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9 June 2008

Luna Park

WARWICK DOUGHTY: Well, the first Luna Park was in New York on Coney Island in 1903. It was copied all round the world. And in 1930, after the success of the one in Melbourne, people moved it and copied it and put it in Glenelg in Adelaide. And that lasted about two years. And they had problems with residences down there, so they packed it up and put it in a ship and brought it up here. The site that we have today, it was Milsons Point railway station. They then demolished the old railway station and built the largest factory in Australia at the time and they used that for the steel construction of the bridge. These people in Adelaide who had Luna Park in Adelaide, and it wasn’t doing too well, said, “Oh, we know what to do.” The Government worked out there weren’t many people coming across the new bridge in their cars. So they said, “Oh, we know what to do. We’ll get that crowd from Adelaide to put the fun park here and so then you’ll have people use the bridge in their cars,” and they did. During the war, it was open and it got a lot of visitors, obviously, from the soldiers and sailors that came into Sydney on R&R. It was an escapism from the war years. I can remember bringing a girlfriend down here and having one of those, what we used to call pashes, and ended up married, yeah – still married to her. And we both still work here. Both a bit mad, I think. And in the late ’70s, there was the fire that people lost their lives on. Six children and one adult died in the Ghost Train fire. That led to the park’s closure in 1979, and so began a 22-year struggle between a succession of developers and the surrounding community. It opened and closed three times in the ’80s and ’90s. Then, in 1996, the gates closed once more when the Big Dipper was deemed too loud. The park has always been a contentious place. Even in Adelaide, it moved because of noise, and council problems. It came here and, in the early years, it wasn’t a problem because there were very few houses around it. It was a construction site for the bridge. But over time, there’s been a lot of development in residential places because, as I say, it’s a great spot to live.
The faces – the current one is number eight. So there have been seven before. Some lasted a long time, some built out of papier-mâché, some built out of ferrocement. But this one out of fibreglass, so number eight. We get a lot of visitors. We’re close to our three-millionth now since we opened the park again in 2004. And it’s a pretty amazing place to work.

GIRL: I’m here for a little bit of holiday fun.

WOMAN: Everyone’s happy, it’s fun, there’s so much to do.

WARWICK DOUGHTY: Look at the view – you’ve only gotta look at the kids’ smiling faces to see it’s all worthwhile. And Luna Park’s here for all of Sydney and all the visitors, not just for the locals. Luna Park’s important to Sydney because it’s the soul that Sydney has had for a long time – the bridge and the park. It’s been a fun place now for 71 years. It should go on indefinitely.