Darwin through the eyes of a teenager.
by Pamela Hansen
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.