“It’s finished, it’s submitted, now relax” – A few short words from my proud grandmother upon the completion of my final project for the unit, ‘History beyond the Classroom’. It is hard to believe that after more than three months of hard work, my walking tour and the accompanying brochure, website and Facebook page are all finished – at least for now.
The response to the Alison Road Walking Tour has been unfathomable. I announced the official launch of the tour just over a day ago and I have received so much positive feedback that it is almost overwhelming. In just one day, the Facebook page for the walking tour received more than fifty likes and this number continues to grow daily. My status on my own account also received more than one hundred likes and thirty comments. From this, I have received several requests to conduct guided tours of Alison Road, which I have readily agreed to do. Next year, I will be returning to my old high school to take the senior modern history students on the tour myself. I cannot wait to share everything that I have learned throughout the project with those that share my passion.
Beyond this, the tour has already reached a far greater audience than I ever anticipated. The page has been shared several times, including most notably by the Wyong Family History Group, Wyong Photos and Chit Chat and the NSW & ACT Association of Family History Societies Inc. I am so honoured and proud to see my work promoted and endorsed by these organisations. It gives me real hope that Alison Road Walking Tour can be developed into something more than just a university project. I have many plans for the tour and I cannot wait to carry them out!
Finally, I have to be honest and admit that it is a bittersweet feeling to be finished. One the one hand, I am proud to see the final result of all the work I have done over the past few months, while on the other hand, I am reluctant to finish such an engaging and ground-breaking unit. ‘History beyond the Classroom’ is like no other unit I have studied at university. It has not only changed my approach to the study of history but also influenced the way in which I will teach the subject to my students as a future teacher!
My father was a stonemason. He spent years of his life chipping away at stone. To this day, he still bears the marks of his work on his rough and calloused hands. As a child, I often marvelled at the things he could create from the stone with just a few simple tools like his hammer and chisel. Our family home, built more than twenty years ago by my father and grandfather, lays on a foundation of sandstone; the steps leading up to our front door were carefully smoothed by his hands. Even our letter box, although old and weathered now, was built from sandstone.
I have always had a connection to old buildings. I think it is because they remind me of my father, our family home and my own history. Perhaps, this is also why I am so intrigued by the many historical buildings along Alison Road, in the old town of Wyong. These buildings, which include the Old Court House, Chapman’s Store and the Railway Station, are all enduring remnants of years gone by. Built with aging brick and stone, they are the only remaining markers of the time in which Wyong was first founded over a century ago.
More than just the buildings themselves, it is the stories of the people behind them that captivate me the most. In the past few weeks, I have spent hours trawling through archives, newspapers and books, searching for people with connections to the buildings along Alison Road. Slowly, I am piecing together a narrative about the past lives and ways of the pioneers of Wyong.
So far, I have read stories about William Ponton, a bricklayer by trade who built the Post Office adjoining the Old Police Station, who was famed throughout the town for laying more than 1000 bricks a day. I have also uncovered numerous newspaper reports about the first postmaster of Wyong, Mr. Stafford, who disappeared from his lodgings at the Court House one morning along with a considerable sum of money from the till. It is stories like these, about the buildings of Wyong and the people who built them, lived in them and visited them, that I will endeavour to share in my walking tour of Alison Road.
I am working alongside Wyong Family History Group to develop a walking tour of the historical buildings along Alison Road in Wyong. For further information about the group, please visit; http://www.wyongfamilyhistory.com.au/