Monday, April 22, 2024

End of road for Corowa’s ‘tar doctor’

Norm O’Donoghue began as a labourer for Corowa Shire Council back in 1962, working with Bert Williams on the communal footpaths of Sanger Street.

Little did Norm know at the time, but it would be this year, and his new job at Council, that would see him embark on an astonishing 58 year career in local government.

This achievement and unwavering dedication of service to the Corowa and wider communities, was recently celebrated at a special afternoon tea to recognise Norm’s retirement announcement, with many fond memories shared by both Norm and his dearest work colleagues, both past and present.  

Norm said that although it is a different world now, and the way things are done today are certainly different to how they were done before, he has had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs throughout his career.

“Back when I first started the Council depot was on the corner of King Street and Redlands Road,” Norm said.

“I had to privilege of working with Billy Green, Jimmy Carroll, and Darkie Pratt in those days, just to name a few. Joe Kuschert got the contract to maintain the roads and Alf Chisnall, the foreman on the Shire at the time, asked me if I wanted to work with him on the roads. When Joe retired after about four years I took over the road maintenance contract and Council provided workers to assist me, as I had with Joe. I was assisted by Jack Duff, Normie Burns, Johnny (Jack) Rhodes and John Wright. From here, I was given the nickname the ‘Tar Doctor’ and ‘Road Surgeon’.”

Norm said the kindness of Corowa and the great sense of community spirit throughout the place was always evident throughout his time.

“A lot of people would pull up in their cars and offer us a drink and something to eat and have a yarn,” he said.

“I used to take my dog to work and way back in the very early days when I had my own truck, my daughter and son used to come to work with me on the school holidays and had their own little shovels. Times have definitely changed. Around 1990 I sold my truck and I transitioned from Contractor to a truck driver, heavy machinery operator, mainly the Jet Patcher. John Wright and I stayed working together for over thirty years until his retirement.”

Norm said he has seen a lot of changes in his time, mainly going from using a shovel and a bucket of tar to patch a hole to the jet patcher and the Flo-com – amazing modern technology.

“The job has always been very manually intense and heavy work with the most difficult being – trying to avoid being run over by cars and being bitten by snakes at smoko and lunch time. We were always out in the weather, in summer it was bloody hot patching the roads on a 44 degree day and cold in winter but I never used to mind as your body becomes used to it. There was definitely no air conditioning, we cooled off by jumping in a dam out bush.”

Federation Council General Manager Adrian Butler said Norm’s career achievements were outstanding and a fine example of a community man that always had his community at heart.

“Norm’s 58 years of service to Council and its communities is nothing short of admirable,” he said.

“There is no hiding the smile on Norm’s face, he came to work every day and performed his job with such commitment and passion. Norm is a credit to our organization and the wider community area, and he will certainly be missed.”

In closing, Norm said he has always loved going to work and had always felt the same sentiments about his job.

“Work to me has been my life and I have enjoyed it immensely, that’s why I have worked for so long,” he said.

“The people I have worked with ensured I have enjoyed it as much as I have and I would like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart that I have worked with, from years ago to the current team, fellow workers, manager’s, supervisors, office staff, everyone. Everyone has been fantastic and I will miss you all. I’m turning 80 in March 2021, so it is time to put down the shovel, take off the boots, try and clean the tar out of the old washing machine and spend time with my family, friends and of course my pigeons. Who would have thought 58 years ago, in 1962 that I would be where I am today. It’s been an amazing journey, and one I will always be so grateful for.”

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