Port Pirie wharfie became a hairdresser

TRIM: Hartley Christensen shows his style with the hairdressing scissors beside his wife Correen. He had a colourful career involving many jobs while living at various locations.
TRIM: Hartley Christensen shows his style with the hairdressing scissors beside his wife Correen. He had a colourful career involving many jobs while living at various locations.

Hartley Christensen's career went from cranes to curls.

The wharfie retired from the waterfront to become a hairdresser in his wife's salon in Crystal Brook.

He became the toast of the women in the district.

Mr Christensen reflected on his working career after celebrating his 90th birthday recently.

"I joined the waterfront in Port Pirie in 1949," he said.

"You used to get 'appearance money' if you were not working. I was a crane-driver for Adelaide Stevedoring Company for 10 years with old, old cranes.

"We stacked concentrates from Broken Hill. We picked them up with the crane from the rail trucks. Before that, they used to shovel it out.

"I have a crane-driver's certificate and, you would not believe, a ladies' hairdressing certificate.

"My wife Correen dragged me into hairdressing in her shop at Crystal Brook."

My wife Correen dragged me into hairdressing.

Mrs Christensen then interjected: "The ladies absolutely loved him." The couple met at a dance at the now-demolished Parish Hall in Port Pirie.

"She just got me and she has had me for 68 years," Mr Christensen said.

He had many jobs, including being a farmhand, publican, newsagent, salt-lake driver and smelter worker.

But nothing prepared him for the devastation of Cyclone Tracy in 1974 in Darwin where his son Kym Christensen was working.

"We didn't know for four days whether he was dead or alive," he said.

He said Kym had been "out on the turps" on the night before the disaster and he and his friends stayed in a car under his house.

The house was built on stilts like many in the city.

"They had a pizza in the car and in the morning they looked up and house was gone," he said.

"Kym worked at Shell and was held back after the cyclone to serve a lot of petrol to people wanting to get out of Darwin."

Mr Christensen revealed that he was born at Pirie Blocks and later left school at 13 years old. He said Cora Ellis used to be his model when he went to Adelaide to learn hairdressing.

"I did quite a lot of perming. I was a bit embarrassed when I first got into it. I met some lovely girls," he said.

"I still cut hair - my wife's and Jimmy Quinn's and Les Joyce's."

To add to his repertoire, he was quick to point out that he had scored two holes-in-one at Victorian golf courses.

He was still a cut above the rest.

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