Saturday, January 21, 2012

Week 43

Jan. 22    Wittenoom
There has been so much o/t that I had to knock some back. My last 2 pays were 101 and 82 gross. My biggest pays since arriving here. In fact the biggest ever. Nearly the whole time spent working in the mill. Mo and Fox are coming with us as far as Roebourne, and then they will head to Darwin. It will be good to be on the move again. Had a few quiet drinks with some of the boys last night followed by an abortive run up the gorge to steal diesel, which unfortunately turned out to be hydraulic fluid. John arrived from Perth a couple of days ago so the team is almost assembled again. We will meet Dulcie in Perth.

Jan. 23    Wittenoom to Roebourne
Spent the morning getting John’s gear to the store. Packed up, said goodbye to the Dykstras, and went to Guy’s place for lunch. We were unable to get diesel at the garage so we had to get Ozzy Allan’s permission for ABA to sell us some. Picked up Mo and Fox and headed to Roebourne. Quite an uneventful trip until just before Roebourne where we had to pull a ute full of Abbos back onto the road. Had a couple of beers and found a good place to kip on the veranda of the local school. Had a quick meal and then retired 

Jan. 24   Roebourne to Onslow
Up early and then messed about until nearly 11. Said goodbye to Mo and Fox and then headed south. I don’t know where or when we will see those 2 again but I don’t think it will be for some time. Driving conditions are very bad today with lots of slippery mud and several creek and river crossings. Just north of Onslow we got bogged and had to dig the land rover out. It was quite amusing, splashing about in deep mud. Reached Onslow at about 6.30 and went to the pub for a drink, where we discovered that the road is officially closed, both north and south. Loaded up with fuel and food and are camped under the grandstand at the Onslow racecourse. It has just started raining heavily. We have our fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Jan. 25     Onslow to Carnarvon  
Away by 8, weather still threatening and wet. We found the bad stretch of road about 10 miles out of town and got through with very little difficulty. The rest of the trip was plain sailing, with just the odd soft patch but improving all the time. Reached Carnarvon about5 and had a couple of drinks before heading out to the camp and caravan park , where we wormed our way into a caravan for the night. Went into town after tea and met---Mo and Fox---who had flown down that day from Roebourne after drawing a blank on the hitchhiking front, a very wet blank at that!!After a thoroughly riotous night in the pub beer garden, they shared our caravan for the night.

Jan. 26    Carnarvon to Geraldton
Up to our usual late start and on the road, bitumen now, and one of the most boring rides we have yet been on. Drove non-stop to a roadhouse and had lunch there. Got cracking again after a bit of trouble with one injector. Also, the starting motor is no longer working. Got to Geraldton and had a couple of beers followed by a great feed of fish and chips. Walked around town and located the railway station. Lay on the grass and ogled the local talent, before going for a drink and retiring for the night in the station booking hall. Mozzy’s were bad.

Jan. 27    Geraldton to Perth
Woken by the law at about 7.30. After a short and somewhat acrimonious conversation, he wandered off while we packed up and hit the road. Today’s run was not quite so boring, mostly through farmland-grain, mainly. Reached Perth at about 5 and dropped John Frazer off at home. After booking in to the Y.M.we went looking for Dulcie. Found where she was living but she was out. Went back to the Y and had a big feed of fish and chips, washed down with milk—something that had been in short supply at Wittenoom

Friday, January 20, 2012

Week 42 - 1963

Jan. 14 1963    Wittenoom

Had a good New Years Eve party at Stan Hawkins’ place. After that spent nearly a week in the mill getting very dirty. Sandy Sheridan let the New Year in well by belting the foreman engineer through a hardboard wall - a very popular man was Sandy. Things have been quite amusing here lately. A lot of the boys will be leaving soon and they just couldn’t care less, consequently there is a great lack of respect being shown to the bosses in general. Last Wed. Mo and Fox came to Wittenoom and we have spent several evenings comparing journeys. 
These two were both instructors at Ogwen Cottage and they left U.K. about 6 months ahead of us to hitchhike to N.Z. They were now on their way home having worn out their welcome in N.Z. They are up here to make some quick cash, just like the rest of us. It was bloody good to see them.
Last Sat. we had a combined going away party for Wally Pickford, John Anderson, John Scott, and myself. It turned out to be a really good do with a lot of fights narrowly avoided. Mo distinguished himself in his usual fashion! I will remember the size of “Goliath” forever!

Week 39

Dec. 27    Wittenoom 
The overtime has looked up a little since I had my say about it. I worked a doubler last Sat. and am working another one tonight.
Xmas was fairly quiet. Went to the pub with John Frazer on Xmas eve. It was very boring so we went to Stan’s place and started a party going. On Xmas day we had a barbecue at Steve’s house - bloody good steak! After that we drifted around to Joe Cadalucci’s place where there was a party that was in full swing.
I have a job at the moment converting some air conditioning units to simple coolers. Spent Xmas Eve in the mine doing nothing.

Week 38

Mon. 17 Dec    Wittenoom
These diary entries are getting more and more sparse. 
After nearly 2 weeks marking bags, I have managed to get back to real work again, just in time to work the w/e. Back to the machine shop, where I seem to have a permanent job on sheave blocks now. This work is starting to give me a slight pain. It is mainly low-grade butchery that a blind imbecile would find easy. 
Chester had a going away party on Fri. night and a right good do it was, too. I sang rude songs and bawdy lyrics for about 2 hours. It must have been a good performance because I have invitations to a number of parties over Xmas on the strength of it!! Missed out on Sun. I was the only fitter not working, so I had a word with the little fat foreman about it this a.m. He was quite apologetic and he assured me that I would get my fair share of overtime in the future.

Week 35

Sat. Dec 1    Wittenoom

Went swimming last Sun. and cut my foot open on a bottle. Six stitches and crutches for a while. Did absolutely nothing on Mon. and Tues. Jan Van Deeren snatched it on Tues. night and joined all the others who are shooting through. Started working in the mill on Thurs, marking bags, by Christ! Dead boring work but 10 times better than hanging around the town. No Sat. work, so I am at a loose end again for a while. Temp. this week has been about 113/114, which is uncomfortably hot  Even the wind blows hot now.

Week 34

Sat. 24 Nov    Wittenoom

Started work on Mon. Back to the machine shop. Did quite a lot of gas welding and brazing. The rest of the time was spent just mucking around and keeping out of sight. Have asked for a transfer underground. 
I attended a first aid lecture on Tues. afternoon and it was very good, too. But the powers that be have decided that there is not much point in my taking the course as I am leaving in January. 
Did mill maintenance today and we are off tomorrow. I hope this does not last too long ‘cos it is not economical to stay here on a 6 day week. The temp. has stayed about the same this last week.

Week 33

Mon. Nov 12     Wittenoom
It has been quite an eventful two weeks since the last diary entry. There was no Sun. work for the fitters, but we were lucky as our pipeline had to be connected through, and this can only be done when everything is shut down. We worked for 20 hours, and then back to the shop. 
Then followed several days of doing absolutely nothing. The weather is still not too hot for the time of year, but it is hot enough for me. Sent another 48 pounds to John’s a/c in U.K. I have only one more debt to pay now, 25 pounds to Dad.
Managed to get very drunk at the union meeting last Mon. Spent a very pleasant evening in the beer garden on Fri. with Tony, Graham, John, and Allan, involving a few quiet beers followed by a mountain of hot buttered toast. Got my photos back and some of them are not bad. Phil has got himself in lumber with Bruce Coleman’s girl, and they are shooting through tomorrow - silly bastard.

Sun. Nov 18    Wittenoom
Phil shot through on Tues. morning and I have since heard that he is in Perth. I burned my foot on Mon. and by Tues it was infected. Saw the Doctor and he has laid me off until Mon. next. On Wed and Thurs I could hardly walk so I spent a lot of time reading. Went to the pictures on Sat. and finished up drinking beer with Graham at his place, a very pleasant evening. The weather has been a lot hotter this last week, 103/104, and there has been a hot wind blowing. Several fitters are planning to leave in the next few weeks so the prospect of making extra money over Xmas is starting to look good.

Week 30

Tues. Oct 23    Wittenoom
Yet another pleasant week spent working on our pipeline. This must be the best job on the lease and the days just flash past. Now that we have crossed the dry creek bed, we can work (when we feel like it) in the shade of the gum trees as we take the pipe along the river bank, the work being well-punctuated by games of battleships, and frequent brews of tea. 
Our routine is occasionally interrupted by a flying visit from one of the bosses, but as they have to approach across the creek bed, we have them in view for several hundred yards, and this gives us ample time to look busy before they reach us. 
There was a good film last Wed; Honeymoon Machine and I went roller-skating on Thurs. It is just brute force and ignorance on wheels, good fun but crippling. Saw a most enjoyable pic on Fri.; Pepe. 
Managed to avoid the mill on Sunday, as we were needed to connect our pipeline through. All went well and on Monday we moved camp to the other side of the settlement and started cutting lengths of pipe for the next stage of the job, if you can call it that. We have set up another good campsite in the creek bed. Life is bloody good at the moment.
Steve’s birthday today was marked by beer before, during, and after dinner, followed by an evening of card games.

Sun. Oct.28    Wittenoom

The weather has been hotter these last few days and the place we are working in now does not have as much shade. We now get an issue of ice every day. Wed. movies and Thurs skating, as a spectator this time.
Phil has been giving me driving lessons in the evenings. He seems to think I am coming along nicely. 
66 pounds clear on Fri. Went to the pictures and, later, to the illegal two-up school, which takes place in an old hut out in the desert. This hut changes its location on a regular basis because some of the wives in the town get a little displeased with their husbands coming home late and broke on payday. So they demand that the long arm of the law should get a bit of exercise, and the game temporarily closes down i.e. the hut gets moved further out and certain people get barred! The only night I attended the school was a real eye-opener with 10-pound notes flying through the air in side bets. Rudi won 105 pounds while Johnnie Anderson lost 80, all his 2 weeks pay and 30 borrowed. There was a story circulating about a miner who arrived from Perth on Friday’s plane, went to the two-up and won over 1000 pounds, and took the next plane back to Perth. As he said, he had only come here to save enough for a deposit on a house - and now he had it. Bye Bye. 
On Saturday we had an idle day at work and then went up the gorge for a swim before dinner. To the movies in the evening, Thunder of Drums, not bad either.
As we had Sunday off, a group of us decided on a trip to Dale’s Gorge in Phil’s car. Away by 8 and straight through to Yampire Gorge, where we spent some time exploring the old asbestos workings, which were only on a small scale compared to Wittenoom. It was a nice place though. 
From there we drove over the hill to Dale’s Gorge. This is a beautiful place, about 600ft deep from the edge of the plateau and full of trees, with a clear, sparkling river winding through it. We climbed down into the gorge and set-up camp near a deep pool, where we spent a couple of happy hours swimming, diving and generally playing the fool. When these activities palled we moved back up towards the head of the gorge where there was a big waterfall. 
Met the Chief engineer, Tom McLeod, or Big Chief Red cloud, as we usually refer to him. He later took cine film of us diving off the rocks into the pool below the falls. On the way back to Wittenoom we went to have a look at Joffre Falls. This turned out to be a huge canyon, very deep with the bottom entirely filled with the river. Allan Leckie and I swam nearly ½ a mile without coming to the end. Then it was back to Wittenoom, and pictures in the evening. A really good day.
Back to the pipeline on Monday for a lazy day. Played volleyball in the evening.

Week 29

Mon. Oct. 15    Wittenoom

Still on the same job and there is a small amount of progress to show for our weeks of idleness, but not much. My arms are getting quite sunburned, but the rest of me does not see the sun; it is too hot. 
I picked up 67 pounds last payday and banked 50. Wrote to the bank and instructed them to send the money I owed to Roy Wood. That is one debt paid and two to go. 
I am getting to know a few people here now. Had a go at the roller-skating last Thurs., it must be the fastest sport on wheels! There are some not-bad-looking girls here but most of them seem to be very young. They also seem to marry very young here. I guess there is not much to do in the evenings so the social occasions are limited to the roller rink and the movies. 
I have decided to stay here until after Xmas, about mid-January. By then I will not only be out of debt but will have more money than I had when leaving U.K.

Week 27

Mon. Oct 1    Wittenoom
I am settling down better all the time. My last gross pay was 89 pounds, of which I received 70 pounds clear. 60 went straight into the bank so that is not a bad start.
Two more fitters have started, there was barely enough work for us before! On Sat.I started laying a compressed air pipeline from the power station to the mill. This will be a good lurk if I can stay on it. Rudi Paulitz is the welder and my job is to cut and trim the lengths of pipe ready for Rudi to weld.
Our 2 Italian labourers, Angelo and Giovanni, have to do any lifting/carrying etc of gas bottles, fuel for the portable welder, cans of tea from the power station—the essentials of life.
The only snag is the sun. Already it is uncomfortably hot, but the best part of the job is that the bosses leave us completely alone.
Went to the movies to see the Great Dictator, dated and disappointing. I have been going to the movies a lot since I got here mainly because there is nothing else to do!! Having said that, time is passing very quickly and it will be time to leave soon enough.

Fri. Oct 5    Wittenoom
It has been an idle sort of a week. Our job on the pipeline is unbelievably cushy. We seem to spend hours waiting for the crane, or petrol, or oxygen - or anything. We have organised ourselves with a billy can so we don’t even have to walk to the power station for tea now.
I have been doing a lot of gas cutting, which is all good practice. Rudi is one of the worst sort of Germans. He is very arrogant and he really looks down on the two Italians, who, of course, despise him in return. Technically, Rudi is the boss on the job, but whenever he tells Angelo or Giovanni to do something, they look at me to get confirmation as to whether they should do it or not. This seems to piss Rudi off more than a little!
Went to the pictures on Wed. and saw 10 North Frederick St. and another film. Not a bad show. On Thurs. night I took a walk into town to watch the roller-skating - must have a go sometime.
The sun is getting hotter all the time so I have bought a big straw hat to wear on the job. Time still going fast.

Interruptus blogus explicado

Well may you ask "Did they ever leave Wittenoom?"

I most humbly apologise and now I understand reason 567 why life isn't like the movies.
My inspiration to blog this diary as a weekly thing was inspired by "Julie & Julia", which is a lovely film if you like food, New York, or blogging.

I hit a snag finishing up some uni study. (post-grad learning science) and then it was the holidays. And I knew that Dad's time in the mine was fascinating reading, but a paltry word-count, so catching you all up wouldn't be too bad as long as it happened before they left Wittenoom!!!

But fear not! The way forward is clear, and just as our intrepid group is about to re-assemble and start off around Australia, I'm back in the keystroke saddle, and the future looks bright!.

So I'll just be getting on with the pictures from S.E Asia and Australia you still haven't seen.
Thanks for your patience, comments, and reading!
Erica - Jan 20 2012