Before the iPad and iPhone! Before CD and DVD players! Before gaming consoles and TV!  Just how did people have fun in the early 20th century?  You might think life would be so boring.  It certainly wasn’t!  People made their own entertainment, making do with whatever was on hand.

The Great Depression was a very difficult time for the people of Australia. With hardly any jobs and less money, people still needed some diversion from everyday life.  They used their imagination and their skills to create their own fun.

Fairs, family picnics, sporting events and theatre were traditional forms of early colonial entertainment.  Circuses and amusement parks were also popular destinations for city dwellers.

There was no money for expensive toys; children were expected to entertain themselves.  Fortunately, there was little or no traffic, so the street was their playground: the road, the footpaths and the front and back yards. Children were told to go outside and entertain themselves with their own imagination.

Backyard Cricket was always fun

It was a different world in those days and children had much more freedom. They would leave the house at first light to play with their friends, and spend all day outside – weather allowing – the only rule being “be home in time for dinner”.

And what about the grown-ups?  They needed to amuse themselves without having to spend a great deal of money. It was up to them to plan their own amusement.

The Karaoke of the 20th century

After dinner families would gather around the kitchen table to play cards or board games until it was time for the children to head off to bed.  Sometimes neighbours or friends would be invited to join the family for a musical evening around the piano. If the children could play a musical instrument they would also join in the entertainment.

Often friends would get together just to enjoy one another’s company and some light refreshments.  Everything was home-made – the food, the games, the music.

Another popular form of entertainment would be the dances or games nights held in the local community or school hall. These could be enjoyed by the whole family.

The family sat together around the radio

The wireless (radio) had just been introduced as well and the family would sit down for hours at a time listening to the programmes – music, plays, game shows, children’s shows.  Something for everyone.

Going to the flicks” was a cheap and popular form of entertainment and you got good value for your money:  two movies, a newsreel of current affairs, a serial and possibly a cartoon.

The current exhibition at our museum highlights just some of the many ways people have entertained themselves over the years since Australia was first settled.  Why don’t you pop in any Wednesday or Saturday to see for yourself.


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