The strains of ABBA music enhancing the 1970’s fashion display drifted down the hall, and the video on the nearby wall depicted the gliders taking off. “Oh my god Alf, just look at that, Alf loves flying”. The couple watched enraptured as the craft soared above the town and circled with an upward draft above the canola fields nearby.
The Japanese boys who had been asking about the history of Ned Kelly and marvelling at the armour displayed were anxious to know, where is Stringy Bark Creek, how far from the town? And was that where the policemen were shot? They were students residing in Melbourne and were keen to follow the Ned Kelly Trail. The Irish Ballad played softly in the background.
A family of five wandered in after walking around the lake, the children very excited having seen a platypus in its natural habitat. The family had a picnic lunch at the mural, the children investigating all the nooks and crannies and allowing tired parents to view the lush green of the gardens and the stately image of the art gallery on the other side of the lake. Lovers of the outdoors the family were advised of the wildflower display at Reef Hills and of the ecology and variety of birds at Winton Wetlands.
“Is there a toilet nearby?” some elderly visitors enquire. "Straight down the passageway", I’m able to say.
A driver of a mini bus appears, “Looking for the Pearl Barley Flour Mill”, he says anxiously. Providing him with a town map, he is directed to Saleyard Road.
A busy day, another bus carrying twenty Probus members from Geelong arrives. After spending an hour or two viewing the Rose garden and the Art Gallery, they are now visiting the Historic Museum. They enjoy displays depicting Weary Dunlop and Captain Hec Waller, war heroes who were both born in Benalla, and read the information on former New Zealand prime minister Michael Savage who came from humble beginnings in Tatong. The Ned Kelly exhibition including the cell that holds the treasured green cummerbund, awarded to teenager Ned, is of particular interest. The women in the group are anxious to see the exquisite clothing beautifully displayed of 1930’s formal fashion. With oohs and aahs the remainder of the group admire the dolls house made in intricate detail and replicating a magnificent home of the 1950’s. They continue on past the memorabilia of Benalla to view a display of fashions of the 1970’s which also incorporated a display of Prue Acton designs. “Remember those skirts” they exclaim. “I’ve still got one of those belts” says another as the Beatles music relives the times.
Two cyclists arrive, all Lycra and helmets, bikes laden with panniers, “We have ridden from Beechworth,” one says in a heavy German accent. “Is there somewhere we can pitch our tent!” Reassured they are instructed to try the Caravan Park and yes they do have a communal kitchen.
A utility and trailer park out the front in the designated area. A cheeky faced thirty something wants to know how to get to Winton raceway. “Got anything on to occupy the ladies?” he says with a wink. Knowingly I advise what is currently on at the Performing Art Centre and provide him with a map of the walk around the town to view the street art, also offering brochures on coffee shops and local shops, not forgetting the much sought after op shops.
A group of Irish friends are viewing maps and brochures before asking for post cards to send overseas and enquiring where the Indigenous garden near the lake is situated. The phone rings. “Where is the basketball stadium and is the Pony Club near the Benalla Race Club?”
It’s becoming busier as closing time nears. “Just want a list of nearby wineries and what time is the Aviation museum open?” a portly, bearded man enquires.
Another phone call, “Where are the disused Crystal mines located?”
New to Benalla, a young lad asks "When does the tennis season commence?"
Looking at memorabilia, an elderly couple with a foreign accent, ask "Is it possible to see the Migrant Camp?". A Polish couple, returning after fifty years, they recalled how their children were amongst the Polish dancers who entertained Benalla for many years in their colourful national dress.
Preparing now to close, early retirees walk in smiling. “Silly question,” they say, ”But we love the vibe of this town and we are thinking of moving here to live”. “Could you advise?”