THE 1970s ushered in a new era of prosperity and confidence to the region.
In early 1971 Mount Isa showed up the truth of Dorothy McKellar’s land of droughts and flooding rains.
Graziers and townsfolk were panicking when Lake Moondarra’s capacity went down to barely 20% amid predictions it would be dry by July. On January 23, council warned residents to expect year-long water restrictions.
Then in early February the heavens opened and in next to no time the city was flooded and cut off. A second more ferocious flooding in March trapped many holidaymakers along the highway, though it was a while before local water restrictions were lifted.
In May the town was buzzing with rumour about the identity of a “Mr Brown” who had perpetrated several bomb hoaxes, first at Radio 4LM, then the post office, then K57 mine shaft before the trail died without any explanation.
On September 11, 1971 Mount Isa’s first commercial station opened, ITQ-Channel 8, with its local announcer Mike Storrien becoming Mount Isa’s first television personality.
On November 17 there was the sad news that the discoverer of Mary Kathleen , Clem Walton, had died. He succumbed to illness aged 67 with Mayor Weigh describing Walton as “one of Mount Isa’s greatest pioneers”.
Premier Joh was back on December 15 to open the new magistrates court building in Isa St and also the first homes in the new suburb of Healy.
On January 15, 1972 Mount Isa’s worst road accident occurred when four people died in a three-car pile up on Lake Moondarra Rd. When another man was killed eight days later, the toll equaled the entire road death toll for 1971.
News from the latest census revealed the population had jumped 48 percent to 26,218 in the five years since the 1966 census.
There was consternation on the football field as the referees association went on strike after Wanderers utility Vern Daisy had gone on a “headhunting splurge” and referees asked for him to be banned. When Daisy turned up for the next fixture, the referee walked off.
In March 1972 there was tragedy when two-year-old Shay Marie Kitchin was abducted from her Carbine St home. Neighbours last saw the girl when she went to the corner shop for sweets. After seven days, her body was found on the Lake Moondarra road, she was beaten to death. Authorities offered a $10,000 reward to find her killer. Months later police arrested Neil Manson, 25, who was remanded to stand trial in 1973.
1973 was Mount Isa’s silver jubilee year and it kicked off with a mention in the Guinness Book of Records which named the Isa as the world’s largest city by area, holding 15,822 square miles. Mount Isa’s 180km road to Camooweal was also hailed as the “longest main road in the world”.
Jubilee celebrations commenced on February 25 with Mayor Weigh unveiling a commemorative cairn honouring town founder John Campbell Miles. The cairn was originally placed where Miles discovered the first deposit of lead ore but moved when the site was used for open-cut mining.
It was among Alderman Weigh’s last duties of office. On April 2, local pharmacist and leader of the Mount Isa Progress Association Angelo Bertoni almost doubled Weigh’s votes in the mayoral election, joined in council by deputy Franz Born, Edna Medley, Bob Moore and a young Tony McGrady.
After 23-year-old Neil Manson was convicted of the murder of Shay Kitchin, news emerged he had escaped from Townsville’s Stuart Prison – and he was heading for Mount Isa. There was huge relief when he was captured six days later at Cloncurry.
August 1973 was designated as “let’s get crazy” month by the council. The Rodeo would be the centrepiece of a cavalcade of jubilee events including steam train rides, art exhibitions and a musical pageant. Over 40,000 packed out the jubilee rodeo as 21-year-old Terry Drennan rode the ride of his life to win the saddle for the Open Buck Jumping competition. Cricketing legends Greg Chappell and Rod Marsh dropped by to join the party in October, the same month as the city’s fifth hotel, the Overlander opened.
New Year celebrations in 1974 were barely over when tragedy again struck in an air accident. Ian Smith, 29, of Mount Isa tried to land his single-engined aircraft at Barkly Downs stations in heavy rainfall when it crashed killing all four aboard. Smith and three teachers were travelling to a friend’s wedding. Initially there was confusion as family of the Cloughs who owned the stations thought the missing station owners were the victims. But the Cloughs had just spent the night at the house of friends on their way back from a family holiday.
Mount Isa was trapped by floodwaters which devastated much of Queensland, including Brisbane that summer. The city survived with three food drops a week.
There was a new generation to replace the now dead Anzacs at the 1974 Anzac Day service. Returned servicemen from the Vietnam war swelled the ranks at the procession.
As usual Slim Dusty was the star attraction at that year’s rodeo, after playing three capacity nights at the Star Theatre in towm. Jim Bailey claimed the Mount Isa Mines saddle trophy for the open buck jumping and 19-year-old Susan Milburn was crowned Rotary Rodeo Queen.
On September 24 there was sad news from Brisbane. Mount Isa pioneer Julius Kruttschnitt had died in St Andrew’s Hospital aged 89.
Kruttschnitt had been MIM general manager from 1930-1937 and he regenerated what was then a flagging business, making the company’s first profit.