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Fremantle Only Fades, but It’s Not Forgotten

Times Staff Writer

All roads lead out of town, and a visitor feels a vague sense of guilt in leaving.

Americans came here by the thousands and are taking away tans, memories and the America’s Cup. They are leaving an uncertain future for Fremantle. However, it doesn’t matter. The Cup is gone.

On the way to the airport the cab driver says: “I hope that whoever does it next time doesn’t make the same mistakes they did here.”

Mistakes?

For a few weeks, Fremantle flashed across the consciousness of the sporting world, a trendy and timely crossroads. Now, if she is no more than she was before--a sleepy, dowdy little fishing suburb of Perth--was it a mistake for her to look her best when the world was watching?

“We spent too much money,” the cabbie grumbles.

And what did cheerful little Freo get for her money? For a short time, her restaurants were full, the saloons spilled into the streets and the gift shops sold souvenirs faster than they could count their money.

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Half the tourists wore shirts with horizontal stripes, the other half the green and gold colors of Australia IV.

The shops are closing now. They advertise “everything 20%-50% off,” except French Kiss T-shirts, which still cost $20, Australian.

The magnificently restored Esplanade Hotel’s room rates will soon drop from $220 to $120 a night for a double, and you won’t need reservations.

The Lone Star, a Texas Eatery, may be in trouble.

“I’ve been here five years,” says proprietor Donna Clanton, who brought a little of San Antonio’s “real Texas chili” and chicken-fried steak to Western Australia. “Maybe it’s time to go home.”

Or maybe Dennis Conner will help. He took the Cup, but the Western Australia Tourism Commission will pay him $200,000 a year to keep people coming here. The trip will still be worthwhile.

They will still find mounted police patrolling the beach, two-by-two, and hear the happy whistle of the Spinnaker Steamer as it huffs and puffs along the shore, belching coal smoke to be blown away by the Fremantle Doctor.

People may still be humming Channel 9’s catchy “Sailing Australia, sailing Australia,” to the tune of Waltzing Matilda, and the Australia Day fireworks display over the Swan River, with Perth’s modern skyline as a backdrop, will be as spectacular as it was on a down-under summer night in 1987.

There will be no more 12-meters, only crayfish boats and sheep ships.

But boardsailors will abound off Cottesloe Beach and kangaroos still bound through the bush a few miles away, as they did long before Dennis Conner and the 12-meters came.


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