Sunday, 20 March 2005

More Victorian AFL teams? Perhaps a bit of wishful thinking by the Herald-Sun.

Personally I'd settle for the return of the VFA (even without my mediocre local side) with the AFL reserves as a separate competition again. Who doesn't miss Dandenong, Oakleigh, Prahran and Brunswick? And how many of us want to see a decent curtain raiser before every AFL game? I used to show up early to watch the Melbourne reserves every week (and even the Under 19's sometimes in the very old days), on the other hand I've seen Sandringham once since the AFL/VFL (and what is up with that name?) 'agreement' started. There might be a sizeable group of listed players running around out there but it's not really Melbourne. When I look at the results I don't give a monkey's whether they win or not, just that our players were amongst the best on ground. It was different when you watched the reserves, even if half the people playing were just fill-ins they were still wearing your teams jumper and you still wanted them to win.

Can we have the mid-season draft back too while we're at it?

I'm starting to get nostalgic again, somebody shoot me.

Saturday, 12 March 2005

I've been writing far too much about sports recently. I'd really like to comment on the great Governor-General debacle like everyone else is but the simple fact is that I don't particuarly care about it. The office is just so completely pointless to me that I can't treat it like a national crisis when something like this happens.

I've always wondered though, if the Governor-General can sack the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister can sack the Governor-General then what would happen if they both decided to fire each other? ("You're fired!" "No, YOU'RE fired") I know the Queen is involved somehow, but she's probably forgotten she even owns Australia and rubber-stamps anything put in front of her. Kerr vs Whitlam in a Texas Death Match would have been quite an attractive proposition I feel.

Road trip weekend - Pt. 2

At Wobbie’s World there’s heaps to do
Bring your friends, and Mum too
Visit the castle or fly in the sky
Wobbie’s World has lots of rides
Helicopters, fire engines, trams and slides
Wobbie’s World
Springvale Road, Nunawading
It’s great at Wobbie’s World

To an entire generation of Melbourne children Wobbies World has become the term to describe an especially pissy theme park. Despite having been closed in what we estimate to be the very early 1990’s it still enjoys a cult following to this day. Sadly, though, information about this landmark of Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs on the internet is very, very thin. In fact it doesn’t exist. We might not be able to provide any real historical information but we thought we’d do the next best thing and pay the former site a visit and check out the vibe. What does Wobbies World look like now? Do the people of Nunawading still sing that half-remembered jingle with all the shonky 80’s whistles under their breath? There was only one way to find out.

Joined by our special roadtrip guest, Jellyfish, myself and Adam 2.0 set out to unlock the secret of the land that inspired the Late Show’s “Pissweak World”. Throughout the post there’ll be pictures, and there will be links to pictures to keep the page size down and stop those of you on a 56k modem from slashing your wrists.

The officially listed address of the World was 469 Springvale Road, Nunawading but we decided to attack it from a different angle and instead pulled into the back streets of what was once Wob but is now second-rate cheap and affordable housing.

We took one final group picture - lest we never return from what we were about to throw ourselves into and attacked the parkland on the spot where the now defunct world used to be. Things looked grim at first, it appeared that there was absolutely no sign of what had once been there.

We saw some random shack, found some bog water and posed for zany pictures outside ye olde chicken coops but there was no signs of life. There were, however, some serious signs of dubious behaviour having taken place within. But no tram, no helicopter ride, no fireman with a hose and no old plane. At all. I was starting to become very depressed and wondered if the mission was going to be the biggest failure ever. Even a random old man in the park was asked whether he knew that he was sitting right in the middle of a piece of unknown Melbourne history - he had no idea. It was almost time to declare the mission off and escape the suburbs - and then I looked over to my left and saw a barbed wire fence. This was it.

Taken through said fence this is a live action shot of the moment we discovered the mother-lode of Wobbie mania. We’d found the start of the pissy ride featured in the famous advertisement - and a quick look through the fence showed that hidden away in this corner of Nunawading was a big chunk of what once was Wobbie’s World itself. The only problem was getting in. Once we eventually located a portion of fencing where the barbed wire had been cut off I leapt onto it but due to bendy fencing issues and general physical ineptitude I couldn’t manage to get over without snapping myself in two - and try explaining that to an ambulance driver. Had the dream been ripped away from us after we’d come so close? I thought so. We walked around the fence looking for a way in, and found nothing better than a clear gimmick photo opportunity created inside.

Then I had one of those bright ideas. The sort that, in crappy cartoons, leads to a light bulb coming up above your head. The concept was, in fact, to go around to the side with all the housing and jump over somebody’s fence instead. Now that’s what I call dubious. Of course I didn’t actually tell Jellyfish or AFE this as they would probably have called the cops on me before any of the locals had the opportunity. I just demanded they follow me around to that side where I would explain my controversial plan. Then, in a Magistrates Court saving moment, we walked straight past a tiny little fence that was surely constructed just to help people get in. I hope one of the other two took a picture because I forgot, I was too busy going up and over. This time we were in for sure. Confirmed.

And what a place. It certainly looked as if it had been abandoned for 15 years but there was parts of it still intact like the day it closed,

In the office next door to the snackbar there was a fridge and a bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice - which leads me to believe that there are people who use Castle Wobbie for something or other more often than you’d expect. Kinky urban swingers parties? Crack lab? Something dubious. Given that you could still see the price list in the snack bar, and a can of Fanta was listed as $1.20 I’m not sure exactly what was going on. Either people were being ripped off blind in 1990 or there’s been some dodgy catered event there in recent years. I loved it. I think the other two noticed my childlike glee in being there. This was an unprecedented excursion into the history of Melbourne’s childrens entertainment. The only way you could get further into the heartland of the industry would be to get touched up by a Moomba Clown. Try finding a picture of Wobbies World on the internet. You’ve got no chance. These might not be ideal but they’re the best you’ll find anywhere online. Here the Agent poses in the old start of the shonky one rail ride

I located a pair of ticket booths and the very spot where the boundary between old Wob and new housing project met and the former Helicopter ride track ran straight into a brick wall - thus destroying my idea of a “return to Wobbies” party.

My old favourite, the mini-golf course, was pretty much intact. I can’t believe there was actually a hole where you had to play around the supports of the castle and snackbar. That’s shambolic. Sadly the giant rock face that marked the 18th hole where you could score a free game by sinking a hole in one is gone - presumably it’s been auctioned to the highest bidder and is now sitting in regional Queensland or something.

We discovered the old “birthday hut”, with some motivational slogans and pissy boats within. Painted on the outside of the hut was the actual Wobbies World mascot itself but sadly due to shade issues, and the fact that getting close enough to take an unshaded picture would have risked falling in the swamp, we got a poor quality picture of it. Missing out on a real shot of the Wob Elephant may live to be one of my great regrets in life.

My final memory of the place will always be the moment I almost spewed when I looked deep and hard into the crusty swamp water that had overtaken the former helicopter track. I defy you not to puke your own guts out when you view it. There was actually a crusty film of evil stuff on top of it. The photo doesn’t do it justice - but it does frame that very spot where the helicopter came up the hill in the ad so it’s historic nonetheless.

And that was it. We’d seen it all. There was a giant sign face down in the grass at the back that was, I think, the main Wobbies World sign. One day I’m going back with a giant lever and turning that over. It’s probably got several bodies underneath it but I must see it. Just as we headed back to jump the fence and debrief on what we had seen a head poked over the fence and we had the following scintillating conversation,

Wob Neighbour: “Are you guys alive?”
A: “Yeah. We’re just checking out Wobbie’s World!”
A: (fishing for anecdotes) “Did you ever go there?”
WN: “No, it’s just that we don’t allow trespassers. So if you’re trespassing…”
A: “Yeah, doesn’t matter we’re going anyway”

Then more silence. I was wondering who exactly “we” was. Had we just spoken to Roy Wobbie Jr, the heir to the throne? Or just a smartarse local who didn’t know the history and significance of what he lives next door to but wanted to make sure we weren’t going to bring thousands of screaming children onto his doorstep. One of the two. Either way he was a knob.
That was it. We’d seen the very spot where you used to be able to sit in the derelict aeroplane and watch video of “flight”, we’d seen where the helicopter bounced around on second rate springs purchased from Pick-a-Part, we’d seen the castle, the snackbar and the golf course. My life is complete.. Well, almost complete anyway. 

On that note,
In association with Hecho En Mexico and Jellyfish Online; TSP is launching it’s
campaign. We want your memories of this iconic venue, we want pictures of you pissfarting about there as a kid and we especially want to talk to anyone who used to work there. Please discuss this campaign widely. Ask your family and friends for their memories and get back to us - we MUST unlock the secret of Wobbie. Who was he? When did it open? What was the exact layout? What exact date did it close? I have to know before I die.

Wobbies World - Rest in Peace. We will never forget you.