Thursday, October 30, 2008

Warren Mitchell, Young Mulga.

These are the guys who were responsible for Surfing and Surf lifesaving becoming popular in Britain. Along with other members from the Avalon Surf Club, they surfed mainly in Cornwall and began patrolling the beaches as Lifeguards. Along with John Greaves, Don Mitchell and one of the Jackman brothers from Freshwater, they were responsible for Australian SLSA methods and procedures being adopted by the Brits. From left to right.....Bob Head, John (Bull) Campbell, Ian Tiley, Warren Mitchell.  

For what it's worth, a British Army officer named John "Mad Jack" Churchill during 1955 became the first person to surf the Severn bore for a distance of 1.5 miles. Ten years later in 1965 the Avalon based Rodney Sumpter rode the wave for upwards of 6 miles. He eventually left Australia to settle in Cornwall where he currently resides, I believe. During the early 1960's the group of pioneering Aussies in the above photo took on the bore wave with Bull Campbell riding it for an unspecified number of miles inland. The shorebased local police all thought the surfers were insane and were pleading with them to paddle ashore before the series of tidal waves arrived and drowned the lot of them. 

Today the bore attracts guys and gals from all over the UK and the world ltself and rides lasting up to an hour or more are quite common. If it floats and can be paddled or rowed, you can bet your boots it will make an appearance along the Severn River at least once during its life.
Warren with Warren Young at Avalon.

Warren Mitchell and John Fuller showing off.

Newspaper clippings featuring Warren Mitchell and John Fuller testing IRB 1.


This is a view of Perranporth Beach in Cornwall, looking to the north west towards Holywell at the far end. It is arguably the Brits finest beach and attracts huge crowds on most fine weekends. Professional lifeguards patrol the beach during the surfing season and many rescues are carried out on a regular basis. The above pic shows the beach at low tide, but when the tide is in, or the Atlantic produces huge seas, nearly all the sand is covered by the boiling surf.

Yes, this is England.
It was on Perranporth and other Cornish beaches that the inspired vision for surf life saving in Oz first took root and several years later eventually became a reality, thanks to the persistence and ingenuity of Warren Mitchell.

                                Cornish Butt
Gee! No wonder Warren was not in a hurry to return home in the 1960's and possibly why he returned with his family to the UK. Problem is, not too much surf in Leeds though.
                                Cornish surfer

                   Perranporth Beach Cornwall

For all the Poldark fans out there, Perranporth is the fictional Hendrawna Beach where Ross and Demelza Poldark lived in their modest home that was named Nampara. Novelist Winston Graham positioned Nampara just off to the left of the beach at the top of the picture and one of the Poldarks mines, namely Wheal Leisure was just to the left of the picture's left side. The beach is just over 3 miles long.

                          Newquay Beaches

When one takes in the preceding images, it is hard to believe that the photos were not taken here in Oz. If this is typical of the geography of Cornwall, any wonder our pioneering adventurers stayed as long as they did. I believe the county of Devon is also blessed with many beautiful beaches, although if the water temperature is on a par with Tasmania, one could very easily find himself singing soprano.

                                Home away from home

It looks as though the team from Towradgi has met with some success going on all the smiles. It is interesting to note that the guys appear to have left all the heavy lifting to the young ladies. Something else worth noting are the wet suits that all and sundry are wearing mainly to keep out the chill and to protect the body from friction burns and abrasions that are part of IRB racing. They also ensure that the girls cozzies remain intact, something that did not always happen during those early days of development and testing at Avalon during the late 1960's and early 70's......Refer Abalone Balony.

                                IRB No 1 Retired

The end result. Chaos around the cans.
No! Not Alf Garnett 
Warren Mitchell is a living legend to all who knew him. Throughout Surf Life Saving circles he is known as the Father of the IRB. He has been presented with an Innovation Award from the Surf Life Saving Association for his efforts to adapt and perfect an inflatable boat for use in the Australian surf and has been honored by his country of birth with an Order of Australia. Many overseas nations have also adopted the IRB as their main means of rescuing swimmers from the surf and are aware of who was responsible for the development of this invaluable piece of equipment. At first the duck was painted yellow for improved visibility, but it was not that long until the current colour of red was adopted, why that was I know not. The first official ‘ Rubber Duck ’ is currently on display in the National Maritime Museum at Sydney’s Darling Harbour. After much time and effort the end result was what now takes pride of place in the national museum. I am truly proud to have known Warren as a fellow Avalon member as well as a mate. Many laughed at his vision of the future, some did not, I am also proud to state that I was among the latter.

During 2005 the first IRB's appeared along the German coastline. The world's largest lifesaving organisation, namely DLRG German Lifesaving realised the potential of the rubber ducks and in no time they became the primary means of rescuing swimmers from the Baltic and North Seas. For three days in May 2009 at Scharbeutz on the Baltic Sea, an IRB Carnival and Training Event was organised, the main purpose to provide training for the many lifesavers in the region who have taken to the IRB like ducks to water. The guest of honour at the carnival that will be held from May 15th to the 17th, will be Avalon's pioneering IRB developer Warren Mitchell OAM. Fresh from his participation in November 2008 at Abveron in Wales, Warren will be addressing the organizers of and participants in the German event to pass on his knowledge and some of his experience to the right people, who are aware of the role he played in transforming the way surf and ocean rescues are performed.

Rounding the cans, German style.
Back in Avalon during 1969-70, none of us could have imagined that all the fun mixed in with some hard work occasionaly would be responsible for such a change in attitude and procedures involving water rescues........Onya Mulga!

SEASON 69--70
During the early 1960’s, Avalon active member Warren Mitchell was holidaying in Britain and became one of the first professional lifeguards to patrol beaches in Cornwall. Some of the Cornish beaches were extremely long and four wheel drive vehicles were used to get from here to there. Zodiac rubber boats were used for offshore work. I believe they were driven by 30hp. outboard motors. It was during the last quarter of 1969 that Warren, now happily married and back home in Avalon, decided it was about time to improve local surf rescue techniques and equipment. Even though unsure that what he had in mind would actually work, he started working on a plan to adapt rubber boats to suit Australian conditions. Generally speaking, surf conditions in Cornwall were not too different from Oz and he believed that what had worked over there should work here. Dunlop supplied a six year old rubber duck and an old second hand 20 hp. Mercury was borrowed through OMC and work began on the necessary modifications. Warren was more than ably assisted by former club captain John Fuller, who used his entrepreneurial skills to obtain fuel and equipment as well as helping with the creation of designs and was also involved in some of the construction work. During the November committee meeting Warren revealed his ambitious vision of the future, along with the rubber boat.
Some of the Committee members thought it was a joke. They weren't laughing a few weeks later when the first mass rescue was successfully carried out at Avalon by Warren and John.
After a few chuckles and the odd sideways glance he was eventually given moral support and permission to continue, but unfortunately no money was available.
In November, Warren and his older brother Don gave the boat its first trial in the surf. Don was known as Mulga by his mates and Warren was quite often referred to as Young Mulga. It worked, despite the aluminium keel being bent in more than one place and the 8 foot wave that Warren surfed to the beach was only a fluke. Notes left by Warren state that Don was concerned by a wave rapidly catching them up and called on Warren to gun the boat. Warren informed his brother that the boat was travelling at maximum speed owing to the bent keel and when the wave picked them up they were simply lucky to ride it all the way to the beach.
"Hey Warren, get a move on mate."

Poor Don had to have his chin stitched as it struck the steel fuel tank on the way out inflicting a nasty wound.
Various keels were experimented with and it was agreed that timber and aluminium were not suitable. Although light and strong, the aluminium keel had a tendency to buckle and bend when the boat slammed into a broken wave. The timber keels simply cracked, split and broke. The problem was solved when Warren turned up one morning with a large weird looking length of timber he was certain would work. It was a series of timber strips laminated together and proved to be extremely strong and long wearing. It was subject to God only knows how many trips in and out in the surf and it lasted around 6 months before the first crack appeared. 
Two, three and four bladed props were tried and eventually the one deemed to be the best all rounder was the common three blader. The two blade racing prop enabled the boat to travel at its fastest, but was slow to accelerate and like the four bladed prop was prone to cavitation in the aerated foam. As for a prop guard, there were many designs constructed and fitted, the most satisfactory ended up looking like an oversize egg ring. Today, of course the guards are much more sophisticated and work a treat, but all those years ago we were happy with what we had at our disposal.     

Members of the 1969 Tasmanian trip were also among the true believers and spent considerable time surf testing the boat and experimenting with various propellers and prop guards. Three of the local females gave us all support and were rewarded by many mind blowing trips around the bay at Avalon. Us guys too were rewarded when the girls would occasionaly lose the odd cozzie or bra top during the run around.
"Double Bugger."
The girls referred to the rubber craft as the Giddy Boat. The three of them were also genuine true believers and later on one married Roscoe, another married John and the third ended up drawing the short straw and for a while ended up with, guess who?
Although at first there were some reservations, the people who mattered, slowly but surely started to become more positive and were warming to this innovative rescue craft. During December a mass rescue at Avalon saw the boat and crew save eight people. This was the first rubber boat rescue and many knockers were silenced by the speed and efficiency of it all. A few weeks later at the Dee Why surf carnival during January 1970 many SLSA officials and others sat up and took notice. The demonstration had to be done a second time as it was so quick it was all over almost before it began. The patient was 50 to 60 metres out to sea yet from the moment he raised his hand through to when resuscitation commenced back on the beach, only 52 seconds had elapsed. Warren Mitchell and John Fuller were the crew members and Surf Club Captain John Towner was the patient. The other crew members that day were Ross Lumsden, David Plunkett, Rick Millar and some no hoper named Trevor Fuller [Pogo].

Throughout the many months that followed, Warren and John travelled all over the state demonstrating the ability of the 'Duck' to many Surf Clubs, some of which began experimenting with their own versions of rubber boats.

Soldiers Beach SLSC were also at the forefront of IRB development.
The two pioneers would use the cars exhaust to pump up the boat and on cold winter days Warren would attach a tube to the outboard motor and inside his wet suit so the hot water would help keep him warm and cosy, talk about innovative.
Warren received an Innovation Award from the SLSA for his persistent efforts and exceptional ground breaking achievements, that helped make the IRB what it has become today. He also was honoured by his country when awarded an OAM, which I believe he received from non other than Her Majesty The Queen. As far as I know he is currently living in Leeds along with his wife Carol and family and although content to be there, the last time I spoke to him on one of his visits home to Avalon, he was looking extremely thoughtful. I was on a Sunday morning patrol when he strolled up and stood alongside the Patrol Area, staring out to sea and taking in everything. The beach and surf were clean, the sky, blue and cloudless, a small surf was running, a gentle nor east breeze wafting in and the usual gathering of bikini clad beach girls along with the odd pair of white pointers on display, were present. 

We were standing together on the beach and I asked him, “Be honest mate, do you miss any of this?” He never turned around to face me, but after a few seconds his head suddenly bowed, then nodded and I distinctly heard him give out a big sigh and answer ever so softly.............." Yes."


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Friends and Partners

Breakfast then.

Breakfast now.....Sheesh!!

The infamous 190.

Tom's snog machine.
The Italian Rocket.

Windows before......
......and afterwards.

Snog House.

Strike me lucky.

The following tales are all dedicated to the late Lesley Hopewell, who sadly passed away before her time after losing her battle with the dreaded big C.

God bless you Lu, Rest in Peace.

Heady Days and Nights

Although I am content  with my current existence, my thoughts constantly return to the times when breakfast was food and did not have to be preceded by a bucket full of tablets. There was no defibrillator to set off the alarm when leaving the library or supermarket. Petrol was around 25 cents per gallon and beer cost 18 cents a schooner. Drive in movies and Ten Pin bowling were the popular ways to entertain oneself, in our case it was almost always with the girls, God bless ‘em. We all certainly must have had many adventures and covered a massive amount of territory, as during the years that followed, it seemed that our times together lasted several years and not a mere 2 to 3 years at best.
Our friendships were strong, our interests the same and we were determined to make each and every weekend an absolute blast......and did. 
What follows is an assortment of what I have always regarded as being some of the many highlights in my sinful life.  One hastens to point out that despite all the fun and frolicing that occured  during those sometimes naughty years, like all good things, they eventually came to an end.  A new phase of my life got under way when, for the first time in my life I met a very pretty brunette who I cared about more than my beloved surf club.

Girls who simply just wanted to have fun......and usually did.

SEASONS 1961--63

What made the 1960’s special for me, was being parentally unsupervised, which meant playing up something terrible every weekend on or around the beach and the northern beaches peninsula. The late American crooner Dean Martin and I had one thing in common; my mother and his wife never knew we drank until we came home sober one evening. All I can say is thank God for the girls, who saw to it that our every waking moment was not spent drinking ourselves to a state of inebriated oblivion at either the Arms, Mona Vale, or at the local RSL. During those heady days and nights, there were three extremely top sorts, all blondes, who attempted to keep us on the straight and narrow with varying success. To protect the innocent, I shall refer to them as Michelle, Lulu and Polly. 

Two weeks after the opening of the new surf club building in November 1960, I was riding my surf ski at dusk one Friday evening, when a group of guys and gals arrived on the beach and began talking. After I deemed myself to be shark bait I paddled ashore and was asked to join this group of around nine or ten bods by local girl Denise Ware. I knew who half of them were and the strangers were introduced to me by Denise. One of the girls present happened to be Michelle who took an instant shine to me and made her attentions clear as crystal. At first I showed no interest as I had the hots for a pretty Kiwi bird named Jocelyn. Around 3 months later long after I had bombed out with Joss, I found myself partnering the persistent Michelle.

Early in January 1961 I was introduced to the two glamorous sisters from Fivedock, Lesley and Paula. This was the beginning of what could only be called a unique friendship. At first the three girls hit it off and were united in their attempts to prevent us idiots from self destructing at the pubs and clubs. There was hardly an activity that didn't involve us and all three of the girls, we were almost completely inseparable. It was the girls who suggested that we keep on coming to Avalon throughout the winter months. This we did and ended up up having an absolute ball keeping each other company all year round. Lesley and Paula also answered to their nicknames of Lulu and Polly. Paula would always join Tom and I surfing on her Malibu when us two guys were out riding on our surf skis.   

Although Michelle became my steady at the time, my feelings for the other two, at times reached astronomical heights. In retrospect I’ve never ceased regretting failing to keep in touch, when fate decreed we travel through life along different paths, but during those fantastic times, we were just kids who were enjoying each other’s company and sharing the many good times together, with lots of laughter thrown in for good measure.
The three girls, although not permanent Avalon residents, were regarded as locals by all and sundry, as every weekend they would be seen attempting to keep us guys out of mischief. Their extremely long suffering yet tolerant parents had well appointed holiday homes at Avalon and many unforgettable times were spent within their walls.

Michelle's House.
Former site of Lu and Polly's house.
The female trio were like chalk and cheese. Lulu cut a mean figure in her one piece, but was never really a beach babe as her primary interest was automobiles and boy oh boy, how she loved driving her little grey Fiat 600 fast.....and I mean extremely fast. I think it would be truthful to say that she was a bit of a tomboy and I loved her for it. Her sister Polly was your typical stereotyped surfer girl, close to two inches taller than her older sister, with long, thick blonde hair falling several inches below her shoulders and having a body most girls would die for, particularly when partially clad in her one of her bikinis, with or without the white board shorts. Polly was an excellent surfer and many of my own Malibu board riding skills, be they as they were, were sharpened by the many surfing sessions we shared, mostly at North Avalon. Michelle was always outwardly tolerant and on occasions extremely forgiving, despite how frustrating my outrageous behaviour was on a regular basis.
On most Friday nights I would arrive at 5:50pm on the 190 and then await the arrival of the other gang members. If Michelle wasn't quick enough to latch on to me at the clubhouse, I would be off to the Newport pub until 10:00pm  then back home to the Avalon RSL to become completely and utterly legless by 1:00am. Quite often Tom and I would take the two sisters Lesley and Paula bowling, or to a Drive In. When Lesley started going steady with Jim, Tom and I still got to spend many Friday nights and Saturday mornings with the sisters. Jim didn't seem to mind and eventually Michelle too regarded it as the norm. I was always suspicious of Michelle at the time, that she had a hidden desire to become a high flying social celebrity and eventually marry a movie star such as Rock Hudson. [Oh boy, if only she had known the truth way back then]. 

Many folk would regard the above as being a little weird, or even a bit kinky, but to us all those years ago it seemed perfectly natural. I had been going with Michelle for at least 3 to 4 months when one Friday night I arrived at the club at 6:00 pm., followed by Tom a few minutes later. Jim was not with Tom as he had to work Saturday morning and when Tom and I went upstairs to the dance hall, the phone rang. It was the two sisters Lesley and Paula wanting to know who was in the clubhouse. I told them it was just Tom and I and they then expressed a desire to go to a Drive In. Because I had very strong feelings for both sisters, it was fine by me and Tom also was all for it. Within 5 minutes the girls arrived and it was into Tom's wagon and the four of us were off to the movies. Throughout the many months that followed, this became a semi regular occurence and even though at first Michelle was not exactly thrilled, she eventually accepted it as normal behavior. There was never anything heavy that transpired, but boy, didn't I get to become a fair dinkum kissin' cousin with both sisters.

I know I should not admit to this, but I am truly ashamed that back then I had no idea what the girls did for a living. I obviously was so caught up in all the great times we were having that I didn’t think it mattered. All I know for certain is that Polly went on to become a Physiotherapist after we all lost touch with one another. One vivid memory keeps on re-occurring over and over again. There was fast-running surf at North Avalon, Polly and yours truly were both becoming frustrated at not being able to get beyond the break.

 My arms felt like spaghetti, but the two of us refused to stop paddling. After resurfacing from a duck dive I noticed that the broken wave had pushed Polly’s bikini bottom well below her well rounded buttocks, but she kept on going like the proverbial threshing machine. 

All I could do was to follow behind her and hope that another wave didn’t push her backwards and on top of me, possibly causing our friendship to be taken one step beyond the platonic relationship that it was at the time. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that provide one with inspiration. Only when we finally made it safely out the back did she appear to notice her state of undress. Being a gentleman I turned away my gaze [I could still see out of the corner of my eye however] while she desperately attempted to return things to their proper place. After successfully accomplishing this she then actually apologised to me for making me feel uncomfortable. What I was actually feeling at the time made her apology totally unnecessary, but I dared not utter a single word.

Denise and Lenya were two local beauties who were the best of friends and quite often would be seen surfing together. They were both better than average board riders, who like Polly, had earned the respect of the male surfers. Denise had all of her lumps and bumps in precisely the right places and Lenya was simply a young teenage Elle MacPherson.

Every now and then some of the more fortunate guys would be called upon to apply copious quantities of coconut oil to the backs of these two shapely females and their well put together sunbaking companions. 

There was never a shortage of willing volunteers to see to the girls request. A quick glance at the photo below fully explains why.

While standing together with Brian Sheehan on the surf club's deck having a chat, he suddenly commented, "Now there's something you don't get to see every day." Standing side by side on their Malibus, no more than 2 feet apart and chatting merrily away with each other, while a small broken wave was slowly taking them towards the beach were Denise and Lenya. Both girls at the time were wearing not much more than two thimbles and a cork.

After giving out a big sigh, Brian then said, "There are times like this when I wish I was as young as you Pogo." I made no comment as I was still gazing at the pulse racing site responsible for his statement.......Oh God, I'm beginning to salivate.

Some of the senior clubbies were quite confused trying to work out who in our elite little group was actually going out with whom. This was because we would all be sighted on various occasions hanging out with different partners. Now, listen very carefully, as I will say this only once [Oops, sorry Rene]. Jim and Lu were an item, as were Michelle and I and Polly had made it clear she was not interested in forming a permanent relationship with anyone, but she was just as partial to a decent snog as we all were at the time. When Jim had to work on the odd Saturday, Lu would pair off with either Tom or sometimes another Jim who I shall call JR and Polly was able to choose whoever she happened to fancy at the time. When Michelle was unable to be present, Polly would nearly always pair off with lucky me. When both Michelle and Jim were absent at the same time, Tom and I would toss a coin to determine who was having who or quite often we would let the two sisters decide for themselves. Generally speaking they tended to take turns swapping Tom and I around. My God, life was tough back then.

I feel I should make it perfectly clear that my relationship with the two sisters remained strictly platonic, but we still had the ability to completely fog up a Holden station wagon in quick time and invariably did so on numerous occasions. One senior member named John was completely and utterly bamboozled by, what he perceived to be, our kinky behaviour. John was known as Feltex, because of all the time he spent on the mat as an amateur boxer. His so called mates used to say he took out advertising on the soles of his shoes, mean bastards. One day when all six of us arrived in the car park, we saw him entering the clubhouse and conspired to confuse him even further. We all paired off with different partners and entered the building holding hands and commenced cuddling and kissing each other, making sure that John was watching. Later on that day John approached me and with an enigmatic look on his face he enquired as to who was going out with whom. Although the meaning was the same, he phrased his question quite differently. It would not be polite to put in writing the exact words he used when making his enquiry.

Returning home late one freezing cold winter’s morning from what may have been a midnight Drive In, Polly and I were snuggled together using each other’s body heat to de frost ourselves. After a while we both fell sound asleep long before arriving back at the club.
Upon reaching the clubs car park, Jim took Lu home and after throwing a blanket over Polly and me, all the others adjourned to the club and headed for the bunkhouse. When I opened my eyes I noticed the sun had risen, it obviously was morning. Polly was cradled in my arms, her head resting on my chest, still sound asleep. Attempting to look at my wrist watch I caused her to stir and it wasn’t too long before she opened her eyes. She placed her arms around my neck and reached up, positioned herself comfortably, then kissed me ever so tenderly on the lips.

My pulse rate suddenly slowed when after only a few seconds had passed, she snapped to attention and asked almost frantically “Oh my God, What time is it?” I told her it was eight thirty and she panicked, “Mum and Dad are going to kill me,” she stated and commenced to leave the car to begin the 500 metre walk home north along the beach. I insisted on going with her and received another kiss on the cheek for my gallantry.
We entered the rear of the house via the kitchen door and lo and behold Mum and Dad were sitting at the breakfast table waiting for us. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I noticed Mum turn her head away to hide what I thought was a silly smile on her face. Dad, dropping his voice at least two octaves, enquired of his young and exceptionally pretty daughter, “And what have you been up to until this totally unacceptable hour young lady?” Polly’s reply was truthful yet extremely incriminating, “Nothing Dad, I only spent the night sleeping with Pogo.” Bloody hell! Thanks a lot Pol, just what your Dad wanted to hear. Expecting Polly’s poorly phrased excuse to go down like a lead balloon, I immediately started looking for a large hole to jump into when her Mum gave a little squeak and started to shake uncontrollably and Dad began laughing so loud I thought he was going to wet himself. It turned out that Lu had informed her parents of our situation and everything was cool. I even scored a free breakfast.

During June 1962 I finally got my driving licence in my Uncle Jack's Morris Minor. He had no objection with me taking the car for a spin around Annandale, Leichhardt and as far afield as Fivedock most evenings through the week. I mentioned in passing to Lulu what I was up to and she suggested I pop in for a visit and a cup of tea. One Wednesday night I did just that. Lesley, her Mum and Dad and me were watching the British TV series Z Cars, when Paula arrived home from a friend's house. She stopped in the doorway to the living room and asked,"What are you doing here Pogo?" I simply stared at her, unable to talk. The extremely well put together cute little blonde who was my number one brief bikini clad surfing companion, my skiing partner in the snow at Falls Creek, the pilot of Lulu's little Fiat, always willing to drive me home Sunday evenings and my regular car fogging snogging accomplice during the past 12 months or more, was wearing a dark blue school uniform and carrying a small school case with various stickers all over it. After a while she asked me, "What are you staring at Pogo?" Finally after recovering from the initial shock, I told her, "Paula, I've never seen you this way before."

Monday to Friday. Sweet.
Saturday and Sunday. Hot
I was then ordered not to say a word to anyone in Avalon about it, under penalty of death. Her pullover  had a rather large badge above her left breast  that said, "PREFECT" and she was wearing little white socks and a pair of black Bata Poneytail school shoes.

I was about to ask her whether her shoes had animal tracks on the soles, but refrained from doing so, as I was certain she would have scratched my eyes out. Even in a school uniform, Polly still looked ravishing.

There were of course other young and virile members of the opposite sex who were part of our exclusive little clique. The two Kiwis, Jocelyn and Carol, Patti and Carolyn, who became our partners eventually, sandgropers Lynn and Julie, my matchmaking local cutie Denise and the gorgeous Lenya  and various others whose names now escape me, much to my shame and sorrow. Was life tough? Whaddya reckon? 

One thing I loathed and detested was returning home on a Sunday evening to face another 5 days at work away from the beach. This became much more bearable when Lulu offered to drive me home in the little grey Italian rocket.

The Rocket.
This was to become a regular occurrence and became even more exciting when Polly obtained her driving licence and when Jim drove Lu home in his car, she would drive me home in Lulu’s. We always left Avalon at 8pm sharp and would arrive outside my Annandale home around 9pm. It did not matter who drove me home, saying goodnight to one another became almost an erotic art form. At any time from 9:30 pm to 11:00pm I would finally enter the house, leaving the Fiat with enough moisture on its windows to indefinitely support a small human colony on the planet Mars. A mate of mine who lived several houses up the street used to quite often pass by at around 9:15pm on his way home from a milk bar in Stanmore where he worked. On two consecutive Sunday evenings he recognised me saying goodnight to Lu and Polly respectively and assumed we were engaged in doing a whole lot more than we actually were. 

The following Wednesday evening while we were all walking to the local cinema, he told some of the Annandale mob what he thought he had seen. Ashamedly, I did not contradict his version of the perceived back seat activities and for quite some time I became a local legend inundated with enquiries about what does one do to join a surf lifesaving club. All the back seat slap and tickle continued on unabated, even after I obtained my driving licence. Occasionlly, the girls were brave enough to allow me a turn behind the wheel whilst driving home.
Approximately 12 months later when competing at the Manly surf carnival, I was more than just mildly surprised to meet several of the old Annandale gang, happy and content with their new adopted lifestyle within the beach and surf lifesaving culture. Although not as surprised to learn that I was a clubbie, some of them had serious and genuine concerns about my sanity when they discovered I was a member of the boat crew.

The following is something that my old mate Schooners at Brunswick knows all about. He too in his early clubbing years travelled on the legendary 190 from Wynyard to Avalon. I’ve often wondered if Fibbers* did.... Hmmh! an interesting thought, if not frightening.

Although described accurately at another web site by a former clubbie, I nevertheless feel compelled to inform anyone interested, of a physical condition known as either Travellers Cock, or Convoy Cock. I preferred to call it, Pilgrims Prick. Due to the fact, that my insatiable appetite for ice cold amber fluid kept me both broke and carless for the first five years, my only means of transportation was the public kind. It mattered not what time of day or evening one boarded the 190, somewhere before reaching Avalon, the dreaded PP would strike without warning. Alighting from a double decker was not a major problem as all one had to do was to gallop down the stairs at the rear of the bus, then out the doorless opening. Leaving one of the more modern single deckers was a different kettle of fish, as one generally was seated at the back of the bus. All one could do was to look straight ahead, weave or barge one’s way towards the front of the bus, hoping not to impale any fellow commuters along the way, or causing elderly female passengers to either faint or possibly recall erotic memories of their youth.

While enjoying a cappuccino at, what was then the La Fiesta coffee lounge, much to my surprise, I was approached by one of the extremely good looking local sorts, who had what could be called a dubious reputation. We had coffee and I was invited to escort her home to North Avalon. She didn’t seem concerned that we would have to take the 190 bus and appeared not to be put off by the fact that I was only wearing a pair of Speedo budgie smugglers at the time. She too was only wearing a one piece, but she looked a lot better in hers than I did in mine. The bus journey was only three or four stops and lasted approximately three to four minutes, yet, you guessed it, the dreaded PP began to raise its ugly head. [What an unfortunate but extremely descriptive choice of words]. I have no idea whether it was simply the curse of the dreaded 190, or the fact that her smooth, warm outer thigh was touching mine, but Mother Nature sent the blood flowing to where it believed it would do the most good. Not having my overnight bag, or even my hat or cap, all I could do was keep my knees together and my hands crossed you know where. We left the bus after the cheeky conductress, sporting a Cheshire cat like grin, informed me that I was taking up too much room on the seat, but then insisted that I accept a free ride. " You deserve it," she said.........Bitch! My female companion never made any comment until we arrived at her place, where we discovered her mum was still at home, so putting to an end any hanky panky that may, or may not have happened. She thanked me for seeing her home and told me she had truly enjoyed my company and when I told her that I too had enjoyed hers, her response was, with a saucy wink of the eye, “So I noticed.” I pole vaulted all the way back to the beach for a long overdue soaking in the cold surf. 

All the fun and games involving the girls mentioned above slowly but surely started to grind to a halt around 1963 when the Surfers Stomp erupted at the Avalon club. It was during November 1962 when my beautiful girlfriend Patty ended our relationship suddenly. A few short months later there was a mutual attempt at a reconciliation, but both of us realised the spark previously there was no longer present and we parted on excellent terms.

Throughout the 1960's local girls Denise and Lenya remained in view on the beach, in the club and at the Pub, but the others drifted off along different paths and were never seen again.
It could be said they all went out in a blaze of glory, for when a huge mass rescue took place at Avalon towards the end of March 1963 the girls were being examined on the beach for their Qualifying Certificates and played an active role during the rescue as my linesmen when I was swimming a surf line out to our shattered surf boat drifting in the rip to Little Avalon.

The girls received a letter of commendation from the SLSA for their awards and for their marvellous efforts during the rescue. The squad was.......

Denise Ware, Lenya Laurich, Paula Hopewell (Polly), Lesley Hopewell (Lulu), Tom's girlfriend Carolyn Druce and my former partner Patricia Jarratt.

The girls feature in my account of the mass rescue in A DAY AT THE OFFICE

Last but not least, the most important friend and partner came into my life during 1971 and my rabble rousing days became no more than a memory. The girl responsible was a cute, well endowed and cheeky brunette named Gabi Lannen. The greatest thing in my life had been the surf club and all the trappings that went with it, this was no longer the case. My life was about to change for the better and I knew it. 

Gabi, Robyn, Bruce and John.  Wading at Sunpatch.

A bit  older, but still showing off at Ettalong.
Gabi introduced me to people and places I never knew existed. Sydney's Chinatown became the Friday night venue for a good feed at the Green Jade in Dixon St. The two of us were well known at the Beverly Hills Pizza Hut and it was par for the course for a large pizza each to be devoured, then washed down with several cleansing lagers. Before I knew it I was transformed into a devoted husband and father. Isn't life wonderful?
It most certainly is.

Hardly any clubbie was called by his given name, but by a nickname determined by some real or imaginary personal trait......................Check out some of the following.
Fibbers, Pedro, Beast, Swizzle, Rodent, Pogo, Smiley, Doc, Roscoe, JD, Dirty Pierre, Kegs, Guts, Doberman, Fat Man, Feltex, Drovers Dog, Mulga, Mumbles, Bombhead, Nikko, Slippery, Abo, The Face, Wal the Plumber, Schnoz, Farls, Schooners, Nipper, Boots & younger brother Thongs, Scotty, Mort the Sport, Sam, Burgho, Ding King, Splasher, Snap, Friendly, Lump, Bazza, The Mouth, Bull, Wocker, The Bear, Robbo, Wop, Davo, Clem, Mongrel, Churchy, Macca and finally, The Little King. There were many others I feel sure, but these are a few that readily came to mind.

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