Boom Town

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When I was a kid my brothers and I used to watch those corny old black-and-white midday matinee movies on TV, and one of my favourites was an action adventure called “Boom Town”. It starred Clark Gable and Spencer Tracey as “Big John” Masters and “Square John” Sands, a couple of handsome wildcatters chancing their luck on the California oil fields. Together they carve out an empire in a rollicking western town where the saloons are overflowing with cowboys and dancing girls, and everyone is prospecting for something.

Photo by Mariya Georgieva, Unsplash

Big John, Square John and all the other wild-and-woolly Johns trudge around the bustling frontier streets knee-deep in thick, black mud, trading tall tales about the last big oil strike, how overnight fortunes gushed out of the ground, and when and where the next big one is coming from.

Of course you know how the plot goes from there – the happy, handsome sidekicks strike it rich together, then get too big for their britches, end up duking it out over the beguiling charms of a pretty girl, part company acrimoniously, squander all their hard-earned dough trying to better one another, and eventually, poorer but finally wiser, bury the hatchet and join forces again, striding side-by-side into the sunset, searching for their next big gusher.

There’s something about that cowboy town that always reminds me of a boom town closer to home.

It’s been a long cold economic winter on the Gold Coast. That pesky GFC pretty-much flushed our once-stellar property market straight down the dunny, and it’s been struggling ever since. While the true believers watched on helplessly their property prices were first cruelly slaughtered, then abandoned in the economic wilderness, while Sydney and Melbourne clawed their way back from the abyss, eventually recovering to rack up record real estate returns. Meanwhile, on the GC winter lingered, so long it sometimes felt like it would never end.

But of course it will. It always does.

I don’t know whether it’s just the unseasonably spectacular weather of late or all the excitement starting to be whipped up by the looming 2018 Commonwealth Games, but I can’t help feeling that there’s something in the Gold Coast air of late, that old familiar feeling, that certain je ne sais quoi that sets realtors’ hearts a-flutter and has Gold Coast developers dusting off their old white shoes and breaking out their Porsche convertibles.

Suddenly everyone is talking deals again. Real estate names we haven’t heard in years are re-appearing on the billboards of the bold and beautiful on Hedges Avenue, the young men in their swanky designer suits are all driving leased-up luxury limousines again, sporting a new spring in their step, and their sexy suntanned girlfriends suddenly seem more buxom than they were this time last year.

Could it possibly be true? Is it on again? Is the Gold Coast property market set to take another meteoric rise? Some are predicting it, but then they could be wrong. They always do, and they very often are. But if they’re not, hang onto your hat folks, because as anyone who’s been around will tell you, when the Gold Coast goes, she goes.

Don’t you just love it, that entrepreneurial, roll-of-the-dice, winner-takes-all attitude that drives the Gold Coast? Ever since the 1930’s, when Jim Cavill built his flash new hotel just south of Southport and gave it the ambitious moniker of Surfers Paradise, then the humble local population promptly polled to have that grandiose title substituted for their sleepy little settlement of Elston, there’s been something obviously and decidedly a tad different about Gold Coasters.

When people ask me what I love about the Gold Coast, I think of Boom Town, that rootin’ tootin’ cowboy town where handsome chancers come to re-invent themselves, strike it rich, and find their fortune. There’s pretty girls in the saloons, dirt on all the streets, and gold in them thar hills.

Chris Nyst

Gold Coast Lawyer, Novelist and Film Maker

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