Humble start for Hills champion
THE year was 1972.
A newspaper cost 12 cents, MASH had just hit our TV screens, the average Perth house price was $18,890 and Gough Whitlam was elected to power.
It was also the year the first edition of the Hills Gazette hit the streets, established by Kevin and Heather Oliver, David Lamont and founding editor John Walters.
In 1985 a special edition of the paper marking 13 years mused on early editions of the paper and its short-lived predecessor, The Mundaring Reporter.
They were characterised by the urgent symptoms of post-conception uncertainty; fervent pleas for copy, volatile reporting of council events and an unorthodox layout were counterpointed by astonishingly brave forays into interpretive journalism.
But those early editions set the basis for the tone and character of the paper, which from the start was deeply parochial.
Nothing was beneath the attention of the Hills Gazette, which welcomed copy from the Hills branch of the Twins Club to the heads of political parties.
Another feature in the early days was the majority shareholdings were always firmly in the hands of one family. The Olivers passed the paper to the Blaggs, who passed the baton on to the Gaskins.
It was noted that Sylvia Blagg possessed the unusual characteristics necessary in an editor: private scepticism, public warmth and a compelling need to make the deadline, whatever the effort required. Her creative flair was limited only by the necessity to spend valuable time setting the all-important contributed copy into type.
Many of the issues pertinent to the community half a century ago are still current today. Rising shire rates, the threat of bushfires, kerb collections, council shenanigans, sporting facilities, hoons, footpaths and the call for activities to keep bored teenagers off the streets still resonate today. But a lot has changed. In the ’70s, Mundaring councillors resolved that a shotgun be supplied to its patrol officer for him to shoot on sight any dog that was vicious or which could not be practicably caught when straying on roads and causing a nuisance to people and livestock. The move was labelled a “dangerous precedent” by the Hills Gazette. Perhaps residents were equally unhappy, with a phone call stating gelignite had been attached to a patrol vehicle.
Meanwhile, hoteliers expressed their concern at riff raff causing trouble at their watering holes and embarrassing bar staff and patrons alike.
In the ’70s, Stoneville residents were getting impatient over delays in installing telephones. Fast forward to 2018 and many residents are still waiting for the NBN.
The Parkerville Amphitheatre was the scene of sex, bugs and rock ’n’ roll for Perth’s young and rebellious. In 1974 the Weir provided a spectacle when it overflowed for the first time since 1969.
How the region changes in the decades to come remains to be seen. But you can bet the Hills Gazette will still be here to report it.