1948 -1958 - a young kid's memories………. Joe Murray, 22 Carcoola Street

Woomera as a kid was magic, the greatest upbringing you could ever get. Parents were working /partying and you had to deal with life yourself, that was the way it was for many children. Nearly left to your own devices in a real macho world.

Parents mostly worked at more than one job, their regular daily work and some other part-time employment chasing the great big pound. As a result of this frenzy a lot of alcohol was consumed at the various mess’s and in sporting clubs such as football and around the BBQ plate.

My father was RAAF and took his posting to Woomera around 1948 from Townsville (Bill Murray, deceased 2002/Canberra).  In the early days we were not there until accommodation became available. We were staged with both sets of grandparents, first at Casino then at Menindee,  I think we turned up around 1950, disgorged from the innards of a Guinea Airways Bristol Freighter. We were met by a man of the cloth and he loaded us into the waiting black government car. Our first great adventure, the flight from Parra Field behind us. My mother (Lola, deceased Canberra 2000), myself and my two sisters  (Kaye and Carole). The reception driver then turned the vehicle toward the village and, the story goes, drove cross country to a house. There were at this time no made roads, the next great adventure had began.

At this house site there were no fences, gardens, trees, roads, garages or foot paths and the Riley  Nuisances (wooden houses) on the other side of the street hadn’t even been started. What an adventure land for a young boy then only 4-5 years old. Supplies were obtained at the Government store near the single men’s quarters and without a car it was a long walk or struggle from and to Carcoola St. It was a struggle with young children and strollers and prams topped up with supplies.

What a great outdoor playground was the building of Woomera - watching the men dig holes, build houses, form roads, trowel kerb and guttering and in particular the planting of trees, drilling the holes, watering, adding the young trees, backfilling and rewatering. A young boy could always manage a ride on some piece of machinery, a water truck, tractor, road roller - maybe steam, a gravel truck , grader.

I learnt to drive from bored operators of Thorneycroft water trucks, wooden cabed monsters left over from WWII without power steering. The process was to stand in front of the steering wheel with your back to the wind screen so that you could then stand on whatever foot control was needed as directed by the driver. They taught this boy to drive that way before any formal schooling age was reached.

Whatever eventually happened,  I was enrolled at school and this seemed to be OK until the dreaded Catholic school was opened and my sisters enrolment was demanded by the nuns and priest. I escaped for another year,  but during Xmas my parents were paid a visit and cajoled into sending number 1 son to Catholic education. What an utter debacle, the Catholic education system was in effect more than a year behind the government schools of South Australia. Well they belted the devil out of me for that year, their angelic treatment of children is only just starting to be talked about now, but unless you were involved, no one would know. Its fair to say that I was no longer wanted for a second year and therefore sent back to the public school this time one year behind, it really made me a right idiot.

But I managed thanks to some great people, some of whom I can still remember. For one, Mrs Mack, a real gem, but not another - a corporal punishment exponent with  a two foot long plated plastic cord attached to her whistle which was applied liberally to calf muscles of anyone who looked sideways especially during sport.

Mr Robinson, my personal saviour, who when he first turned up to teach told the whole class not to take out our English books as he was going to read to us some poetry. So Fairies at The Bottom Of Our Garden was shelved and we were introduced to Banjo Patterson and The Man From Snowy River and all the other characters, Lawson and C.J. Dennis, The Sentimental Bloke. Much harder but worthy of praise in my case was Miss Marion Markes. Who put in a tremendous effort even after an horrific motor accident in which she was involved.


(20 November 2002)

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(Last updated: 12 April, 2005)