On February 17, 1936, when Sir Reginald Ansett first took flight in his Fokker Universal passenger plane from Hamilton, Victoria, he wasn't to know that his would be a legacy in two acts. A legacy not just of iconic Southern Hemisphere aviation, but also of the dankest wearable swag this side of that $19 Bunnings cap with the built-in torch.
Yet, some 82 years later, in a rural tin shed-cum-hangar-cum-museum — located at the birthplace of the aforementioned national aero-identity — lies, in mint-ish condition, the most complete collection of Ansett Australia paraphernalia you never knew you were in grave spiritual free fall without. And much of which money can buy.
Because we're suckers for nostalgia and weird experiences accessible from the city, it was time to beeline — nay, V/Line — 288 kilometres west to the good township of Hamilton (town slogan: "One place, many possibilities") and examine the loot.
But first: the 'museum'.
There she blows. If you're not familiar with Ansett Australia, it was an airline — much like Qantas is currently an airline — until 2001 when it was placed into administration following a gnarly financial collapse. At its peak, it sponsored the cricket, provided Winnie The Pooh pencil cases and colouring books for kids, and served hot food on board when the competition bothered not to. It was the official airline of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, flying the torch from Auckland to Uluru, and it sponsored Neighbours during the iconic Kylie era of the late 80s.
The museum tells of the erstwhile airline's rise and fall (mostly the fall) and houses a neat grab of quintessential airline detritus. It also houses a heap of derelict (and creepy) mannequins — perhaps the most complete collection of derelict mannequins in the entire Southern Grampians region — cracking out in costume, for your pleasure.
Some are more headless than others.
About halfway through the museum, we hit a room covered with testimonials from former employees penning some pretty deep plane's-going-down truths. Some were undyingly positive — "It should not have gone down / We were fabulous / We could have blasted QF and VG out of the sky" — others more sombre — "To everyone, for everything, thank you" — and some a little bit extraterrestrial: "We might all be gone but our spirits will last forever".
Also in the room was this scary unexplained bus.
Aside from the reminiscing and the scrutinising decaying mannequins, what you're really here for is that euphoric airline swag of yore. Like this 90s schoolyard must-have.
What a ride. If you're not ready to go home, or you can't for whatever reason, a volunteer — let's call him Gary — who'll put on a historical Ansett Australia DVD in the headless mannequin room. It's ok — two stars. Otherwise it's an exit through the gift shop, where you'll find many things you can buy with your money and wear to cool nightclubs.
You can buy this stubbie cooler ($8).
That you can pair with this beanie ($10).
Or this fresh self-mulleting legionnaires hat ($10).
And put it all in this nightclub-essential bum bag ($9).
Probably drape one of these ($5) around your best finger, too.
It all feels a bit like when an elderly relative dies and you have to spend a weekend going through their things — only the deceased was an airline and owned more stuff. But, hey, treasure is treasure.
The Ansett Australia Museum is located just three and a half hours from Melbourne in Hamilton, and is weird and good. Did I say good? I meant strange. Entry is $10 for adults, $8 for concession, but you can also not go into the museum and just go to the gift shop — though you'll have to explain that to Gary.
You can also just go to this website and buy heaps of this stuff online, but you would really be missing out on the whole experience.
Ansett Museum is located at the corner of Ballarat Road and Riley Street, Hamilton, Vic. It's open daily from 9am–4pm. To book a visit call (03) 5571 2767.