I am off to Mt Isa on Monday. It is a work trip, but it is 38 years since I last went there. That is a seriously long time. Makes me feel old.
Last time I was in Mt Isa, I had just turned 17 and was driving through on a nightmare, non-stop, three day, no sleep road trip from Brisbane to Darwin.
But Mt Isa has always been part of our family folklore. I remember at school, when learning about the wonderful benefits the town of Mt Isa bestowed upon our State of Queensland, indeed even our whole nation, I felt a little smug because somehow I felt connected to the place. I always knew where it sat on a map.
Mt Isa was born in the 1920s because they discovered obscene amounts of copper, lead, silver and zinc there. It is still the largest mining town in Australia. In recent times, Mt Isa has probably been one of the major factors in helping the state ride through the recent GFC so well.
My Dad was in a low paid profession. Printing. He worked for all the major printing firms in Brisbane. He must have been desperate to earn more money to feed his reasonably large family of seven (including our Grandmother who lived with us). Either that, or he saw going to work in Mt Isa as a bit of a break. If you know what I mean.
The newspaper The Mount Isa Mail was a new paper, born in 1953 out of the printing houses of Darwin. In mid 1955 they stopped printing the paper in Darwin and began printing at the paper's offices in Gardenia Street, just near the Coal Stage area, near the main gate of Mount Isa Mines.
Throughout my childhood, I remember slide nights, with Dad showing us his extensive black and white slide collection of him socialising at barbecues, riding his Matchless 500 motorbike, drinking beer in the dry Leichardt River bed. My mother would sit quietly, observing the wonderful time Dad had in Mt Isa while she slaved at home, raising the children, looking after her ailing mother.
I am too young to remember Dad going to work in Mt Isa. But I can vaguely remember him coming home. Well, mainly I can remember him bringing home presents - a rare occurrence in our poor family. I don't know if he gave me anything, I only remember that he brought home for my eldest sister a black doll. She called her 'Blackie'.
All these old memories are flooding back. I am off to Mt Isa on Monday. OK, so it is a work trip, not a holiday. But I will be walking in the footsteps of my Dad. I hope to get time to seek out the old Mount Isa Mail offices in Gardenia Street.