Using facebook to connect with local history

A photo submitted to
‘Lost Tumut’ by Chris Nicholes –
A Princess at Blowering. 1950. As a child Princess Michael of Kent stayed several months at Oliver Lodges farm in the Blowering Valley. Photo source, the book Blowering Valley by Rhonda McDonald. For more historical photos see the Friday, March 31, edition of the Tumut and Adelong Times.

Social media sites such as Facebook are inescapable these days, and users get a lot of flack for posting endless selfies and pictures of their lunch – but some locals are using the internet for another purpose, to record and share the history of the region in a digital format.

Facebook pages such as ‘Lost Tumut,’ ‘Memories of Batlow NSW,’ and ‘I grew up in Adelong and loved it!’ have grown in popularity over the last few years, as places people can gather (so to speak) to connect and reminisce about days gone by.

Chris Nicholes lives in Marrar now, about an hour and a half away, but he said he’s looking for an opportunity to move back to Tumut.

He worked as a taxi driver during the Snowy Scheme, and regularly posts to ‘Lost Tumut’ with pictures and stories from old newspapers and books he orders online.

“I’m a bit of a hoarder; I’ve held onto a lot of old photos and I’m passionate about the history of some of these towns – I contribute to the Memories of Batlow and the Adelong page, and there’s also one in Marrar where I live,” he said.

“My daughters gave me an iPad and off I went.

“Some of the stuff I source from books and magazines and I always credit it. There’s old papers, there’s a few special issues of the Tumut and Adelong Times I’ve put aside. My wife always used to put them in a box; anything special in the paper.”

Taking an interest in local goings-on is a bit of a family business for Chris – his father John Nicholes was a writer and regular contributor to this paper.

“He used to inundate the paper with Letters to the Editor about any controversial issue in town,” he laughed.

Of course, as well as finding bits of information and historical records about other people, Chris has a few stories of his own to tell.

The Tumut he remembers, when the workers from the Snowy Scheme were the lifeblood of the town, was a different place to what it is now.

“It was an exciting place to live, Tumut, when the dams were being built, the pubs were always full,” he remembered.

“The workers up in the camps would spend their spare time in town gambling and drinking and fighting. You could walk up the main street on a Saturday night in the seventies and the streets would be full of people.

“A lot of hermits lived in the bush in those days, they’d come into town once or twice a month and you’d take them back out with their supply of grog – they were hermits that went bush in the Second World War because they didn’t want to be conscripted.

“There was one who’d come into town and the kids would run away and hide. He’d only change his clothes around once a year. I was taking him home one night, he had a longneck bottle of beer and he passed it over for me to have a swig out of it. His teeth were green and he used to dribble, and I said no thanks!”

However, that’s not to say nothing interesting happens in modern times.

Chris Gately is involved in Facebook pages ‘I grew up in Adelong and loved it!,’ ‘Adelong Alive Museum’, ‘Vehicles on location worldwide,’ ‘Artists on location worldwide,’ ‘Tumut coffee group’ and ‘Adelong coffee group,’ as well as a personal YouTube channel where he’s posted 470 videos, mostly on local events, in eight years.

He said the slogan for the Adelong Alive Museum, where he volunteers, says it best – history is past, present, and future.

“Most people focus on past history going back 100 or 150 years, but history is an everyday occurrence,” he said.

“I went to a commemoration on the weekend and there was one girl there, she was maybe ten years old, and I was thinking to myself that when she’s sixty or seventy years old, she’ll be able to look back at these photos and videos [he was taking].

“History happens on a daily basis, and I think the internet in regards to that is absolutely brilliant. There’s a whole world out there.”

He too is passionate about the region in which he lives – he once passed on a meeting with the CEO of his company, SendOutCards, to screen a video he’d made at the Rosewood Tractor Pull, Truck, and Car Show.

It’s a time consuming hobby, and he said sometimes he does wonder, “is anyone interested in what I’m putting up there?” But there are good moments too – “I’ve had people say ‘oh, you’re Chris Gately, you put those beautiful videos onto YouTube!’”

“It keeps me occupied anyway,” he said.