In summer 1974,Greg McHugh walked into Ooodnadatta with two aboriginal blokes called Nugget and Jimmie from HERMANNSBERG, west of Alice Springs, and some camels, horses and donkeys, on their way to Gulgong a few thousand kms to the east.With him was his girlfriend Cassi Plate, her brother Adam and his girlfriend Lynnie Trevillian. There were lots of flies and it was hot.
Greg was returning home,the blackfellas were heading out on an adventure. Sydney types with them and Canberra Type Lynnie, though not a public servant,were on a sort of backpacker meandering,looking for the meaning of life, as one did in the 70'S. After an altercation with Greg south of Oodna, Adam returned to the glistening streets of the village vowing to put his own team together. There were thousands of donkeys around the largely unfenced local cattle stations. Oodna was a railway town in those days, aboriginals were allowed into town, allowed to drink and vote, and the town had an interesting sparkle in the evening as port and Southwark Bitter bottles crashing formed a symphony to accompany the raucous street theatre of public argument and quite dangerous assault.
Despite this lively entertainment,townspeople were friendly and welcoming and there was plenty of trades-type work with the german Klembt brothers keen to get Aboriginal housing, now funded by the enthusiatic Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, built.
In 1978 in Oodnadatta, Adam started a motorbike repair business. Bikes had been used for many years to catch camels and being a BMW rider for many years and miles, experience came in handy. Bikes had not yet replaced horses as it has today, for cattle work, and pack horses were used to carry stockmen to remote corners of these 3000 square mile stations. Aboriginal stockmen, who numbered hundreds of all ages, used camel drawn 'bunk 'carts as well. Adam had a term driving these carts on 'Anna Creek ', the only white bloke in the camp of 15. A little while later Lynnie and Adam started a part time snack bar called the Tuckerbox. The front of the shop was decorated with a giant sized Rolling Stone mouth and tongue. Lynnie's launch into shopkeeping was because a traveller couldn't buy a cup of tea easily at that time in Oodnadatta. Already a non-drunk traveller was starting to appear, a contrast to the stockmen in town on a 'bender' or the rail fettler from one of the many nearby maintainance gangs. The tuckerbox was also the first soup kitchen feeding hungry kids who would wait in vain for parents to leave the pub with enough coin for dinner. The TUCKERBOX had Oodna's first jukebox and only opened when the main town store, owned by the well known Czech entrepreneur, the late Jaroslav Pecanec, closed. The towns improved since then and the pub has a jukebox now.
The Ghan railway line closed in 1980 and people said Oodnadatta would die. Lynnie and Adam in the meantime, travelled around on the BMW motorbike locally having a good look. They knew the village was in a good spot to service the growing 4WD trade and could be easily supplied from Adelaide by road. They named THE OODNADATTA TRACK (1979) to help what was a railway access to become a well known, mild adventure drive from the Flinders Ranges to ULURU (Ayers Rock). This track, now a major unsealed 600 km wonder, always inspired, with its views of Lake Eyre, stone railway relics, bridges, flowing springs, and red sandhills and Mallee scrub. It has variety, where a lot of australias outback is seen by the coastal dweller as endlessly bland.
The Simpson Desert, the Painted Desert, Dalhousie Thermal Ponds, Purnie Bore and Alice Springs all contribute to a feeling of living in Oodnadatta surrounded by contrast .
In 1983 Lynnie and Adam moved shop to the main street and changed their name to Oodnadatta Traders. Eventually fuel was added to the service, after a bitter legal battle against the existing, Govt financed store bought at the same time for the local aboriginal community.
Both stores, against the odds, survive, though hardly thrive today, serving a population of just 180, and sharing local business with a popular,aboriginal-owned, hotel, THE TRANSCONTINENTAL.
When Lynnie's dad gave her a 1969 Dodge Phoenix vehicle, Adam had it sprayed bright pink and parked it out the front of the store. The store was painted to easily identify themselves to travellers. They called the store 'The Pink Roadhouse' and painted everything pink. Lynnie said, 'The Pink Roadhouse is here to make you smile and make you feel at ease, to help you enjoy your stay in the outback.'.
The general store has expanded to include heavy transport, roadside assistance, mail deliveries, a caravan park and post office and most importantly a TOLL FREE PHONE for travellers trying to deal with the mis-information and lack of interest in the outback shown by our city state governers way down south .
South Australia is a very odd state, 70% of its land area has no local government, so is condemned to third world standards. Thats my soapbox cry...Please Mr state premier, give us someone paid to look after our poor little outback towns.