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Globally, the 60s was the greatest single decade of change the world had ever seen.

But what about Toowoomba? It’s a question few were asking as Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon, or Jimi Hendrix tore up Woodstock. And yet, in Queensland’s southern heartland, a cultural shift of equally influential importance was sweeping through the populous.

For a decade and a half they and others – young entrepreneurs and long-established family businesses – explored, revelled in and propelled a popular culture revolution to heights that no aspiring provincial Australian city could imagine was possible.

Sparked by an idea from Toowoomba ‘old boy’ Peter Lehmann, authors Kent Trussell and Don Duffus decided to ask the question, “What happens when a couple of fellas who were ‘there’ get 60 or so people who were also ‘there’ to recount their experiences and hand over their scrapbooks?”

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Toowoomba’s Wonder Years: Popular Culture 1960-1975 is a treasure trove of memories, and far from being just a slight byword on such an exciting time in our history, it is an epic and engaging historical tome. Kent and Don are deservedly proud of their achievement. ”We were entertained, informed and amused by priceless first-hand recollections and tales. Hundreds of images, courtesy of amateur and professional photographers, and diverse memorabilia, expose the lives and times in exquisite detail,” they say.

The majority of the book’s text is from transcripts or recorded conversations and interviews with numerous primary sources – people who were either directly involved, or were on the dance floors, and in the cafes or shops. Several essays were also commissioned from other specialist writers and witnesses.

Throughout the book, tales of the Bee Gees at Helidon Spa, street carnival memories, live music at The Keyhole, impassioned productions at The Repertory Theatre and the arrival of international superstars like Roy Orbison, are interspersed with insights into car culture, sporting highlights and the impact of the Vietnam War. Publisher Terry Herbert, whose entrepreneurial energy played such a major part in the success of Toowoomba as a hub of culture during this period, was host at the recent book launch.

He was joined by an A-list cast of popular Toowoomba figures including designer Maryann Hine and editor Janine Chipperfield who have worked closely with Kent and Don to produce a book that will appeal not just to Toowoomba-ites past and present, but to those with even a passing interest in popular culture history. Kent said, “In addition to having considerable appeal to Toowoomba people of the era and their descendants, this is a bona fide reference work for researchers and other writers in a wider market.”

Toowoomba’s Wonder Years: Popular Culture 1960-1975 (RRP $39.99) is available to purchase at QBD bookshop and QBD online, and other selected outlets. Proceeds from the first 1000 sales go to The Toowoomba Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit the Facebook page.

Words by Colin Bushell | Images via Toowoomba: The Wonder Years Book

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