It’s a hundred years tomorrow since the BHP Newcastle Steelworks opened. Alongside the stories of trades and labourers who spent their entire working lives there are other stories of engineers, accountants, managers and admin staff who learnt the ropes, ran the place or went on to small business or other management endeavours. Then there are those who lived through the rationalisation from just over 12,000 employees to 4,500 then 1800 [golden handcuffs] and the eventual closure of the Plant [16 years ago].
I count my years as a ‘Trainee’ and then Office Worker finishing University part time as formative, a false start, and a grounding in dealing with things when your life isn’t going all your own way!! I started on 5th December 1979 and in what should have been a sign, was involved in a car accident just outside the main entrance on day one. I was stuck in the right lane and needed to turn right to go up and do a u-turn and come back, but couldn’t see the panel van coming down Maryville Bridge obscured by the truck opposite and it side swiped me as I turned right at the lights, did a 360 degree spin and ended on the footpath under the shade of the Moreton Bay fig tree now framed in the background by a McDonald’s.
Struggling at Uni I switched to Economics from Accounting and went sideways into an office job until I left to pursue my ‘vocation’ as a Youth Worker. A Bachelor of Economics was followed by a Dip Ed [S Sc] a few years later and again later some Uni Chaplaincy and now I swim laps at the Forum and have just joined the gym… I cannot escape the place…
I glossed over my leaving the Steelworks, for Normanhurst UCA to take a punt on me as Parish Assistant combining Youth Work and Pastoral Visiting at Bowden Brae Retirement Village. For many months I felt trapped, unmotivated and wondering how I’d ever be able to take the leap into the unknown of Youth Work and short term low paid ‘ministry.’ A months free home delivery of the Sydney Morning Herald meant I saw the Normo job ad and was successful in applying. I’ve managed to stay in that until the age so far of 53, while the “it’ll always be there” Steelworks is no more… funny what we see as security in a changing world.
No1 Bloom Mill Office, the Sinter Plant, Time Office and then the Stores Dept. Office… Seven years of 3 steps forward 2 steps back learning to work, to stick at things, to be next out the door but rally to next in line for promotion. All the while ‘waiting’ to know when and how to jump!!
Anyhow, I just felt a should go and take some photos this morning while I had the chance: – ‘The old grey building’ or head office is looking run down, empty and cream and caramel. I don’t think the staff dining room is serving $2.80 roast meals anymore
– The ‘Time Office’ also housed Personnel so I had the best of times and the worst of times there… a year growing up, learning about life, having hopes dashed, being shifted sideways and yet enjoying a social life
– The main gate looks like something from an old western movie with no canteen and no credit union. I thought this where the ‘Muster Point’ sculpture was and discovered it on the way back out.
– The Muster Point celebrates all things steelmaking and the people making it
I enjoyed the sense of being away from the place, reminiscing and thinking about all the faces and names of people I worked with and whose stories I knew. I laughed about my stuff ups [one was about $22 million on paper until it was picked up and the cheque not sent] others were just embarrassing moments in a sea of humanity… good times looking back, hard times, growing up times…