With over 35,000 followers, Memories of Penrith and Surrounding Suburbs on Facebook is one of the most popular local groups on social media. The historical group shares pictures and stories of a bygone era and was created by Graham Chapman.
“Our Facebook page started in 2013, after I had spent a few weeks searching the internet for old photos of where I grew up. It was the fastest growing Facebook page in the history of our region with over 10,000 followers in less than 36 hours. I’ve never seen anything like it. I would reset the page every 10 minutes and there were hundreds more following the page. I knew at that time I was onto something special,” said Graham.
He believes the reason for the group’s popularity and why it’s so engaging with the community is simple.
“People love looking back. It doesn’t matter how old they are or what their era was. I look back on an era where Penrith was still a big country town. I love when we post pictures and people immediately start sharing their stories and their memories. We have people on our site from most countries in the world all staying connected with their childhood” Graham explained.
Graham was raised in Llandilo and it’s still a place that is quite close to his heart.
“I grew up in the small community of Llandilo, at a time when everyone knew their neighbours. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, and the roads were mostly all dirt. I remember when we got our first streetlight at an intersection. The school had 42 kids and be home by sunset was the usual parental call. Llandilo was an awesome place to grow up, it was a real community” he said.
“I watched as my father went off to fight in the 1978 Blue Mountains bushfires and I stayed at home. The ash was falling across Llandilo and before I knew it, I was fighting grass fires with hessian bags and buckets of water to protect my home” Graham continued.
Away from managing the Memories of Penrith and Surrounding Suburbs site, Graham has successfully run his tourism business, Blue Mountains Tours since 2017.
“It’s been a tough couple of years since the pandemic hit, however we are hanging in there. Our tours of the Blue Mountains were reliant on international tourists, so we aren’t expecting that to recommence until international borders re-open. We have managed to diversify, and we also now run camping at Mogo Wildlife Park on the South Coast. It’s a long way to travel for work but it’s something that just has to be done” he ended.