Fay: Prior to the Aquarius Festival, see, half the shops in Nimbin were closed. They were just empty.
Roly: Well, that was through the downturn in the dairy industry.
Fay: It wasn’t only the downturn in the industry. Back when Nimbin was flourishing – same with all the small towns, there were no cars, well, one or two, but people couldn’t go from Nimbin through to Lismore to do their shopping, so they shopped in Nimbin. But once everyone started getting cars, well, they’d go straight through Nimbin, and Nimbin got missed. That was the downfall of all the small townships, didn’t matter whether it was Clunes, Bexhill, all of them. You found a lot of the shops in each one of those towns closed.
So when the Aquarius lot came in, well, then, they had 300 or something up at Tuntable, and the other communes around. They didn’t have vehicles, so they had to shop locally, so it opened all the shops up again.
But at the same time, they weren’t producing anything on the land, they weren’t buying up farms—
Roly: No, they were partly trying to grow enough vegies for themselves, but that was quite a battle because so many people had no experience of growing vegetables of any description, so they learnt the hard way.
Fay and I, my parents, they always had a good vegie garden. You depended on most home-grown vegetables in those days. Everybody had an old choko vine growing over the back fence, down where the dunny used to be. You’d go in there and you’d always look up to make sure there were no snakes up there. That did happen, too. You’d make a pretty quick exit if you saw a snake up there, looking at you.
So did you have much to do with the newcomers to town, or was it all kind of separate at that point?
Fay: Well, we had quite a bit to do with them, because they used to come down to the farm to get manure for their garden, and talk to us and so forth. Some of them would come down and buy milk, because they found out our milk tasted nice to what the pasteurised did.
Roly: Yes. We had a lot to do with the early settlers that came in that way. It was very interesting to see things from their point of view.
Fay: There were a few residents around Nimbin that were just up against them, but I think a lot of it was, one mistake they made, they went from one extreme to the other extreme. They had to learn eventually to come back to the middle, and that’s where they are today.
They believed that they didn’t need much to live on, but they soon found out, with the weather, that they needed more than a tent and a tepee.
Roly: We took Fay’s Mum up towards the jolly commune up the top end of the valley. Anyway, there was a health shop there and this chap was walking down the main road and all he had on was an ice-cream container. Oh, her face – poor old Mum, she nearly had a fit! He was covering himself up with this ice-cream container.
She came from Clunes out there and spent a few days with us, so we thought we’d show her the sights of the carnival. Anyway, that’s what she came across when we were driving up the road. Oh, dear, she nearly had a fit.
You’d find most of the people in Nimbin – they were talking about a lot of them camping up at the Nimbin Showgrounds. They’d have a communal bath there and it was a big old round tin, galvanised iron bath tub, and they all dipped through that. Girls and jokers and all that would take their turn. They’d strip off and get in the old tub. The others would be scrubbing their backs, sort of thing, so you can imagine the fun that went on there.
And did you hear those stories, or did you actually see the bathtub?
Roly: I saw them. Oh, yes, the frankness that went on, yes. A lot of the folk coming into Nimbin – one day we were driving the Chev truck around, a two-ton Chev truck. Anyway, just over the paddock there they’d rented all this ground off Halls, I think he was. Anyway, they had this communal area that they had fenced in with hessian and, you know, star pickets all round with the hessian stuck in the ground, and that was it, toiletry and whatever.
Anyway, I was driving along the road and I was seeing things I’d never seen before. I nearly went off the road. Oh, dear, yes, things were a bit raw at times.
It’s difficult to imagine for someone who was born after that period, what it must have been like to have, you know, a small kind of dairying community, to have all these new people come in.
Roly: Of course, it was just all like a big picnic. They were having fun. They were having fun. You can’t blame them. I might do the same thing – I don’t know. That may be stretching the imagination! You know, a lot of the old timers, it was certainly something new for them, to have even thought of things like that happening. Everybody was prim and proper in those days. You weren’t game to do anything wrong.
I know – see that photo of ours there; I’ve got the aerial photo round there – they were coming down in an aeroplane taking photos of all the farms that were around the district. Anyway, we heard of one case. This young couple were working a property somewhere, and anyway, this plane was flying around low, and he sang out to her – they were only very young, hadn’t been married for long – he sang out to his wife, “Come out here and have a look at what’s going on.” Anyway, she came running out in the nude. She’d been under the shower. Anyway, a week or so later they came down with the photos they’d taken from the air, and here she was out in the yard without a stitch on. The last thing she expected was somebody up in a plane taking photos of her. That was back in ’72.
Anyway, it’s good to have those days to remember the fun we had.