Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Newcastle as it was - 1945

My thanks to Greg Howley for alerting me to this one. The following video posted on-line by Bob Cook is simply called Story of a  City - Newcastle 1945.

Story of a City - Newcastle 1945 from bob cook on Vimeo.

For those who don't know Newcastle, the video brings out very clearly the character of the city as it was in 1945. It also helps explain some of the differences in life and character between Newcastle and the coal fields and areas of New England further north.

This is a self-contained industrial world; political Labor Party and unions, a company town, a very large urban centre by New England standards. The inability to properly bridge this gap cost us the 1967 self-government plebiscite.

Looking at the video from a modern perspective, the steel works is long gone. The busy CBD thronged with people, the CBD I knew when I first stayed in Newcastle, is now something of a wasteland. Many things have been added to Newcastle since the film was originally made, the university is one example, but too many there has been a loss of character and identity.   


Greg said...

Jim, the character of the city has changed enormously since 1945.

Notice the trams. Just 5 years on and Newcastle's extensive tram network (exceeded only by Sydney and Melbourne) was closed by a state government keen to avoid the investment needed to maintain and upgrade the system.

Lake Macquarie is no longer just Newcastle's picnic destination. Newcastle's sprawl now incorporates much of Lake Macquarie and the Lake resident population now exceeds that of Newcastle itself. Waterfront properties on the Lake now routinely come with million dollar price tags.

The earthquake changed the face of the city in 1989 and many fine old buildings were destroyed or extensively damaged and subsequently demolished. The hustle and bustle of Hunter Street is gone and most of the retailing has deserted the city for the suburbs. David Jones closed it's Newcastle Hunter Street store at the end of January 2011 leaving not a single notable retailer in the city.

BHP exited the city in 1999 so the smoke stacks are gone, the air is cleaner and the busy 4.00pm BHP afternoon rush is a thing of the past. Once every Newcastle family had a family member, friend or neighbour who worked at the BHP. More people are now employed in services than industry.

The renowned Royal Newcastle Hospital has also closed and there is no longer any hospital close to the city. It has been replaced by the John Hunter Hospital about 10km to the south west of the city.

Coal now dominates the harbour more than ever before accounting for 95% of the export tonnage.

Houses in the beachside suburbs of Bar Beach and Merewether can no longer be purchased for the equivalent of a days wages per week. Million dollar properties are common there now - even for relatively modest homes.

It is a very different place today. Not all changes have been good.

Jim Belshaw said...

Very interesting, Greg. How do you think these changes have changed the culture of the city?