Re-Living The Best Of The 90s In Adelaide

Get nostalgic as we kick it old school with this throwback to Adelaide in the 90s, before children were glued to screens, when safety standards were lower and entertainment more wholesome…


If you’ve ever had an in-depth read of the comments sections that accompany articles on SA news websites, you’ll agree that it’s an absolute miracle that our city has progressed at all in the last two decades. Change, much like a high riding pair of underpants on a hot day, really hits a nerve with some people in Adelaide.

An initiative which Glam would advocate for is to one day seek out all those brave keyboard warriors who spend their time on that site so we can deliver them their own personal fluoro vests emblazoned with the honourable title of ‘status quo officer’ on the back. It would be helpful for the rest of us to be able to identify them, if any of them actually ever venture outside.

Thankfully naysayers never get their way, but one thing we can all agree on is that looking to the past is important… for a nostalgic chuckle.

Retrospect is a wonderful thing and in spite of how fondly we may remember things, we usually also understand why they are better left in the past. Case in point, some of the famous Adelaide icons that peaked in the 90s. Much like Milli Vanilli, it’s fun to look back at what was once cool. So, shall we?

Fairyland Village – Lobethal
At the time of opening in 1973, nothing remotely similar existed in Australia – which we guess you could say for Clive Palmer’s dinosaur park. Depicting scenes from fairy-tales and children’s stories, countless families would take the winding road in their old Ford Laser through the hills to this quite magical destination. The early 90s saw the Village peak, but as attendances declined and property was damaged or stolen sadly the whimsy began to slowly fade. Since its closure in the 2000s, the property is no longer accessible by the public and none of the displays remain.

Picture courtesy of WILDSTAR (Awesome Adelaide).
Photo courtesy of WILDSTAR (Awesome Adelaide)

Dazzleland – Myer Centre
The two-story indoor amusement park which occupied the top levels of the Myer Centre in Rundle Mall was briefly rekindled for the Adelaide Festival of Arts earlier this year. It was a respectful recreation, but hardly reminiscent of the dogem cars, carousel, Lego Expo, giant playground, ball crawl, musical fountain and train which used to be crammed in there. Oh, and then you had the Jazz Junction coaster, which remained until 2003.

In its hey-day this place captured imaginations, much like an iPad might do for a child today. But let’s not forget the lesson that as part of the total centre construction cost of $1 billion upon the centre’s completion in 1991, it contributed in part to the collapse of the State Bank. Ah, those tokens…

Photo courtesy of Myer Centre Adelaide
Source unknown

Puzzle Park – Murray Bridge
A pair of local entrepreneurs opened this award winning family park in 1985, which would go onto win a swag of tourism awards. Best known for the incredible heat of the giant slides on a warm day, which no hessian bag could cushion, an insane split level maze, as well as some of the gnarliest twisted metal attractions going,

Mounting public liability costs forced its closure in 2007 and for the last several years it has sat decaying. And it’s glorious to look upon the photos!

Mad Mouse – Royal Adelaide Show
The Royal Adelaide Show wasn’t the only showground in the country (or for that matter, around the globe) to house one of these breakneck coasters. For years, it reigned king of the rides, though was not without tragedy and controversy during its lifetime. At the end of the 2007 Show the Mad Mouse was retired, the track was dismantled and the cars auctioned off. For those who remember its heyday though, here’s a trip down memory lane.

Photo courtesy of Amusement Ride Extravaganza
Mad Mouse
Photo courtesy of coggla

Pie Cart – Various CBD Locations
In 1864 J Gibbs, a young English immigrant, formerly of Her Majesty’s Navy, opened a pie stall on the corner of Rundle and King William Streets, thus beginning an association with city pie stalls which has continued to the present day. This was the original food truck.

While Villis had their café, Balfours had the cart and whether you care to indulge in the rivalry of who made the better pie, you cannot deny that the pie floater is one of those truly iconic dishes to our city. Even if you have never had one, you know what they are. We’re sure some pie historian will come through with some factual details to clarify the story, but the online sphere had this to say – “The Pie Cart closing was a travesty. It should be government funded through parking fines.” We kind of agree…

Source unknown.
Source unknown

Old Glenelg Trams
Have you ever seen how incredible the electric rail network in Adelaide was during the 1950s? It’s so sad to know that the only remains of the original track is the 15 kilometer stretch from Victoria Square to Glenelg. While we have the slick new yellow machines to take us in comfort, authentic memories of that trip linger amongst the sticky faux leather seats and ticket punchers of the old triple set H class trams. The joy when a window creaked opened. The guilt when you didn’t have the correct change for a ticket. It was a warmly familiar and strangely uncomfortable experience, much like a trip to the dentist.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, commons pic
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, commons pic

Magic Mountain – Glenelg
After a ride on the tram, your reward would be the largest waterslides in the Southern Hemisphere (at least, they were at time of building). While the exterior was likened to a giant dog turd, the bumper boats, skycycles and gorgeous carousel immediately shone. Magic Mountain closed its doors in 2004, despite public and council support for it to remain. Of course, you cannot stop progress and its updated reimagining, The Beachhouse, certainly doesn’t receive as many complaints about its appearance.

Photo courtesy of Holdfast Bay History Centre
Photo courtesy of Holdfast Bay History Centre

Classic Cinemas – CBD
For years, high schoolers would flock to the Regent Arcade cinemas to make out between the aisles. It was the best $15 you could ever spend. If you really liked someone, you might try the Greater Union on Hindley Street for its more lush and less sticky carpet. If you were just friends, you’d go to the Academy on Hindmarsh Square.

These sorts of amazing moments simply can’t happen these days because the Nova is too packed and the slope at the Mercury is far too steep to lie on. But we hear they’re bringing back the Hindley Street cinema soon…

Picture courtesy of Media Resource Centre
Photo courtesy of Media Resource Centre

John Martin’s Magic Cave
During 132 years of trade, John Martin’s department store gifted Adelaide so much more than simply retail goods. In 1964, when The Beatles visited Australia is was Johnnie’s who sponsored the band to add Adelaide to their tour itinerary. Their involvement in the Adelaide Christmas Pagaent and the Adelaide Festival of Arts was always fondly remembered, but the jewel in their crown was the Magic Cave at Christmas.

With a dedicated lift to whisk children direct to Santa, surrounded by the magic of their toy section and festive trimmings, there are countless photo boxes that feature old Father Christmas and happy looking kids. We haven’t seen many on mantle pieces today, but we can only assume that children of today are confused why the tradition continues in the corner near the furniture department of David Jones.

The Middle Finger – North Terrace
While our giant balls are national folklore, this brass finger stood proudly erect for decades and was one of the true treasures of our city. Formerly found on the building to the west of the David Jones development, the story goes that it was forged in the 1990s in response to the number of highly-valued buildings being destroyed to accommodate the retailer. Commenting on the bronze leaves which adorned their new neighbour, the building owners of the time added their own bronze leaf with a splash of social commentary.

If this masterpiece ever resurfaces, we would happily give our meagre life savings towards its re-establishment as part of the fabric of this city.

Source unknown
Source unknown

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