The sun sets on a sum­mer place

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - GRA­HAM ERBACHER

As the sum­mer break has come to an end, campers at Mooloolaba Es­planade Beach Hol­i­day Park have dis­man­tled their an­nexes, packed up vans and bid each other a farewell more fi­nal than the usual, see you same time, same place next year.

It’s all over, red rover for the beach­front hide­away car­a­van park, which will be closed by Queens­land’s Sun­shine Coast Coun­cil later this year. I have a dec­la­ra­tion of in­ter­est — my nephew Jon has led a cam­paign to keep the 34-van site open. His mum’s fam­ily has been spend­ing Christ­mas there for nigh-on 60 years and for him it is the em­bod­i­ment of a happy sum­mer. One of the tac­tics has been to seek a list­ing on the Queens­land Her­itage Coun­cil’s reg­is­ter of sites of so­cial and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance, much as nearby Cot­ton Tree Car­a­van Park gained in 2009. The bid was un­suc­cess­ful.

I can be dis­pas­sion­ate about the is­sue. My own fam­ily did not have a camp­ing gene in its col­lec­tive body. We much pre­ferred hol­i­day flats with holes in the fi­bro walls into which the pet tur­tle dis­ap­peared for days on end. Fra­ter­nal high jinks would add new cracks that re­quired care­ful repo­si­tion­ing of fur­ni­ture on de­par­ture. I fan­cied the idea of tow­ing a car­a­van so I could play in it dur­ing long car trips, but was in­formed this would be il­le­gal and re­quire in­stant jail­ing. I never did check to see if this were true or just a way of shut­ting me up, but it sounded about right. In any case, I had no de­sire to ac­tu­ally hol­i­day in a van and trek off to shared fa­cil­i­ties in the ablu­tion block.

The case for keep­ing the Mooloolaba car­a­van park was per­sua­sive. Campers have been us­ing it since the 1920s and it is one of the fast dis­ap­pear­ing ves­tiges of a tra­di­tional, low-cost hol­i­day life­style. In 2006 then Queens­land premier Peter Beattie noted that 26 parks across the state had closed in the pre­vi­ous five years with many more un­der threat and they were a tourist fa­cil­ity worth pro­tect­ing. Amus­ingly, op­po­nents of re­tain­ing the van park have damned sup­port­ers, who have been re­turn­ing year af­ter year, as “priv­i­leged”. Since when did that word and camp­ing go to­gether in the one sen­tence?

Coun­cil’s ar­gu­ment for clo­sure is that the site will be de­vel­oped as park­land with, funds per­mit­ting, land­scaped gar­dens, a rock pool and play­ground, and wider pub­lic ac­cess to the fab­u­lous fore­shore. Game over.

Maybe sum­mer hol­i­days are about fun, free­dom and spe­cial friend­ships and are not tied to one place that can be pro­tected by law (but, hey, how about keep­ing just one beach kiosk that serves choco­late malted milks and lime snow cones rather than puppo and baby­c­ci­nos). To keep the mem­o­ries alive, we’ll al­ways have that story of first love, Sum­mer of ’42; surf movie The End­less Sum­mer; and all that came out of San Fran­cisco’s Sum­mer of Love.

There are few mo­ments in the­atre more poignant than the end of Ray Lawler’s Sum­mer of the Seven­teenth Doll. As Olive’s re­la­tion­ship with her sea­sonal cane­cut­ter boyfriend Roo dis­in­te­grates, she de­mands of him: “I want what I had be­fore. You give it back to me — give me back what you’ve taken.” There’ll be no more kew­pie dolls mark­ing each sum­mer of care­free lovin’. But life rolls on.

Su­san Kuro­sawa is on leave

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