Life goes on for Port Kembla residents

Kelly Balfour hopes the fall of the stack marks a new beginning for Port Kembla. Picture: JOSHUA BUTLER

Kelly Balfour hopes the fall of the stack marks a new beginning for Port Kembla. Picture: JOSHUA BUTLER

Much like the lethal-looking technicolour ‘‘stack shots’’ being ordered at the bar, it was a  mix of feelings inside the Steelworks Hotel on Thurdsay.  

Some were sad about losing ‘‘their’’ stack, some happy to see it go, and some just plain not sure what the fuss was all about.

‘‘I was born June 1965, the stack went up June 1965. I’ll see my 49th birthday but it won’t,’’ said Kelly Balfour. She brought her daughter along to see what she called ‘‘history in the making’’.

‘‘I’ve outlived the stack. It coming down might be a sign of better things to come for Port.’’

Throsby MP Stephen Jones quietly arrived to chat with punters. Mr Jones said he had lived in Kembla Street for a few years in the 1980s, and was sad to see D-Day finally here.

‘‘Everyone can see it  from their kitchen window. It’s good to see the whole town out to say goodbye,’’ he said.

‘‘I hoped we could turn it into a tourist feature, but regrettably that hasn’t happened.’’

George Hokai was worried about geography and navigation.

‘‘When I have family come to visit, I tell them to drive to the top of the mountain, and head towards the big chimney,’’ he laughed.

Lake Heights man Gary Cook was enjoying a quiet moment of reflection, can of VB in hand, when asked for his thoughts.

‘‘I don’t care if it stays or goes. It’s not doing much, what’s it doing for me?’’ he asked.

‘‘Things change. Just time to move on now.’’

The mood became lighter as the morning went on. Ex-stack workers and current steelworks employees laughed and joked and yelled to the stack as if it were a person: ‘‘Hurry up!’’; ‘‘Are you ready yet?’’; ‘‘I love you stack!’’

Another gentleman made the most of the wait, singing an improvised verse of ‘‘Bringing down the stack’’ to the tune of ‘‘Burning Down The House’’ by Talking Heads. A local hero bragged about being arrested for scaling the exclusion zone fence and sleeping underneath the stack that morning.

The boom came and went with little warning, as many grumbled about failing to capture the moment on their cameras – but the jukebox kicked  into AC/DC, the beer was still cold and a barbecue began sizzling on the back deck. The big moment was over, but the  first day of post-stack Port was just beginning. 

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