Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lost Opportunities

If ever there was a valid reason to become a surf boat sweep the above photo goes three steps further and provides four. If there were boat crews like the above, back in the 1960's, I most certainly would have persevered a while longer.
Lucky Rick Millar.............Bastard.
Refer Row the boat and discover what a courageous and lucky girl young Belinda was. (second girl on the left)

If ever there was a reason not to become one, this is definetly it.

The old, long gone Sydney Sports Ground.

I found this photo showing three generations of Fullers.
I must ask the missus whether the milkman was of Asian descent.

1950 -- 1968
Talk about failing to take advantage of situations when opportunity came knocking. Throughout my hyper active and spoilt life there were so many times circumstances arose that should have enabled me to fulfill the dreams and fantasies of my childhood.
Many of these aspirations had to be put on hold, or in some cases completely discarded, as nature saw to it that I was physically incapable of becoming a successful achiever.
One ambition was to become either a professional or Olympic 100 metre sprint champion. This was quickly forgotten because of my complete lack of ability to propel myself forward fast enough to even run out of site on a dark moonless night. Spectators at High School athletic meetings could watch me start the 100 metre race, duck away for a warm drink and cold meat pie and return in time to see me finish.
My late father used to take me to the old Sydney Sports Ground most Sundays where a wide range of sporting activities held my interest for the whole afternoon.
There were javelin throwers and shot putters, long distance running races and sprints, roller skating exhibitions, pole vaulting and even harness racing….I loved watching the Gee Gees.
My favourite events were the many cycling races that took place at various times during the day. Dad’s favourite rider quickly became mine as he used to win most of his races. I think his name was Selby. I wanted to be just like him and when I was given my first push bike I trained my little heart out to achieve supreme fitness. I never told my mother, but one weekend I rode nonstop from Annandale to Riverstone. 

During my first bike race with only 150 metres to go I was a mile in front and visions of standing on the Olympic velodrome podium receiving my gold medal were flashing through my mind. All that training had been worth it, I was going to win…..Yes I was. The God of cycling intervened and declared, “ Oh no you’re not,” for all of a sudden the whole peloton flew past me as if I was in reverse. I kid you not, one of the overtaking riders only had one leg. Ambition number two was put on hold and after similar experiences during future events, completely forgotten.
Playing Rugby League I ended up in the forwards because of my lack of speed. At the time I was a rather large lad who had the skill and strength to burst through the defence on the odd occasion, although I was constantly run down and tackled from behind. As I became more mature my physical size did not increase, unlike many of my team mates and opposing players.

 It wasn’t too long before the average winger was heavier than me and I realised my number three ambition to become a Balmain Tiger had gone out the window. Despite playing for Nestles during my engineering apprenticeship and then later on playing beach football with the Avalon Surf Club, I’m afraid another dream had ended.
Most Saturday mornings Dad and I would always go to the long gone State Theatrette in Market St. I enjoyed the week old newsreels, the Fitzpatrick travelogues, the Three Stooges, Joe McDoakes comedies and the animated cartoons that were shown.
Along with everyone else I was excited when a newsreel report on the previous weekend’s major surf carnival was shown. The theatre resounded with many oohs and aahs as the screen was showing surf lifesavers being pounded to pieces in their plywood and clinker built surf boats, at times in huge seas. Years later I was given the unexpected opportunity to become a member of the surf lifesaving movement, regarded back then as one of Australia’s great icons. This brought about a change in my overall attitude towards just about everything and I adapted to the discipline and way of life as quickly as water runs off a duck’s back.
Some of my experiences during those heady surf club days may be read by those interested elsewhere at this site and although they were my happiest and most fulfilling years, I still let opportunities to improve myself and possibly assist others pass me by. I was elected as an office holder occasionally and performed with varied success. Gear Steward, Assistant Secretary, Social Secretary on three occasions and as a delegate to the local surf lifesaving branch were the committee positions held at different periods of the 1960’s. For 11 consecutive years I was appointed Patrol Captain, but usually ended up as the beltman, as I was arguably the fastest swimmer.
Generally speaking I succeeded at everything I set out to achieve when fully committed to the task. Sadly, I was unable to pass on my skill and knowledge gained over the years to certain Bronze Medallion Squad members and was never able to obtain the desired Instructors Certificate.
I had a burning desire to become a Surf Boat Sweep and became more than familiar with the theory behind it all. Unfortunately, putting the theory into actual practice was an entirely different matter. Try as I did, I discovered I was simply not up to it. I had my balance in the boat and could get the crew safely out the back. Coming in however, was an absolute disaster as the boat would never do what I wanted it too. Maybe I should have persevered a bit longer, that’s something I’ll never know, but back then I was convinced that boat sweeping was beyond my powers of capability.
Today, there are some club members who I never would have dreamed could have become sweeps, who have developed into first class boatmen and have met with success that eluded their predecessors. So many times I've wondered if I called it quits way too soon. I am now convinced I did just that.
When I recall the trials and tribulations of that particular time in my life, that marvellous poem by the late British comedian Benny Hill always reminds me of all that frustration, but never ceases to raise a smile at the same time. 

They said that it could not be done’
He said, “ Just let me try.”
They said, “ Other men have tried and failed.”
He answered, “ But not I.”
They said, “ It is impossible,”
He said, “ There’s no such word.”
He closed his mind, he closed his heart…
To everything he heard.
He said, “ Within the heart of man
There is a tiny seed.
It grows until it blossoms,
It’s called the will to succeed.
Its roots are strength, its stem is hope,
Its petals inspiration,
Its thorns protect its strong green leaves,
With grim determination.
 Its stamens are its skills
Which help to shape each plan,
For there’s nothing in the universe
Beyond the scope of man.”
They thought that it could not be done,
Some even said they knew it,
But he faced up to what could not be done…

I’m pretty certain that says it all.

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