Carnarvon Tracking Station was headed up by a Station Director and his Assistant who were both employed by the Department of Supply.
All other administration staff were employed by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Pty Ltd including the Station Director’s Secretary.
The role of the administration section included the usual admin duties, recruitment, personnel management, payroll, accounting, security clearances, reference library, logistics and store management, catering, transport rosters, courier service etc. Additional services included powerhouse, maintenance, grounds management, front gate security and numerous other roles required for the support and efficient management of the Station.
Being a 24/7 operation, preparing the transport rosters was a nightmare, particularly on some Fridays when there was a weekend full of activity. It was no mean feat juggling crew on/off site for three days while ensuring that a bus or station wagon ended up near the person rostered to drive to pick up the next shift crew. The inbound driver sometimes had to be ferried home in the middle of the night by taxi.
In the early days, meals were ordered from the Port Hotel and were brought to the site by the Station Courier in a 12-seater bus.
There were no hire cars in Carnarvon when the Station first opened which was a problem during flight simulations when some of the NASA crew were required to be at the Station while the site was tracking the Super Constellation flying out of Perth took place. This was a concern to Lewis Wainwright, the Station Director, and on several occasions, two admin ladies would be flown to Perth, to pick up Avis hire cars, then drive 6 or 8 of the NASA crew 600+ miles to Carnarvon via the old Midlands Road (no Brand Highway back then). Whilst this was quite an experience for the visiting Flight Control team, it was also essential for them to have cars for transport to and from the Station during their stay in Carnarvon. On one such journey, I vividly remember being asked “are we nearly there yet”. Unfortunately, we were just past New Norcia, barely 140 kms from Perth!!
Speaking with admin staff who returned to Carnarvon in July 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the Moon Walk, it was interesting to note that back then, none of us really thought much about the ground-breaking role we were playing in the space race.
On reflection, it sure was ‘one giant leap for mankind’.
Compiled by Lorraine Sartori (Rooney)