Sovereign Hill

“I reckon I’d have made a great candle maker,” I told my kids as we watched a bloke dunk another string of candles into a vat of wax.

I meant it too.

For two days the family and I walked the dusty streets of Sovereign Hill checking out life in the 1850’s, poking our heads into houses and venturing down into the mine. It was great. It was actually one of the best themed parks I’ve ever been too. Although, admittedly, I had low expectations going in, thinking it was all going to be musky smelling old stuff. But it wasn’t. It was normal smelling old stuff and new stuff designed like old stuff. Much, much better.

I loved walking around imagining myself living back when change was slower because electricity wasn’t around so lightbulb moments were much less frequent and, because people dressed totally inappropriately for the weather, chaffing must have been all the craze. Every time I saw someone doing a traditional bit of work, like bashing hot steel, making wagon wheels or running dangerous looking rock bashing machinery I’d think to myself, ‘nup’. For sure I’d bash a finger flat or get badly burned.

A quick trip down into the mine for a show called ‘Trapped’ cured me of my gold fever too.

None of those career choices would have been a positive influence on my life expectancy.

But candle making looked just my speed.

You dangle some string over a bit of wood, attach the bit of wood another bit of wood, dunk strings in melted wax (not bubbling molten metal), pull it out and hang to dry until you redo the dunking and slowly build up a candle, all at a pace which, to my eye, would have allowed for many a civilised spot of tea.

Growing up I was always more interested in what was coming next as opposed to what had come before. I would hazard a guess that’s why I loved sci-fi books and movies so much. So it was interesting to go backwards into Sovereign Hills’ immersive experience and get to see life as it was for the miners and citizens of Ballarat some 160 years ago.

It sucked.

I looked in the houses. Not. One. USB point.

For sure it was a simpler time back then. People strolled past shops tipping their hats and calling everyone sir or madam. I mean it sounds lovely. Except you should have seen the horror expressions on my kids’ faces when they learned people back then also tore pages from mail order catalogues while sitting on drop loos, which tended to be surrounded by scented plants and flowers to disguise the smell. They all pretty much matched mine. I think I speak for the whole family when I say being born any time before duel flush would have totally sucked. I like pressing a button and making stuff happen. Or, in this example, stuff go away.

But of all the places we saw the candle maker’s workshop smelled the best.

I mean the lolly manufacturer and store was perhaps better at first sniff but I quickly took into account dentistry in the 1850’s and opted out of that trade.

But then, just as I satisfied myself I could replicate what the bloke was doing and therefore make a quid if I happened to stumble into a DeLorean anytime soon, the candle maker ruined everything.

“Damn,” I said to the kids as we left. “I really thought I’d found my calling. Looks like I’m back to being a Minister.”

Mainly because I looked really good in the outfit I’d tried on earlier for period photos and I don’t think ministers did anything more dangerous than risk a paper cut.

“What’s wrong with candle making?” Master12 asked me.

“They didn’t use the nice wax he’s using in there,” I said, repeating what the candle maker had told me. “They used rendered animal fat.”

Which apparently stank to high heaven.

“Don’t give up on your dreams, Dad,” Master12 said, throwing his arm around me before patting my stomach affectionately. “I think you’d have made a great candle,” he added.

What do you know, I still managed to get burned.

How to be a candlemaker – dip, hang, be grateful you’re not trapped in a mine, repeat

Someone spotted a sign saying you could make your own candle and, despite my encouragements, told everyone else. I think it was about $6 each. Bargain.
Kids went back the next day and made their own candles
Ladies and gentleman, choose your colours

The kids have decided these are Christmas Candles, to be lit and admired on Christmas Eve
Walking away from the first of four expeditions to the sweet shop
The making of boiled lollies. All the kids were super interested in this. Because lollies.
These are clearly green boiled lollies. It’s the red ones you want: the Raspberry Drops. And the Acid Drops, which are lemon, are the best – not just because you get to ask for a little acid in front of strangers

These. Or the acid drops. Trust me.

Looks like a wild animal feeding on her kill. Gives you an idea of how ferociously she attacked this lollypop.
One of the best things about Sovereign Hill was how relatively cheap extra activities were. $24 got us all a carriage ride around the park.

Carriage took us down to the tent city part of Sovereign Hill but we didn’t really get to explore it or do any gold panning. Two days wasn’t enough time.

Calligraphy lessons at the school were free

Kids loved this so much we bought them a calligraphy set each for Christmas. If this is what it takes to get them excited about homeschooling then I’m all for that

Getting her work marked. She got an A+. I saw her work. I suspect everyone did.

This ‘lady’ taught the kids how to stand 1850’s style. They were thrilled when it later turned out she was the lead character in a street play…where her morals were called into dispute
The Red Coats

The world’s most underfunded marching band. They could only afford one drum.

The four gun salute. Notice all the fingers in ears. It was loud.
Caught Tracey checking out some ass. We named them Smart Ass and Ass Nick.

More dividing up the sugary loot and admiring of candles.

There were theatre spots all day.
She gave her protagonist a good whipping. Should be more of it, I say

This stuff is made on the premises and for sale
A genuine craftsman at work doing it old style. This is the sort of thing which really brings Sovereign Hill to life.

A refreshing ‘ale’ at the bar

Barman told the kids to help themselves to the straws. Rooky mistake.
Mason’s lodge. Assume the dangling G is for goat.
An early backpackers. Shared rooms above the bar
The gold smelting experience was fantastic – this guy was a real character. 
Bought all the girls a fan, including Josherina. 
The original fidget spinner?
Climbing the mining tower of terror for a look at the view.

Whole town – and it really is a town – is a mix of replica and original buildings.
Heading down into the bowels of Sovereign Hill. Guy behind us looks thrilled to be sharing a trolley with us. And this was before the crying started!
Going down the mine was excellent. Three ‘shows’. We did two of them. Again, only $24 for the family.
Gold! We’ll be rich I tell you!
The shops are actually selling stuff – a lot of which is made within the 1850’s community.

Bought ourselves some cookie cutters and a pie baking tin. Wonderfully inexpensive and made right there on the site. And yes, I bought the moustache. Reminds me of Tracey.

You can peek in or go into almost every building. 

Wagon wheels made on site and available to take back to whatever year you come from

Backyards were used for supplementing the diet.
And to mask the loo smell

Tracey found out they do old-time photos at Sovereign Hill so obviously we signed up for that.

Not being rude so much as showing his Mum how the pants do up at the back
The curtsy
The ‘I see your curtsy…
…and I raise you a peek at my shoes’
“I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end you.” Always make time for a Firefly quote: that’s the lore
The good Reverend Holster and family, of the Pastafarian Ministry, smiling because he doesn’t have to deal in disgusting animal fat. According to his son, his wife is less fortunate.

Always grab the wife’s boobie. Always.

Raising a family on little more than laughs

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