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A grainy still of a man drinking a beer 'Tis Christmas, Fred Daley
  • Super 8 Sixties: Fred Daley’s Films

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    Posted on: 16/04/2015

    Following on from Steam Trains and Holidays: The Home Movies of Fred Daley, we further explore the work of amateur filmmaker and train enthusiast Fred Daley.

    Fred Daley took along his trusty 8mm camera just about everywhere the Daleys went in the fifties, sixties and beyond, stopping the Holden by the side of the road to film classic images of family life and summer holidays. He was clearly a bit of a train-spotter too and bore witness to the declining days of steam on some well-known Victorian lines.

    The Train that Refused to Die

    The films chart a middle-class progress through the monocultural sixties, providing fragments of a lost world made whole again by the magic of Kodachrome and nostalgia: family road trips across the Victorian Alps and down the Great Ocean Road, a visit to Foy’s Rooftop Christmas Carnival, an excursion to Emerald on Puffing Billy, the 1963 VFL Grand Final (Geelong 15.19.109 def. Hawthorn 8.12.60), and a stroll with Mum, Nan and Auntie up the Paris End of Collins Street, followed by an icy cold ale in the beer garden of the Chevron on St Kilda Road. Watching the films you ask yourself – when does a mundane image stop being a cliché and become iconic?

    Our Family 

    here are priceless moments of revelation (for those old enough to remember and for those too young) of the days when half-time entertainment at the VFL grand final meant the Navy brass band from HMAS Cerberus, or when steam engines and ‘Red Rattlers’ shared the platforms at Flinders Street Station, when the Melbourne city skyline was low-rise along the Yarra, The Twelve Apostles were still twelve and Santa arrived at the work Christmas picnic on the back of a truck (with one present per child).

    Away to Cooma 

    For true rail buffs there are glimpses of K-Class goods trains and Walker Rail Cars on the Warburton line, Victorian Governor Sir Rohan Delacombe opening Puffing Billy’s Menzies Creek-to-Emerald extension in 1965, and a rare Australian Standard Garrett at work at the Fyansford Cement Works.

    A massive Santa Clause display on the side of a building

    Santa beckons the kiddies up to the Foy's Rooftop Carnival

    Fred’s films proudly bear the stylistic hallmarks of 8mm: over-exposed strips and flashes of light between shots, plastic-letter titles supered over opening shots, stage-managed family members playing up to the camera, the occasional wonky pan as a train or car moves out of the frame,  and – let it be said – the odd slightly fuzzy focus. All these things add to the authenticity and charm of this modest cultural trove.

    - Peter Luby, Collections Access Officer

    In 2008, Fred’s son Neville (he’s the blond larrikin who pops up in several of the films) donated the precious Daley archive to ACMI Collections and a selection can now be seen for free at the Australian Mediatheque

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