For some years it has been possible for people to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and experience part of what the Sydney population experienced during the years in which the bridge was built, from 1922 with the passage of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Act through the New South Wales Parliament, to the grand opening of the completed bridge on 19 March 1932.
I was in Sydney in November last year and booked my bridge climb, something I’d been wanting to do for some years. The actual climb met all my expectations – but that’s not what really impressed me and initiated this blog.
Families with children over ten can undertake the climb, and we had such a family in our group. I was pleased to find, in amongst a variety of the usual t-shirts, hoodies, models of the bridge in various media, soft toys, etc., space given to children’s books written about the bridge and its construction.
I found a brand-new copy of John Nicholson’s 2000 publication, Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge; it is full of accurate depictions in full colour of the various stages of the bridge’s construction, and has carefully-chosen text highlighting aspects likely to be of interest to children. I remembered its selection as an Honour Book in the 2001 Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, and was rather surprised that it is still in print and available for sale. I wondered if the bridge climb company had bought up all the remaindered copies available!
Another book I found on the children’s shelf at the Bridge Climb shop was one I hadn’t seen or heard of before – Lennie’s ride, by Mary Small. Published in 2010 by Small Endeavour Publishing, it tells the amazing story of a nine-year-old boy and his journey over the six hundred miles (965 kilometers) from Leongatha to Sydney to see the bridge-opening celebrations. Photographs and newspaper articles featuring Lennie give the flavour of the time.
But I didn’t see a copy of Vashti Farrer’s excellent 2012 addition to the valuable series My Australian Story, Sydney Harbour Bridge, here in the Bridge Climb shop. This book provides useful perspectives on the society of the time, battling the Depression and unemployment, to say nothing of the impact on the people who had been living where the bridge was to be built, and their subsequent loss of housing.
If you are wanting to extend children’s understanding of our history and our people, you can use the State Library (now the LINC) as a resource. Better still, ensure that the library at your local school selects books like these three to be available for children seeking information about various topics – of course not just the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
But back to the bridge – can you give me the names of some more books written on this topic?