspects of this, namely because Pharaoh is being punished for his tyrannical acts against the Israelite people, yet time and time again the Bible tells us that God hardens Pharaoh's heart. This is something that does not come out in the film because the suggestion is that Pharaoh is beyond God's control and acts out of his own free will. However, that debate goes into a completely different realm which I will not explore further here.
I'm not really sure why Scott decided to use the image of an Egyptian boy to represent God. Okay, the Bible warns us about creating images of God, however the reason that it does that is twofold:
  1. To create an image of God is pretty much impossible because by creating an image we end up emphasising some aspects of God's character while ignoring others;
  2. God exists as spirit beyond the physical realm. To create an image of God, and by saying that this is an image of God, you are actually creating a new god because God does not exist as an idol, but rather as a being much, much greater.
As such, I am having difficulties understanding what they were trying to achieve with this image. Were they using the image of a boy because a child is innocent? That simply cannot be because God simply does not come across as being innocent in the way that a child is innocent. In a way, the image comes across to me as a 'spoilt brat' - God's people are being oppressed by Pharaoh and Pharaoh is not letting his people go free, so by sending the plagues on Egypt, it comes across as God throwing a tantrum (as opposed to it being a demonstration of God's power).
This brings me to a further point, and that is the idea that Moses had no idea as to his heritage. This simply could not be the case because Moses was raised by his mother in Pharaoh's household. I find it difficult to believe that Moses' mother would have denied that knowledge to Moses. The fact that Pharaoh's daughter knew that he was a Hebrew as well does not necessarily mean that she would hide that fact from him - remember that Moses was under her protection. I guess the final point to make on this is that the Bible does actually tell us that Moses knew that he was a Hebrew (Exodus 2:11-15).

A scientific explanation
One of the things that I seem to have noticed is that Scott is trying to explain this part of history using a scientific rationalist approach, though as is clear from the books there are limitations. Before I look at the limitations, I will explore the rational explanation of the plagues of Egypt because, up to a point, these plagues can be explained scientifically (the plagues can be found in Exodus 7:14-12:13).
  1. Water turned to blood: there are a couple of explanations for this. The one the film uses has some crocodiles begining to maul some fishermen, and as the feeding frenzy continues, more and more crocodiles join the fray. This, to be honest with you, was pretty weak. The other (more credible explanation that does not involve 'God did it so don't ask') is that the blood was actually sediment that was stirred up from the river bed and made the water appear like blood. However, the catch is that the water was undrinkable. This was not a simple party trick (hey! look, I turned water into blood!), it was meant to attack the Empire at its heart.
  2. Frogs: since the water had become pretty much undrinkable, it was suggested that all of the fish in the river died (which would hurt the Egyptian economy to no end). However, because the frogs could leave the water they then left it enmass and swarmed over the Egyptians. Yet, as was explained, because frogs cannot remain out of water for too long, and because they did not want to return to a poisonous Nile, they all ended up dying.
  3. Flies & Gnats: So, we have all these dead fish and all these dead frogs, as well as an undrinkable Nile, so it is not surprising that the small insects form the next two plagues. Visiting the bush here in Australia (and I am sure elsewhere as well) whenever you see a corpse there are always flies buzzing around, so it is not surprising that the number of dead frogs and fish in Egypt at the time would herald swarms of flies and gnats.
  4. Livestock & Boils: All the source material tells us is that a plague came upon the livestock and killed them all, and then the people of Egypt broke out in boils. Once again the rationalistic explanation suggests that with the swarms of flies and gnats descending upon the empire, along with a huge amount of rotting frogs and fish (and not forgetting a poisonous Nile), that the next plague would be, well, a plague. Whatever this plague was it was very effective because it struck the livestock and caused the population to break out in warts. However this is where the rationalistic approach breaks down because the source tells us that the Hebrews were not affected.
  5. Hail, Darkness, and Locusts: By the time we arrive at these plagues the rational explanation completely breaks down. Granted we have hail storms all the time, as well as have locust plagues. However the problem that the rational approach has difficulty explaining is how these three plagues came in succession afterwards. No doubt the Egyptian magicians (if they were able to use a rational approach) would have been able to explain away the first lot of plagues, however to explain how the first group of plagues brought about these plagues is difficult, if not impossible. I guess, to a rationalist, this would simply be bad luck.
Plagues of Egypt
Apparently it was just smoke
You will note that I have not even touched about the final plague, being the death of the first born. Personally, I simply cannot provide a rational explanation as to how a plague would be so selective that only the first born of those whose doors did not have blood covering them could have been killed. Even if we look at the previous three plagues and say 'gee, what a lot of bad luck' we simply cannot explain away the death of the first born.
So, what was the purpose of the plagues. Quite clearly the heart of the Egyptian economy is being attacked. Some have suggested that each of the plagues are demonstrating how God is greater than the gods of the Egyptians because each of the plagues come and knock one of the god's off of their pedestal. That may be correct, and I am not going to go too deep into Ancient Egyptian theology to attempt to point to which god the plagues were attacking. However, from my view of the events from the 21st Century, with a 21st Century rationalist mindset, I can see that what the plagues were doing was bit by bit destroying the economy. Note that the first to go is the Nile, the lifeblood of the Egyptian Empire. The next plagues worked to destroy the livestock, and the next two acted to destroy their agricultural production. The final two plagues strike at the heart of the Egyptian religion (with darkness undermining the power of the sun god Ra).
Ozymandius the Great
Percey Shelly wrote a poem about this guy

Was the Pharoah Rameses?
This leads me to my final point, and that is, whether Rameses is actually the Pharaoh of the oppression (or even the Exodus). It has been suggested by a number of sources that he is the traditional Pharaoh of the Oppression (yes, I know I have sourced Wikipedia). However I have a few problems with that:
  1. As indicated above, the ten plagues, and then the crossing of the Red Sea which resulted in Pharaoh's army being obliterated when the waves came crashing back down, would not have left the empire standing. It had pretty much been destroyed economically and militarily, and it would take an empire a miracle for it to recover from such a disaster.
  2. The source indicates that Moses went into a self imposed exile for forty years and only returned when he had heard that the former Pharaoh had died. What we have here is a very long living Pharaoh. This would suggest that even if Pharaoh of the Oppression is Rameses, then the Pharaoh of the Exodus would no doubt be his son. However there is a problem with that because during his reign we have the Israel Stele, which tells us that Israel has been laid waste which creates a huge contradiction because if the Exodus had occurred during the period of Rameses or his son, how were they able to then travel to Caanan and then get wiped out.
My thoughts is that the exodus occurred near the end of the Middle Kingdom, with the Pharaoh Amenenhat III being the Pharaoh of the oppression, and his son, Amenenhat IV, during whose reign we begin to see a decline in the power of the empire, leading to the Second Intermediate Period. Of course this is only speculation on my part, and there are much more detailed and better researched theses on this subject.

Historical Innacuracies
I might finish off with the historical inaccuracies that I noted in the movie. To be honest, you are always going to find what a friend of mine calls 'clangers' in any historical period piece (some being less subtle than others, such as the cuckoo clock in Shakespeare's Julius Ceaser). I guess the two big 'clangers' that stood out to me were:
  1. Pharaoh hung Hebrews from gallows as a form of collective punishment: Seriously, that is something that did not happen in Ancient Egypt. In fact, according to Wikipedia, hanging as a form of execution did not begin until the middle ages. Okay, crucifixion is a form of hanging, but the Egyptians did not do that either. They would execute people by either cutting their heads off, or tying them up in a bag and throwing them into the Nile.
  2. Rationalistic explanation of the plagues: Okay, maybe the Egyptian priests and magicians were quite smart (they could read and write) yet I found it quite anachronistic to have them give a scientific explanation of the plagues. These guys were not scientists and they did not have the scientific method. The saw everything as being the actions of the gods, and while they had knowledge of construction, architecture, mathematics, and pharmacology, they were not scientists in the vein of the Newtons and the Gallileos. Having them sprout such rationalistic explanations just doesn't wash with me.
Sometimes I wonder what Hollywood's purpose is in releasing such movies. Some have suggested that they are trying to attract the Christian audience, but the problem is that Christian critics seemed to have reacted negatively to these films. Okay, I have spent this entire post tearing apart Exodus: Gods & Kings, but that is because I am a purist (but then again so are many of these other Christians). Mind you, Passion of the Christ was very popular among Christians, but that was because it was quite faithful to the original story (ignoring that stupid scene where he builds a 20th century table, or when he chats to Pilate in perfect Latin). The problem with Christians is that if you drift just a little bit, or add supposition or speculation, you will turn them off the movie, and once one group is turned off, you know what happens - it spreads throughout the internet with titles such as 'it is not Biblical'.
I guess my experience within the church has created such perceptions in me as well, with a desire to see a movie which uses the Bible as its source to try to be as close to the story as possible. However, for me, I simply found this movie really boring, so in the end, it didn't matter whether it followed the Bible story or not because, well, it had already flopped.

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Friday, 23 January 2015

Gawler - South Australia's Second Town

Gawler Town Hall

During the school holidays when I was a kid my mum would take us on regular day trips to Gawler. As a kid, to be honest, I found Gawler boring because there was no park with any play equipment, with the exception of the cannon located in Pioneer Park.

Cannon at Pioneer Park
It doesn't even fire
Since we would occasionally have picnics in this particular park we, or at least myself, would climb all over the cannon, and occasionally attempt to shoot it (with no luck). Even though I did find the place a little boring, it still held some fond memories, and when I discovered that there were ten pubs here, I felt obliged to pay the town (or is it a suburb) a visit on my recent trip to Adelaide. Of course my brother, who loves going to Gawler, wanted to come along, and didn't care that one of the things that I wanted to do was to pay a visit to all of the pubs.

As you probably noted in the title to this post, Gawler is South Australia's second town, being established in 1836 (which is the same year the colony was settled). Okay, Wikipedia claims that it was South Australia's first town, but I suspect that they were not counting Adelaide when they posted that, though I am because at that time I suspect Adelaide was little more than a town, despite it being the capital of the new colony. Like Adelaide, Gawler was planned by Colonel Light, however unlike Adelaide it was planned on a triangular fashion, this being dictated for the fact that it was established at the confluence of the North and South Para Rivers, which join to become the Gawler River.
It was interesting to note that Gawler was planned by Colonel Light because it did not seem at all like Adelaide, with the main street (Murray Street) running along one of the edges of the triangle as opposed to through the middle. There are also a couple of squares, though they sit in the middle of the residential area (sort of because I am not sure if the original part of the town is entirely residential anymore).
Gawler became a prosperous little town due to the discovery of copper to the north and became a 'resting stop' for deliveries to Adelaide. However, from what is evident, it was initially established to support regional farms. With the development of the wine growing region in the Barossa to the east, Gawler has effectively become the gateway town, as well as being a place where people who work in Adelaide can live in quiet country surroundings (though the encroachment of the suburbs from the south will, sooner or later, cause this to change).

Map of Gawler
My wanderings through Gawler
The Pubs
Well, I did come to Gawler to visit the pubs, so I guess I should give you a brief overview of them all, as well as a quick opinion as to whether I like the particular pub. If you wish to find out more about the particular pub, you can always read my review on (depending on whether I have posted the review). The number on the map corresponds to the particular pub below.

33 Main North Road, Willaston
Basically this is what I call a Woolworth's pub, namely because it is owned by the ALH Group, which in turn is owned by Woolworths. What that means is that it has a sports bar, a restaurant (which usually, but not always, sells cheap food) and a bucket load of pokie machines. The pub still has its original charm, as long as you look at it from the outside.

Willaston Hotel
That's probably the best part of this pub
10 Cowan Street, Gawler
Other than a pretty nice beer garden, there isn't much else that thrills me about this pub because, well, the only other thing in this pub are pokie machines. I came here for some lunch and all they could offer my was a toasted sandwich. If I wanted a toasted sandwich I would have stayed home.

3) Exchange Hotel
155 Murray Street, Gawler
I thought this pub would have a better website than the Sip 'n' Save website, but then again I guess not. The pub it okay, and it has a Fat Yak craft beer bar, as well as some funky murals on the toilets, but other than that, I didn't really consider this place all that fantastic (especially since they didn't even offer me a toasted sandwich when I was looking for some food).

109 Murray Street, Gawler
Okay, it has a funky website but that is all I can say about this place because, well, it wasn't open when I went past. However it looks like it is trying to be a little more trendier than the surrounds, but as I said, it wasn't open so I can't say all that much about this place.

102 Murray Street, Gawler
Well, if it wasn't for the pokies out the back I would think that this was basically a family restaurant (the play equipment gave that away). As a restaurant though it was pretty ordinary, and they didn't even cook my steak right. At least my brother liked the Chicken Schnitzel.

Gawler Arms Hotel
Still has that old world charm
77 Murray Street, Gawler
Well, according to the website, this pub was originally called 'The Golden Fleece' but then changed its name to 'The Old Spot Hotel' only to revert back to its original name with its recent transformation. I suspect that may have something to do with distancing itself from the 'Old Spot Hotel' down in Salisbury (or it could simply be to give it a makeover). Anyway, this pub seems to be the trendy pub with a decent selection of craft beers, and a really cool beer garden, which sort of adjoins the arcade that runs down the side.

32 Murray Street, Gawler
This pub seems to have everything, including, unfortunately, pokie machines. However this is a pretty large pub with two beer gardens, as well a tables out the front on Murray Street. What was impressive was that one of the beer gardens was completely non-smoking, which means that people have have a decent meal (while cooking their steak on a really hot paving stone) without having to deal with smokers.

Kingsford Hotel
Yep, that's the Kingsford
23 Murray Street, Gawler
Well, this place really didn't impress me all that much because, like the Gawler Arms, this was a restaurant with pokie machines out the back. One of the things that I really don't like about these restaurants (if you can call them such) is that they try to market the restaurant as a family restaurant, yet have signs telling kids not to go into the pokie rooms (though no doubt the parents do).

9) Overway Hotel
27 Eighteenth Street, Gawler
I would have to say that this is probably the best pub in Gawler, even if it is only because there are no pokies inside. To me, though, it felt like a cross between a trendy pub and an old style country pub (though they don't seem to have a website, nor do they have any craft beers on tap). However the beer garden was really cool, especially having a set up for live bands (though the neighbours are probably not all that impressed).

Overway Hotel
It's even better on the inside
10) Critereon Hotel
18 Nineteenth Street, Gawler
Well, I wonder how I can write a paragraph that basically says 'nothing to see here' because, well, there isn't all that much to see here. That is a bit of a lie because I'm sure the address can get confusing at times, and there is also a view of the railway station, but you don't need to go into the pub to see that.

Other Places
So, after reading the above you probably are thinking that the only things to see in Gawler are the pubs (actually, you are probably thinking that I am an alcoholic, but that is beside the point). In fact, there are more things to see in Gawler than just the pubs, and it is more than just a stop off on the way to the Barossa. Okay, maybe some of the things only interest me, but I think we should give Gawler more credit than a place to go on pub crawls.

a) Dead Man's Pass Reserve
Any place that has a park called 'Dead Man's Pass' has to be a cool place to visit, even you there aren't actually any dead men in the park (which is probably a good thing because I know I don't want my dog, if I had one that is, digging up some corpse). There is a little plaque that tells us why they call it Dead Man's Pass because back in the colonial days, when Colonel William Light was scouting the area, they came across the skeletal remains of a human dressed in colonial clothes. I'm not even sure if they knew who it was, and Adelaide's Haunted Horizon's seems to suggest that the identity may be a mystery.
However, Alan Tiller, who writes about the ghosts of Australia in his blog mentions that this wasn't the only person to have met a fatal end in this gorge. However, what I did notice as I was wondering around was that it is interesting that the gorge got its name from the discovery of a dead colonist, though I suspect that a number of the original inhabitants, the Kuarna people, would also have met a rather grisly end here as well.

Dead Man's Pass Reserve
Nope, no ghosts here
b) Old Railway Bridge
When I was a kid we would always cross this railway bridge over the North Para River to get to Gawler Central Railway Station, however just before the bridge another line split to head north and went across another bridge. I would always stare out of the window of the train in wonder looking at this railway bridge wondering where it went and why we never caught a train that went down there. Years later I discovered that it went north to Kadina and the copper mines, and the reason we never caught a train down there was because the public transport never took that line.
So, this time on my trip to Gawler I decided that I would walk down to these bridges and have a closer look at them. Okay, I stayed well away from the bridge that the metro trains use because, well, I didn't want to get caught halfway across to bridge to discover a train coming towards me, however I decided to take a chance and check out the other bridge. As it turns out it is no longer used, namely because on the other side of the river the trees have grown over the railway line, and there are numerous weeds growing in between the tracks. That told me that it basically isn't used any more because, well, if there were trains coming along here the trees and shrubs would have been removed.
Gawler Railway BridgeGawler Railway Bridge

Gawler Railway Bridge
A train would make short work of the tree
Gawler Railway Bridge 3
Yep, I walked across it

c) Pioneer Park
Apparently this was where Gawler's first cemetery was located, which now gives me second thoughts about coming here because they moved the headstones, but nowhere do they say that the bodies were removed. Oh well, I guess it is a good thing that I am not superstitious. However, now it is a lovely little picnic ground where we used to have lunch when we were children, and also play on the cannon. The thing that stands out to me though is the little structure on the footpath running along Murray Street. Oh, and if you are really hanging out for a beer, you can always enter the Exchange Hotel by the rear entrance.

Pioneer Park Entrance
That's how you get in
Pioneer Park Structure
I'm not sure what it is called

d) Town Hall
One of the things that I love about these old colonial towns is that many of the original buildings are still present. In fact next to the town hall is the library and one of the banks, while another bank is on the other side. I also believe that there is a museum around here, but since it was closed when I was wandering down here with my brother, we did not have an opportunity to look inside. However, while the old bank buildings have that olden day look about them, having the modern logo sticking out on a plastic sign sort of destroys some of that historical feel about the place. In a way, these plastic signs drag you out from those bygone days and thrust you back into the modern world.

ANZ Bank
ANZ Bank
Bank SA
Bank SA (owned by Westpac)

Gawler Central Railway Station
I must say that I like a lot of these old railway stations, and I was quite surprised to discover that the Gawler Central Railway station actually has a pretty cool looking building. Since I had not been up this way for quite a while I was under the impression that Gawler Central was little more than a platform with some tacky metal shelter that does an appalling job of protecting people from the elements, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that it actually looked like this:

Gawler Central Railway Station
Maybe the building needs a bit of a paint job.
I was a little surprised to have forgotten that it was more than just a platform, especially since I used to regularly visit a friend up here, which meant I would travel all that way up to this station where he would then pick me up. Anyway, this would have been a wasted trip if I had not taken a video of a train departing from here, so here is the video:

This is the 3000/3100 class diesel carriage

Gawler Railway Station
Well, if you thought the Gawler Central Railway Station was impressive, then the Gawler Station is even more so. However, unlike Gawler Central, it is a little more of a hike to the town centre (which is probably why we always got off at Gawler Central). The Gawler Railway station was originally established as the terminus of the track from Adelaide, however when the line to the Barossa was built the station at Gawler Central was constructed to allow easier access to the town. One of the reasons that the main station was so far from the township was that during the age of the steam trains local residents were worried about the town being enveloped in smoke, as well as concerns that sparks from the engine would set fire to the local properties. To solve the problem with the distance of the station from the township a horse drawn tram was established to transport people to and from the station.

Gawler Railway Station
I believe the building is heritage listed
While the days when the station was fully staffed are long gone, there is still a cafe located inside, and I believe there are still a couple of people here to assist passengers. However, from what I read, the station now doubles as an art gallery which displays local works of art. I didn't have a chance to look inside because it is only open on weekends, and I didn't even know about the gallery until I read about it on the wikipedia entry.
However next to the railway station is a shed in which there is an old steam train. The train used to be located elsewhere in Gawler however lobbying by a local community group (I believe it was the Lyons club), had it moved here were it is in the process of being restored.

Old Steam Train - Gawler Railway Station
Imagine trying to hotwire this baby

Old Buildings
The final thing I wish to say about this town are the old buildings that are scattered about. This is probably not surprising since the town was established in 1836. Okay, maybe the racing track is not as old (and I believe they still race horses there), and the semi-detached housing trust homes encroach on the town centre, but there are still a lot of quaint old houses scattered across the place (many of them interspersed with more modern houses when the owners of the land decided to make a quick buck through the wonders of subdivision).
The building in which the local paper, The Gawler Bunyip, is published till has its offices on the main road in an old 19th century building (though I suspect that it is probably printed elsewhere). However, instead of rabbiting on about nothing, I'll finish off with some of these old buildings.

Gawler Bunyip Building
It doesn't look all that open to me

Gawler Hall
I'm not sure who uses this hall - or if it is just for show
The Flower Gallery
The call this 'The Flower Gallery' - probably not its original function
Old Gawler House
I always wanted to live in one of these old houses

Old Gawler House
Actually I think I have (though not this one)

This post also appears on my travel blog.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me. All images on this post are © and/or ™ their relevant owners. If you are the owner of any of the images used on this website and wish them to be removed then please contact me.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Salisbury - Remembering my Childhood

John Street Clock
Okay, while I have lived in Adelaide most of my life, and my parents have lived up here all of that time, it was interesting returning to Salisbury this time just to see how things had changed since I was a kid. Okay, being one of the northern suburbs, Salisbury does not have a really good reputation, but compared to some of the suburbs further north, it is not all that bad. It fact as a suburb it is quite a nice place, it is just that the occupants tend to be on the rougher side of the community.

John Harvey's House
This used to be a classy restaurant
Okay, the Council website (which is no doubt the source for the Wikipedia entry) indicates that the city was established by a Scot named John Harvey with the intention of establishing a township along the Para River. However, the story that we were told at primary school was that he was a postman running the Adelaide to Gawler route and decided that it would be quite handy to build a house at the halfway point, which happens to be Salisbury. No doubt Harvey then capitalised on this by then selling of blocks of land to other people so that he wasn't living by himself (and to also make a bit of money for retirement).
Originally, the town was serving the local farms, however with the outbreak of World War II a munitions factory was built (which still exists, but it now makes furniture). After the war a weapons research establishment (which was called the Long Range Weapons Establishment) was set up in 1947 to support the facility at Woomera, and in 1955 the Edinburgh airforce base was also established. As such, for a while, much of the population were either scientists, or staff at the munitions factory (or flyboys). However, with the establishment of the Holden plant in Elizabeth the suburb slowly became more working class.

Munitions Factory
This was the old munitions factory, however it now only builds furniture
You can still see the research aspect of the suburb as both the primary school and the local scout group have a missile on their emblems. However, many of the people that work at the airbase and the technology park no longer live near by (and I even remember friends moving from the plains up into the hills).

Route Map
Okay, my drawing skills are horrendous, but there is a key below
Salisbury Oval
While I have never really been a sporting person, the oval does hold a number of memories since I used to walk around it every day to go to and from school. As I was wandering around here again I realised how when I was much younger it seemed to take much more time to walk around than it does these days, most likely because my legs are a lot longer. I have noticed that they have upgraded the stands so that you are sitting on plastic seats as opposed to cement blocks, though I can remember a time when it wasn't even there.
Salisbury Oval Stands

One memory I have of this place is when I was in scouts (and I wasn't all that good either) we would always start off with a run around the oval (the hall is located next door). I started off running around with the rest of the pack and would always come in last but then some of the guys would run the opposite way around and arrive back at the scout hall first. So, taking their lead I decided that I would try the same thing to see if I would also arrive first and discovered that I did, so I decided that I would do it that way, so week after week I would run around the oval in the opposite direction and arrive first and some of the guys started to become suspicious. This was because every so often a couple of the guys would hide in the bushes near the hall and when they saw the pack coming they would then run back to the hall and claim that they arrived first. While some suspected that that was what I did, the fact that I would always pass them on my lap of the oval put paid to that theory.
I still don't know how I did that because it is the same length both ways around - I guess it will always remain a mystery.

First Salisbury Scout Hall
This is the scout hall where I would spend my Wednesday nights
War Memorial
This used to be located in a park next to the railway station but when they ripped the park up to put in a bus interchange they moved the memorial to the area out the front of the scout hall. I always thought that the area in front of the scout hall was owned by the scouts, however that may not have been the case (or the council could have simply bought it off of them).

War Memorial
I'm not entirely sure how they managed to move this
It was interesting wondering around here because originally the memorial was simply the cenotaph pictured above however it seems that since then they have placed a number of plaques referring to other military actions along the path leading up to the cenotaph. If the memorial in Adelaide is anything to go by, the original cenotaph was erected shortly after the conclusion of World War I, with people believing that it would be the war to end all wars. However, as we all know, that is no longer the case.
However, the newer plaques could actually cause some controversy because they are commemorating some rather controversial conflicts, as well as engagements that are only ever found in detailed history books. For instance, we have a memorial for the 'War on Terrorism' in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am sure we are all well aware of the huge protests in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. However, there was another plaque that I found really interesting, it was this one:

Imperialist war plaque
I'm not even sure of the operations to which they are referring.

I am not sure which engagements that this plaque is commemorating, but I suspect that since the dates are just after World War II they may be referring to the occupation of West Germany as well as areas from which the Japanese withdrew. There were also memorials to conflicts such as the Malay Emergency, where troops were sent into Malaysia to prevent a communist uprising.

St John's Church
This is the local Anglican church and for most of the time the church had been little more than a burnt husk. I am not sure of the story behind why that was the case, but apparently the church was broken into and a fire was started. I had heard stories that it was apparently 'Satanists' who were responsible, however I suspect that the story was little more than propaganda. Okay, maybe at the time there were a lot of Christians who saw Satanists lurking under every rock, but it seems that such hysteria has died down. Or should I suggest that these days the targets are not so much Satanists (because in many cases Satanists are simply people who wish to rebel against the establish religion and these days Christianity is no where near as dominant as it once was) but rather extremists from other religious groups.

Old Anglican Church
I wonder what is inside
The interesting thing about the church is that located next to it is the old Anglican cemetery (though it is no longer used) and behind the church is the original church from when Salisbury was first established. You can still see a number of those older buildings around the place indicating that Salisbury is actually quite an old suburb.

Pitman Park
As a kid I used to love this place. To my young and imaginative mind it was transformed from a local park to fantasy wonderland. However it wasn't just a boring park with grass and trees, but the Little Para River (which is actually a creek because I can jump over it) runs along one side, and there is also an artificial creek that begins at a waterfall and runs down to a pond. I loved exploring this creek because, unlike the river, there was always water in it. The creek is still there, though the pond is covered in algae. I remember going down to this creek with friends to capture yabbies (I managed to catch two, and I think they survived for about a month).

Pitman Park Pond
I'm not sure if there are still any yabbies in here

We would also regularly come down here with the scout group to play 'wide games' which were games played out in the open. Normally we would split into two groups and the leaders would assign bases to us. This was a little annoying because I always wanted my based to be at the top of the waterfall since it was much more difficulty for our opponents to get to, however we always seemed to land up underneath the high voltage power line towers. I can't remember for the life of me what games we played, but I suspect it was something like 'capture the flag'.

I think we would even try climbing it.
There was also a little bridge over the Little Para River (which apparently means Little Little River in the local aboriginal dialect) that always sit in my mind that allowed access from the shopping centre to the park. I even had to get a photo of the bridge simply to put on this post.

Pitman Park Bridge
And here it is
Water Wheel
Just up the road from Pitman Park is the building where John Harvey lived when he first set up the township. The house was at one stage a restaurant but I suspect that it has since closed down. I do not know how the building is currently used. However across the road from Pitman Park is another park called Pioneer Park. This is relatively new because from what I remember from my childhood this was covered it wild grass and was pretty impassible. There was also another footbridge over the river however from what I can remember I could never work out how to get to the bridge (and it was also somewhat redundant as the road crossed the river nearby.
They have since placed a small building on the other side of the river near a parking bay which contains an old waterwheel. I was not able to get into the building (because it was locked) however I was able to look through the windows where the graffiti had not covered it. Apparently this was the original water wheel set up at the turn of the 20th century to provide water for the local farms. What I found interesting though was that through one of the windows there was a list of some of the original settler families. There were a number of names on this plaque that I still remember from primary school (and you can even find their names around Salisbury in the form of streets).

Water Wheel Museum
I'm not even sure if this is ever open
St Augustine's Church
I'm not sure why I included this because I am not a Catholic and only ever came here a couple of times as a child. However this is the local Catholic Church which the local Catholic Primary School adjoins. I had a number of friends who did go to this school and whose parents were Catholic, but still, it was only one of those places that I knew about because I occasionally walked past it. However, what I did want to post is a picture of the older church that is next to it. I believe that it was at one stage a Greek Orthodox Church, but from its design it certainly does not look like it was originally Greek Orthodox (and I don't think that there were many Greeks in Salisbury when I was growing up, but there were certainly a number of Italians).

Old Catholic Church
I don't think anybody uses this building any more
Salisbury Primary School
It is interesting wandering around my old primary school to see what had changed. Obviously it has changed a lot since I came here, noting that one of the buildings had been knocked down and the resource centre moved. They also have a gym, which I believe was built the year after I graduated to high school. However, as I walked around the outside I took specific notice of what had gone, such as the rockery were we used to play with our matchbox cars as well as the lunch shed where one time a cat wandered into and decided to have her babies (which meant that we couldn't use the lunch shed while she was there and the school had to work out what to do with the kittens). One thing that did catch my attention was the vegetable garden that had appeared where some of the play equipment used to be. We were never taught horticulture when I went to school. However the one thing that was also missing was the dentist. When I was going to school they had a full time dental staff there and each of us children would be rostered to go at least once a year (though I would always end up having fillings, which meant more than one visit). I also suspect the 'Special Education' suites had also been moved out, which is probably a good thing because we kids were quite mean to them.

Salisbury Primary School
I wonder if they still have asphalt here
Old Police Station
The original police station, which was located across the road from my kindergarten, is still there, though it is now a heritage centre. For a while there was no police station in Salisbury, but they have recently built a new one nearby, next to the Tafe Campus which replaced a similar college that was there when I was a kid. The Police Station seems to be a part of the College as behind it you can see the old cells (which would probably breach some human rights convention) as well as a place labelled as a blacksmith (though it is no longer a blacksmith but part of the heritage centre). The police station is actually quite old, having been opened in 1859 and used continuously until the 1980s. Granted, for a modern police force, this building was really small (not to mention the cells out the back).

Salisbury Police Station
The original police officer lived in here
Old Cell Block
Imagine spending a night here

Salisbury Institute
This is another really old building, originally established to provide a hall for community activities (prior to that they would all meet in the pub, but then again isn't that what pubs are for). I don't think I have ever been in here, nor have I used it, but I am still pretty impressed by the building, namely because it is old and I like old buildings. From what the City of Salisbury website says (and I am sure that is a legitimate source) the building is currently a part of the Youth Enterprise Centre. Oh, and the box that you can see above the door used to house a film projector.

Salisbury Institute
I like old buildings
Town Square
I'm not entirely sure what this area is called, but I have decided that I will call it the town square because it is in the centre of the commercial precinct and is an open space. It hasn't always been that way though because when I was young this was where you could find the local Coles New World (as it was then known) supermarket. Before that this was the site of the old Methodist church, and the original cemetery can still be seen behind it. These days, as mentioned, it is an open space with seats and some play equipment for the kids. On the other side of John Street is Spaceland Mall. To me it looks like an old 1960s strip mall, which is when I suspect it was built. These days there is no indication as to why it is called Spaceland Mall, however when I was young it used to have a rocketship in the middle which you could climb up inside, however I never remember it being open. Sadly, the rocketship is long gone.

Salisbury Town Square
Yeah, that looks like a town square
Spaceland Mall
My favourite computer shop was here
Salisbury Railway Station
Okay, you may have just rolled your eyes and asked what is so important about a train station. Well, this used to have an really nice building on the Gawler Central side of the lines which was knocked down to make way for the freight line that now runs parallel to the domestic lines. This is what the original railway station used to look like:

Salisbury Railway Station - South Bound
I still remember the flour mill in the background

Salisbury Railway Station - North Bound
It's amazing what you can find on the internet
These two buildings are now long gone, replaced with a more modern look (though it is a real shame that the south bound station was knocked down) as well as a bus interchange. However, the other reason I listed this is because of the murals on the rear of the shelter on platform one, and the station sign on platform two. This is what they look like:

Salisbury Railway Station - South Bound
Salisbury Railway Station - North Bound
Happy Home Reserve
There have been some major changes to this length of parkland since I was a kid because from what I can remember it was just overgrown grassland. Since then somebody has decided to go through here with a lawn mower to give it a resemblance of a decent looking parkland. This is one of the reasons that I like Salisbury because there is a lot of parkland with a lot of trees. We only ever walked through here to get to the swimming pool, namely because we took swimming lessons every summer (which I must admit was a really good thing because being able to swim is a good skill to have).

Happy Home Reserve
It looks so much better, and safer, mowed
This is also where the swimming centre is located, which has also changed, namely because they have fenced off a much larger area. However the three pools that I remember swimming in when I was young are still present. I can even remember some of the lessons that we had, such as jumping into the pool fully clothed (which I thought was fun because we only ever got to wear our bathers, though it is not something that I am all that keen to do these days). I even remember when we graduated from the small pool to the big pool, and when I do get around to going for a swim (which being slack, or should I say preoccupied, I rarely get to do these days) I still like to see how long I can stay underwater.

Salisbury Swimming Centre
And that, is the BIG pool
The other cool thing about Happy Home Reserve is that they have installed tennis courts, play equipment, and even an exercise track with an number of exercise points around the track. I believe the length of the track is 1 kilometre, though it is suggested that you stop at some of the points to do the exercises. I have seen tracks like this elsewhere, but as a kid they never registered as being for exercise routines, but rather an obstacle course like the ones that I would clamber over in scouts.

So that is my brief tour of Salisbury. As I suggested, it actually isn't all that bad a place to live. The city is a 20 minute train journey away, and there are lots of parks and gardens to explore, as well as having all the amenities that you would want. However, as I have also suggested, it does have a reputation, and unfortunately I don't think that reputation is going to be changing any time soon.

Map Key
1) Munition's Factory
2) Salisbury Oval
3) Salisbury War Memorial
4) Salisbury Scout Hall
5) St John's Anglican Church
6) Pitman Park
7) Water Wheel
8) St Augustine's Catholic Church
9) Salisbury Primary School
10) Old Police Station
11) Salisbury Kindergarten
12) John Harvey's House
13) Salisbury Institute
14) Town Square
15) Happy Home Reserve
16) Salisbury Swimming Centre

This post has also been posted on my travel blog.

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