Meet Tory Jones

The Gold Coast Collector

Tory is known at the Gold Coast through professional roles in urban planning, design and heritage conservation but she is currently, quietly working away on research with the Abedian School of Architecture, Bond University. Her study is about the role and power of narrative in the identity of the Gold Coast. She has also teamed up with Super Souvenir artist Aaron Chapman to collaborate as digital storytellers on the inaugural LENS project to frame Gold Coast culture through new perspectives. We’ve borrowed some of Tory’s extensive collection of Gold Coast tourism souvenirs for display in the Super Souvenir caravan.

Where do you reside on the Gold Coast?

Broadbeach, Gold Coast. QLD.

What do you love most about the Gold Coast?

I love the 300 days of warm sunshine per year. I’m always surprised to hear claims that Mediterranean France has the best climate in the world. I prefer the Gold Coast’s weather. Even though our summers can get a bit sticky, our winters are briefer and milder.

What does a souvenir mean to you?

My collecting habit is complicated. In many respects, most of the souvenirs I have accumulated are antithetical to my personal values and aesthetics. I shun mass tourism and conspicuous consumption and most of these epitomize exactly that.

When I travel to other places around Queensland, Australia and the world, I don’t collect souvenirs. I travel ‘lite’ and take pride in that. What I collect as personal mementos are photos. When home or away I am a constant photographer and given that these are digital, they don’t take up any physical space to store.

You might, therefore, ask why I bother to collect these things. I started picking up pieces in op shops when I moved to the Gold Coast in 1994, mainly for their kitsch value, but then I discovered Studio Anna ceramics, which are hand-painted with lovely glazes and were a little bit upmarket, distributed through Prouds jewelers from the 1960s.

When I discovered eBay around 2003 my collecting increased. I guess that 80% of the items were acquired through eBay. Immediately after receipt and inspection I would tuck the acquisitions away in boxes out of view. It was only as I started to experience storage problems that I realized the collection had become substantial. My Ebay profile indicates that I have made 518 purchases. Most of these are ceramics; Studio Anna, Harry Memmott, Scenicware, but there are all sorts of things like felt pennants, postcards, shell knick knacks, Gold Coast Barbies. My purchases are infrequent nowadays because Gold Coast collectables became popular and prices have escalated. My collection strategy has necessarily become focused and I don’t really want to reveal the things I most covet for fear of competition. I should also acknowledge that I have several friends who are always on the lookout at garage sales and op shops and have supplied some of my finest pieces – thank you Deb, Jan, Leanne, Gina & Michele.

To be honest, I don’t really even like many of the things. The collecting became an endeavor because I could see the future heritage value of these things as time passes and such objects become scarcer.

I’ll probably hang on to some of my favourite Studio Anna pieces, and my cans of sunshine because they give me joy, but I look forward to gifting the lot to a Gold Coast museum someday, except for the Queensland souvenir tea sets which I will give to the State Library for display in the tea cabinets of the Queensland Terrace.

Before I do that though, I’d like to research the history of their origins, design, distribution and diaspora. As a precursor to this I recently started an Instagram feed called Gold Coast Collector (@goldocastcollector). As time permits, I intend to photograph, describe and post the memorabilia for all to see.

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Do you have a memorable souvenir from the Gold Coast or another place you have been? And where have you found them?

Just one. A bamboo jug ‘Silver Sands Motel’ jug that was given to me by some very special friends, Jo and Paddy Cruise who I met through a project I ran about the history of Gold Coast motels. They were the founding owners and operators and I spent many occasions with them telling stories about Surfers Paradise and the motel industry in the 1960s and 70s. Fortunately, it is also a very lovely object and what makes it even more special is the handwritten thank you note from Jo, which I still keep tucked inside. They are long gone now, but I think fondly of Jo and Paddy every time I look at the jug.

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What is the function of the souvenir in todays modern world?

I think that souvenirs as we conventionally think of them should be declared obsolete. If tourists want to purchase some sort of memento to take away, or locals want to give something as a gesture of hospitality, I’d prefer to see more meaningful, creative, functional, locally-made, environmentally friendly merchandise that supports Australian artisans and is perhaps identifiably from and/or uniquely representative of the place of purchase. It’s unsustainable to continue mass production of junk that’s mostly plastic and does not decompose when it is trashed.

How have you seen the Gold Coast change over the years?

Change of the built environment is so constant and substantial that you can almost feel it in the air. The city is getting harder and busier, more concrete and traffic.

What do you think makes a souvenir unique to you?

That it locally produced and unique to the place or region where it is purchased.

Do you think souvenirs can be culturally relevant in todays day and age?

Sure, everyone needs kitchenware, clothes, manchester and other things. Why not design, create and produce unique versions of such things that can to be integrated into the purchasers’ or gift recipients’ daily lives?

Do you have a unique story of the Gold Coast you wish to tell?

My personal circumstance exemplifies how place attachment can be very fickle and powerful at the same time. I grew up in Melbourne and we visited the Gold Coast annually to holiday with my maternal grandparents who were amongst the early residents of Anglers Paradise (part of the city now subsumed by Runaway Bay). My paternal grandmother lived in Llaneast Street, Malvern. Sir Bruce Small’s Malvern Star bicycle shop was just around the corner on Glenferrie Road and it was from there when I was 6 that my parents bought me a dragstar with a flower-patterned seat. In my twenties, I moved to the Gold Coast and learnt of the history and legacy of Sir Bruce Small. I felt there was a family connection or familiarity, albeit very tenuous, and this was therefore a place where I was meant to dwell.

Is there a favourite icon or place on the Gold Coast you love the most? Is it still around?

I love lots of places. One that is not well known is the sugar cane fields around the Rocky Point mill in the northern part of the city. It’s very picturesque. It’s wonderful to have agricultural production and a soft, low, green landscape so close to the built-up city. I worry that development pressure will chip away at this special area. If it becomes unviable for growing sugar cane, I think it should remain rural and transition to alternative food production, perhaps super greenhouses for fruits and vegetables. I fear that it will turn into poorly serviced residential suburbia.

If you were to improve one thing about the Gold Coast, what might that be?

While I embrace change and development, I would prefer to see greater efforts to maintain and enhance natural greenery, and implement multiple modes of active and public transport to reduce our car dependency. I also think we are at a critical point. Few classic buildings remain. We should consider finding ways to ensure that at least a handful are conserved so that we don’t inadvertently obliterate every skerrick of the city’s history.