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Hit The Road Digger

The story of The Great Ocean Road.

Friday 17th August 2012, Apollo Bay Mechanics Hall, 8pm

Hit The Road Digger is a live-on-stage musical/multimedia presentation built around images of the Great Ocean Road’s construction. It’s presented by singer/musician Shirley Power and researcher/narrator Colin Mockett, and includes the hit songs of the times.

Hit The Road Digger contains plenty of the gorgeous music of the 1920s and 30s. The show takes in all the drama, the humour and the political wrangling involved in constructing of one of the world’s iconic highways.

Victoria’s Great Ocean Road stands as testament to the foresight and determination of one man – Geelong Mayor Howard Hitchcock. Plans for a Victorian coastal highway had been on the boards for decades when he was elected mayor of Geelong, but all had been rejected by state and federal politicians who said the project had no commercial or military value.

But Howard Hitchcock, in the years following WWI, foresaw a time when people would own cars and would want to experience beautiful coastal scenery. He was talking tourism 50 years before anyone else. But more than this, he actually went ahead and built his Great Road, taking 14 years and frequently paying the road-gangs himself when no other funds were available.

Today, the hand-built Great Ocean Road – there was no machinery used in its construction – is acknowledged as the world’s longest war memorial, and the largest monument to peace. It’s also Victoria’s most-visited tourist attraction. It was a source of employment for returned soldiers damaged by conflict as well as providing work during the Great Depression.

At Hit The Road Digger, the road’s fascinating history is rolled out against a background of wonderful songs of the times. These include: Painting The Clouds With Sunshine, Keep On The Sunny Side, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Look For The Silver Lining, In My Merry Oldsmobile There’s A Long Long Trail a-Winding, Happy Days Are Here Again, I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, The Best Things In Life Are Free, Hard Times (Come Again No More), I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You) and On The Sunny Side Of The Street.

Tickets ($25 adults, $20 concession, $15 student) include a finger food supper. Bookings essential. Available from the Lightstation or Galapagos Bookstore in Apollo Bay (03 5237 6011).

Review by Rob McCubbin

Fascinated, Transported by the story of a Road

Hit The Road Digger presented by Shirley Power & Colin Mockett for Drop Of A Hat Productions, Potato Shed, Drysdale Tuesday 5th April 2011.

From the moment the lights dimmed, everyone was hushed. Most of the 120 people at the Potato Shed were familiar with Shirley Power and Colin Mockett’s works and were prepared to be transported into another time and space yet again. They were not disappointed.

Colin wove a fascinating tale of adventure and revelation, following the work of the returned WWI Diggers as they hewed a winding road out of the very cliff-sides. Using nothing but dynamite, picks and shovels, these heroes from the trenches carved their way into history over a period of fourteen years as they built The Great Ocean Road.

Surprisingly enough, this was not a Government scheme. Nor was it a Council project! It was the vision of one man and his devoted wife. Howard Hitchcock, emporium owner and Geelong civic personality, spent a large part of his life struggling to get this iconic highway built. His foresight, stubborn persistence and financing ensured that we can delight in those breath- taking views today.

Howard Hitchcock indeed was so popular in Geelong that he was nominated for MP while he was overseas, and was Mayor of Geelong for five years, presiding over the building of such landmarks as the Library, Eastern Beach gardens and swimming pool, the completion of the Town Hall, and the creation of the tramline system through our town, to name just a few. He was surely the “Father of modern Geelong”.

Colin took us into this hidden world through storytelling and slideshow, while Shirley added layers of empathy with her renditions of well-remembered popular songs of the time, which may have been sung around the smoky campfires by the work-weary men at their tent-sites. Their performance was effortless and professional.

Shirley’s instruments may have overpowered her lovely voice somewhat, but we were still able to sing along to the strains of old faithfuls such as “No Place Like Home” and “Keep On The Sunny Side”.
It was a shame to have the lights come on again and to realise it was all in the past. All in all a very pleasant and informative way to spend some time. Well worth the price of admission.

Rob McCubbin