South Lismore

As a child growing up in South Lismore, one of my strongest earliest memories was of the arrival at the nearby railway station of hundreds of people for the Aquarius Festival. Though it’s often described as Australia’s answer to Woodstock, I don’t think there was such a high musical component to it. But as a youngster, I remember a whole bunch of “odd looking” people arriving, providing quite a spectacle for the residents of South Lismore, as the people made their way to Nimbin. Their ongoing presence has fundamentally transformed the area in which I grew up.

Though it’s worth noting some things have remained the same or similar in South Lismore. As I walked along Union Street this afternoon, I noticed Bowen’s Cake Shop is now under “the original owners”. I remember being in the same school class as Tracey Bowen, whose parents owned the cake shop. I also remember it was the kind of cake shop where you would buy traditional meat pies, sausage rolls, and a lovely sponge cake with that sickly, faux whipped cream you would associate with 1960s/1970s Australia. If they were in Surry Hills, not South Lismore, they would be raking in the dough, delighting the hipster crowd.

Another early memory was of my mum and granny getting their hair done by Carol Beddoes. Mum would have a brown perm. Granny would have a blue rinse perm. I remember the smell of the chemicals even today. Though Carol Beddoes (she was always referred to by her full name) is probably long gone, her old salon lives on as “Delly’s Hair Design”.

Even the South Lismore Post Office is still there (though it is up for sale). I sincerely would have thought in the days of post office closures, the South Lismore Post Office would have closed many ears ago. But no, it’s still there. Though noticeably the familiar phone boxes which were on the left hand side, and which I remember for the A and B buttons, and for Sunday night phone calls (reverse charge) to family in Brisbane, disappeared many years ago.

Meanwhile, the Cassagrandra family have closed the local supermarket, after decades of being in the area.

The house in Kyogle Street where I was born and raised was moved away to another location many years ago. I think I was 4 or 5 years old when the land was bought to build a “weigh bridge”, and our house was literally transported on the back of a truck to another address not far away. Our plot of land, 21 Kyogle Street, is now home to a service station, and the railway yards across the road from where I played as a child, are now, for the most part also gone.

But the two houses next to each other where my mum and her family lived during the 30s and 40s, and where my sister lived during the 80s and 90s, are still there. Though I do wonder if there’s much of a future for the nearby railway viaduct, where family members once walked upon to escape the food waters, has much of a future, as the railway line which once brought the hippies to Lismore closed many years ago.

I do wonder if there’s much of a future for the nearby railway viaduct, where family members once walked upon to escape the food waters, as the railway line which once brought the hippies to Lismore closed many years ago.

Memorably, the nearby house behind the trees was once home to “Double Dutch”, Lismore’s first gay-owned and operated restaurant, and which was very much a home to Lismore’s gay community during the 1980s. Later, the house became a residence for a couple: Les and Russell. Yes, South Lismore really did change!

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