Rewind: 1989

THE CHOOK STRUTS ITS STUFF

“Here we are – all yours.”

With this chirpy greeting, the Fremantle Herald hits the streets for the first time on Thursday, November 30, 1989.

Promising quality journalism that delves beyond the press release, the Herald aims to be a “newspaper of conscience, reflecting the unique qualities that make Fremantle and its suburbs so very special”.

Our first editorial draws on the working class spirit of the original colonial-era Herald and its convict publishers, noting the renewed interest in Fremantle – sparked by the America’s Cup – made a voice for an active community more vital than ever.

The paper’s tiny staff included publisher Andrew Smith, who’s still at the helm, editor Sian Martin, reporter/sub-editor Val Buchanan, cadet Brian Mitchell, advertising salespeople Tony Watkins and Natalie Hug, production co-ordinator Ross Leipold and photographer Fiona Girvan-Brown and office manager Megan Gillan.

There were also a host of regular contributors in the first days who played a pivotal role in keeping the paper going.

VARSITY BLUES

Our first edition covered a topic that had already been bubbling along; Notre Dame University gobbling up buildings and land in preparation for its inauguration, which was still two years away.

In Notre Dame’s sites are the old nurses quarters on Hampton Road, which it wants to use for student accommodation.

Only problem is that it’s already occupied by the Youth Hostel Association, which is none too pleased to discover why the Dowding government has been dragging its heels on a new lease.

But rumours the university even has eyes on hilltop property at John Curtin High School have boss Geoffrey Kiel scratching his head: “I don’t even know where John Curtin High School is,” he groans.

During the year the uni’s financial position starts to dip, along with key backer, businessman Dennis Horgan, and there’s talk they’ll open with 50 students in one building.

BEACH HEYDAY

A group of prominent Freo businesspeople, including Sealanes founder Victor Paino and Davilak Hotel proprietor Stan Lenton, float plants to rebuild the South Beach jetty.

Backed by councillor Dennis Sowden, the group get architect’s plans drawn up for a promenade that would re-establish the southern beach to its heyday, when thousands of people flocked there on warm days.

DOG DAYS

The South Fremantle Football Club is in a financial crisis, falling a year behind on its rent at Fremantle Oval and owing the local council $40,000.

But that’s just scratching the surface of its problems, as Paul Keating’s “recession that Australia had to have” is just around the corner and pushing interest rates sky high.

The club’s payments on its debt are $60,000 on their own, while dividends from the WAFL have been slashed, leaving the club with a daunting half-million dollar bill.

The Bully’s face eviction from the oval, which would essentially mean the end of the 89-year-old club, and are looking at selling some assets to get out of the mire.

HARBOUR HIGH-RISE

Fremantle’s port authority flags plans for an eight-storey office block – with sweeping ocean views – attached to the side of its existing operations tower.

The plan has been brewing for 18 months with plans drawn up, and a special taskforce formed to look at the future of Victoria Quay.

WAREHOUSE CHIC

When Fremantle council refuses a demolition application to knock down the old Adams Electrics site in central Freo, it inadvertently sparks an architectural revolution in the city.

Scratching their heads about what to do with the building they’re now stuck with, real estate agent John Dethridge and architect Brian Klopper come up with the idea of recycling the building into luxury apartments.

Most developers only want flattened sites, but Brian Harris reckons he snapped up the project as soon as it was pitched to him.

“There’s an extraordinary demand for single-occupier dwellings,” he reckons.

It’s not long before everyone’s scouting the city for its under-used warehouses; in an eerie coincidence the owners of Fort Knox Self Storage go into receivership.

HOSPITAL UPGRADE

Fremantle Hospital is to get a $63 million upgrade (that’s a bucket-load back then) which will see it double in size over five years.

A major component of the works will be a new psychiatric unit which will replace the ageing Heathcote Hospital when it closes in a couple of years.

It’s expected to bring in an additional 400 staff into Fremantle.

JACKED OFF

Freo’s food goes fast, with Hungry Jacks getting approval to open a store on the cappuccino strip.

It’s the first time one of the big fast food companies have got a toe-hold on the strip, and many locals are up in arms, saying it detracts from what makes the port city special.

Kentucky Fried Chicken don’t fare so well this time round, being told by Freo council not to set up in the Homemaker Centre on South Street, O’Connor.

TIP BYPASS

“We really still don’t know what has been buried there. If we did anything to the tip at all, it should be to plant what areas we can with trees and leave it for 20 years for future generations.”

He was only 10 years out, but Fremantle council’s planning chairman Bill Latter was on the money about the old South Fremantle landfill site.

The council sparks outrage as it puts forward a plan to drive a road through the disused dump.

An extraordinary solution pushed by a group of committed South Fremantle residents is to get the Fremantle Eastern Bypass pushed through, saying it would alleviate traffic congestion on Hampton and Douro Roads.

Also sitting in the wings is a plan for the North Perth Croatia Soccer Club to build a $900,000 international-class soccer stadium there.

AND NOW IT’S ON

Main Roads and Fremantle council decide to take a fresh look at how to get the decades-old Bypass plan back up and running.

Ironically, the residents of White Gum Valley who vow to fight the asphalt are the ones that put it back on the agenda.

They’d been complaining about increasing traffic in their little suburb, so Freo council sent them a questionnaire asking about solutions – including the bypass.

When more than half reckoned that sounded like a good idea, the investigation was on, though WGV P&C boss Heather Smedley reckoned the question had so little info about the plan that it was meaningless.

ORANGE TURNS WHITE

Hundreds of white-clad Rajneesh devotees dance the night away at the East Fremantle Rowing Club after news that their guru Baghwan, or Osho as he’s now known, has died at his Indian commune in Pune.

Originally known, and named, for their orange robes, many of the Osho community plan trips to India to join the thousands of other devotees from around the world who have already flocked there to pay their respects.

SQUARING OFF

PLANS for a sculpture in Kings Square inevitably split the community, with a model put on public display widely panned as “too modern”.

Most respondents to a council survey say they’d like to see more trees instead, as the square had become a “sorrowful, scorching expanse” with not enough shade.

The backlash is enough to see the model and its larger cousin consigned to the bin.

OOH LA LA

A burning French flag and rotting seaweed greeted four French navy ships berthed in Fremantle during February, with local Greenpeace activists expressing their fury at ongoing nuclear tests in the Pacific in truly Freo style.

COMPLEX FINANCES

The Queensgate cinema and shopping complex in Fremantle opens in June to great fanfare, even if the council hasn’t quite managed to find tenants for all the shops.

The development was supposed to be the equivalent of a super account for the council, but as later mayors were to discover, it wasn’t a great commercial success, the cinema was soon muscled out by Millennium and the interest repayments crippling.

Even a planned opening in March is a fizzer after the building fails fire brigade regulation and it has to be delayed.

PARACHUTES

Local Labor party branch members are upset when moustachioed unionist Jim McGinty is parachuted into preselection.

Although he was educated in Fremantle, the party power broker now lives in Woodlands, prompting former East Freo mayor Helen Mills to nominate so there’s someone local rattling the can for Freo.

But Mr McGinty has an ace up his sleeve; he promises to scrap the Fremantle Bypass completely, and he’s not even waiting until after the election.

True to his word, a week before voters go to the polls, planning minister Kay Hallahan directs the State Planning Commission to delete it from the city’s planning scheme.

No doubt it helps his campaign and Labor takes power; albeit relying on Greens preferences.

FISHY IDEA

Fremantle becomes the centre for a world-first experiment destined to transform fishing throughout the world.

The plan is to cultivate thousands of fish in huge sea cages, which will be dotted along the WA coast.

“It will be a boon for people who fish for recreation because the professionals won’t need to rely on wild capture so much,” says TAFE senior lecturer Wayne Hastings.

Based on South Mole, the TAFE maritime studies department believe their plan will be the most commercially viable of its kind anywhere on Earth.

AGE-OLD CONCERNS

When Labor decides to allocate land bordering John Curtin High School and the Fremantle Arts Centre to the Italian community for an old folks’ home, the Greens see red.

The say there’s been zero consultation and the plan puts paid to JCHS’s dreams of a nature reserve with walkways, they claim.

But new MLA Jim McGinty scoffs at their claims, saying the decision was quick, but widely touted.

The deal’s soon off, but the Italians ultimately get their land a bit further out in White Gum Valley.

PRISON ESCAPE

Fremantle prison’s anachronistic use as a Victorian-era lock-up is due to come to an end in the next year or two, so there’s lots of conjecture about its future.

Demolition is definitely on the cards, as it’s been described by a former prison’s director as a “seaside resort for white ants”.

But works minister Pam Buchanan eases local concerns with the release of a conservation plan which flags non-profit, but self-finding activities to pay for its upkeep.

GOT THE TROTS

The year trots to an end with the future of East Fremantle’s Richmond Raceway very much in the spotlight.

The Fremantle Trotting Club has been told by the sport’s governing body that Perth can only support one raceway but defiantly votes to keep its race carnival going.

That could see the club being stripped of its racing licence.

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