The giant fibreglass crustacean has been a Ballina icon for nearly 20 years but, for the best part of 12 months it's been a sorry sight for passers-by, boarded up and awaiting demolition.
I'm a massive fan of Australia's BIG things and still carry around some very brittle memories of my first encounters with The Banana and The Pineapple in the mid-70s. They're a fading filmstrip of souvenir rulers, novelty oversized pens and pencils, souvenir teaspoons, regular-sized fruit, miniature fruit, and the plain amazement of a little boy standing in the shadow of some really, really big tropical fruit.
The Banana and The Pineapple are still with us. As are hundreds of other oversized attractions around the country. But, Ballina's Prawn is not. So what went wrong?
What the photo above doesn't show are the words TOURIST COMPLEX painted in enormous letters on the awnings that face north and south, up and down the highway. In combination, these two words are loaded with hideous connotations. Might as well have ramped things up in neon with CRAP STUFF HERE.
For crying out loud, it's a giant prawn! No more promotional signage required. By its very nature it has to be an Aladin's cave of crappy souvenirs and deep-fried food, but leave the signage off and let us work it out for ourselves.
I suspect that people actually love the idea of the prawn but don't want to spend any money on it. Like clean energy. And as you might expect, the prawn's fate has woven threads through social networks and the like. A quick look at Facebook shows "Save the Prawn" sentiment heavily outweighs the opposite, even if the murderous mob are having a bit more fun with it.
This Christmas I, for one, will ponder life without the Big Prawn with every bite of the delicious, regular-sized variety. As will many others, it seems. Ballina man Murray Perrin was one of the last people to get fuel from the Big Prawn Caltex service station. In February this year Murray commented to the Northern Star newspaper that it was the end of an era.
“The Big Prawn’s been around a long time,” he said.
“I used to come here with my boys when they were in nappies.
“We’d go up and look out through the eyes.
“I think it’s a real shame that it’s all coming to an end.
“The Big Prawn is what Ballina is all about.”.
Personally, I hope there's more to Ballina than a giant, faux prawn. And I'm sure it will be missed. If nothing else, it will leave a huge hole in the local souvenir trade. I picked up a Big Prawn souvenir teaspoon today and it's an absolute beauty. (I love the idea of a giant-something on a tiny spoon.) My plan was to keep it in mint condition and pass it down the generations. But, you know what? Bugger those Antiques Roadshow charlatans and their flithy lucre! This Christmas I'll be breaking the spoon out and using it to mix and serve a prawn cocktail sauce befitting an icon of the region.
Vale, Big Prawn.
Thanks to Frazier Ruddick for the Evil Eyes image.