James Walker’s Recollections of Hackett

James re-joined the Australian Public Service in January 1979 and spent a year unaccompanied living at Havelock House. His wife and son remained in Sydney during this time and joined him in December 1979. The family initially moved into a house in Lyons but after 3 months moved to Hackett.

James recalls that his first impressions of Hackett were that it was a beautiful suburb with lots of nice people. It was also quiet and leafy and close to everything.

James and his wife both worked for the Department of Transport in the city.

Their son joined sixth grade at Hackett Primary School. He later moved to Watson High School to complete his schooling before going on to ANU.

The family’s primary sporting venues were Dickson Pool and Dickson tennis courts.

During their early years in Canberra the family visited local tourist sites and institutions when time allowed. They also regularly visited Sydney to maintain contact with their relatives living there.

James says that he has always found the adjoining nature reserves of Mount Majura and Ainslie significant attractions and that they are an important part of the unique Hackett lifestyle. He has spent many hours visiting Mount Majura Reserve and to a lesser extent Mount Ainslie over the years as a means of relaxation and inspiration.

The family shopped for many of its non-grocery needs in the city as both James and his wife worked there. Groceries were bought at the local shopping centre and James can recall the very distinctive red and yellow paint scheme of the Hackett shops.

James said that they rarely visited the Dickson Shopping Centre in their early years. They did however visit the Belconnen Shopping Centre a couple of times a year in the early years and more frequently in later years.

James also recalls the local GP Dr Hanstein distrusted air-conditioning and was inclined to provide very generous times off for relatively simple ailments which led to patients quickly running out of sick leave. James also recall’s Dr Hanstein’s love of exotic cars. The doctor’s practice was also a major drawcard for customers for the pharmacy and shops and when the doctor relocated the pharmacy closed shortly afterwards followed by much of the shopping centre.

James also recalls Julie McCarron-Benson opening a café called Cafetopia (where Wilbur’s is currently located) which was intended to support local residents but it did not live up to expectations and was eventually closed.

There was at least one culinary success story at the local shopping centre according to James. For a while, in the early 80s, we had some of the best hamburgers in the ACT.

James and his family, like most families in the 80s, relied heavily on public transport to get around. James says that he has continued to use local busses almost daily since arriving in Hackett. In 1980 the fare was 40 cents cash which was placed in the glass fronted box, for a quarter hourly service, taking nearly twenty minutes to Civic. Now it’s considerably more for full fare paying passengers for a half hourly service taking nearly twenty minutes to the Canberra Centre although it’s free for pensioners. There have also been numerous changes with route numbers over the years.

James says that he was a parishioner at Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for a long time as there was no local Presbyterian church.

James says that his happiest memory of Hackett was the first ‘Birthday Bash’ in 2003 as it was attended by huge crowds despite many locals doubting that many would come. James says that people were still talking about the event for many months afterwards.

On the flipside the saddest moment that he can recall is the psychological devastation caused by the closure of the primary school. A close second was the run down look of the shopping centre during the 90s and until the last few years as all the shops closed with the exception of IGA.

On a lighter note James recalls an accident at the curve in Madigan Street at the Hackett Shops bus stop which is a blind spot when heading north, particularly at night. Unfortunately, many drivers and motor cyclists take the curve much too fast! On one evening in the very early 80s a car was parked outside number 32 and a motor cyclist heading north at a rate of knots, hit the back of the car, and was propelled, right over the car. The rider was only lightly injured but the accident provided James and his neighbours with a little bit of excitement.

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