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Eric Shackle Writes: Emerald Cities

"It's easy to see why both Seattle (Washington) and Sydney (Australia) both call themselves The Emerald City - just compare their towering skylines with pictures of the Wizard of Oz's home town,'' writes veteran journalist Eric Shackle.

It's easy to see why both Seattle (Washington) and Sydney (Australia) both call themselves The Emerald City - just compare their towering skylines with pictures of the Wizard of Oz's home town.

As everyone knows, if they have read The Wonderful City of Oz or seen the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, a cyclone whisked Dorothy from her home farm in Kansas to the imaginary land of Oz (not our real land of that name). She and her friends followed the Yellow Brick Road to meet the Wizard, who lived in the Emerald City - "a mass of towers and steeples behind green walls, and high up above everything, the spires and dome of the Palace of Oz."

In an article about Seattle, headed Liquid Sunshine in Emerald City, Sylvia Barnard wrote: "The Cascade Mountains rise to the east, dominated by snowcapped volcanoes: Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, and greatest of all, the 14,410-foot-high Mt. Rainier. To the west lie the rugged Olympic Mountains. Other fascinating features of Seattle are the 300 and more parks. Trees, parks, and gardens are all around you, and when they are at their best, you can imagine why Seattle is called Emerald City."

Author L. Frank Baum, who invented the original Emerald City, was born in Chittenango, near Syracuse, New York, in 1856. He was living in Chicago, Illinois when his children's classic was published in 1900, and later moved to southern California. It seems unlikely that he ever visited Seattle.

"He [Baum] wrote out the story longhand and attached the pencil he used to the draft itself that was titled The Emerald City," says Linda McGovern, writing in The Literary Traveler:
"It was only because of the negative reaction he received from his publisher, the Hill Company, that the title was eventually changed, for they had some superstitious notion against a book with a jewel in its title and they would not publish it. So after some reworking, after several titles lacking the vitality that Baum wanted to capture, he finally came up with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

In the real country of Oz, David Williamson, Australia's best-known and most widely performed playwright wrote a play called Emerald City in 1987. Described as "a sort of modern Tale of Two Cities set between Sydney and Melbourne," it's a satire about power, corruption and the film industry.

"People in Sydney never waste time discussing the meaning of life - it's about getting yourself a water frontage" Williamson wrote in his play, which, like The Wonderful City of Oz, was later made into a film.

Since then, Sydney has enthusiastically adopted the name Emerald City. Dozens of businesses have registered names such as Emerald City Books, Emerald Surf City, Emerald Function Centre, Emerald Meat Supplies, Emerald Music, Emerald Plumbing Services, and the Emerald Press.

Williamson was born in Melbourne and has lived in Sydney, so he knows a lot about Australia's two great rival cities. Emulating L. Frank Baum's move to California, he now enjoys life in the warmer climate of Noosa, a popular Queensland coastal resort. His plays have been translated into many languages and performed internationally, including major productions in London, New York, Los Angeles and Washington. (That's Washington DC. Not Seattle's Washington.)

And in Queensland, too, there's a town called Emerald. It's in the State's central west, 565 miles (909 km) from Brisbane by road. It's justifiably proud of its railway station, the small town's most impressive building. The Gemfields (28 miles or 45km west of Emerald) incorporate townships named Anakie, Willows, Sapphire and Rubyvale. Visitors can fossick for sapphires and other precious gems, and attend Gemfest and Wheel-barrow race festivals.

Years ago, Paul Keating, a former Prime Minister of Australia, was unkindly dubbed The Lizard of Oz when he put an arm around the Queen’s waist to stop her from falling over.

Baum named “Oz” after a file cabinet in his office. One cabinet was labelled “A to N,” and the second “O to Z.”


1. The original Emerald City: http://ianellis-jones.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/emerald-city-really-is-green.html
2. Seattle skyline: http://www.visitingdc.com/picture/seattle-skyline-picture.asp
3. Sydney skyline http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sydney_skyline_at_dusk_-_Dec_2008.jpg
4. L. Frank Baum: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3242.L_Frank_Baum


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