In Sydney, The New York of Australia
( Originally Published 1904 )
BEFORE we begin our exploration of Sydney, let us stop a moment and think where we are. We are away south of the Equator on the other side of the globe. It was winter when we left the United States. It is summer here in Australia. Our watches are all wrong and we must change them if we would not be ever calculating the difference of time, and often turning night into day. Sydney time is fifteen hours ahead of New York time, so that when our friends in the United States are going to bed on Monday night, we shall be sitting down to lunch on Tuesday afternoon. The difference will be less in Western Australia, as it is nearer Greenwich, from which our time is reckoned.
It took us twenty-one days to come from San Francisco to Sydney. The voyage was not wearisome, however, for the Pacific Ocean was in a quiet mood and the weather was fine all the way. It was a little cold at the start, but the sun grew warmer as we sailed southward. It was so warm and pleasant at Honolulu that we packed away our overcoats, and a few days afterward came out in our summer clothes.
A little later we crossed the Equator, and just two weeks after leaving San Francisco we called at Uncle Sam's little island of Tutuila (too-too-e'la) in the Samoan Group, where it is so warm that many of our brown cousins wear no clothes at all. Still later we reached New Zealand, and we are now at anchor in the harbor of Sydney with all Australia before us.
How beautiful everything, seems after our long voyage at sea! The sky is bright blue, the trees and the grass are the greenest of green, and the sunlight is dancing on the waves of the harbor. We seem to be in a winding lake with hundreds of bays, inlets, and creeks. The lake contains many islands ; wooded hills rise in some places straight up from the shore, and in others the mainland slopes so gently that a great city has been built upon it.
This is the famed harbor of Sydney, which the Australians claim to be the finest harbor of the world. Its entrance is The Heads, a natural gateway about a mile wide guarded by gigantic rocks as high as the highest church steeple, so protecting the shipping that, no mat-ter how stormy the ocean outside, there are quiet waters within. The harbor is so deep that the largest ocean steamers can sail close up to the land, and its coast line is so long that all the ships of all the world could anchor here and have room to spare.
See that big steamer at the right of our vessel. That is a German ship of ten thousand tons which has come to Sydney for a cargo of wool. Next to it is a French vessel from Marseilles, and farther on are huge steamers from London and Liverpool taking on and putting off goods. There are ships here from China and Japan, ships from the Mediterranean, and from India and Africa, ships from South America, Canada, and the United States, and coasting steamers which do business with Australia and all the islands of the southern Pacific.
The harbor is such that the ships lie at anchor in the very heart of the city, and when we land we are in one of the chief business sections. We send our baggage to the hotel and start out for a walk.
How homelike it is! The buildings remind us of San Francisco, save that they are not quite so tall, few of the business houses having more than six stories. Many of the best blocks are of sandstone from the quarries near the city. From the sandstone so conveniently obtained, very handsome warehouses and other business establishments are erected.
Notice the streets ! They wind about this way and that. They are as crooked as those of Boston, which, it is said, were laid out along cow paths. Sydney has such winding streets that the people of other Australian cities say it was planned by a bullock driver who stood at the harbor and threw boomerangs up the hills and made the streets along the lines of their flight.
Let us look at the roadways as we go through the city. The streets are paved with wooden blocks so fitted together that they seem like wood carpeting. They are so hard and smooth that one horse can haul a load of three tons, and six-ton loads for two horses are not uncommon. The pavements are of eucalyptus, the famous Australian hard-wood. The continent has excellent timber, which is so good for pavements and railway ties that it is in great demand in other countries.
The stores have plate glass windows and sometimes galvanized iron awnings out over the street to shield passers-by from the sun. Here is an arcade, a street roofed with glass and walled with stores, which runs through from one side of a block to the other. Such arcades are common in the Australian cities. The people like them, for they can walk from store to store, keeping cool and dry no matter how hot or rainy it is outside.
See the goods in the store windows ! The price tags are English, but the figures are in pounds, shillings, and pence, and we have difficulty in knowing just what they mean. The Australians use English money, and the pound ($5), the shilling (25 cents), and the penny equal to about two of our cents, will be our money during our stay. We stop at a bank to exchange our greenbacks for such gold, silver, and copper, and then go on with our walk.
We have many purchases to make, but hardly know just where to go. The signs are different from ours. Here, for instance, is one "Fellmonger." That is a fur store, as we see from the skins of foxes, bears, kangaroos, antelopes, duck moles, and other animals in the windows. Hardware merchants are known as ironmongers, and those who sell cloth are drapers. If we should ask for a dry goods store, the people would think we meant a saloon, for "dry goods" is the term sometimes here used for liquors, and they might direct us to a public house, as saloons are called in Australia. Druggists are called chemists and drug stores chemist shops. Lumber dealers are timber merchants, and the lumberman is a timber getter.
In Australia candies are almost always called sweets and sometimes "lollies," a contraction of " Lollypops," an English word meaning taffy. We see the word " Lollies " over some candy stores; and at the theaters, shows, and football games boys go about with baskets of candy, crying out, " Lollies, ladies! Lollies, gents ! Don't you want a box of fine fresh lollies?"
Suppose we stop a moment and look at the people. They have faces like ours, and we may well call them our brothers, for they came from England, which most of us consider our mother country. The Australians, however, are taller than either the Americans or the English. See that man passing by. He is more than six feet in height, and the woman with him is almost as tall. These people grow so thin that, in fun, they are sometimes called corn-stalks because they are so tall.
The people are well dressed. Even the men who are mending that sidewalk wear good clothing. They look more like American workmen than like the poorer working people of Europe. Australia is a new country and, as there is much to do, wages are high. The people make money and spend it quite freely. We can see this by the costly goods in the store windows. Everything one can think of is displayed here, no matter in what part of the world it is made. The Australian will pay for the best, and so all countries send their goods here for sale.
We get some idea of the enormous commerce by the shipping in the harbor, and learn more of it as we see the long lines of teams hauling freight through the streets. Vast quantities of goods are always coming in and going out.
Here we are at the Post and Telegraph Office. You can see the red-coated postmen starting out on their routes.
There are red-coated men taking the bags of mail from red wagons which have just come from our steamer, and other red wagons dash past us on their way to the trains.
The Post Office has many branches. We can see the signs over the doors. There is a postal savings bank, and next door are telegraph and telephone departments. All such things are under the government, the Australians believing that they should be managed at the lowest possible cost for the people. The government controls the railroads, and also owns the street cars in many of the cities, and gives quite a long ride for two cents.
That great building up the street is the town hall, where the mayor and other city officials have their offices. It also contains an audience room for public amusements, where every week one can attend a concert free of charge. The city keeps an organist to play for the people, and it owns one of the largest organs of the world. The organ has nine thousand pipes, some as high as a three-story house and some as short as a pin and almost as small. In other cities we shall find similar halls, Melbourne having one with an organ that cost thirty-five thousand dollars.
There goes a party of boys in uniforms with flat bats in their hands. One is throwing up a ball and catching it as he runs. That is one of the cricket clubs of Sydney, and its members are on their way to play a match with the crack team of Melbourne. Let us follow and have a look at the game. We find thousands of people at the playground. There are other clubs playing in different parts of the field, and as we go from one to another we hear nothing but talk about sports.
The Australians are a sporting people, and almost every man, woman, and child gives a part of each week to play. Sydney has several thousand acres of parks devoted to public amusements, and in Melbourne alone there are one hundred parks and a dozen grounds especially for football and cricket. Cricket is the favorite game here. It holds about the same place that baseball does with us.
Coming back to the city, we visit the Domain, a park of about one hundred acres right in the heart of Sydney, facing the harbor. It is the most popular of all pleasure grounds here, being especially full upon Sundays, when any one who wishes can speak upon any subject if he can get the people to listen. There are no signs warning us to keep off the grass, and we roll over and over on the sod, rejoicing that our travels south of the Equator have turned winter to summer, and that all is so fresh and green when the snow covers the earth at our home.