One night in 1983, we sat on our upstairs porch at 23 Pine Avenue in Elwood, watching the red of the Ash Wednesday bushfires on the horizon. Overseas relatives were concerned it was close to us… which I suppose it was, but of course suburban Melbourne wasn’t directly affected. All the same, it was an eerie sight.
In those days, in my family we were news junkies. In the 80s, it was common for us to watch Channel 9 news at 6pm, SBS’s then half-hour news at 6:30pm, the ABC news at 7pm, and then the 7:30 Report. I don’t recall if we got bored seeing the same stories multiple times.
At the time, Channel 9’s 6pm news dominated the ratings, no doubt in part to host Brian Naylor. The promos told us we knew everything we needed to know ‘cos “Brian told me so”, and in those days, when there was little access to news compared to nowadays, it seemed to be true.
(Gawd, look at the clothes.)
Brian Naylor was so popular that when he retired in 1998, it was said that Channel 9 paid him a retainer just to ensure he didn’t go and work for the competition.
As we now know, he and his wife died in the fires near Kinglake.
Of course they were only two, of well over a hundred victims. That figure is still rising. They all have stories, and family who will mourn them, and they’ll all be missed.
And it’s not over yet.