If asked to describe in one word the happiest memory of growing up in Esperance, Graham Yuill would say, “freedom”.
In part one of his story Graham’s recollections reflect why.
“I was born on March 2, 1963 at the Esperance Hospital, the youngest of three following my brother, Raymond and sister, Helen.
Dad came to Esperance in 1961 with Mobil Oil to set up a depot, initially on a six month contract.
Mum, Mary and my siblings followed when the position became permanent.
They lived in the old McGinty flats in Coleman St.
There was no power, only a kerosene fridge, tilly lamps and a small two burner gas stove.
The power was put on later but Mum was amazingly resourceful during that time.
She would always smile, move right along and was a strong family woman with values to match.
As young kids we could go anywhere with our mates.
The Esperance Primary School oval was the meeting spot for cricket, football and a game of British Bulldog.
As I got older we would jump on our bikes and head out fishing, swimming or exploring around Dempster Head.
There was no television in those days so we made our own fun!
We learnt to swim at the old jetty with the trusty diving board and the catwalk alongside.
No supervision, you just worked out for yourself if you were a strong enough swimmer to be at the jetty. I think it is called common sense!
Sport was easy, we would train for both hockey and football then ride home in the dark.
No such thing as Mum or Dad picking up or dropping off.
I rode to school right up to Year 12 when I got my licence and commandeered Dad’s short wheel based 4WD.
This was fantastic and opened up the world of drive-ins and more freedom to explore with my mates.
As a family we spent many Sundays in the garden or doing jobs around home.
After a Sunday roast dinner we would head out beach fishing or just go for a drive to catch up with friends.
Anything sport related started off at the YMCA in the old RSL Hall opposite the Esperance Primary School where the Civic Centre now stands.
They had good leaders who organised camps at Hellfire Bay – which you could only reach by 4WD.
Rough tracks, kite competitions and long hikes were all part of the experience and best of all, time spent with your father.
In summer if we weren’t at the beach or going out on Doug Slater’s yacht we were at the Yacht Club. During this time I sailed with farmer Wal – John Wallace in the Vee Jay class.
He was a fiery skipper who could string words together that I had never heard before but we had fantastic fun on the water.
Nothing better than coming in cold and wet, having a hot shower, sharing stories with other crews before heading off to the drive-in. Happy memories!
During my High School years I developed a passion for horses through a lovely man, Gino Altieri who allowed my friend, Tony Triscari and me to ride two mares on his small property.
I was hooked!
I then started to ride at Dianne Neil’s riding school and found that all I wanted to do was spend time with these gentle, non-judgmental animals.
I enjoyed most subjects at school but had a serious aversion to concentration and bumbled my way through Year 11 and 12.
It was during Year 11 that we lost Mum to cancer.
This absolutely destroyed me as she was the fabric of our family.
Ray was in the Navy and Helen at Teacher’s College so Dad had to deal with his own loss while being strong for me.
I will never forget the amazing support of the extended Esperance community, particularly the Pavlinovich, Slater, Sharpe and Johnson families. Again sport saved the day.
In Year 12 I represented the school as a Prefect for Rossiter faction, captained the swim team and went to Country week for hockey and football.
I still love to hear news of the Year 12 group of 1980, it is a time I will never forget.”
Where to after Esperance? Read Part 2 in next week’s edition of The Esperance Express to find out.