Bendigo’s most iconic places we dearly miss from the last 40 years

Bendigo’s most iconic places we dearly miss from the last 40 years

Words by Chester Ogilvie

To Bendigo, with Love...

It’s the nature of the world that places come and go. Many leave us too soon. But every now and then, perhaps on those nights where sleep is not your friend and it is two in the morning, a thought will curiously enter your head about the times that were. An old crush, an embarrassing memory or, sometimes, a place we used to roam.

To steal some words from Celine Dion, for these places our hearts will go on.

When a place had been around for aeons, people are going to remember it in many different ways. ‘You know, when I was young this place was…’ When it comes to Rechter’s, that Mitchell Street beacon of joy, some may remember the sign. Others the jukebox, pinball, or lime spiders. And some may have a faint memory of the beadies. Come on, does anyone else remember the beadies? And who bought them when they weren’t supposed to?

Wooz skate shop
Remember when people proudly wore a short sleeve t-shirt over a long sleeve tee? It was the best of times, and remains a sublime look. The brainchild of Jonathon and Benjamin Wu, Wooz closed up more than fifteen years ago but for a time was the coolest spot to pick up all your skating gear and earn a little street cred. You could say it was the place that made you want to gleam the cube. (Christian Slater, we love you.)

Dunny Diner
While other late-night eateries did their best (Clogs, we can’t forget you), nothing topped the Dunny Diner. Without exaggeration, this post-clubbing food van offered some of the greatest culinary delights of all time to soak up the drink. It was also the place where strangers became friends. I will have a burger with the lot and four dimmies, please. Oh, and a can of Coke. (Their steak sandwich deserves a hand on the heart, too.)

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Bendigo Ice Rink
You have the Rockefeller Ice Rink. You have Moscow’s GUM Skating Rink. You have London’s Somerset House. Some of the more cynical among us may say the Bendigo Ice Rink was not in the same weight class, but it fought a good fight. Built in 1986, this was a magical winterland if ever there was one.

Uncle Sam’s
When videogame arcades ruled the world, Uncle Sam’s had a special little place in Bendigo. With pockets weighed down by loose change, so many fatalities and hadoukens took place there. I am sure there were other games, but you know, fatalities and hadoukens. You knew you were good when a crowd of people hovered around you. While we’re at it, does anyone remember Vibrations? What was your favourite game?

Zoo Roller Disco/Phoenix
The jury is still out on whether there were more bruised egos or more bruised behinds that came as a result of Zoo Roller Disco. Not to mention broken bones. Picking up the slack when Zoo Roller Disco came to an end was Phoenix. Friday night brought out the disco lights and the best skaters, who would attempt to out-do one another in speed and jump competitions.

Sunny Sedgwick Music Festival
Initially set up as a Greens fundraiser, the Sunny Sedgwick Music Festival came, conquered, and then said goodbye. Only a short drive from Bendigo, this was a cool camping festival that hosted some of Australia’s best-loved bands of the time, and those who never quite made it. Is there anyone out there with a story to share? Is there anyone who performed?

Big Bendi @ the Bendigo Aquatic Centre
Well worth the hot dance of bare feet on summer concrete was the majestic first sight of the Big Bendi at the Bendigo Aquatic Centre, now the Faith Leech Aquatic Centre. Slogging up the stairs in soaked bathers was always a bore, but the pay-off was golden. Going down on your stomach was a rush, and an experience best followed with a bag of Burger Rings. A mention also must go to the 10-metre platform, if you were feeling brave or just wanted to show off. So, who out there was a show-off? Anyone the victim of a bellywhacker?

Velvets & Studio 54
There was The Powerhouse. There was Sundance Saloon. There was Clockwork Orange. There was The Y, Ace of Clubs, The Pub, RMH, ScuBar, Hollywood on High, Hot Gossip and Odyssey. There was Limerick Tavern. These names will ring the bell of some readers, but two of the biggest in the badlands of Bendigo’s nightclub history are Velvets and Studio 54. Where did you shake your tail feather? What name did you know it as?

Roundabout Video
There was a time when the most exhilarating moment on a Friday night was the one-minute wait as the video store clerk shuffled through the return slot, delivering the news that would make or break your night. Those were simpler times, folks. Actually, scratch that. It’s much easier now. But there is no charm. No charm. On the plus side, there are no late fees. Did anyone out there get away with not paying their late fees?

Powney’s closed its doors nearing a decade ago, but for a long time it offered the perfect place to pick up a newspaper, a birthday card, or flick through a magazine (or read the entire thing) to the possible, and positively understandable, annoyance of staff. Or you would queue patiently but eagerly out front, waiting for the doors to open to purchase tickets to a concert or show. That’s how it used to be done. Often in the snow. While fighting off wild dogs.

Cherry Berry Farm
Once upon a time, public safety had a looser definition and parental supervision was more or less a game of Marco Polo to see if you were still alive. It was in this wonderful time where Cherry Berry Farm had a home. If little else is remembered, the gravel/asphalt is. Really, the tubes seemed more for show. You best hope your parents had some mercurochrome at home (of course they did, that was the First Aid Kit), and nothing told a story more than that glowing red-orange badge of honour. Hell, we wouldn’t be surprised if Cherry Berry had a partnership with the stuff.

Another that lives on in the same headspace as Cherry Berry Farm was Arakoon, and what a fun and easy way it was to spend a day. Not to mention a way for schools to bludge a day. It was a beeline to the slide and the walk up, which seemed such an eternity you needed to be careful of sunburn. Or if speed was your thrill you could try the toboggans. Respite from the sun could always be found through taking a dip.

The Old Crown
Bendigo has had many live music venues, but for any band that set out to conquer the music world in the 1990s, the Old Crown was always there. Every local band had this place on their resume. It was just the way it went. You know when a friend says ‘you really had to be there’. Well, you did. And then there was karaoke. We must also mention the accommodation up top. Did anyone crash there? While we’re on old haunts, a special mention must go to the Waterloo as well. Tell us, did your band play there?

Golden Twin Cinemas
Before redevelopment and a name change to Bendigo Cinemas took place in 1997, and well before Gold Class hit town, Bendigo had the Golden Twin Cinemas. Opening its doors in 1975, having two screens from which to choose was a pretty big deal. Double features would take place, as would three-film movie marathons which could start late at night and often end in the early morning light. Does anyone remember their favourite marathon?

Roy Leech & Easden’s
While Bendigo is still home to some ripping music stores, Roy Leech’s Allans Music and Easden’s hold a special place. It may not have been the biggest, but every musician new or seasoned would have wandered down Allan’s Walk. Always willing to bend over backwards to accommodate, a planned two-minute visit could easily end up becoming a half-hour stay. Boasting a solid range of impressive gear, Easden’s was where you went if you wanted some hot new gear, or if you just wanted to make some noise. No Stairway, denied.

Quick bites:

Sandhurst Town
The site of the Great Stupa used to belong to Sandhurst Town, Bendigo’s own Sovereign Hill-style pioneer village, complete with a bushrangers robbery show.

It lived fast and died young, did Chevys. An American-style rock and roll cafe, it had half a car on the wall, a jukebox and chequered stylings. What a nifty place it was to fill up on a burger, chips and shake.

At the site of Office Works used to be Coles-Fossey, a bits and pieces store below with a cafeteria up top. You could grab yourself a cheap t-shirt and enjoy some chips and gravy upstairs.

Ollie’s & co.
Ollie’s was the place for all your fried chicken needs, before some Colonel took over. While we’re at it, who remembers Hog’s Breath? Sizzler?

(Dis)honourable mention:

Hargreaves Street blockies
Legend says if you stand on the corner at just the right time of day, at just the right time of year, you can still hear the humming of engines and sound of shitty music blasting through wound-down windows. Generally reserved for those who just snagged their P-plates, lap after lap would take place. For those taking the scenic route, a trip up past Abbey Rd/Studio 54, round the roundabout, back down Mitchell St and left into Hargreaves Street would fill in half the night. Then the council went and ruined things.

Oh, and the less said about the old Hargreaves Street taxi rank the better. You gotta problem, mate?

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