The history of Civic Guides is a history of post-war Australia. The public face of the community boards is a happy little chap called Cedric. He wears a peaked cap and a smiling demeanour, and has been pointing the way since 1954 when a Norwegian invention was installed first in Sydney and Melbourne. It was called City Guides and for the public was a free and democratic mapping of the growing metropolis.
The boards had a revolving map, were housed in modern glass frames and were found in the city’s most iconic entry-points and gathering places. Everywhere you looked was a City Guide: at Circular Quay, under the clocks at Flinders Street Station, in big city hotel foyers, outside major banks and post offices, on the docks at Pyrmont and Woolloomooloo, by Melbourne Town Hall, outside government Tourist Bureaus, and in the offices of the national airlines of the day – A.N.A, T.A.A, Ansett and QANTAS.
Cedric was our man for the moment. A friendly guide, his information was trusted. He had local knowledge, he was everywhere. His catchcry was positive declaration: “Where to go, and how to get there”.
In Australia in 1965, City Guides changed to Civic Guides, became a local business, rolled-out into country towns, and turned-into a characteristic feature of Australia’s civic landscape. From St Kilda to Kings Cross and elsewhere – Mildura, McLaren Vale, Mount Gambier, Bega, Gundagai, Broken Hill, Tamworth, Woy Woy, Hobart, Alice Springs, Bundaberg, Cairns, Darwin, the Sunshine Coast, Canberra, and most other places in-between – a Civic Guide has stood as silent witness, as familiar as a community notice board.
The idea has not changed, while so much has changed around them. In a digital age, they remain the bricks-and-mortar of direct communication. They are immediate. They are unmodified. They are local. And in the city and country, they stand at gateways of high foot traffic and busy passing trade.