Down the Mall: Phil Campbells of the world stand united

THIS bit proves two things: it’s a really weird world, and it’s an ill wind that...

In Alabama, there’s a town named Phil Campbell. It was named after a railway builder who did a favour for a mate. But that’s not the weird bit.

Phil Campbell became a popular visiting place for people named… yep, Phil Campbell. They even had annual get-togethers of Phil and Phyll Campbells from all over the US.

But back in 2011 this town of about 1000 people was hit by a monster tornado with winds over 330km/h. It destroyed much of the town and tragically took 27 lives.

The Phil Campbells refused to let the town just be blown away and organised rebuilding efforts, a documentary film (I’m with Phil) and raised money online (www.imwithphil.com) to help Phil Campbell-ites get back on their feet.

The movement is growing around the world, and guess how DTM knows this? Bendigo’s Phil Campbell told us so.

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They say doctors get to bury their mistakes while journalists put theirs on the front page forever.

But other professions can find their pasts returning in unexpected ways. Take teachers, for example.

DTM’s good friend Neville, a respected and retired senior teacher, had cause to reflect on how good he’d been as a teacher recently.

He’d gone into Bendigo hospital for a quick surgical procedure, and as he lay on the table, drifting off under the fog of anaesthetic, a male voice said: “Hi there. You probably don’t remember me, but you taught me at..”

Neville’s last thought was “Who is this, and what did I teach him?”

Apparently enough to set him on the path to being a good theatre nurse, as Nev found when he (thankfully) woke up.

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Okay, time to return to DTM’s favourite subject: Bendigo-Ballarat rivalry.

We think we’ve got right to the very start of it. It was all about gold and which city had the most, best and was richest.

It erupted in a war of words in 1857 between the Bendigo Advertiser and the Ballarat Star.

On January 9, 1857, the Star "claimed for Ballarat the proud distinction of being the greatest goldfield in the world."

On January 23, the Advertiser thundered back that “Ballarat (was) not only far from being the first in the roll call of Victorian goldfields, it is not even the second.” 

It gave the second trophy to Castlemaine.

The next day, the Star called the Advertiser claims “figments of its imagination” which were cherished in the “dun-coloured” Bendigo landscape and in the “deserted Pall Mall”.

The bragging, back-stabbing and insults flew for years.

Let’s have the final footnote, folks: 

At the end of the 19th century, Bendigo had produced about 25 million ounces of gold worth today about $33.7 billion. Ballarat district produced 20 million ounces, now valued about $27 billion. Bendigo still is the second biggest gold producer in Australia, second only to the huge Kalgoorlie mines.

And Ballarat’s last real gold mine closed in 1918, while Bendigo chugged along for much of the 20th century and we still have a very nice earner out at Fosterville. So there.

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