It doesn’t look much, does it? This is the point where Chatham Road joins Clyde Street, heading out of Hamilton North and into Islington. It can be a nightmare to cross in the afternoon or early morning, specially since they got rid of the zebra crossing at the end of Newcastle Street. If there’s been a freight train or a coal train crossing at Clyde Street lights the cars become banked up along Chinchen Street and Clyde Street, and when the barriers do finally go up the traffic fairly fangs around that corner – particularly the red-blooded P-platers straight out of TAFE. If you get stuck there, like this little silver 4WD hybrid, you can be there for bloody ages.
So when I spoke to Ila and Elsie about old-time Hamilton North I was surprised (no, gobsmacked) to learn that Queen Elizabeth II, our reigning monarch, had passed through that very spot more than half a century ago. I don’t think she got stuck at Clyde Street lights, as I’ve been so many countless thousands of times, listening to the bell clang as coal truck after coal truck lumbers past like fat cows off to milking. No, she got waved through, special treatment on her way to Maitland Road and beyond, maybe stopping at the Royal Oak in Tighes Hill for a couple of schooners. The occasion was her state visit to Newcastle in 1954. Here’s a picture of her arriving at Newcastle City Hall, filched from the National Museum of Australia website.
On her way out of town she cruised down Donald Street (this was before the railway bridge had been built) then right at Richardson Park and down Chatham Road in a circuitous route that allowed as many Novocastrians as possible to see her. Ila was there: she’d finished at the lamp works by then and got down to the Clyde Street–Chatham Road junction early to grab a good spot. Her husband brought their daughter down after work and, when QEII and Phil the Greek drove past, Ila said that she could of reached and touched her, they were so close.
Oh for the good old days, before this sort of thing happened.