Open day at Canberra Airport © Paul Sadler
Open day at Canberra Airport © Paul Sadler

The history of ‘things’, such as a wharf, or a railway station, is a useful way of linking the everyday experiences of generations of Australians to our times.

Ginette Snow’s book, Canberra Airport, a pictorial history, is a part of this vital genre, and a ‘must have’ for collectors of images and narratives of the often transient details of modern Australian daily life.

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This includes the casket of war time Prime Minister John Curtin being carried across a frozen tarmac to the waiting flight back to WA for burial by a procession including Billy Hughes and Robert Menzies, and a long forgotten diorama illustration of a Very Fast Train, at a future Canberra Airport Station as envisaged in the 1980s.

Today's tails at Canberra Airport© Ginette Snow
Today's tails at Canberra Airport© Ginette Snow

It is also a book that goes well beyond public figures or projects, to what the airport really looked like, and what people were wearing, and now vanished airlines including TAA, East-West, Ansett, Australian, Impulse and others that they were flying way back when they were household names.

No-one, even in 1999, could have foreseen the Canberra Airport of 2009 (as it emerges from major reconstructions and expansion work.) And if it wasn’t for a book like this the ‘old’ Canberra airport would disappear into unreliable memories.

Impulse at CBR (company photo) before Qantas turned it into Jetstar.
Impulse at CBR (company photo) before Qantas turned it into Jetstar.

This is also the Canberra Airport of sometimes snowy plains as far as the eye could see, a town that was regarded in the last century as Australia’s equivalent to Siberia when it came to the comparative hardship of living there, or being compelled to make frequent trips to the centre of politics and public administration.

But those of us who live there (or nearby) today know better.

The photos, old and recent, include many taken by Ginette Snow, and illustrate the transition from a few huts and a strip on the Majura Plains to a new commercial and retail precinct as well as a fast growing airport and nascent hub for bypassing Sydney Airport.

Ante Dabro's The Bathers in the commercial precinct© Ginette Snow
Ante Dabro's The Bathers in the commercial precinct© Ginette Snow

The book is not just a gift for those who are intrigued by air transport and the story of Canberra, but to the HOME charity, which is building long term accommodation for the mentally ill, and receives all the proceeds.

Copies at $50 can be ordered through [email protected] or by calling (02) 6275 2222.

Cover illustration by Ginette Snow
Cover illustration by Ginette Snow
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