Written by Jennine Armistead nee Renfrey – 2008.
Although I was born in Darwin, I spent most of my young life in Tennant Creek. It will always have a place in my heart and I’m constantly surprised by the amount of people that say “I know that place we had relatives that lived there, or we passed through there meaning only to stop for a couple of days and ended up there for a couple of years.
My parents were Beryl and Snowy Renfrey. I have two sisters, Rosemary Callaghan and Linda Price, and of course any old Tennant Creekers will know my brother Nyle or should I say, better known as “Knocker” Renfrey.
My earliest memories are of living opposite of the Green Mill Cafe where Mum was the cook and next to the then known Scott’s Pub. I remember people like little Kathy and Chooky McCallum and the many fights that they had. I can still see Mum in the kitchen patching up either Chooky or Kathy depending on who won the fight. Life was different in those days, fights between husband and wives were the norm. Actually defacto relationships were the norm, Territorians really didn’t seem to see the necessity in getting formally married. A question asked when inquiring about someone’s married status was “Territory married or real married”.
My father (Snowy) and Paddy Ford actually brought the first Catholic Church to Tennant Creek. They picked it up from Pine Creek, had it loaded onto a large old truck and brought it down to Tennant. Dad would run an illegal gambling game each pay day and part of the money was put aside for the church. There are many interesting stories told about my father and the best known is the gun battle with a couple of men, which resulted with one being pistol whipped by Snowy and one being shot dead and Dad being given 6 months goal for it. Of course Tennant Creek could not have prisoners held for that long so Dad was sent to the big goal at Alice Springs, where he was let out of a morning to go and work at the SP betting shop and return to goal for dinner and lock up. A few people have attempted to write stories about my father and his exploits but they haven’t had the correct information and as time passes the information is lost.
I remember going to the Tennant Creek School when it was just one building and all 7 classes were in the one room. The Headmaster was a Mr Champion (I think). Names from the past are: Bub Selby, she had a daughter called Ellen Joy. My aunt and uncle, Joy and Lionel Brown, they had a son called Leon. There was Connie and Bill Maslin, Sailor Jack and Yackety Yak Jack. Milly Myers, Dulcie Heriot, Alma Green, Margot Burton, Billy and Ken Shirley, Bob Hurell, a fantastic teacher, one of the old style who knew how to make learning an exciting time.
I met my best friend at school there, Maria Kiss. 45 years later we are still going strong and keep in contact at least twice a week.
I enjoy going up to Brisbane for the Tennant Creek reunions, we don’t make it every year but do try every 2 to 3 years. These days you look at the kids of friends and see the friend when they were that age. Life goes on and we now become the oldies. God Bless Tennant Creek and all who lived or just passed through there. For it made them better people.