Monthly Archives: May, 2013

Past/Lives Flashback #3: Midnight Star Reception Centre – Homebush, NSW

Original article: Homebush Cinema/Niterider Theatre Restaurant/Midnight Star Reception Centre/Derelict – Homebush, NSW

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It was only a matter of time before we found ourselves back in front of this beast. As we already know, the Homebush Theatre has experienced a long afterlife as an ice rink, a theatre restaurant, a reception centre and a squat before it was finally allowed to rot alongside the other corpses on Parramatta Road. For more on its years as a squatters paradise, check out this fascinating account and accompanying video.

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Shortly after I wrote my original article last year, it came to light that the Midnight Star was to be redeveloped into two towers of high-density living space in the hope of rejuvenating its necropolyptic surroundings. This plan was rightfully met with community outrage, and has since been dropped by the developers without explanation, granting the Niterider another stay of execution.

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While attempting to spruce up the area is a good idea, this was not the right way to go about it. Sure, put in your two towers full of people, but consider the lack of amenities or decent infrastructure in the area before you start getting the dollar signs in your eyes, greedy developers! You know, if the M4 was finished, you could transform the stretch of Parramatta Road between Homebush and the city, and smart developers could really clean up… Oh wait, this is Sydney we’re talking about. Carry on.

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And so the Midnight Star returns to its seemingly-eternal slumber, waiting for a new set of idealistic developers to take another crack. The Strathfield Council has welcomed attempts to get something happening here, but only if the community at large receives some benefit. Personally, I think the community would benefit from a return of the theatre restaurant format. Come on, who doesn’t like to be entertained while eating, especially by dodgy panto? Get Dirty Dick on the phone! Homebush would learn to laugh again, instead of sinking further into bleak, oppressive hopelessness. It’s not a good look.

UPDATE: Someone has awakened the beast. Come for a tour of the Homebush Theatre before it’s gone forever (or even after it’s gone, these blogs last a long time).

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Tandy Electronics/Hair of Istanblue – Gladesville, NSW

Before we launch ourselves into the top three flashbacks, here’s one that’s sure to make the top ten next year. IMG_9514

If you allow your mind to drift back to the heyday of American-style consumerism this country indulged in between 1970 and 1999, you’ll no doubt remember Tandy Electronics. Born in 1973 as a local subsidiary of an American parent company of the same name, Tandy’s cutting edge product line and futuristic promise found a niche market that didn’t even know it was there. By 1980, Tandy had expanded past its modest Rydalmere headquarters, sprouting up in shopping plazas, arcades and strip malls like this one all around the country.

As a 90s kid, there were no words fit to print with which to express the disappointment of entering a Tandy and expecting video games. It was an electronics shop, wasn’t it? I didn’t want to have to build my own IBM compatible (or CB radio, more likely given Tandy’s field of expertise). They were still kid-friendlier than Radio Shack, but hell, even Dick Smith at least had a SNES game or two.

The paradigm shifted with the arrival of Electronics Boutique in 1997 – an ‘electronics’ shop without the transistors, bulbs and sockets we found so off-putting. At the same time, the limits of home-made technology were becoming apparent as the advances of the tech world left Tandy choking on its dust. In 2001, Woolworths added Tandy to its family, which by then also included Dick Smith.

Sadly for Tandy, it was far too niche to receive a generic relaunching as a consumer electronics and electrical giant as did Dick Smith. By 2009, the Tandy brand was put out to pasture, suddenly the perfect example of an “Oh, where’s that shop gone? I’m sure it was over in this corner…oh well.” moment. The final nail in the coffin was the closure of the tandy.com.au website (it redirects to the Dick Smith site). It’s almost biblical: the final betrayal for Tandy came from the realm of technology itself.

All that remains today are examples like the above. Hair of Istanblue can probably thank Tandy for its awesome homemade security system, or its radio that competes with the permanent-part time apprentice hairdresser for the coveted title of ‘loudest in the room’ on any given business day…but it’s likely these technological legacies go unnoticed.

Not so the old sign outside, the 80s ‘hi tech’ font of which catches the eye much better than the weirdly-incomplete Istanblue awning. But beware its siren call, tech-heads – you won’t find DIY lie detector kits and oscilloscopes here. C’mon, even the defunct Tandy website had to have been better than Hair of Istanblue’s spartan effort.

Also worth mentioning is the integral part Tandy Electronics played in the early 90s Australian childrens TV series Finders Keepers.

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Image courtesy ABC

In the show, based on Emily Rodda’s books, a Tandy outlet in Prospect (a northern suburb of Adelaide) acts as a gateway to another world, one separated from ours by a ‘time barrier’. As the Gladesville Tandy has shown us, it wouldn’t be the last time Tandy would act as a time warp.