Thursday, May 3, 2018

Two of the Reasons Why I love the New England

Whenever we are back in Australia we drive to the far north coast of NSW via the inland route of the New England highway between Sydney and Tenterfield. Apart from avoiding the more popular, and thus more congested Pacific highway, we get to drive through the Hunter Valley wine area, imbibe the best coffee outside of Italy in Wallabadah, eat at a superb restaurant in the Powerhouse Motel in Tamworth, and a grab quick drink at the Red Lion Inn Glencoe. 

We also get to stop in the small town of Deepwater halfway between Glen Innes and Tenterfield.

It's a great old railway town where the steam engines would replenish their water tanks. (It's also a national disgrace that trains haven't run through here since the late 1980s.) The highway intersects the roads to Emmaville and Delungra where my wife's early Australian settler ancestors mined for tin or farmed the lush pastures of the New England. Delungra was also the town to which my mother-in-law and her sister were evacuated following the Japanese attack in Sydney Harbour during WWII.

Deepwater is also home to two of my favourite establishments.

The first is a bakery housed in a 1930s building that was, as far as I can tell from the records, a butcher shop. These days it's a bakery that serves some of the best pies and other baked goods that I've ever had. Those who know me are aware that it's no secret that I'm a devotee of Australian country bakeries and have eaten my weight many times over in cream buns, custard tarts, and finger buns (raisins and pink icing only thank you very much).

So good are the pies that if you're not there by 11am, you may miss out. We usually call as we hit the road in the early morning to ensure our share of their fare. 

In the last twelve months the establishment has changed hands in the past year, but the quality has not diminished. The only difference I've noted has been their fresh cream (not mock) cream bun is no longer the size of a oversized softball. 

The place is now run by a young couple in their 20s with a young baby who wiles away her time in the bouncer out the back. The husband's father was a baker who must've taught his son and daughter-in-law well.

I really hope they make a success of the place. Regional Australia needs people like these to make the Bush thrive. FIFO is fine for some purposes, but it's only when families establish themselves for the long haul that a community takes root and grows.  A new generation is raised, educated, plays sports, and has the option to establish their roots rather than flee to the city.

The other place of note is an old art deco building that was once a thriving cinema. The Eclipse Theatre is a wonderful building that has not served as a place of entertainment for over 50 years. Apparently the wife of the former proprietor still lives a reclusive existence in this one time emporium and music can, on occasion, be heard from its overgrown grounds.

From the national treasure that is I was able to find out a little if its history in the following article. It's also interesting to note, at least to me, the spelling of colour (color) and use of the term "candy store".  I suspect that the correspondent was a transplant like me (only in reverse).

Eclipse Theatre - Deepwater NSW

From the "Glen Innes Examiner" 22 August 1935:

Fine New Building

The new Eclipse Theatre, situated in the heart of the town, is a fine acquisition to Deepwater, and advertises to all who pass along the main northern highway that the town, far from being on the wane, is making very definite progress.

The building reflects the enterprise of Mr. C. W. Baer, who, when his theatre was destroyed by fire some time ago, resolved not only to re-build, but to incorporate in the new structure even more modern features than were in the original building.

The Eclipse is an essentially substantial building, of concrete, and its very simplicity of design is largely responsible for the very favorable impression it creates. A cantilever awning extends from the building right over the footpath, which serves not only to enhance the appearance of the building, but also provides protection for patrons waiting to enter the hall.

From the eaves the frontal aspect terraces to a peak, the basic terrace being very attractively picked out in circles and parallel lines, and providing just the necessary degree of relief from the concrete background.

On either side of the main entrance porch, which is of spacious dimensions, is a large size window, one of which fronts a room which will be conducted as a candy shop, while the other window will be devoted to the display of posters advertising coming picture attractions.

The ticket office is conveniently situated on the right-hand side of the entrance porch, and adjacent to the stairway, which leads to the first floor, on which are situated the projection room and re-winding rooms. These rooms are constructed on the most modern lines and in strict conformity with the requirements of the law, being entirely fire-proof, and replete with all the necessary equipment to ensure an unbroken run in the presentation of programmes.

The most modern Raycophone talkie apparatus is being installed this week, the machine being of the wide range high frequency type and adjudged by experts to be without peer.

The hall itself, which is gained through a wide entrance, is designed specifically for picture purposes. The accoustic (sic) properties are such that the audience will obtain the greatest benefit, sound absorbing material having been utilised wherever necessary with this end in view. The floor slopes gradually from the entrance door to the stage, to permit of patrons in any part of the hall having an unobstructed view of the screen. A series of grilles provide ample ventilation, their positions being so designed that their effect in cold weather will not further cool the hall atmosphere. The ceiling is of the "principle" type, and is neatly panelled to secure a very attractive effect. Exit doors are provided on either side of the hall, and doors conveniently situated give access to the rear of the stage.
The stage itself has been specially designed for the screening of pictures, and has a background in which sound-absorbing material has been used to ensure perfect reception for patrons.

The interior color (sic) scheme embraces buff and blue and gives a most attractive finish to a hall, which in all respects will fully meet the purposes for which it was designed.

Electric light has been installed, and the lights so arranged as to provide brilliant illumination when required.

The architect is Mr. H. Smith, of Punchbowl, Sydney, and the contractor, Mr. Keith Smith, of Newcastle and Lismore.

The workmen are busily engaged completing the building, which on the opening day, August 31, will equip Deepwater with one of the finest theatres in the country districts of the State.


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