Every year, when I was a child, Wellington’s Winter Show Buildings hosted an extravaganza of product display, inside, and kid’s fun out the back.
Without question it was the highlight of my winter, not only because I got to stay up late but because I could eat rubbish in the form of candy-floss, toffee apples and chips with my mother’s approval. I could go on rides. Multiple times. I could enjoy being frightened in the Ghost House and shaken to bits in the bowels of the Crazy House too. And I could scream as loud as I wanted and not be accused of being a scaredy cat.
I could ride an exotic horse as it rose and fell with grace in a wide circle as the music played and my parents caught my smile every 360. I could ride the big, white, outside horse while my younger cousin B…. was relegated to the back stalls.
I loved the Merry-Go-Round and still do. It’s still my favourite ride at any theme park. It’s a shame my daughters are too old to want to join me now.
Inside the Show Building’s was that year’s new fangled gadgetry that Mum and Dad made me look around before I was allowed outside.
There was also a lot of farm equipment as I recall. This was New Zealand and the 60’s and we were (and are) a farming nation.
I would drag my parents as fast as I could up and down the aisles displaying Fridgadaire’s latest freezing compartment, oven and washing machine, the newest record player on the block and bales of hay covered in ploughing and packing product.
I don’t think we bought our automatic washing machine at the Winter Show but I do remember Mother taking way too long discussing its pros and cons with a suited salesman. There were no cons apparently. We had the same one for the next sixteen years. It rusted but never broke down.
I could have cared less. I wanted to be outside in the real action getting sticky and coated in sugar.
Outside were the Kewpie dolls. Oh, still my beating memories. Every year I chose a Kewpie doll on a stick. Why were they on sticks? For decorative purposes only, I guess. Regardless I had to have one. And wish I still did.
Dad would take me on the Dodgems. We called them Bumper Cars then and they looked subtly different to the models of today. I was too scared to drive which, looking back, probably pleased my father. He always liked driving.
And then there was the Ferris Wheel, the bane of my fair going experience. Every year Dad would suggest the Ferris Wheel and every year I would demur. The whole thing, thought and reality, terrified the red duffle coat off me. It still does. I don’t like Ferris Wheels and regret every one I’ve ever been pressurised onto. That frisson of fear unbounded, unlike the ‘terror’ of a house-full of ghosts. Even the London Eye makes me queasy. And that’s the truth.
In no way could the Winter Show compare to the theme parks of today. My children would laugh, I’m sure, at the paper hats and the paucity of rides but I still get butterflies when I see a Merry-Go-Round and remember those winter nights in July when I chose my steed and galloped in time to the music.