Coral's a Box Office Cafe hit
AS a child Coral Campbell had to enter the Bowraville Pictures by a side entrance in the dark and after the movie had started.
Today she’ll proudly be using the front entrance when she takes over as the manager of the Box Office Cafe in the heritage listed Bowraville Theatre.
“To say I’m excited is not enough,” Coral said.
“As a kid I couldn’t even come into the foyer and now I’ve got the keys to the front door. I almost can’t believe it.” In the 1950s, when blacks and whites were segregated in Bowraville, Coral was a young Aboriginal girl.
“Bowraville was my whole world,” she said
“I didn’t realise I was being discriminated against. I just did what I was told and that was to go down the side of the theatre and wait for the lights to go out.
“I then had to go up to the back of the theatre behind the partition and was told I should never look at the any of the non-Aboriginal people. It wasn’t until the late ’60s when dad moved us all to Sydney for his work that I realised that anything else existed,” she said.
When Coral married she travelled with her husband and discovered yet other worlds.
After working in catering in Italy and Spain where she also raised a family Coral returned home late last year.
“So much has changed for the better here in Bowraville, and I’m so happy to be part of the ongoing change.”
“The theatre is so different to what I remember. It’s fantastic.”
The Bowraville Theatre featured large in the famous “Freedom Rides” in February 1965 when a group of Sydney University students led by Charles Perkins toured northern NSW towns to investigate and protest about discrimination against Aborigines.
When the Freedom Riders reached Bowraville the manager of the Bowra Theatre put up a sign ‘No Pictures Tonight’ and the Bowra Theatre was closed.
The students held a protest and national media reported discrimination in Bowraville but the partition in the theatre remained when the theatre opened the next night.
The Bowraville Theatre has changed dramatically since then. After lying empty for many years it was renovated and restored by volunteers and now regularly provides live theatre as well as movies.
“We are all ready to open the doors,” Coral said.
The cafe will be open from 9am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday.