by Keith York

‘Twas a couple of years after WW2 when a young bloke by the name of Don Uppman migrated to Australia from his home country of Sweden. He had tried his luck as a photographer at the showgrounds, but, was not very successful. When the sale of a merry-go-round and an aeroplane ride came up, he bought them and so started his career as a “Showie”.

A chance meeting with Arthur Thomas York in the main street of Swansea on a Saturday afternoon led them to having a beer or two at the local hotel. Tom and Don hit it off and met again at the local the next day. There began a friendship that lasted many decades. In fact, they would often introduce themselves as brothers. Don needed somewhere to spend his Christmas as there were no carnivals operating in the area over the holiday period. As he was spending this time with Tom and his wife Nell, they decided to put the rides up in the spare paddock in the main street of Swansea; where the Caltex servo is now located. That was the beginning of the Christmas Fancy Fair as it became known.

Tom was a staunch member of Swansea Caves Beach Surf Club, so Don decided that he would donate his profits to the club. Some of Don’s mates joined him the following year. Charlie Cooper had a laughing clown joint. Bill Grey set up the shooting gallery. Muller provided a little swing-out horse-o-plane ride as well as a boat ride for the little ones. Rocker Fox worked the Doggies race game, which was quite often the last thing going when everything else had closed. Tom was the spruiker, and Nell was in charge of the chocolate wheel, while members of the surf club sold the tickets.

When the paddock was sold to Caltex, Don and Tom approached the Council and got permission to relocate to the park across the road. At the time, the Pacific Highway consisted of only 2 lanes, (1 north and 1 south bound adjacent to the shops), then the park, followed by Bowman St on the other side. The carnival survived here for many years. As there was more room here others joined in, and it became a much-loved place for local and visiting families to gather over the holiday period. Clive Evans brought the fairy floss and toffee apples; and oh, those waffles were to die for. A rotunda was located in Peel St, at the northern end of Talbot Park and McEwens’ Scottish Pipe Band would play there, along with the Highland Dance exhibitions. As the years went on the carnival grew in size with the introduction of Dodgem cars, the Octopus, Whizzes and a few other rides. Swansea was and still is a very popular destination for folks to spend their summer holidays. It is a shame the carnival is no longer here to add to the holiday excitement and atmosphere.

1. Tom York and Don Uppman
2. Tom and Nell York
3. Boat ride
4. Ivy Holmes, Charlie Cooper, Nellie York
5. Chocolate wheel
6. McEwen’s Pipe Band, rotunda, 1962

Memories and photos of the carnival generously shared by Keith York.