MEMORIES OF WOOMERA - 43


Woomera on the Web (WOTW)

I have visited WOTW on a semi regular basis since you first launched it back in 1997. I lived in Woomera from 1966, when I was 11 years old until 1978,when I left to move to Adelaide.
 
The memories of many of the residents of Woomera never cease to amaze me, but I am struck by the absence of memories from those of my age bracket. Whilst there seem to be many reminiscences from people of an earlier generation (Dick Zehender being a fine example) and plenty from those younger than me (Phil Spehr) who, though only 5 years younger than I, was from a different age group, I am struck by the absence of information from those who would be around 50 years old now. Perhaps it has something to do with us being the last group who were not brought up with PC's as a common tool in our daily lives.
 
In an attempt to rectify this gap, I would like to provide some memories from my time in Woomera and hope that it stirs some response from those of my generation who visit but do not comment (lurkers all).
 
Where to start? At the beginning would seem to be the best, but many of the movies of the 60's and 70's seemed to start somewhere in the middle and work backwards or forwards, so I am tempted to do the same. However, sanity prevails so I will begin at the start.
 
My name?  Tony Woods, known for most of my school years as Slav, and one day Susan I'll tell you why.
 
Having arrived in Australia as 10 pound poms in 1964, my father obtained employment at Island Lagoon and for the next 2 years he commuted to Woomera Monday to Friday whilst we enjoyed life in Elizabeth. I remember my father (Ken Woods) used to travel from Woomera to Elizabeth every week or so in a Goggmobil convertible. What the 95 miles of Port Road dirt must have been like in that, one can only shudder to guess.
 
Finally we got our moving orders, Dad had obtained a house in Woomera and we flew courtesy of an RAAF Dakota via Edinburgh airbase to Woomera to be housed in 3 Goornan St Woomera.
 
Having lived in a semi detached Housing Trust house in Elizabeth Park for two years, we were amazed at the modernity of our new accommodation. No common walls with neighbours, air-conditioning, a garden, etc. Our nearest neighbours, the Dunnemans whose father was the Woomera Postmaster had two sons, Michael who was my age and Brian who was the same age as my brother Tim. Across the road lived the Gee clan who seemed to our eyes to produce a new sibling every day. At last count I remember Mark, Greg, David, Nina, Claire and Simon, but I am sure that there were many more. My two older sisters Judy and Penny were glad that there were elder boys nearby, but Tim and I were just happy that there was someone to play football or cricket with or against.
 
Also over the road were the Hoys, Norman who was my age and two younger girls whose names sadly escape me. Further up the road lived the O'Loughlin's another large family who became friends/enemies at varying times in my childhood.
 
I settled into grade 7 of what was then Woomera Area school and slowly got to know many of the people who would be constant companions on the journey of growing up over the next five or six years. Names that come to mind are Benny Factor (yes, his real name) - an American from before the days of Nurrungar, Richard Daly, Virginia Radford, Michael Blanchard (who Kevin Wilson's song Mick the Master Farter must have been written for), Michael Williams and many others. Being a newcomer half way through the last year of primary school I find it difficult to remember all the other kids, so I hope they forgive my leaving them out. Then again if they want a mention on this site let them take pen to paper as it were.
 
So what did a nearly teenager get up to in Woomera? Firstly there was football and being an avid Port Adelaide supporter I just had to play for the Magpies. Unfortunately, the draft (yes, Woomera Junior Football beat the AFL by at least 25 years) put me in Roosters, which was Village's junior team, still football was the object and I enjoyed my junior years as a Rooster, eventually captaining the side in my final junior year.
 
Having joined the Villiage family as a footballer, I also played for Village juniors in cricket and being that it was our first year in the competition didn't we get some hammerings. Our very first game, Richard Daly scored a century in about ten overs and we were beaten by an innings which is fairly comprehensive given that they were 20 overs a side games. I think we won one game that first year and that was the last game of the season.
 
Outside of organised sports, there was swimming at the pool every day that we could. Kicking footballs end to end in the street and in the Gee's yard ( I still have the scar on my knee). The picture theatre, where for 20 cents we could see the very latest Hollywood epic and still get refreshments as well and just generally walking out into the donga and seeing where we would end up.
 
That was the start of 12 years growing up in Woomera. I will continue in further instalments.
  
Tony Woods

E-mail:    tonyj.woods@tiscali.co.uk

(13 February 2005)


 
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(Last updated: 18 February, 2006)