Tom Pritchett

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I was born in 1935 and at that time, my family lived at 32 Banksia St. I do not remember living there and the first home I recall was at 30 Latrobe Ave, where we lived when my father enlisted in the Army in 1940. We later moved to 19 Fairfield Ave, then next door to 21 Fairfield Ave.
Apart from the ever-present coal dust and Maryvale paper mill when the wind was from the east, Yallourn was a great place to grow up in. It had probably the best facilities in the Valley, catering for education, medical, sporting, recreational and varied community activities.
The general store sold everything under one roof, with the grocers in long white aprons and an overhead pulley system where your docket and money was sent to a central cashier and your change returned. Blocks of ice were purchased from the butchers shop and taken home in an old pram.
Churches were very part of the community, supporting many activities including football, tennis, table tennis and dances at St John's. The big dare was to ring the bell at St John's and get away before the minister caught you. Other events that stand out for me were the visits of the Queen and the Victorian Governor, Sir Dallas Brooks. The English test team playing on No 1 Oval and the parade of the V2 Rocket also impressed me.
Local identities also stood out - Father Walsh, Amos Woods, Doc Andrew, Miss Rose and Col Webster, who seemed to be involved in everything. Then there was the High School with assembly on the oval and marching into class, the inter-school sports, the girls and boys in our forms and the teachers. All of our teachers were capable and dedicated, or so it seemed to me. The one that impressed me the most was Miss Hewitt who taught Music and French. She helped me a lot. I could not sing, still can't, bnut she had me singing in the Gilbert & Sullivan on speech night. She also gave me a good talking to at times. Many eyars later, I renewed friendship with her and husband, Ian Wynd and she said, in her Miss Hewitt voice, "For heavens sake Tom, call us Nellie & Ian". I did, but to me they will always be Miss Hewitt and Mr Wynd - we really did respect teachers in those days!
In July of 1945, the Postmaster delivered a telegram informing us of the death of our father while a prisoner of war on the infamous Burma Siam railway. That caused our family to become involved with Legacy, who took an active interest in our schooling and employment, our Legatee was Col Benson and he was always there if we needed help.
In 1955, Wally George, who was the local Senior Constable of Police and also my football coach, advised me to join the Police Force. I did and as a result, I left the Valley. I later married Maureen Barrett from Newborough. We had been sweethearts from age fifteen and we were married in St John's. I spent 20 years in the Force and then was appointed Security Manager for the Ports of Melbourne & Westernport. In 1989, I retired and we moved to Alexandra where we became involved in many community activities. In 2008, we decided to move back to the Valley.
Early in 2009, we moved to Morwell and it was like coming home. We had kept in touch with friends from our early Yallourn days, mainly the extended Kerr, Embry and Stares families and also had attended many of the Back-To functions. Each Anzac Day, since the war, I have laid a wreath at the Anzac Day ceremonies at Yallourn and later at Newborough.
As we are becoming involved with the community, we keep meeting people we knew when we were younger and after a few minutes of conversation, it is as if we had never left. Our daughter lives in the Valley and with her family, other relatives and old friends, we have been made very welcome. The Valley may have changed, but the people have not. It is good to be back. Both Maureen and I are with Legacy and many of our widows remember us and we have chats about the early days in the Valley.
My memories of Yallourn are of a very good town with very good supportive people, and it will always be so...Tom

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