Campbelltown’s oldest residents help ‘keep history alive’

Vital contributors: Norm Campbell, 95, and Elsie Evans, 96, have both contributed to Campbelltown Library's oral histories collection. Picture: Chris Lane
Vital contributors: Norm Campbell, 95, and Elsie Evans, 96, have both contributed to Campbelltown Library's oral histories collection. Picture: Chris Lane

“People pass away and their memories go with them – that’s why it’s so important we get them recorded.”

Campbelltown’s oldest residents always have some good stories to share.

It’s lucky, then, that Campbelltown’s HJ Daley Library has a collection of oral histories recorded with senior citizens.

Local studies librarian Andrew Allen runs the oral histories program and said the recordings were an invaluable way to safeguard Campbelltown’s history.

“The oral histories are interviews with Campbelltown residents, most of whom have lived here most or all of their lives – usually people of a fair age,” he said.

“They have lots of memories of Campbelltown from throughout their lives, and the changes that have happened over the years.

“It is so important to get these memories down because this history can easily be lost to time.”

Mr Allen has conducted dozens of interviews over the past decade and has also begun digitising histories recorded in the 1970s.

One of the oral history contributors was 95-year-old Bradbury resident Norm Campbell.

The lifelong Campbelltown man recorded his interview in 2011 and talked about “a whole range of things”.

One of Mr Campbell’s most memorable experiences in Campbelltown in his 95 years was covering the Wally Mellish siege in Glenfield as a cameraman for Seven News.

“The siege was one of the strangest things I can remember,” he said.

“I was there for a fortnight and it was just crazy.”

The siege occurred in July, 1968 and saw Mr Mellish – then 22 – take his 19-year-old girlfriend and baby son hostage after police came to question him about car thefts. It lasted eight days.

Police eventually gave Mr Mellish a rifle, as he had requested, and organised for him to marry his girlfriend at the house.

Mr Campbell said remembering history was the “fabric of community” and he dreaded the thought that it could be lost.

Elsie Evans, aged 96, also recorded an interview for the oral histories in January.

Mrs Evans is a member of the Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society and has lived here since the 1950s.

“We talked a lot about the differences in Campbelltown from then and now,” she said.

“There were hardly any cars on the road when I arrived.

“Medical services were so far away – you’d have to travel to so long in trains and buses to see doctors. 

“The area really opened up when the medical services arrived.”

Mrs Evans said she was happy to play her part in “keeping Campbelltown’s history alive” and said residents were lucky to have a resource such as the oral histories at their fingertips.

Details: Campbelltown Library.