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Council Workers in the 1950s
Title : Council Workers in the 1950s Council Workers in the 1950s
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Creator : Bob Perry
Place Of Creation : SA
Format : Photograph
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MEMORIES .... Council workers


There was always excitement when the council workers came to your street.

If it was to be a large project it was like a travelling circus.

There would be drays or carts pulled by horses, and in my younger years steam powered road rollers and motor driven cranes for lifting pipes.

The excavators were caterpillar tracked , open air and worked by winding cables around a windlass.

We are talking "basic" equipment. Council workers didn't have luxuries.

Most of the workers would arrive on pushbikes .. some in the drays .. and some on the backs of trucks where they had canvas covered shelters with inbuilt wooden seats.

When they arrived each day they would slide the shelters off the back of the trucks onto the ground and that's where they would gather for their smoko and lunch.

It always seemed the most important thing they would do on arrival was to get the billy going.

They'd either light a fire in a bucket or somewhere .. or even balance the huge kettle on the furnace they would need for melting pitch or bitumen. Occasionally they would need a furnace to melt lead for joining steel pipes.

These were tough men, and because it was a dirty job they'd dress for the part.

They all wore felt hats .. pants held up with strong oversized belts .. some even used a piece of rope wrapped around their waist to keep their "tweeds" up. This was as well as the braces most wore.

In summer they'd work in blue singlets. In winter probably a flannelette shirt and an old suit coat.

Football jumpers were popular too.

I can remember vividly the smells and sounds of the steamroller as it slowly trundled up the street.

There was the thump .. thump .. thump of the motor as the huge flywheel spun around, the smell of the coal burning in the boiler, and the rattling sound of the roller as it rumbled over the stones.

Everywhere you looked on the roller there were wheels. Some whizzing, some turning and others spun every once in a while to keep the giant machine on track.

Every part had a grease nipple and there were small tins of oil hung at various places for dabbing on parts.

Then there were the pumps. Whenever they were working on deep drainage they were close to the underground water level. As fast as they could dig a trench it would fill with water.

So council workers and water works labourers had to use huge pumps to continually pump the trenches. They had one and two cylinder engines so they plodded all day and all night spewing mud and water into drains or just down roads and into paddocks.

To add to the noise would be pile drivers which drove planks down the sides of the trenches to stop them from caving in on the workers.

When the circus came to your street you certainly knew about it.

The road would be lined with red kerosene lamps on metal spikes ... water and mud was everywhere .. there were sand bags and pieces of timber ... piles of lumps of bitumen or even wood blocks in some streets where the roads were paved with them.

Many of these worksites had to have a watchman whose job was to continually fill the kero lamps, top up the fuel in the pumps and keep kids from falling down the trenches.

Other smaller worksites would have a "lamp man" who rode a bike with a kerosene tank on the back and little metal funnels and dippers hanging from brackets. He would ride from site to site making sure the kero lights were lit.

There wasn't a hard hat, a set of earmuffs or a hi-visability vest in sight.

The equipment was primitive and anything that needed lifting or moving was done with ropes or cables. Much of the machines had caterpillar tracks , solid steel wheels, or if it was modern ... solid rubber tires. Just getting the equipment to the site was a marathon, and when they left it took just as long to clean up.

When we shifted into our new house at Albert Park the road was unmade which meant in summer it was a dust bowl and in winter it was a quagmire

Just imagine what it was like after repairs to drains in the street.

Later we had the luxury of a "cinder" road, which was crushed coke .. what was left of the coal after it was burned to produce gas and electricity at the power station.

Now when it rained we had black mud .. and in the summer .. black dust.

They were the days.

Place : Albert Park SA
Region : Adelaide metropolitan area



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