Some of you who have been reading my blog for a while would know I grew up in Western Sydney in a place called Penrith.
Penrith lies on the eastern bank of the Nepean River, about 50km (31 mi) west of the Sydney CBD. It’s the last major town before you start the climb up the Blue Mountains towards Lithgow and beyond.
There wasn’t a lot to do in Penrith, when I was growing up. Sure we had the Nepean Weir, The Mud Baths, The Drive-In and Castlereagh Drag Strip of course. Though, all of these places have either been closed to the public due to safety concerns, or they’ve been developed in some way since I left.
There were night clubs too, no town would be complete without a pub or a club of some kind.
There was “The Jungle Room” on Station Street, which had a reputation for bar fights and… er, bar fights. Or “The Roadworx Rock Cafe” in the basement of the Penrith (Panthers) Rugby League Club, which had a reputation for bar fights and live bands.
I frequented Panthers quite a bit because it was safer(!?) and I had the pleasure of sending myself deaf to many a live band at Roadworx: Ice House, INXS, The Angels, Radiators and Midnight Oil to name but a few.
If you had a car there was always an opportunity to escape the same old, same old.
It wasn’t unusual to see car loads of us Westies* heading into the city on a Friday or Saturday night to wind up the Wax Heads*, or drive down to Wollongong on a Sunday for a day on the beach.
As long as you stayed on the northern side of The Gong* you were OK. The beaches to the south and near Port Kembla weren’t very pleasant due to the pollution from the steel works.
The Great Western Highway (GWH) that wound its way out to Lithgow got a work out too. That road was treacherous back then, as was the Bells Line Of Road.
We had this loop we’d do from Penrith, to Lithgow via the GWH then down to Kurrajong via The Bells, then back into to Penrith along Castlereagh road.
Sometimes we’d do it in reverse just for fun… well for a few clicks anyway, it was hard looking over your shoulder for 187 km (117 miles). I think the record for a reverse loop was 2 or 3km (about 1-1/2 miles) before we got busted by the constabulary for being a bit silly.
Sadly, like me, a lot of my school mates couldn’t wait to get out of the Penrith area.
Housing was becoming expensive, job prospects were scarce and, well, you know what they say; the grass is always greener.
There were those that stayed of course, struggled through the hard times, raised families and became successful in their chosen fields. Good on ’em I say!
Do I miss Sydney?
No, not really. Brisbane has a slower pace than Sydney, and I’ve become accustomed to it now.
I do miss the Blue Mountains and all its vistas though. Particularly watching the fog rising from the valley floor on a winters morning, or listening to the Bell Birds and Honey Eaters in the bush. (Listen)
I guess your home town stays with you and you never forget where you came from do you?
Once a Westie, always a Westie.
- Westie: Westie is a term used in Sydney Australia to describe residents of the Greater Western Sydney region.
- Wax Head: Surfie (Surfer).
- The Gong: Wollongong.