Hum­ble start for Hills cham­pion

Hills Gazette - - NEWS - Sarah Brookes

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.

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