Skylab local link lost

Whirlwind tour: Stan, his girlfriend Jo Motzel and his mother Elsie Thornton, stopping at Walt Disney World in Florida and meeting Mickey Mouse. Photo: Supplied.
Whirlwind tour: Stan, his girlfriend Jo Motzel and his mother Elsie Thornton, stopping at Walt Disney World in Florida and meeting Mickey Mouse. Photo: Supplied.

In 1979, America’s NASA Skylab spacecraft burnt up over southern WA, scattering wreckage across the state.

The space laboratory delivered an unexpected chapter into the history of Esperance where its fiery re-entry was viewed in the night skies.  

Esperance residents Stan and Elsie Thornton, along with their son (Stan), inadvertently became a part of Skylab history and the accompanying media sensation when small pieces of the Skylab fell in their yard.

They were flown to the United States by NASA as Stan (17) claimed a reward for the return of the first pieces of the ill-fated space craft.

Sadly, a local link to the episode was lost last month, with the passing of Elsie.

Elsie was from a well-known family in the region. Elsie’s grandfather, Heinrich (Henry) Dimer, established Nanambinia Station located 322 kilometres east of Norseman and 40 kilometres south.  

German born Henry Dimer arrived in 1884 on the barque Platina, and made his way east working for several years around Israelite Bay.

He found employment alongside settlers, Campbell Taylor from Lynburn station and John Paul Brooks of Balbinia station.

In 1899 he married Topsy Whitehand a local girl from Israelite Bay and settled there for a period of time.

In 1901 Henry Dimer officially became a naturalised pastoralist, taking up two leases before establishing Nanambinia.

The acute water shortage on Nanambinia country was a continuing source of hardship unlike that of other neighbouring landholdings where water was obtainable at shallow depths or had rock catchments.

The Dimer homestead was built in stages as their family grew; together they raised nine children 2 girls and 7 boys.

Topsy made a valuable and proven contribution being up with the skills of the day and the demands placed on woman pioneers living in such remoteness.

Every improvement made over the years on the station was the result of patient and arduous hard manual toil.

There were other family groups who also lived and worked at the remote sheep station settlement with the Dimer Family.

The strength of the Dimer patriarch was a love of family and the land; it remained a strong family characteristic.

Despite challenges, the Dimer family found time to help out neighbours with building, shearing or carting wool and supplies.

They transported and delivered all their own supplies using their large and magnificent camel and horse teams.

The wool bales loaded on the motor trucks used in later years still presented an awesome sight.

The family remained living at Nanambinia as each generation followed their forebears long after other historic homesteads and stations were abandoned and left to fall into ruins.