OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1970 (8)

In 1970, there was little traffic on the ‘Outback Highway’ from Laverton to Ayers Rock (Now Uluru). Four wheel drive was standard for many vehicles. High wheel base 4WD especially constructed vehicles which could negotiate rugged outback terrain were standard for tour offering company “Outback Australia”.

On occasion, a convoy of vehicles would play “follow the leader“ all the way through from Perth to Alice Springs. The lead vehicle was generally well equipped but persons coming behind in ordinary conventional vehicles would have had some difficulty in many sections of the track. I’m sure they helped each other when the need arose.

There were often 15 to 20 vehicles in the convoys. They needed to pull in at Warburton for fuel. Petrol was dispensed through the store using an ancient fuel bowser which allowed the pumping up of five or six gallons of fuel at as time from the concrete underground storage tank. Pumping the fuel up from an underground tank was done by way of lever operated by hand. When the bowser bowl was full, the fuel was then siphoned by hose from the bowl into the fuel tank of the motor car.

Whenever these convoys came into town (and they were infrequent) they would generally arrive in the late afternoon when the school day was complete. I would head over and volunteer to pump the fuel and have conversations with persons whose vehicles are being filled. When fuelled, vehicles would be driven into a secondary line developed for those ready to continue the eastern journey.

On one occasion, a vehicle with a male driver and three female passengers was in the second line. The vehicle, a quite large tourer (possibly VW), had a large Perspex roof. Nearby, some boys were kicking an old and very worn football to each other. One of the kickers sent the ball in a high and misdirected fashion into the air. The ball came down, not in the arms of one of the other players, but square onto the Perspex roof of the tourer. The roof smashed, with large and small fragments together with the football landing among the three waiting ladies. It became a case of losing a roof and gaining a football – for the boys bolted before the three women became fully aware of what had happened.

Oner thing is for sure. The next several hundred kilometres of the trip would have been very dusty indeed.

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