Old photo shows Port's half-built stack

On the way to high school 50 years ago, Colin Willett would walk past the Port Kembla Copper smelter stack every day, watching it grow a little taller each time he passed it.

This old photograph shows the half-built stack in the background as a 14-year-old Colin holds niece Ann in the backyard of his home on Bland Street, Port Kembla.

Mr Willett came across the photograph recently as Port Kembla Copper prepares to demolish the stack in a little over a week.

Like many long-time residents, he remembers what the walk to Port Kembla High was like as the stack went up.

"I walked past there every day going to school," he said.

"I couldn't get over the sight of those guys walking around up there [building it]."

As the Mercury met Mr Willett on Port Kembla's Church Street yesterday and looked at the stack, and at the red Australia Post letterbox near the corner, there was cause to wonder if either of them would be around for long.

Would he be sad to see the stack go? Mr Willett said yes but showed the pragmatic philosophy common to many of the area's residents.

"It's history," he said.

"It's a sad thing. Like a lot of other things, when they've outlived their usefulness, they've got to go.

"As long as they do it safely."

Mr Willett is now 64, retired to Shell Cove after a career which took him from an apprenticeship at Metal Manufactures at Port Kembla, to Talbingo dam as part of the Snowy River Hydro-Electric Scheme to working on the trains at Wollongong station.

"You're talking to someone who lived in Warrawong in the '50s and Port Kembla in the '60s," he said.

"I can tell you about some of the choking fumes we used to have in town.

"Most of it probably came from this place and the fertiliser [factory], where I used to work.

"It's a lot different these days with lots of laws about what you can do," Mr Willett said.

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