MEMORIES OF WOOMERA
Congratulations on this website. I saw the ABC presentation of
"Welcome to Woomera" - and it was reasurring to know that my joyful
memories from that time are shared.
My family moved to Woomera in 1966 when I was six-years-old, and
remained until 1972. I remember living in the "Flats"
down on H block. Our neighbours in H Block
were Des and Lesley Fahey, and their boys, Keith, Michael and
Brenton. Sadly Brenton passed away only a month ago. Our
other neighbours were Helen and Merv Graydon and their children Karen
and Ian and Brian. Our families have remained friends and we see
other a few times a year. Other neighbours in Block H were The
Kirkby family and we met up with them in Wodonga many years later. We
moved from H Block to Gundawarra Street - down by the football oval and
arboretum. We became friends with the Bergmans from USA, the Hogg
family, the McCarthy's, the McDonalds (from Scotland) - I remember
their children Mary, Isabelle and the boys and many other
My best memories were heading out onto the "donga' with a back
pack, a big bottle of cool-aid, some broken biscuits of any description
and spending the day looking for stumpy tail lizards, geckos,
centipedes, and the odd snake, as well as a scratch or two from
cornering the odd feral cat. The black caves were another
favourite place to roam off to. To this day I can still hear the
deafening sound of silence that is the sound of the desert. Our
families were mad gem fossickers. We would go to Andamooka, Lake
Heart and many other sites to fossick for bits and pieces.
I remember going to the Woomera Area School. My teachers
were Miss Obst, Mrs Garrett, Mr Hill and probably others whom time and
a full life has made me forget. I can only remember a few
friends, one in particular Roslyn Cox. I remember the day that
Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. I thought at the time how ironic it
was that our presence in Woomera and being part of the "Space Race", we
were the only people in the world who could not view this event on
television. At the 11th hour, a lady who lived across the road
from the school, invited some of our class to go to her home and watch
the first moon walk on her television. It was a very snowy
reception, but I remember feeling so lucky. Television was an
unnecessary commodity as life in Woomera was so full on.
Always something to do, some place to go or see. The other
exciting adventure was our school excursion to Leigh Creek.
Weekends were always fun filled - there were picnics, gem
fossicking expeditions, Bar-b-Ques, parties, the arboretum, sporting
events, exploring, movies (I can still smell the picture
theatre). It cost 5 cents to get in and we always had 5 cents to
spend. The swimming pool was like our second home. (I
remember tip toeing over boiling hot gibbers to get to the pool gates).
I was in the Brownies and Girl Guides and so much more. I
received my first bike in Woomera - I was out at dawn and home after
dark (sometimes missed dinner too).
I remember when Judith Durham came to Woomera. Judith came
down to the swimming pool for a bit of time out. She was mobbed
by people wanting her autograph and then they left her be. She
sat down near me and she started talking to me. I honestly
did not know who she was.
I remember the coffee lounge, candy was 2 or 3 for a cent,
ice-cream was 5c. The ASCO supermarket, the toy store, and the
hospital. I spent many a long week in there with ENT problems as
did many kids. I thought the nurses were always laughing and nice
and as such I was inspired to become one.
I remember feeling very free, happy and I was never bored.
In 1972, my parents packed up the Holden Premier and we moved back
to civilisation. I remember that my parents attempts to confine
us to our suburban back yard in Mornington, Victoria, were always
confounded by our overpowering sense of freedom. Much to my
parent's chargrin, I would be over the fence and on "walkabout" first
chance. Because of my life in Woomera, I have an outlook that
everything in life is an adventure and that "the simple things are
often the best".
I can't say that I have ever met anyone or any neighbours who are
as enthusiastic or as sociable as ours were in Woomera. It took
me a few years to discover that Woomera and all that went with it, was
not your average neighbourhood and that our childhood was not your
Once again thank you for this interesting website.
Deb Melrose (nee Horsburgh).
(16 November 2004)
Copyright © 2005-2006 Mark T. Rigby
(Last updated: 18 February, 2006)