THE disused quarry in Racecourse Road may be filled with thousands of litres of water now and could soon have a second life as a private lake for a housing estate.
But for Max Livingstone the site holds many memories as his and his father Bill’s former workplace.
The former bluestone quarry was recently thrust into the spotlight when its owner lodged a development application (DA) to subdivide the surrounding land to build houses backing on to the water-filled hole.
Although Mr Livingstone only had an 18 month stint at the quarry when he was 16 in the early 1960s, for years his father worked in the crusher for the quarry’s then-owners the Hutcheson brothers.
“Dad died of emphysema,” he said.
“He stood up in the crusher and in the dust all his life until he left ... he didn’t seem to worry.”
Mr Livingstone recalls the “powder monkeys” blowing up larger pieces of bluestone with gelignite and labourers like himself using hammers weighing around five kilograms to break up the stone manually if the bell crusher with its 80 centimetre jaws broke down.
“When you blasted, it through it threw stones up on to the road,” he said.
“We had to stop the traffic on Racecourse Road when it was happening.”
Stone was brought up to the crusher by an excavator, dubbed a navvy, that unlike today’s hydraulic excavators used wire ropes.
“If they broke you’d have to fix it again,” Mr Livingstone said.
“[But] It didn’t seem as hard as what you’d think.”
Mr Livingstone believes the machinery is still on site but may now be underwater.
The crushed rock would go up an elevator to a sieve and was separated into bins for each different sized piece of rock for road base.
The men wore little safety gear.
Mr Livingstone remembers each worker being given a tin helmet but gloves were only worn on freezing days when the steel drills, used to make holes in the rock for explosives, were so cold the men’s hands would stick to the metal.
Prior to his time at the quarry there were still large pillars of bluestone that were cut into bricks for Orange’s kerb and guttering, and buildings in town including the Bluestone Hall in Anson Street.
The Suma Park Dam wall also had its origins at the quarry, with bluestone going into the concrete made at the neighbouring batching plant.
Although the water was never as deep as it is today, Mr Livingstone remembers water seeping from the cracks in the stone and sometimes filling the quarry up to about 60 centimetres.
He recalls a manager blasting away a water-filled dish in the rock that workers would drink from, believing it to be spring fed.