While Glebe is a rather hip and affluent inner west suburb of Sydney this has not always been the case. In the 1930s it was a distinctly working class area and many people were hit hard in the depression.
For those families which could afford one, the radio had become the thing to have in the early 1930s and the entire family would often gather around this new fangled device for its evening entertainment.
Those Glebe families hit by the depression would have missed out were it not for the fact that Glebe Council took up a suggestion to establish a Wireless House for public entertainment in Rest Park (now Foley Park) in the centre of Glebe.
The Wireless House, which can still be seen ( the circular ‘artwork’ in my pictures is a 2009 addition) in Foley Park today, was a small brick building with a radio in it to which the public could listen having gathered around the building. It opened in February 1935 with the radio having been donated by Grace Brothers, the forerunner of today’s Myer chain of stores, found throughout Australia. It is certainly a concept I have not come across before as a public service.
The Wireless House ‘broadcast’ from 10am to 10.15pm daily to the delight of many, though not the church and sporting organisations both of which lamented a loss of patronage. It was especially popular during World War II, often drawing crowds of up to 100 people.
In time The Wireless House eventually succumbed to accusations that it encouraged the unemployed to idleness and was de-commissioned in the early 1950s.
The Wireless House was re-sounded in 2009 by Dr Nigel Helyer as a public art project ‘creating a contemporary version of its original social function’.
Today it broadcasts pre-recorded social histories and other content, obviously less appealing to the idle unemployed than the content of earlier days. I listened alone and having listened to it a minute or two was not inclined to hang around.
Perhaps of more interest to today’s visitor is that, in a literal play on the word ‘Wireless’, the site is also the City of Sydney’s first outdoor internet hotspot, providing free internet access to suitably equipped visitors.
A nice piece of social history and worth a look if you are in the area.
Address: Foley Park, Glebe
Directions: Corner of Glebe Point Road and Pyrmont Bridge Road