Territory Stories

Three recollections from Roland Griffin



Three recollections from Roland Griffin,


Griffin, Roland,


Territory Times Gone By, StoryNT,




Cyclone Tracy Recollections - Roland Griffin 1. Garbage collection duty. My friends Kathy Devine and her fiancé Bill Sims and I had moved out of the Esplanade Hostel a few days before Tracy to a house in McColl St, Fannie Bay that they were in the process of buying. The house was largely destroyed overnight and Kathy and I moved back to the Hostel on Christmas Day. The hostel was relatively unscathed and still had a roof and a gas-fired kitchen so life was comparatively good. Bill was in Melbourne at the time but he was an electricity supply engineer and was quickly brought back to Darwin and worked tirelessly at putting the electricity system back together. As single public servants (Kathy was a teacher and I was a Fisheries Research technician) with a place to live and eat, Kathy and I looked for ways that we could help out. A call came out for people to help out with garbage collection and clean up so we reported to the company base (Hannons?) and got to work with their trucks around the town emptying bins and fridges and freezers in an attempt to get rid of the rotting stuff before it became too much of a health hazard. It was hot and dirty work but was appreciated by the survivors that we encountered living in the remnants of their houses. One big task was emptying the cold rooms and freezers at Woolworths before the contents went bad, so that when the power was restored the freezers could be used. We spent a whole day (or two?) with team of a dozen or so emptying the contents into the garbage trucks. It was mostly still good food but there was no effective way to store it or distribute it so the decision was made to dump it. I do recall some of the smallgoods and frozen strawberries being quite popular back at the hostel. At one point we made the mistake of putting too much butter and other soft things into the truck at once and it became too sloppy for the paddle mechanism to push into the truck. We had to go and get boxes of cereals from the shop to thicken it up a bit. It looked a bit like a large cake mix for a while. The open freezers on the shop floor were particularly nasty. I remember the no longer frozen chickens and turkeys had started to decompose and inflate the plastic coverings like footballs. Sometimes when picking them up the bags would burst releasing evil gases. Not a job for those with weak stomachs! I think we did the cleanup for about a week until it was taken over by the Navy and Army relief workers. It was an interesting time and I got to achieve a boyhood dream and drive a garbage truck. 2. The post-cyclone hockey games. A few weeks after the cyclone (I can't recall exactly when, but the Banks Hockey Club newsletter Banknotes had a story about it) the Darwin hockey community decided to get together and play at the old fields at Alawa. One aim was to see what remained of the community and how we would get our competition (and social lives) restarted. A good crowd of folks turned out and a men's and a women's game played. (I have some photos of the day). Many of the people played barefoot because shoes were in short supply. It was a while before the competition resumed but the spirit of the community on that day was quite remarkable. 3. The census. Sometime after the cyclone, when things had settled down somewhat the authorities decided to conduct a census to get a better idea of how many people remained, what their circumstances and needs were, and what skills they had that might be useful in the recovery efforts. A whole lot of us public servants were put to work with clipboards and torches to do the job. I recall that we started late in the day so that we could catch people at "home". Of course it took much longer than expected to get through the number of streets we were allocated, partly because so many of the folks that we encountered wanted to have a chat. Some of them even insisted that we indulge in a cold drink at the end of the day and it was hard to refuse. So the census work stretched well into the night and became a lot more interesting as it got darker. Many places had signs warning looters and other trespassers to keep out or be shot, so it was a little un-nerving to walk up to them in the dark. We were careful to make sure that we weren't "sneaking up" on anybody, particularly if the sound of our approach might be muffled by the noise of a generator, which by that time most people had. As far as I know a good time was had by all and nobody was shot. As for the census information - who knows?,


This story was made as part of the ABC Open and Northern Territory Library Cyclone Tracy storytelling workshop program.,


Cyclone Tracy, 1974,

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Cyclone Tracy Story Project Agreement,

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https://hdl.handle.net/10070/521803, https://hdl.handle.net/10070/521805,