What the hell happened to Glenelg?

What happened to you, Glenelg.... you've changed? Photo: News Corp. Australia

CAR trips to Adelaide from Mildura in the 80s and 90s were a source of great excitement when I was a boy.
It felt like an exotic adventure, pointing dad's old blue Ford Falcon towards South Australia.
And when, after an epic four-hour journey, we finally rolled into the famous City of Churches we usually always stayed in that most exotic of places - Glenelg!
It was fun, staying in a palindrome.
Mum and dad often booked us into the Patawalonga Motor Inn, a stone's throw from the Buffalo and World Revolving Restaurant, and a couple of streets from Jetty Rd.
Glenelg, to put it mildly, was a different place back then.
One of the suburb's main attractions, for example, was a large, magic, fibreglass poo… er, mountain; the old Red Rattlers still made music down the main street and, where great Floridian-style apartments now stand, there was a simple carpark offering unencumbered ocean views.
I'm not sure how, when or why it happened, but someone buggered up the best bits of Glenelg in the years since I first visited as a kid.
I used to enjoy a trip down to the Bay in summer.
Now, I largely steer clear of the joint, visit only occasionally and feel sad when I do.
A friend calls the place "Hindley Street by the sea". A tad harsh, perhaps, but I take his meaning.
Moseley Square, with its palm trees, chain stores, Frappuccino's and golden arches, is the Times Square of Adelaide, the Gold Coast of South Australia. And then there's the pigeon poo.
Jetty Rd, even sans the lovely old cinema, is still a pretty strip. But the shopping precinct - a grab bag of take away food, clothing, chemists, jewellers and camping suppliers - lacks any kind of speciality focus to make a special trip a must, I think.
And then, when the weather's nice, the masses choke the streets with double prams and dogs on leashes which makes a recent push by the Member for Hindmarsh, Steve Georganas, to have huge cruise ships dock at Glenelg all the more horrifying an idea.
What's happening to Glenelg - through the proliferation of tacky shops, overcrowding and overdevelopment - is happening elsewhere on our world class coast and ocean towns, creeping like an insidious disease.
They built a high-rise apartment block at Henley Square and so diminished what used to be my favourite Adelaide beach. It is ugly, imposing and I hate it.
Recently, I visited Wallaroo for the first time in about 10 years and where I once found a country town, I found a sprawling city of man-made waterways and rows of double-decker holiday homes - not two of them matching in size, shape or colour.
It's not hard to see why people flock to our beachside towns and suburbs.
Anyone who's tried to lounge about on a stony 'beach' in Italy, or polluted bit of sand in Asia knows our beaches are the best in the world. And best of all free.
Let's not ruin it by turning our quaint and charming beachside towns into outdoor nightclubs and shopping centres by the sea. If I wanted that kind of experience, I'd go to Ibiza.
This column was first published in The City Messenger and on advertiser.com.au