When Tim Myers put out a call on social media asking for photos of regional Victoria’s World of Dinosaurs theme park, he was swamped.
“I got inundated with people sending photos,” he said.
A volcano of nostalgia erupted over a carefree time in the 1980s and 90s when a weekend picnic looking at large motionless dinosaurs was a big day out.
“Bringing up those happy memories of what we used to do in the 80s, being a kid back then, people missed it,” Mr Myers said.
He now has a photo album full of strangers straddling life-sized dinosaurs.
Mr Myers wanted photos of the park because it was created by his grandfather, Bill Myers, who emigrated from Germany (he Anglicised his name from Lothar Maeir) with his wife Stephanie and three sons in the mid-1950s.
Bill Myers worked in textiles but, according to his grandson, he always wanted to do something big.
Inspired after a visit to a dinosaur theme park in Queensland, Bill Myers began looking for land to construct his own theme park in Victoria.
“After many rejections from banks for finance, [they] began the journey of establishing this dinosaur theme park,” Tim Myers said, of his grandparents.
Despite his wife being “a bit worried”, Bill Myers started building large-scale fibreglass dinosaurs, piece by piece, in his garage.
In 1982, the Myers family opened World of Dinosaurs on a bush block outside Creswick, about 20 kilometres north of Ballarat in Central Victoria, and Bill and Stephanie settled into their house above the theme park’s kiosk.
For their grandchildren, having an entire theme park to themselves was a dream come true.
Tim Myers remembers with delight watching the crowds disappear at the end of the day.
“They’d close up, we didn’t have to wait in lines for rides, we had free reign,” he said.
He said the theme park was a success and put the small town of Creswick on the map.
“It was the perfect time to do it before all the electronics and technology came in,” he said.
During the height of the dinosaur park’s popularity, he said Gold Coast theme parks were not an option for many families as it was a time of less mobility.
“Theme parks were get out and have a barbecue with the family,” he said.
When the Myers retired and sold the park in the late 1980s, it was purchased by the Plunketts, a local family who already worked in the tourism industry.
David Plunkett recalls that when his parents bought the park, the family set about adding to the collection of giant dinosaurs.
By the late 1990s there were 25.
Not surprisingly, the family did not have experience in manufacturing giant dinosaurs — but with some research, and a good deal of trial and error, they got busy.
Mr Plunkett said the largest of the dinosaurs was a 70-foot-long brontosaurus.
When dinosaur madness erupted in the 1990s after the first two Jurassic Park films came out, it proved problematic for World of Dinosaurs.
In the decade since Bill Myers had built his T-rex, the understanding of what a T-rex looked like had evolved.
Mr Plunkett said the T-rex’s head was too egg-shaped.
So the family constructed a second T-rex head, which was used for promotional purposes.
The park received more than 30,000 visitors annually in the 1990s, Mr Plunkett said.
But like the Myers before them, the family sold the business as the millennium came to an end.
“It was a job that required seven days a week, from early mornings to late nights,” Mr Plunkett said.
The theme park finally closed its doors in 2002 when, according to local newspaper The Ballarat Courier, the new owners could not get the insurance needed to keep it open.
If you find the site of the old park now, and gaze down a hill and behind a shed, you can see the egg-shaped head of the original T-rex among the trees.
It is a relic of a time before stringent public liability insurance, when family barbecues, and even work Christmas parties, in home-made theme parks were common.
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