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Getting There

Bogged ute near Ti-Tree Well, 1937Hopeful men took the rough track north of Alice heading for the gold fields of Tennant Creek. During the Great Depression men took to the roads seeking ways of earning a living, some left families in southern cities, others struck out on their own to make their fortune – but many were single men.

Nancy Mannion came to Tennant Creek in 1936 and vividly recalled the journey:

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Well, it was terribly rough. It took us over two weeks to get from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek. I went up just at the end of the Wet season and all the roads were bogged. There was no proper road. There was just a dirt track, you know, with great potholes everywhere, and washaways where the trucks had been trying to get through and been bogged. We’d go in and out, in and out, around trees and everything you know to get – we had to stop and wait when the truck’d break down. We had one of those old – what do you call it? Sort of utility. It was a mail truck really but it was, you know, very old and kept breaking down. The old mail chap, the driver, his name was – what was it now? Anyway, I forget. Well he was rough and ready, you know…

I was starting to think, you know what have I taken on? Anyway, I came up with Mrs Peggy Nelson and she was – I don’t know if you know the Nelsons? Anyway, they’re an old family in Alice Springs, and she was born in Alice Springs. And she knew the Territory very well. She’d been born on a cattle station. And she was a big help on the road. If I ever thought I was sorry, she made me laugh. Oh, the truckdriver was Sam Irvine, and she knew him very well from Alice Springs – Sam. If he got wild or swore she’d say, now Sam, quieten down. Everything will be all right. We’d get out. He had one of these tuckerboxes. It was make of cast iron, I reckon. And a loaf of bread and he kept a huge knife and he’d cut a bit off, you know. And bully beef. I’d never tasted bully beef in my life. It tasted good. When we broke down we’d have a rest and something to eat. It was rough all right! I tell you what – I enjoyed the billy tea. Gee, I was thirsty!

I think it was the best tea I ever tasted that billy tea. Anyway, we got to Tennant Creek eventually and I think I was about the only single woman there…

[Northern Territory Archives Service NTRS 226, TS89 and NTRS 219, TP 227, Nancy Mannion]
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