COLUMN: Is it ancient history?

MACARTHUR SQUARE 40 YEARS AGO: I included this photo, from September 1979, of our first regional shopping centre opening in my recent book, Pictorial History of Campbelltown...it jogs so many memories.
MACARTHUR SQUARE 40 YEARS AGO: I included this photo, from September 1979, of our first regional shopping centre opening in my recent book, Pictorial History of Campbelltown...it jogs so many memories.

"Ding, ding, ding..."

That was a daily sound anyone of my generation grew up with locally - the warning bells at Campbelltown's railway level crossings.

Didn't matter whether you were on Narellan Road near the Catho, or at Leumeah station, or on Glenfield Road, all these crossing points had boom gates with lines of traffic waiting till a train passed.

And I'm not talking 1900.

The 1980s, even the 1990s.

Certainly in the time I've had a driver's licence and I'm (only) in my fifties.

Now completely gone... and some young drivers I was chatting to last month seemed genuinely surprised to hear about what used to be a daily ritual, and sound. "Ding, ding, ding...".

I guess it's just a reminder of how fast our world moves on... and I admit I've been surprised myself.

Like the time, about 25 years ago, I was with local historian John Wrigley and he had some (quite modern) phones stored away for Camden Museum. Why, I asked. Because all new phones had push buttons and there would be time in the near future when phones with dials seemed truly strange.

I was only reminded of that conversation with John recently when I saw a YouTube clip of modern teenagers scratching their heads as they tried to work out how to use a dial phone. Funny.

I'm sure you can all think of dozens of examples.

The old coal loader at Campbelltown station just popped into my head (once a huge landmark seen from miles away, now just a memory). Even the days when big coal trucks rumbled through Picton, one after another, the main street always covered in a layer of black dust. Hard to imagine now.

Last week, I was walking past the Macaria building in Camden (now the Alan Baker Art Gallery) and I gazed through the main front window, remembering when I used to sit in what was once the mayor's office with the late great Liz Kernohan.

How has something, that was a daily event not so long ago, now become a surprise?

Liz is now a street sign... and Camden Council is now based near where a car race track used to be. Again, a reminder that life in growth centres moves fast.

With Macarthur Square celebrating its 40th birthday last month, many of us can still remember the day it opened like it was yesterday.

The photo on this page often fascinates young locals because they are surprised to discover Big W was once a completely separate building that sat up on a hilltop overlooking the Square.

And when there was absolutely no Kellicar Road, and who remembers Scandals nightclub, Neptune's Seafood Garden and Wild Waters? No trace left.

Now, I see a touristy memorial to mark 40 years since the Razorback Truck Blockade is being opened by Wollondilly Council.

The blockade was HUGE news in 1979... I still recall the joke we used to tell at school: "Why did Malcolm Fraser grow a beard during the truckies' strike? Because they wouldn't give him his Razorback." Ho ho.

But then someone asked me: "Why did 200 trucks on the top of Razorback block all the traffic? It's so far away from the Hume Highway."

"It was the Hume Highway in 1979," I replied. It dawned on me most motorists today would think the highway has always followed its modern path... but it was only in 1980 the new stretch opened.

As Ferris Bueller warned us: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

"What's a Ferris Bueller?", will perhaps come next.