August, 31 2012
Port Hedland
John Elliott
Photography

Merv

 

In 1948 there was only a population of 250 people in Port Hedland and town was only one mile. In those days, the full bloods had to get out of town at sun down. I’ve seen all those days. I planted gum trees at Merv’s Lookout, in memory of the 29th Garrison Battalion, North West detachment, which had been formed from Citizen Military Forces in 1942. I came here at 16 with the Guerrilla Warfare. The army took over houses, shops, schools and town halls, they were on guard duty, labouring and coastal defence; including walking along the coastline from Port Hedland to Broome searching for Japanese activity. It’s historically listed, in my opinion they can’t build over that. Not in my time.

I was a casual labourer to start with, going out bush, well sinking, working for the store men, down at the esplanade, lots of things. I came into town and I ended up being a wharfie. I was part of the The Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) strikes, me and one of my workers lay down in front of the trucks, we won the round. I seen a bit of change on the waterfront. I worked there until the age of 65, then retired. In those days of being a wharfie I saved one old blokes’s life. I’ve lost many friends, some from sickness, some I had to part ways with and leave. They get older, pass on, or shift down to Perth for medication. I don’t like Perth, it’s a bloody rat race, but I’ll probably have to move one day, they’ve got me a button to wear around my neck, an emergency one, in case I break my leg or something like that.

I’ve got a pacemaker in here. I can’t run down the beach like I used to; I used to skip rope and I was a very active man once. I’ve lost my wife Betty. I met her here; she was married and had two daughters before she met me; her and her husband had a job in Marble Bar. They parted and she came to Marble Bar and that’s how I met her. My wife had Alzheimer’s disease for five years. When I got there, she didn’t know me, it wasn’t worthwhile for me, going down there. She passed away two years ago. I managed to get her into the Pioneer Cemetery. Every Saturday I go the RSL shop in Port and do a couple of hours, pressing labels for prices of things, after that I go and see Betty, give that plant a bit of water, go home and watch the footy. The loneliness is driving me mad, if I didn’t have the TV, I don’t know what I’d do.

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