Memories of the early days travelling Oz. What are yours?

Submitted: Saturday, Jan 03, 2009 at 23:15
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Recent threads here have got the old grey matter working, and have been reminiscing about the days of my childhood, when my parents travelled the outback of Qld and N.T. in search of work in the 1950's and early 1960's.
What are your early memories of your outback travels/living.
I can remember leaving the Darling Downs in Qld at about 8 years old, in 1956 and arriving at Mt. Doreen Station on the Tanami Track, in a Holden ute with canopy, and all our possessions. Mum and Dad in the front, and my sister and I in the canopy, just behind the fold up hatch, on purposely arranged seating comprising of our swags and other camping gear. "I also rememImage Could Not Be Foundber the bloody dust".

This photo was taken on the road somewhere between Mt. Isa and Mary Kathleen. Note the hand brake, and the old water bag.

We travelled east to west, and back to the coast to Cairns, then back to the Qld. gulf country for several years, all on dirt roads, wet and dry. No forms of communications, nav aids, just pulled up early afternoon and set up camp, usually not seeing any other vehicles all night. What great days they were.
Now I am about to hit the road as a grey nomad, reliving and revisiting the old days, but somehow methinks things are not the same.
We shall see.

Fred.
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Reply By: Willem - Saturday, Jan 03, 2009 at 23:47

Saturday, Jan 03, 2009 at 23:47
Fred

This is my first car in Australia in 1969

Image Could Not Be Found




Cheers

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Follow Up By: Rolly - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 20:04

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 20:04
Me, too, Willem

My first one was a 1962 40hp which suffered a lot of floor pan damage from the impact of gibbers and stones as we frequently rattled along at the factory recommended "cruising and top speed, 65mph".
75,000 miles of that kind of abuse left the underside so distorted that the rubber seal between the body and chassis/floor pan was insufficient to bridge the "modified" gap! The bolt-on mudguards were replaced several times due to the bashing they got from underneath.
It was on one of those occasions that I noticed that the normally not-too-bright 6volt lighting was much improved by the change over. A slight modification of the wing-to-body earthing by bridging them with simple loops of copper wire fixed the problem permanently.
Those were the days, Eh?
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Follow Up By: Willem - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 20:20

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 20:20
Rolly, yeah, that one still had the two small back windows. I recall it was a 1959 model.

Bought it for $100. Had only been married a short while when SWMBO decided we must go to Melbourne to meet her parents. (Bad idea, that was). The old bus was rusted around the floor and you could see the corrugations once we hit the Quuensland outback roads. We had no money for hotels, so slept in the car. It was July and we both nearly froze to death at Augathella. After jhat the old bus wouldn't start in the mornings so we had to park on a downhill so we could get a run in the morning for a clutch start.

It made it to Melbourne and some weeks later after getting a jpb and some money coming in we upgraded to a Zephyr! Sold the car to a fellow worker for $25. Drove it to his place and parked it outside. That night someone stole it and it vanished from the planet...LOL


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Follow Up By: Willem - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 20:42

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 20:42
Ummmm...memory is fading. Nor split window but small window.

And the VW was my second car. My first was an FJ which I bought in Perth in 1968 for $50

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Reply By: x - Saturday, Jan 03, 2009 at 23:50

Saturday, Jan 03, 2009 at 23:50
Fred,

who could possibly add a story (apart from possibly Willem) after a start to the thread like that?

As well as the water bag and handbrake, I note the starter motor beside the car.

My family's car when I was three (until I was 12) was an FJ. Dad then went out and bought a Valiant. Both cars saw lots of bush travel in the Riverina where we camped and fished.

I look forward to hearing about your coming travels.

Bob


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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Saturday, Jan 03, 2009 at 23:53

Saturday, Jan 03, 2009 at 23:53
On the Stewart Highway, north of Coober Pedy in 1967.

We were on our honeymoon, returning to Adelaide from Darwin and 'the Rock'.



Cheers,
Peter
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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Saturday, Jan 03, 2009 at 23:58

Saturday, Jan 03, 2009 at 23:58
I still can't spell STUART Highway!

Cheers,
Peter
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Follow Up By: Member - Fred G (NSW) - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 13:33

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 13:33
G'day Peter.
That photo reminds me of a trip across the Nullabor in a mini minor, just before Xmas in 1968. A mate and I had been transferred from our Navy ship based in Fremantle, to a base in Victoria. We drove across on a highway much as in your pic. As I remember, in parts it was a series of tracks about 100 yards apart, and if one saw an oncoming truck, you got in the furthest track available away from him to avoid the inevitable onslaught of dust, all to no avail. We had a 3 day enforced stopover in Norseman, waiting to have a headgasket repaired. For fuel, you had to detour off the "highway" into station homesteads that sold fuel from 44 gal drums.
That trip wasn't long after Meckering (?spelling) was flattened by an earthquake.

Fred.
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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 13:59

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 13:59
Yes Fred, it still scares me when I think about where we went in Minis.
In 1970 we had a trip from Coward Springs to Billa Kalina, south of the Margaret River.
No GPS, no comms, no road, navigating by 1:250,000 and a prismatic compass.
3 of us in a Mini fitted with dual 12" front wheels for the sand and adjusable height front suspension. Tried to repeat that trip a few years ago in a 4x4 and failed.

Still, those days taught us about the beauty of that country and how to survive on our wits.
Lots of great memories..........................

Cheers,
Peter
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Reply By: Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 00:08

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 00:08
Hi Fred, the earliest outback travel that I remember was when I was five, Mum & Dad headed over to WA from SA in early 1952 chasing work, we, my two sisters and I were left with Mum’s parents while Dad & Mum came over to look around, Dad got work and came back to pick up kids & possessions that would fit in the car. We all bundled into a 1937 Chev and off over the Nullabor we went. I can assure you that the Nullabor then is not what it is today.
All my childhood holidays were spent going back to SA over the Nullabor and back to catch up with the families over there.
We crossed that Nullabor over the years in many different cars, some being the 37 Chev of course, a Plymouth, (a few times) a 1952 model Chev, (several times) and how could I forget the old Vanguard Ute with canopy, what a trip that was, hot & dusty (all our holidays were taken after harvest in Jan or Feb). Like you, our parents sat in the front of the ute and all of us kids (one of two brothers had come along by then) were in the back along with the pets (1 dog and 1 cat) will never forget those holidays. I remember as I got older and with each trip I enjoyed the outback more. Our last trips before I left home was in a Rambler.
I will always remember the shower at Shell Service Station in Port Augusta, just to get that bulldust off of us.

Ahhh the memories.

Cheers

Deanna


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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 00:25

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 00:25
Deanna, this pic was taken on the Nullarbor just south of the rail line in December 1954.
There were 3 guys in the Holden ute, and 16 travelling in the truck!
The day this pic was taken was 147F in the shade(?) and there was a tail wind from the north as we ran south back to the "highway" in front od an approaching storm. The vehicles were turned into he wind to cool off.

I was 9 years old.



Cheers,
Peter
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Follow Up By: Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 01:28

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 01:28
Thanks for the pic, Of all the times we travelled the Nullabor back then I can't recall ever hitting a dust storm but it would be pretty horendous as it was always dusty with out them.

You were lucky if you met a car going across in those days and if you did it was always a long chat to be had, passing experiences of the road yet to travel.

We went down to the old Eucla back in September last and the memories flooded back then, Eucla was always a stop for petrol, chat and if time permitted a cuppa with the Guerney's. Walking around the current Eucla and reading all the history of the area I noted that this family was not mentioned and I wondered why, they were at the old Eucla for years, had moved house because of the shifting sands. I do know that they were against the establishment of the New Eucla, they liked it where it was.

Cheers

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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 10:57

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 10:57
Deanna, Trevor Guerney (who was about the same age as me in 1954) is living at Coorabie now.

Cheers,
Peter
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Follow Up By: Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 11:55

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 11:55
There is no doubt about it, this site is full of info, thanks for that Peter, will pass it on to Mum when I speak to her again, she would be very interested it that.
The Guerney's use to tell so many great stories, it is people like that who should write a book on their experiences, that would make great reading.

Roughly what era would Trevor be, as I was young at the time I don't remember the christian names but to me the Guerney's looked older.

Thanks for the info

Cheers

Deanna


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Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 00:15

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 00:15
These days some people think that you have to have a 4wd (with all the trimmings) to go off the bitumen. When i was tiny, roads where we lived were two wheel tracks, with a grassy crown in the middle. The vehicles were low slung sedans. A trip to our nearest regional centre (now takes little more than an hour) was quite a journey, and having to clear fallen trees or branches, or getting sand bogged, were common occurrences. Winter creek crossing were expected.

In winter, river levels rarely seen in recent years cut the roads. We often used to have a few weeks 'extra' school holidays while isolated.

In my parents youth, cars were not common. My grandfather had one of the first two cars in town. My mother drove the car to the police station for her driver's licence. The policeman asked how she got there - she drove. He asked 'did you kill anyone' -' no' - so she was given her licence.

Motherhen
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Follow Up By: Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 12:02

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 12:02
"The vehicles were low slung sedans."

Hi Motherhen, as a kid we use to use roads like that as well, we had those old American tanks that were so low and our biggest problem with them was the muffler use to come off, (it was the lowest point of the car) and when we got closer to town where the formed roads started we had to get out and push it back on again, Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrh now there's a memory best left at the back of the memory box!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 12:50

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 12:50
Hi De - When i was a toddler, we had a big Nash. I remember wide running boards, and roller blinds on the windows. Then around 1950/51 we got a Holden - suitable for Australian conditions.

Mh
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Reply By: Member - Dick (Int) - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 00:58

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 00:58
Here I am in 1940 near Singleton in N.S.W. where I grew up.

Image Could Not Be Found

We kept the old ute until the late 40's when we got an ex Army Jeep that I started my driving and exploring in. Unfortunately a bad flood in 1955 destroyed most of my old photo's.




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Follow Up By: CLC50 (QLD ) - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 07:52

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 07:52
Hi all

A holiday to North Queensland,from Sydney 1942 ,I was 7,Most rivers ,Had Ferry to cross most rivers ,all gravel roads,on going repairs to ply caravan.Brisbane Town hall was the highest building,


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Follow Up By: Member - Fred G (NSW) - Monday, Jan 05, 2009 at 18:21

Monday, Jan 05, 2009 at 18:21
G'day Dick. Wouldn't you like to have that sitting in a shed now aye.Being an old Singleton blad, just letting you know we are at Cessnock.

CLC50, that would have been pretty flash back in '42 mate.

Cheers Fred.
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Follow Up By: Member - Dick (Int) - Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 03:28

Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 03:28
G'Day Fred, sure wish I had it sitting in the shed now.

I lived in Cessnock from 1966 to 1968, I opened up the Cessnock Aerodrome. It was an old deserted world war strip just sitting there in the paddock. With the help of the Mayor of Cesssnock we went in and cleaned it up and started a flying school there. From there on the aerodrome expanded.

During this time we did some flying in the Simpson Desert and at one time I drove a Land Rover from an airstrip near Purni Bore to Birdsville, picked up and aircraft engine and drove back to the airstrip with an engineer to install it. Had very little equipment with me except an aircraft radio that could contact aircraft and other ground stations.

Soon after that I moved to S.E. Asia and never returned to live in Australia.

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Dick







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Follow Up By: CLC50 (QLD ) - Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 08:18

Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 08:18
Hi Fred
I remember travelling up Bulahdelah Mountain which was a major hill Climb in those days on the way to Brisbane,,the back of the van left the floor & chassis , all our cloths , Tennis Rackets,Football all over the road back for about a half mile,I had to go back and pick them up ,while dad & mum tied fencing wire around the rear ,over roof & around the chassis to get to the next town to get a carpenter to fix it .
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Reply By: Member - Mick O (VIC) - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 09:20

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 09:20
What a great post Fred. It's amazing how these days we can cruise across vast tracts of the outback keeping track of our course on our sat-nav programs, check the cricket, footy of the weather on our HF radio, ring the family on the sat phone then put up the electric window and turn the air-con to deal with the heat and dust .....and still reckon we're adventurers lol.

My outback adventures began as a 10 year old in 1972 accompanying my parents around Australia (they were chalkies) in a 1970 Belmont Panel van towing a 15' Viscount van. Like you, we three kids sat on a fold up bed in the back of the van. It was great fun travelling thru the centre, Arnham Land (getting swept down the flooded alligator river because the van floated Ha), the gulf. We went to school at Karumba for a few weeks. From recollection, the Bitumen on the Stuart Hwy ended just north of Port Augusta started again at Tennant Creek to Darwin. When we went east from the Stuart, we next saw it on the east coast near Cairns.

My grandfather told stories of his shearing days in the mid 1920's travelling from Geelong (where they worked in the newly opened Ford Plant) thru S.A. to almost the NT border in an old open sided car. There were nine of them and they took it in turns to stand on the running boards as they travelled, all bailing out to almost carry the car across sand dunes. I must dig out the photos.

Thanks Fred

Mick
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trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
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Follow Up By: Member - Fred G (NSW) - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 11:45

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 11:45
G'day Mick..I am enjoying working my way through your blog entries of your trip last year...a great read. There is so much entertainment on this site reading other members profiles and blogs. Thank you, and HNY.
Fred
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Reply By: Marion - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 11:53

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 11:53
Great sharing of history and life sharing keep them going as my only expedition was in 1960 sometime the same week the beaumont children went missing we travelled from Geelong to Port Augusta in a holden station wagon tent and camping gear with Mum Dad and my 3 siblings.We only had lived in Australia a coulpe of years having migrated from Scotland.
But it planted the seed forming my adult ilfe of wanting to be out there.

Keep them coming.
Cheers Marion
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Reply By: bgreeni - Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 18:19

Sunday, Jan 04, 2009 at 18:19
My first major trip was driving Melbourne - Darwin in 1966. Did not know anything about outback roads, but learnt fast as I tackled the black soil when the bitumen ran out beyond Longreach. Took several days and much digging out of bogs to reach Cloncurry and the bitumen. Then held up at Newcastle waters with water over the road until a group of travellers built a raft out of old bitumen drums, bush timber and fencing wire to float our cars across.

Later lived in Kununurra and worked on the main dam construction. Only dirt from Katherine to the NT/WA border and no bridge over the Victoria river.

When I drove from Kununurra to Perth the bitumen only came as far north as Carnarvon. As it was just at the end of the wet some of the highway was found by following the telephone wires through the grass which was over the bonnet of the Holden ute in the middle of the 'Highway'. Had to camp at Fitzroy crossing waiting for the river to go down (no bridge then)

Also crossed the Nullabore when it was dirt in SA from the border.

I also lived in Cloncurry from 1975 for a few years. When I first went there the bitumen finished just out of Hughenden. Both Hughenden Cloncurry and Winton - Cloncurry had bitumen constructed while I was in 'The Curry"

Bruce
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Jan 05, 2009 at 12:40

Monday, Jan 05, 2009 at 12:40
Fred,

Did little travel in my early years, except with my parents on pushbikes, then in an ill-fated Willys Knight truck that came back from Oberon, mortally wounded.

When the "Olds" bought a new 1956 Morris Minor, there was no holding them back. trips all over NSW & into SE Qld.

My job in the late 60's was near Kununurra, and the photos are of a trip back to NSW, November, 1969.
Image Could Not Be Found

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Top photo is just east of Winton. Note the mud rock surface.

2nd photo is about 15 km east on 3-Ways, on Barkly Hwy. Can't see any fog or centre lines marked lol.

Final photo is on Stuart hwy, somewhere near Daly Waters, though I'd stand correction on that one.

You're draggin' the history out now, Fed.

Regards,
Bob.
Seen it all, Done it all.
Can't remember most of it.

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Follow Up By: Member - Fred G (NSW) - Monday, Jan 05, 2009 at 18:05

Monday, Jan 05, 2009 at 18:05
G'day Bob, isn't it great to have the grey matter stirred occasionally, and things just come flooding back with a little prompting.
Bob you would have been in Kunununarra then, when the Ord diversion dam was being built and the CSIRO had all them experimental crops on trial.
I went to a boarding school in Darwin in the early 60's for high school, and I became friendly with the son of the lone Policeman from Kununurra, their name was Marshall. On some school Holidays I would fly home with him and spent a few holidays out there. I remember the open air picture theatre, and cricket on grass matting. Early mornings the sky would be a cloud of cockatoos and galahs and finches and budgies.
The pub as I recall, was a tin shanty, which was only open a few hours each day, and any drunk trouble makers were put in the back of the caged fourby, and driven a few miles out of town. By the time they got back, they were harmless. As 14 and 15 year olds we thought it hilarious. I've got a photo of the diversion dam somewhere, have to try and dig it out.
Cheers from Fred.
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Jan 05, 2009 at 21:39

Monday, Jan 05, 2009 at 21:39
Fred,

Would have been almost mid-1968 before I got to Kununurra.

Camapesci's Hotel Kununurra was standing, as well as Warnock's supermarket, a few other retail outlets and not to forget Nick the Greek's tiny cafe, opposite the pub, surrounded by sand & scattered wattle trees. Also the Sports Club was very active.

The Diversion Dam was finished, and it wasn't until about July, '70, that they started on the main dam.

We worked about 80 clicks east of K'nurra, so it was an easy drive in there for a beer. Lot more diffcult driving home!!!

Regards,
Bob.
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Follow Up By: Rob Mac - Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 02:03

Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 02:03
Hello again Fred, I have my fathers slides and photos and there is old grainy red shots of the Diversion Dam being built on Bandicoot Bar and the construction of Dunham River Bridge at the same time.
I also went to the boarding college at Nightcliff from 1969 to 1972.
Hello Bob Y, we used to throw a tarp over the gates on one of Dad's trucks and have picnics up at the top dam site to watch the blasts for the dam wall.
Cheers
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Reply By: Rob Mac - Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 01:52

Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 01:52
Gidday Fred, I saw this post on Saturday night. It has certainly brought out some excellent replies, so I will add mine, we left Wyndham late Nov 1961 and went clockwise around Australia with a detour from Three Ways to Alice Springs then back up to Three Ways and across to Atherton. Arrived back in Wyndham early Mar 1962. Was about 13,000 ,miles in 3 months in an Austin A70 ute with canopy towing a 6x4 trailer. I was six years old with the next two brothers being 5 Y.O and 3 months old. I will have to join up so I can post photos of the trip.
Cheers
Rob Mac
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Follow Up By: Member - Fred G (NSW) - Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 05:42

Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 05:42
Rob, that's the same college I went to at Nightcliffe. Carpentaria Junior Residential College. I was in the first lot of boarders when it opened.

Fred.
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Follow Up By: Member - Fred G (NSW) - Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 06:01

Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 06:01
Rob, Dunham River Bridge, would this be it??? Taken about late 1963/early 1964 with a young Fred in foreground. John Marshal, son of policeman Sgt. Marshall in background.

Fred
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Follow Up By: Member - Fred G (NSW) - Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 06:04

Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 06:04
Image Could Not Be Found

Forgot the photo, try again.
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Follow Up By: Rob Mac - Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 22:41

Tuesday, Jan 06, 2009 at 22:41
Hi Fred, that looks like it, the two photo's I have are of the actual construction, plus some of the dam itself and Ivanhoe Crossing with no water over it.
When I join I will be able to show you the photo's.
Cheers
Rob Mac
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Reply By: Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 14:07

Monday, Jan 12, 2009 at 14:07
Hi Doug & Dusty, that was a great post, keep the Sunday History posts coming, I look forward to them.

Cheers

Deanna


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