Re­flect­ing on four decades of growth

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

It is un­writ­ten law that it takes 10 years of liv­ing in Kar­ratha to be able to call your­self a lo­cal, and given the na­ture of the town’s work­force, those peo­ple are few and far be­tween.

For Sue Middleton, her jour­ney in Kar­ratha started in the early 1970s, when her hus­band got a job work­ing for Rio Tinto.

“My first thought of Kar­ratha was: ‘Where the hell has he bought me,’” she said.

“The air­port ter­mi­nal was a lit­tle green tin shed with planks of wood for tar­mac.

“Our house had lit­tle ce­ment slabs out the front and back doors and that was it, be­yond that there was just red dirt.

“It took about 15 months of liv­ing here be­fore a trans­portable shop and po­lice sta­tion with one cop was brought into town.”

Mrs Middleton’s jour­ney in Kar­ratha came to an end this month, hav­ing moved back to her home town of Bal­larat to be closer to fam­ily and med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties.

Over the years, her fam­ily ex­pe­ri­enced the best and worst of a rapidly de­vel­op­ing Kar­ratha, from start­ing sports teams to be­com­ing ma­rooned be­tween flooded roads.

“My son and three of his mates started off the Fal­cons Foot­ball Club, called the Car­di­nals back then, with Frank But­ler as coach,” she said.

“We went up to Wick­ham one day for my son to play foot­ball then went out to Sam­son for lunch. We went to leave af­ter see­ing storm clouds rolling in, but ended up get­ting stuck at the Nickol River for 12 hours.

“One time we went to Perth with some friends af­ter cy­clone Trixie (1975). We left Minilya and the road had washed away to Carnar­von, so we had to re­turn to Minilya but couldn’t get back there either.

“We were stuck there for three days, which was fun. There were a cou­ple of young guys on mo­tor­bikes, a few cars, two trucks and a pri­son van there.”

As hap­pened to many in those days, Red Dog forced his way into the Mid­dle­tons’ life.

Mrs Middleton’s daugh­ter, Lisa Fer­gu­son, re­mem­bers the “old boy” sit­ting on the Hamer­s­ley Iron bus as it dropped work­ers home ev­ery day.

“He would quite of­ten turn up at your house and us kids would run in­side to get some­thing for him to eat,” she said.

“You would go back out­side 10 min­utes later and old Red Dog was gone.

“When he died I was 14 and they bought out a lim­ited edi­tion bot­tle of port with his life story on it.

“I saved up my pocket money for months and dad bought me one of the bot­tles, which has still never been opened.”

Mrs Middleton said there were many as­pects of Kar­ratha she would miss, but there was one thing she would be happy to see the back of.

“The Shire started putting their bloomin’ traf­fic lights and round­abouts every­where when the boom started,” she said.

“Driv­ing around and see­ing all the street signs with our names on them brings back mem­o­ries of the good old days, though.

“I will miss the life­style — I think it is nice and laid back here."

Al­though Mrs Middleton has left, her fam­ily name has been im­mor­talised in the name of a street, Middleton Way, in Nickol.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Sue Middleton un­der the sign of the street named af­ter her fam­ily.

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