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Born-local reflects on life of wharfs and good looking girls

Norman Wyatt is born and raised in Gladstone. Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer
Norman Wyatt is born and raised in Gladstone. Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer Brenda Strong

In this week's 'Everyone has a story', we meet long-time Gladstone resident Norman Wyatt.

IF YOU were to take a drive through town with Norman Wyatt, chances are he'll point out the three NRG chimneys that overlook the city.

"You see those three chimneys, I cut the steel for those," Norm said.

It's a story his family has heard one too many times, but Norm still tells it with pride.

At 92, Norm is your definitive local.

He was born here, raised his family here and has seen Gladstone grow from "a heap of mudflats" to the prosperous industrial town it is today.

He represents what many people say has been lost in Gladstone - community, passion and hard work topped off with a cracker sense of humour.

When asked what the best thing about Gladstone is, Norm cheekily replies: "All the good-looking girls".

He's quick to correct himself.

"No, Mabs (Colleen) was the best looking girl in town," he said.

"I remember the first time I saw her. She was walking down Goondoon St.

"I was talking to some mates of mine and they told me I had no chance."   

Norman Wyatt is born and raised in Gladstone. Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer
Norman Wyatt is born and raised in Gladstone. Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer Brenda Strong

At first Mabs wasn't interested, but Norm persisted.

"I used to walk with her down the road," he said. "We gradually became friends."

It was the start of a friendship that would last more than 70 years.

Norm and Mabs were married on February 2 in 1942.

"I thought I was god's gift to women," he said. "You could say she brought me back down to earth."

Norm sadly lost Mabs earlier this year.

Her photo is one of many that sits on the coffee table in the house they shared since 1962.

The lounge room is full of photographs, mostly family photos.

Some framed wall medals hang on the wall.

Like many young Australians, Norman was called up to join the army in 1940.

He was away on and off over the next five years.

"They were some of the worst days of my life because it meant I had to leave my wife and my little girl," he said.

"When I came back, it was a bit hard settling in because I'd been with the chaps for so long."

After the war, Norman returned to work on the Gladstone wharf.

His father and grandfather had both been wharfies; you could say it ran in the family.

He worked on the wharf for many years until an accident forced him to try something else.

"I fell down the hold of a ship and hurt my back," he said.

"I got out and worked for ARC Engineering for 12 years, cutting steel and that sort of thing."

But the lure of the wharf was too strong.

Norm returned to the job at 62, working as a casual until he retired at 65.

These days, he spends a lot of time sitting and thinking.

"I like to listen to all the political brawls on the television," he said. 

"Being an old wharfie, you know which side I'd take."

Topics:  everyone has a story gladstone history



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