25. 12. 2015

After The Flood

I end up spending 5 nights at Swan Reach Landing. I know the locals especially the ones with dogs;  Michael and Brownie;  Lefty and Sasha;   and Jock and his human. The Egret has landed – a stately Little Egret fishes every afternoon at 3pm near where the boat is moored. As the caretaker of this place he seems unperturbed by my presence and after 5 days I feel I am under his watchful eye too. It hasn’t taken long to belong, although the locals tell me it takes decades to be called a local just like any country town in Australia.

Swan Reach has always intrigued me,  I think I came here first 25 years ago. The ferry or punt as it used to be called, and the old hotel up on the hill are perfectly positioned for the legends and stories of by gone days. You can imagine in the hey day before the rail roads when the paddle steamers came through with holiday makers and the river was clean – I’ve met people in SR who remember when the river was clear as a bell and their child hood games included ducking for pebbles on the bottom of the river –  The old bank, as in money, half way up the winding road and the pub are a back drop to wild stories I make up, romantic nostalgic stories……blame the scenery. What stands out most however is the amount of times the locals mention the 1956 flood. Sooner or later in the thick of the conversation the 1956 flood will surface. One local remarked “The towns never been the same – not since the flood.” “The 56 flood” I pick up, enjoying that I can contribute one thing to the conversation. But the 56 flood needs no such preamble,  it is simple known as “The Flood”. For 9 months in 1956 most of the roads and buildings around the lower part of town were underwater.  Thats as long as it takes to grow a baby!

Born and raised in the area Josephine Whyte, or Josie as she is known, lived here in the town of Swan Reach till 1969. Her Dad managed the legendary Swan Reach Hotel for 22 years. Josie returned in 1990 to run a business but when that closed Josie was convinced it was the end of any rewarding work in the area. She was pleasantly surprised when she found employment first at Swan Reach General Store and then at Landmark, a store for rural supplies. Josie now volunteers at the local OP shop,  tOP Shop of the Town.  After 6 years as the Liaison Officer for the tOP Shop of the Town Josie is still passionate and committed to it. She enjoys not having pressure of paid work and “ it’s just a nice feeling giving back to community”. This is no ordinary Op Shop,  there is a pretty fine espresso machine and a couple of comfy sofas to sit on and drink your coffee. When I first visit there are 6 women sitting on the sofas drinking coffee and holding court.  I feel I have hit the honey pot of the towns marketing and main line to town goings on. One woman tells me it is her home away from home, being on her own it provides her with company and support as well as a way to contribute. By the time I leave the tOP Shop of the Town I have been offered a block of land, at a very reasonable price, on the hill over looking the town.  I like this town – maybe I could move here? After the Flood 2

Susie Skinner

Country Arts SA recognises and respects that we are living and creating on Aboriginal Lands and we are committed to working together to honour their living cultures.