Written by Ron Teague : December 2007
We were a very close knit group during the time I was up there with D.C.A. (Department of Civil Aviation) The young group had a wow of a time. Mainly the Perrys, (old Con, young Con, sisters Mary and Ellen) Camerons, Harris, Kittles, Fords, Williams, Champions, Barrows, Goldfields Hotel and Tennant Hotel, Bowsteds, Cantys, Hospital Staff, Post Office Staff, Mines Department, Bill and Margo Burton owners of open air picture theatre, Bob Wappett (Hairdresser) Peter Gunner etc.
Back in the 40’s and 50’s Tennant Creek only had 700 residents in total. As young 20 year olds we had to make our own entertainment, formed our sports games etc. The population of the Territory had a ratio of 10 males to every female!! No lake, trees etc. in those days. Overland mail from Adelaide with green groceries arriving once a week by road from Alice, ex rail from Adelaide. A DC3 arrived from Adelaide, Brisbane and Darwin most days with passengers, freight and airmail. Gold was shipped out under security by air or in different directions either to Mt Isa or Alice by weekly bus.
We managed to run dances to the tune of a gramophone in the old hall next to the Tennant Pub. An annual race meet on a rough track. The Goldfields Hotel dug a large hole at the back of the hotel, cemented the walls, filled it with bore water and we played Water Polo in that. We had to watch for a storm cloud pass over and then race out to the Tennant Creek if we were to get a swim. Otherwise the water was gone in a few hours. Tennis courts up at the hospital. Jack Ford and Len Kittle were the only water carriers from a good drinkable bore.
All the buildings were made of corrugated iron, including the local bank with 2 staff. Air conditioning was virtually unknown.
We had two butcher shops. Harris’ meat came from McLaren Creek Station, and Perry’s meat from the old Telegraph Station that old Con Perry leased. A milk bar (run by a Harris family, no relation to the butcher.) Two grocery shops, one a George Williams and the other Harold and Zina Williams, Wappett’s hairdresser, 2 pubs. Kittle’s and Ford’s garages. Harold and Zina William’s Airline Booking Office and Freight Office. A bus depot. An outdoor picture show (run and owned by Bill and Margo Burton). 2 police officers. A Post Office.
Bob Wappett and his wife were friends and confiders for most of the young people in Tennant. As a barber he always knew who was going out with whom and always ready to give advice on same. He and his wife always had a place at their table for guests. Everyone knew everyone and became very close. Most social activities centred around the Hospital staff.
Parties went on most nights with all invited to different homes. Assorted by age groups mostly. They were wonderful times.
I understand the population eventually increased to around 7,000 which is hard to believe. I passed through Tennant Creek two years ago and was shocked to see the progress etc.
Congratulations again for a good job well done in setting up the web. I only hope it becomes a catalyst for old residents getting in contact with each other over the years. Unfortunately a lot in my age group are passing on and taking history with them.