During the 1960's what a dead set dull and boring person I was all throughout the working week. I would arrive home from work between 4:30pm and 5:30pm, shower, change into my pyjamas and spend the whole evening through until around midnight in front of the television, then off to bed. Except for surf boat training twice a week, I would hardly leave the house to go anywhere apart from the odd movie at the local cinema once in a blue moon. One thought and one thought only was constantly on my mind and that was of the upcoming weekend and what it may bring. My whole life revolved around the Avalon Beach SLSC which had been responsible for a change in my attitude and set me on the path that eventually made a half decent human being of me. The surf club was not a weekend past time, but a full on way of life, that at times required the acceptance of some discipline whilst rocking ones socks off and having an absolute ball.
The Newport Arms Beer Garden ( Now, not then )
Every weekend throughout summer and winter I would be seen either in or around the surf club building, or on the beach and/or in the surf on my Malibu and surf ski. It was not uncommon for me to be sighted enjoying the odd beer in the upstairs lounge of the local RSL along with fellow boat crew members. Another popular watering hole was the Newport Arms Hotel's landscaped beer garden, although our mob would take over the steps at the pub's north eastern corner. The photo above is how it looks today, whereas in the 60's things were a bit more basic, but back then no one cared. The surfing season began on the first weekend in October and ended on Easter Monday, which could be as early as the last weekend in March, or as late as the 3rd weekend in April. All of our active members had approximately 12 patrols a year to complete and despite the average member having to gravitate to the beach from various suburbs south west of Sydney Harbour, the absentee rate was extremely low. In spite of the copious quantities of amber fluid consumed by the average clubbie, patrols were always taken seriously and were carried out with the SLSA's motto, Vigilance and Service to the fore. Many a beachgoer owes his or her well being to some of the guys I had more than just the odd beer with at numerous watering holes on a regular basis.
The Bondi mob doing their thing.......gratis.
A considerable amount of time was spent at the local coffee shop, the extremely well appointed La Fiesta. The long suffering Terry saw to it that we were always well fed with excellent service thrown in for good measure. I would like a dollar for every cappucino I downed in the comfortable surrounds of the La Fiesta. I quite often would have breakfast, lunch and dinner there and found the food first rate and reasonably priced. All that being said, I became one of the first club members to start using the club's kitchen facilities by preparing and cooking my own tucker. This saved me money, most of which was spent on the purchase and consumption of more ales and lagers. I very quickly got on side with the club caretaker, the legendary old fart, Harry, friggin' Harry, who was only too happy to share his milk and sugar etc. with me and I reciprocated by keeping him supplied with freshly caught fish.
I would paddle out on my surf ski until the Whale Beach headland began to appear from behind the North Avalon headland and then line up the surf club's flagpole with the RSL's in the background. This positioned one directly over a small reef and almost immediately the pickers would start pecking away at the bait. Not once did I return to the beach without at least two or more fish. The most common catch were sweep, but one was always ensured of bringing home the odd red bream, or even a decent size schnapper and the occasional flathead. On choppy days the ski was very hard to maintain ones balance on without having your feet dangling in the water and considering one was around 500 metres off shore, this tended to make one a tasty morsel for any bronze whaler or white pointer passing by looking for a quick snack. The solution was to place an 8 foot length of floor board across the ski pressed up against the foot strap chocks and held in position by ones feet. This acted as a more than satisfactory outrigger and worked a treat in stabilising the craft, although any protection from being a sharks lunch was all in the mind.
There were weekends when organized outings were arranged, functions would be held either in the club house or elsewhere, invitations to parties and/or soirees were forthcoming, the odd trip away would occur, there were surf carnivals to attend and compete at, but generally speaking most members would just hang out together using the club or RSL as home base. A typical weekend for me went as follows..........
Arrive at work on Friday morning with my large overnight bag full of clothing and lots of red meat. Leave work at 5 pm and commence the one hour drive north to Avalon. How good it was to have my own vehicle at last. Around 6pm I would arrive at the club and load up my locker with clothing and the milk bar fridge in the kitchen with the meat etc. and then wait for my other partners in crime to arrive. The bulk of the larrikins would have arrived by 7pm and two carloads would descend on either the Newport Arms or the Mona Vale pub for a few quiet beers. After 10pm we would all adjourn to the games room of the Avalon RSL and drink until 1am, demonstrating what lousy pool and snooker players we were along the way. If it was a fine, mild evening I would tend to sleep on the club's front verandah, but when we had a massive makeover of the bunkhouse, I found myself spending more time in my upper bunk. The next morning we would all shake off the cobwebs with an early morning dip, then over to the La Fiesta for breakfast, although I got into the habit of cooking my own in the kitchen. An hour or so later I would have the odd wave on my mal, surf permitting, or else go for a paddle on my ski.
Saturday afternoon would be spent on patrol from 1pm to 5pm if rostered, if not the Newport beer garden would be honoured with our presence and the remainder of the day would be spent downing considerable quantities of Resch's.......It was a hard life. The evening was usually spent at the Mona Vale pub in the company of some of the local girls who enjoyed the odd drink and did not mind our company, providing we were still capable of spelling our own names. Afterwards, you guessed it, off to the Rissole for pool and snooker.
Banff Lodge and Bonfires
Sundays were always rest days as one was in dire need of sleep and rest away from the amber fluid. If one was not rostered on patrol, the day would be spent dozing on the verandah vowing never to drink again. Quite often some of our local young ladies would join us and many a pleasant few hours would be spent sleepily chatting away without really saying anything of any note. At 5pm the afternoon patrol would sign off and the boat crew would then open the Surf club Bar. This weekly session was known as QY's and would end at 7pm. QY's evolved into quite a semi sophisticated gathering of members, wives, partners and friends. It became a family get together with ankle biters darting all over the place like whirling dervishes. At 7pm after the hoards had departed, the boaties would wash the glasses, wipe over the tables and store away the furniture, then settle down for a few quiet sherbets before leaving for home at the end of a very enjoyable weekend. I tended to be the last one to leave as I simply did not want the weekend to end. Generally speaking I would leave around 9pm, but there were many occasions when it was well after 10:30pm. My latest departure was 11:10pm one Sunday night.
The old surf club house was going to rack and ruin, so we took it upon ourselves to carry out some refurbishments at our own expense. There were extensive renovations carried out at great expense and we ended up with what became our winter headquarters. One weekend a truck arrived from some council tip and dropped off several old lounge suites that were placed in the club house room, home made wooden moose heads suddenly appeared on the walls, electric radiators were mysteriously installed, the walls received a coat of paint and a rustic sign with the carved words 'Banff Lodge' took pride of place over the western entrance to our now cosy winter retreat. The Canadian sign was unknowingly donated by North American actor Ty Hardin of 'Bronco' fame, who at the time was living in Bilgola.
The total cost of the renovations was somewhere in the vicinity of 25 dollars or thereabouts.....Backyard Blitz, eat your heart out. We decided to have a house warming party in the now newly named 'Banff Lodge' and were expecting around 18 to 20 to attend. By 8pm over 50 had arrived and by 9pm well over 100 ragers were doing their thing. The night went off with a bang, but absolutely no trouble was forthcoming despite the occasional use of waccy baccy. There were a few more similar gatherings in the lodge, but mostly it was put to good use as a retreat for all of us hung over inebriates to retire to and enjoy the serenity and solitude. We would quite often build a large bonfire at the rear of the club and literally sing songs around the campfire at night after a barbecue. John Towner would provide the music on his steel guitar with me playing the six chords I knew on my ukelele as rhythm. Our pleasures were simple, but it was a marvellous way to spend a relaxing evening with good company and witty conversation. Every now and then complete strangers would be attracted by the bonfire and would come over from the village and join in the community singing. At the time I took all this for granted. What I would give to be granted the opportunity to do it all over again..........Ahhhh! Memories.
Rowing, Paddling and Dreaming of Jeannies
As stated earlier there would be the odd organized outing,but this was usually the exception to the general rule. The most common was having to attend and compete at an open surf carnival, usually on a Saturday. The Avalon boat crew would compete at all the open carnivals and would load the boat with various associated equipment required by our water event competitors and R&R Team and deliver it to its destination which could be from Palm Beach in the north to Garie Beach in the south. It was common for the boaties to leave early on a Saturday morning and not return until after sunset that evening. During the course of a State or Regional carnival that covered two days, we would all sleep over, mostly on the beach. An example was at either the Metropolitan or State Championships held at Coogee in 1965, we spent Saturday night sleeping on Bondi Beach. Every now and then word would pass along the local grapevine of a party worthwhile attending and even if not invited, many people would turn up expecting to be admitted. I have no recollection of any serious trouble raising its ugly head when anyone was refused entry to a party. More often than not uninvited gate crashers were admitted and caused no trouble and were appreciative. The ones who missed out simply wandered off into the darkness and were never seen again.
Knickers and Snickers
A popular function was the old fashioned smoko or bucks night which always attracted many of the former active members whose behaviour made some of us younger blokes appear almost well behaved. The catering was fairly basic and consisted of large quantities of hot and cold finger food with at least 36 gallons of beer to wash it all down. At the functions end there was nearly always a 9 gallon keg left untapped and this was kept safe and sound ready to be consumed as breakfast. Eight or nine gluttons for punishment would chip in 10 bob and the keg would be tapped in the old club house, usually around 7am and in no short time would become a dead one.
The club's theme nights would attract a cross section of members and locals and were always well patronized. We were fortunate to have a well maintained modern looking building to be able to run these popular functions which always doubled as excellent money raisers. There would be Roman nights, Monte Carlo nights, Come as your favourite actor, but the favourite was always the Middle East theme. I don't know why that was, maybe the girls liked wearing outfits that showed their Knickers and briefs. The women folk loved to dress up and some of their outfits quite often raised more than just a few eyebrows. In the actual Middle East, they probably would have all been stoned to death. The sight of so many belly dancers in their see through outfits all attempting to impersonate Barbara Eden's Jeannie was something that turned many a head and created comment.
The amazing thing was that each and every weekend one would see the local sunbaked cuties wandering around wearing next to nothing and simply took it all in ones stride, yet at the surf club's annual ball, ones tongue would unravel all the way to the floor at the sight of the same cuties dressed in evening gowns that covered up all the interesting parts.
Spending the weekend at the club became so popular that the small bunkhouse and the much larger change room had to be swapped around to accomodate the two dozen or so members who were sleeping over on a regular basis. The new bunkhouse could sleep three dozen people and quite often did. Even over the winter months at least twelve members would take advantage of the facilities. Over these colder months we would spend more time in the newly decorated 'Banff Lodge' than in the actual club house, which made Harry the caretakers job much easier. As mentioned earlier many functions were held in our second clubhouse and one of the local girls insisted on having her 18th birthday party in it. What a great place it was to flop in straight from the surf and the sight of many shapely bikini clad bodies wandering through on a regular basis kept ones juices flowing, so to speak. Every now and then over winter one would be on ones Pat Malone when no one would bother to visit the club. One would spend the weekend loafing around on the verandah simply taking in the scenery and listening to the sounds of the surf rolling in. How lucky was one to have what more or less amounted to ones own holiday resort smack bang on the beach available free of charge. Even when there was nothing to do, one could always entertain ones self by simply doing nothing.
What has been revealed previous is only a scratch on the surface, but should indicate why my thoughts always were of the following weekend and what it may produce. Talk about tunnel vision, nothing on either side existed only what was at the tunnels end. From 1959 through until mid 1972 my whole life was governed by events that took place in and around a little hamlet 24 miles north of the Sydney CBD. From 1990 until 1998 another 8 years was spent as an active reserve member and as I write another period has begun with me becoming a long service member. When something gets into ones blood, that thing can become a part of you. Religious, Political and ones general view of life may change over the decades, but a feeling that one has for a unique and wonderful way of life remains constant and the memories of that way of life will never be forgotten or discarded regardless of where fate decrees ones geographic location to be.