Smelters history preserved

THE colourful but little-known history of a shanty town which existed in the sand hills along the Cockburn Coast for decades has been collated for a new exhibition.

The Smelters Camp, or Hollywood as other wags named it, was situated near Robb Jetty and was home to a variety of life’s strugglers from the late 1800s through to the 1960s; often their homes were built from materials salvaged from the nearby tip.

Local historian Julie Raffaele has followed the stories of nearly 200 people connected with the camp to put together a report and display, which is at Cockburn’s libraries.

Ms Raffaele said the Smelter Camp’s history was one of heroism, villainy, and everyday life.

While the beach camp was seen as “notorious” there were many law-abiding citizens who found themselves living there after falling on hard times through no fault of their own.

Crime trio

Among the stories of the camp are one about a heroic rescue from quicksand, an infamous crime trio, and a woman who informed her former husband she was remarrying through a witty verse published in the local paper.

The research makes good use of written sources, particularly archived newspapers and electoral records.

In some cases, Ms Raffaele was able to interview family members of those who had lived in the camp, including William Herdigan, who lived there as a child with his mother Maxine in the 1950s.

Ms Raffaele said development of the coastline was erasing the physical evidence of the camp, so it was important to compile the stories of the camp to preserve them.

“The kinds of issues people are dealing with now are the kinds of issues people were dealing with then,” Ms Raffaele said, citing homelessness, migration, and prejudice.

by MIREILLE CHRISTIE

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