Down the Mall: The changing face of our fine city

THE ABC celebrated 21 years in Bendigo this week and it led to at least one truly fascinating conversation: what had changed in Bendigo in those years?

Just off the top of DTM’s head, here are some things which are very different now.

The Bendigo Gaol was a jail. The old Post Office was still a post office. The hospital was much smaller and a bit down at heel. The railway station hadn’t been done up. 

There was no Bendigo Marketplace. No Discovery Science and Technology centre. Lake Weeroona was a bit of a mud puddle which acted as a gully trap for the old Bendigo saleyards which were where TAFE now is. There was no Boardwalk.

The Addy was in Pall Mall and was a cumbersome broadsheet.

There was no Sunday trading (don’t start!) and our old Bendigo College of Advanced Education had become the University College. It’s now La Trobe Uni Bendigo.

John Balsillie was the last Mayor of Bendigo. The commissioners came in the year after.

Rosalind Park had become a sort of dumping ground for an ugly assortment of public buildings including dunny blocks, a cream brick sound shell, an infant welfare centre, a tourism information cubicle and a kindergarten.

There was no such thing as Bendigo Bank. It was still a building society.

There was no internet, mobile phones, texting.

Remarkable when you think about it.

March of progress

Some new things are remarkable. One hundred years ago, the Addy reported that Bendigo council had approved the new-fangled process of putting tar on roads to stop mud and dust.

Yep, and it found that the best material to mix with the tar was “cyanide sand” left over from the gold mining industry.

The Addy noted that it would still be necessary to remove manure from the streets.

Piper's sad tale

Our joke-bearing old mate Besso has been at it again.

This time he passes on the story of a Bendigo Clan Macleod bagpiper who was often called on to play at funerals.

On this one occasion he was asked to play at a graveside for a pauper’s funeral at a remote country cemetery, and of course on the way he became hopelessly lost.

He knew it was in a bushy area, and after about an hour driving around in circles, he eventually saw a group of workers busy with a back-hoe on a tractor. There were lots of uneven bits of ground nearby.

“Damn, I’ve missed the funeral and they’re already filling in the grave.” Feeling absolutely gutted that a sad life could end so badly, he got his pipes out of the car and walked over to the hole.

It was already partly filled, but he could just make out some of the panel below. And he decided to play as he had never done before.

He filled the still country air with pure emotion. The diggers stopped work and came over to stand respectfully alongside with hardly a dry eye to be seen.

“That was just exquisite,” one said. He turned to one of his mates: “I’ve never heard anything like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for more than 20 years!”

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