Navy bus

Lawrie’s wheels find new pur­pose

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

Ex­mouth pioneer Lawrence McDon­ald had a glint in his eye as he stepped in­side the soonto-be opened Nin­ga­loo Cen­tre, ac­com­pa­nied by the kind of rem­i­nis­cent smile which can only be brought about by mem­o­ries of the good old days.

Mr McDon­ald, or Lawrie as he likes to be called, and his wife Nell had a pri­vate tour of the land­mark fa­cil­ity last month to take a peek at a 1965 Chrysler-built Dodge school bus truck.

The McDon­alds do­nated the old US Navy bus to be­come the cen­tre­piece of the Nin­ga­loo Cen­tre’s his­tor­i­cal dis­play.

In 1965, the McDon­alds moved to Ex­mouth, where Lawrie got to work as a con­trac­tor at naval com­mu­ni­ca­tions sta­tion Harold E. Holt.

At the time, Cadil­lacs drove down the streets, the bowl­ing al­ley was the place to catch up with mates and Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton was of­ten used to pay the bar tab.

The Amer­i­cans sta­tioned in Ex­mouth needed their creature com­forts.

“The US Navy had a lot of their own ve­hi­cles and they flogged them off from time to time,” Lawrie said.

“I think I paid about $750 for two of them.”

One of Lawrie’s buses went to Carnar­von for a mine run, while the other one stayed in Ex­mouth, where it spent many years fer­ry­ing peo­ple from the base as far out as the navy pier and Area C.

Over its life, the bus has also been used to take chil­dren to the drive-in, as stor­age shed for the McDon­alds’ daugh­ter, and as a feed shed for hay.

The bus is sure to be a talk­ing point for the US Navy veter­ans and their fam­i­lies re­turn­ing to Ex­mouth to cel­e­brate the sta­tion’s 50th an­niver­sary later this year, and the McDon­alds are look­ing for­ward to catch­ing up with a few fa­mil­iar faces from the good old days.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Shire of Ex­mouth com­mis­sioner Ian Fletcher with Lawrence and Nell McDon­ald in the Nin­ga­loo Cen­tre.

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