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Darwin through the eyes of a teenager.

by Pamela Hansen

Teen Years in Darwin

Teen Years in Darwin

My family moved to Darwin in 1970, I was in first year high school. We moved from Adelaide to Darwin, my father was to be the new Assistant Sales Manager for Le Cornu Darwin, we were on a 3 year contract, and lived in Nightcliff.

I found schooling very different from Adelaide, where I had gone from a middle range student to a Top of the class student. This soon altered as I decided that if I already knew the work, why bother, consequently my school work suffered.
School lessons were different, for sport we would go running along rapid creek, on the beach, or go swimming in Nightcliff Pool.

My family moved to a new group of flats in Rapid Creek, overlooking the sea. The flats were owned by Swan Insurance and had a kidney shaped pool in the front yard. No fencing, just open to anyone who walked past.
I can remember the water always being warm and inviting. The last two flats were rented out to private companies, we lived in unit 5.(there were 6 flats in all)
I would often swim before school, and then walk to school, and going home I would stop in at the local shop for a Chocolate Paddle Pop. or a few Salty Plums, the white one were the ones I preferred.

TV was only new in Darwin, and consisted of channel 2 only, starting at about 3pm with Sesame St, and Play school and it closed about 10.30pm.
We listened to a lot of radio and old serial broadcasts, such as Chicken Man, or Beckett, one of my favorite shows was reruns of the Goon Show, that was on in the evenings.

My best friend lived off Trower Rd and we would often walk to the Drive-In and sit on the seats out the front of the canteen and watch the movie. I can remember seeing MASH there.
One of the other favorite places of mine was the open air cinema in Parap. It was half under cover and half in the open air. If it rained you got wet and had to move to the back. The seats were basic, and were canvas. There was a good pizza shop close to this cinema.
My other memories of Darwin was walking to the speedway, listening to the music, and the noisy cars, and the smell of the cars going around and getting sprayed with mud. My friend and I went to the speedway most Saturday nights, if we were not at the cinema.

When I was 15 I left high School and took up a apprenticeship with a hairdressing salon called Dales Coiffures in Mitchell St, next to the Darwin Club. Dale the owner had 2 salons one in Rapid Creek in a new shopping centre and the other in Town. Dale's partner either worked or part owned the Rapid Creek Hotel, by Rapid Creek. His name was Richard Limb.

Green Tree Frogs were abundant before the Cyclone and you would often find them clinging onto the toilet bowel. Gecko's were also part of life in Darwin often seen clinging to the ceilings and calling out to each other of a night time.
Mold grew on anything in the wet season, and if you did not use it for a few weeks you could be guaranteed of it emerging from the cupboard covered in green fluff.
Not many people had air conditioners in either their houses or cars, and ceiling fans would sweep the warm air around 24hrs a day.

Fresh milk was not available all the time, so powdered Pauls milk was used or brought, the liquid milk was 1/2 cows milk and 1/2 powdered milk. I can remember Milla Milla milk coming into the shops in plastic bags, and you brought a hard plastic container to put the bag in, before cutting the edge off it to use.

The chicken shop in the Nighcliff Shopping center was very busy, and my friends parents owned the Nightcliff Photography Shop. On Friday nights a man would stand outside the chicken shop and preach the bible. Woolworths building had just been built and was new. Casuarina shopping center had not been built either.

My mother also worked in Bagot Reserve (where aboriginal people lived. She worked in the shop selling food and clothing. One day she brought home a baby kangaroo for me,the aboriginal ladies working with my mother had given it to her. We kept that in our flat, and it would jump into a small bag every night and when it grew too big we took it to a animal reserve near Gun point. We would go and see it weekly, but it forgot us after about a month. I called it Wally the wallaby. !! It would hop around the flats pool on a dog lead with me.

We left Darwin when my fathers work contract ran out in early 1974, returning to Adelaide, I can remember listening to the radio on Christmas morning and hearing a Cyclone had hit Darwin. We returned to Darwin in 1975, first my father to help Le Cornu clean up and re build and then my mother returned, I was not allowed to return with them at first, as it was not a place for young teenage girls, but after a month my mother returned to Adelaide to get me, and re start our lives in Darwin.

This time my father was now Manager of Le Cornu and my mother worked along side him. For a while we lived in a demountable and my father drove a small green mini moke on loan to him until he could get our own car to Darwin.

I worked in O"Donnell Griffin as a receptionist and then service department clerk.
I met my husband on a blind date to the Drive-in. When you went to the drive-in in the 1970's you took deck chairs and esky's, and everyone sat outside their cars, it was very cosmopolitan. He worked for the Department of Housing and Construction as a refrigeration mechanic. We were married in the Old church near the wharf, which was rebuilt after the cyclone. We lived in the government flats, in town and lived on the top floor.

After a while I worked for the Northern Territory Electricity Commission in the old railway workshops. I was the receptionist there, and used an old plug in type switch board.

Life was easy and no fuss back then.
I often look back at my teenager years with a smile. Old Darwin was a great place to live.
Knock-em-down rains, wet season, dry seasons all distant memories now.

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So interesting
by: Anonymous

I loved reading your article. Can you please write more!!?

Darwin in the'70s
by: Torq Chapman

We came up from Adelaide in 1970 & lived on
Nightcliff Rd. for a few months . Was at N/cliff
H.S.too. Yep it was a great place in the '70s
Remember a lot of the places from the previous posts here for that time . Darwin changed after the
cyclone because most of the population changed.
A lot of people I knew left because they were homeless and didn't come back ! I drove trucks for
the Army clean-up and lived just off Trower Rd.
until 1976. Since then I've lived in Europe & other parts of Oz. Life in Darwin in the '70s was my
happiest & most enjoyable period anywhere .

good old Days
by: Malcolm Fuge

Family came to Darwin in 1971 . We lived in the Binderee caravan park on Mcmillans Rd where the horse stables are.
Attended Berrimah PS.I remember milla milla milk, Going to the rodeo at the 10 mile behind finlays. Moved to Alawa cres June 76. Attended Casuarina HS Fishing off Rapid ck Bridge on Trower rd. Riding my motorbike at Essington Where Marrara sporting complex is now, swimming at yankee pool near the road goes to the airport.
Getting my license cruising 24 hr and Darwin all night.going to Darwin HS swimming in the big water storage tank which is now there gym. Going to the Drive in Mid week with your mates in the boot.That was some of the 70s I could go on for ages.
Then there is the 80s - Sylvesters night club at Marrara Hotel where there bottle shop is now. will gather my thoughts for the 80s and add to this later

Memories of Darwin.
by: John Regali

That was a great story! I lived in Alawa in 1973 and went through Tracey as an 11 year old and still remember it clearly.The biggest thing that was different from Perth was all the widlife, ghecko's as you said, it was a real adventure for a boy. Thanks for your story really good to read.Great memories.

A little bit more to say
by: Anonymous

Born July 1963 at the old Darwin Hospital. Son to Leonard and Dulcie Willett. My dad was in the RAAF so we moved not long after I was born to Brisbane.
Then in late December 1969 we packed the car and set out on a journey from Windsor New South Wales to Darwin via the inland of our great country. Stopped along the way for homemade bread and a swim at Renner Springs.
We moved into 1 Carryong Street, RAAF Base Darwin and my parents enrolled me at Stuart Park Primary School. I have very fond memories of my time in good ole' Darwin town. Played soccer for both RAAF and Stuart Park. Lazy Sundays at Berry Springs and having fun times at the base pool with the mates.
Mum worked for the Tepuni family who had the contract for the kiosk where they were building the Community College which I understand is now a university. We became great friends with Dean and Val Tepuni and their daughter Leanne. She didn't know it at the time but I had a crush on her.
Many a Saturday night would see us at the outdoor movie house at the Larakeyah Army Barracks. I remember seeing Steve McQueen in Bullit and every since my dream car has been a Fastback Mustang.
Used to love fanging into a Buffalo Burger at the Darwin show and remember seeing a Leyland P76 for the first time.
We had guinea pigs, rabbits and a dog. Remember fishing with Dad at Buffalo Creek and a fishing trip to Norlangie with him and his good mate Dutchy Handenberg.
Vivid memories of the Beer Can Regatta, the Rock Sitters at Mindle Beach, the RAAF Christmas parties and concerts under the hangars.
Then in December 1974 after school had finished for the year we boarded a plane bound for Brisbane to spend Christmas with all our relatives.
How was I to know that I would not return to Darwin until 1980. None of us could have known what was to eventuate on Christmas Day 1974 when a lady by the name of Tracy came to town.

Great story...
by: Karen Williams (Henderson)

This story is very similar to mine... we arrived 1970 from Victoria, lived at Mindal Beach caravan park. Went to Darwin High for a few months until we got our house in Alawa and then I went to Nightcliff High (3rd year). I left Darwin for 12 months after Tracy then returned and married Mick Stumbles. After our marriage broke down I moved to Alice Springs in 1998. I then relocated to Hervey Bay with my current husband where I still live. I would love to catch up with friends but am not good with names! I do remember Joanne Clark, Toni Hogg and Judy Lakeman.. if anyone can help with contacts would be great...!😃Thank you for sharing your stories 👍🏻

You must have known my Dad
by: Allison Finley-Bissett

My dad worked at Housing after the cyclone. I remembered David Burnip, joe bit of beer and whiskey, peter shaddock..
Richard Lucas.

Lovely story thank you

Great Memories
by: G Lui

Your story brings back memories of an old Darwin that we will not see again. Dale married my cousin Richard Fong Lim who owned Lim's Hotel at Rapid Creek . He passed away in the mid 80's but Dale is still living in Darwin..

very similar to my story
by: doreen walsh

I came to Darwin in 1969 with my family, i was 11 years old and my father was in the RAAF. I went to Ludmilla Primary School and then onto Darwin High School. My Dad was posted back to Melbourne so he got out of the RAAF and we moved back to Darwin after a year away. I then went to Nighcliff High School for a couple years before cyclone Tracey - i was in year 11 in 1974.

I am still trying to find out what happened with one of my friends from Nightcliff High School- Joanne Thomas. The cyclone certainly scattered us to different places. I have caught up with my other friends, like Jackie Baker. I still live in Darwin and has always loved it.

best years of my life to date
by: Paul Brian Durrant

I came to Darwin with my mother Syliva Durrant and brother Mike Murrant and my father Brian Burrant. We lived in a number of places in and around Darwin and Nightcliff and the last place was Alawa. What I remember is that we were a lot happier there than we are now back here in England.

We used to have a lot of great times while we were there and the trips down to Manton Dam and Alice Springs were out of this world. It is the only place that I have a sense of being a part of its like one kind of belongs there, its my kind of life and I will always miss it.

To me Australia will always be apart of me. My father came to Darwin first as he worked for a company that laid all the mains cables for a lot of the homes and Dawin airport. On my school time off I would go with my father Brian when he had to work away from home. Some times we would go to some of the islands to lay the cables, it was fun for me as some times when thay dug the trenches they would have to use tnt to blast through the rock.

My brother David Andrew Durrant was born in Darwin 1968. in 1969 my mother and father split up, my mother then came back to England with my brother David and my self and my father Brian Durrant stayed there in Darwin with my other brother Mike Durrant. From that day to this day I have always wished that it was me that had got to stay there in Darwin with my father and not my brother Mike as being here in England is like living a helless nightmare. As they say home is where the heart is, and I have always felt that apart of me was left there in Darwin I wish that I could get back there.

At the moment I am looking for my mother and brother David who came back to Australia in 1981. They went to Perth and I did get to see them in 1990 but since then I have lost contact with them which is why I have found this site, as im looking into my past.

Darwin drivein was good, we would go once a month the last film I see there was The Crack in the Earth. We all had a lot of fun and that something that we don't always find or have time for in the later years. We were happy there more so than here. I am the only one left here in England out of my family.

My gran and grandad came to Perth in 1981 and when I came there in 1990 to see them there in Perth I could see that they were very happy and they both said that they wish they had done it before. I can remember when we lived at Alawa and my mum would write to my nan and grandad and say to them to come on over but they would not take the plunge in coming over, not until they came for a short holiday in 1980 to see my uncle Ronie then they Knew that it was the time for them to try and stay there in Australia.

Old Darwin in the 70s
by: Tracy Schelkis

I was bored this afternoon and happen to come across this page, which I never knew existed. It was so great reading the stories reminiscing about life in Darwin in the early 70s.

I came to Darwin in 1969 from Singapore at the age of 7 years. It was hard, I had a "funny" accent and so kids laughed at me, but I soon adapted to life as a Darwin kid. Walking home from Nightcliff primary School with no worries of being kidnapped or molested. Riding my bike to the Nightcliff Rocks (where the Jetty is now) and diving off the cliffs into the water Wet or Dry season. Climbing the fence into Bagot Park Speedway, not really watching the racing, but just hanging out with my friends. Jumping the fence into the Nightcliff Drive In and being chased by the staff. Skim boarding of the wash at Nightcliff Beach and swimming at Rapid Creek (where the bridge is now), with no fear of crocs.

Yes, life was so much simpler back then, and Darwin was such a beautiful place to live. It makes me sad to see how Darwin is now, with its crime, and ugly buildings. But I guess thats progress, which in my book, is not always for the better.

Looking for school friends
by: Anonymous

I went to Rapid Creek primary school prior to cyclone Tracey. I still have fond memories of 2 friends I met there...Michelle Sheridan and Mandy Taylor. If anyone knows how I can contact them it would be appreciated.

Darwin through the eyes of a child's perspective was awesome. Fishing for crabs at Rapid Creek, counting the geckos, any excuse for a BBQ and giggling at the name of Fanny Bay :D

Maureen McCormick

NTD8 - SHADY GLEN and the three bunk beds
by: Tony Bannan

Great story! Excuse me whilst I ramble on for a bit.... I lived in a few different places around Darwin as my Family searched for work to support 3 kids. Out of vic... We first lived in Shady Glen caravan park and I remember the Chesney caravan being kitted out to have a triple bunk bed at one end. At the park there were two fellows who had a motorcycle accident, one had both arms in plaster and the other had both legs in plaster so they made quite a sight one pushing the other in a wheel chair.
Dad worked for N.A.H. as a truckie and mum at Darwin Hospital in medical records.
We went to St Mary's and St Johns and I remember riding my (home made) skateboard to school from Bishop St. We lived at the back of Hannons/Neta glass. We also lived in Jingili and Parap and Moil.
We got into cycling and it must have been cool enough to stay in tracksuit pants at some point as I remember putting tracksuit pants on before and after racing.
I had a mate John Doyle (who I've not seen since) at school. I'm a bit bad with names but I think some of the other kids in grade 8/9 were Geoff Barton, Tracy Bishop, Maria Sapitan (GF) and some of the Long bros. My brother played footy in front of the queen on Tiwi Is. (or Gove?) I remember salty plums and knock em down rains. And spear grass as tall as you. I also remember the beautiful sheet lightning skies that seem to keep in sync with any music you played.
I worked at NTD8 as a trainee tech at first and I also did some moonlighting at the beachcomber nightclub as a VDJ. As a kid we had louvres on our windows and bedroom walls that only went three quarters high. We used to go swimming a Rapid Creek (which was probably a drain in retrospect.) We lived throughout the betamax vs vhs battle and I remember the tv station would record a weeks worth of tv to send out to the mining site at jabiru on vhs so they they had tv to watch.
Packer owned NTD8 and the ABC was the only other choice.
I loved the Parap markets and Jazz at the casino in later years. I moved to QLD and now i'm in WA. I miss Darwin. (if you know me email me.

Bernie Rilley
by: Anonymous

Loved your newsy "Darwin through the eyes of a teenager". Bernie Rilley took my 21st birthday photos and also my wedding photos. I was Michelle Walker back then and my 21st was on Xmas day - will never forget that one.
His mother in law was also a dressmaker and she made a few clothes for me but unfortunately died of tetanus around the time of the cyclone (I think it was just before).
Yes I too remember the Milla Milla milk and a lot of the time it would not last two days before it went off.

Long lost days
by: Colette

We came to Darwin in a caravan from Brisbane in 1970, my sisters and I started school. We lived in a caravan park in Nightcliff this was near the Dolphin Hotel. The caravan park had a shop that had everything you needed. I remember swimming in fresh water. Having lots of walks on the beach as we were not allowed in the seawater.
I went to Nigtcliff High for a year and made some very good friends.

We went back to Brisbane about a year later and the difference of coming back to Brisbane was not good. From this day I feel we should of stayed where the life was so free for children and teenagers. I have missed Darwin the city and to my sadness have never gone back, maybe this is due to the cyclone and all the changes. The Darwin I knew is gone.

by: Penny McKenzie

My mum (Pamela Harrison) was a client of Dales. I rmember going to her and Richard's wedding as a kid. Good recount and brought back lots of memories

Long term Darwinite 1967
by: Martin Urban

The photography shop was owned by the Rylies and the daughters were called Dianne and Merchell Father was Bernie. They still own a house at the end of Bagot Road Nightcliff. All the family now live south.I too went to Rapid creek pre school and Rapid Creek primary in the mid 6os.

It has changed
by: Anonymous

I was first here as a near 5 year old in 1966, my father was a mining engineer. Went to rapid creek kindergarten then to rapid creek school, in between there was a 2 year break when we were down south, 1968 to 1970. Been here ever since 1970 so including 66 to 68 a total now of 45 years. Now can not wait to leave, retire in less than 5 years then off. Why ? Because darwin died in 1974 to a large extent. Right now it seems to be full of idiots and the pace of life is all rush rush. No longer the lovely little backwater it was. Oh, and the pizza shop in 1970 mentioned was called niño's pizza, now happy gardens.
I often look back on the good times we had then, shame it has come to this.

Milk run Fannie bay /Parap
by: G. Harbidge

My Parent had the milk run for Fannie bay /Parap area prior to Cyclone tracy Up at 02:30 delivering milk running between houses till around 063 am then home get us kids to up /dressed and off the Milner Primary then them off to their Day job.
Milk pick was from Pauls in Bishop street same as the Milla Milla milk that got truck to site from Qld, some times the refig unit would break down and restart working on the journey, Then people would cut the satchel, Yummy yoghurt. :-)

The name of the place......
by: Anonymous

The hamburger place on Bagot Road between Pryers (Jape) and the speedway (velodrome) was called Rockies

Bagot Rd Hamburger joint
by: Anonymous

Does anyone remember the place on Bagot Road (on the left as you were heading into town just before the speedway that used to make hamburgers and hot dogs it was in a "demountable" I think - my older sister worked there for a while. Can't remember its name,

Darwin teenager
by: Anonymous

Thanks for the memories - It was certainly still like that when I arrived in 1979- remnants of Tracy still well apparent, only Pauls powered milk readily available, lack of fresh fruit and vegies (the interstate trucks were always getting bogged), and green frogs in the toilets (one always had to look under the rim before sitting down)But I am still here and love the place !

some typos - Richard Limb should be "Lim" and center should be "centre"

Darwin Teens
by: Anonymous

That is a great story and brought back so many memories. Thank you.

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