Thursday, October 9, 2008


Ken Davidson, Doug Crane, Max Watt, Don Imison

The old fashioned way, but it worked.

On Patrol, the modern way. This works better, Onya, Mulga!

Roger Sayers and Warren Young

Volunteers, one and all
All volunteer organisations need special people to survive and support their local communities. Generally speaking it is left up to the younger members to perform the hands on day to day services that the club or organisation provides. However, the days of raising funds by means of chocolate wheels, chook raffles and similar attractions are things of the past unfortunately. Today, large donations, gifts, grants and willing sponsors are required to keep open the doors of many of our nation's major voluntary organisations, a large percentage of which have become icons. 
What also is necessary are highly skilled personnel to ensure the club’s name remains prominent and whose skills and abilities are responsible for inspiring the up and comers. When many of these specialists reach the end of their active, grass roots participation, then go on to become an active member of the management team, devoting many more years of their time, they transform themselves into legends. Nearly all of them would consider themselves nothing out of the ordinary, “What me, a legend, bullshit.” would be a common retort, but then, that’s the kind of guys they are.
I joined the Avalon SLSC during September 1959 and for me to list all of the legends I’ve known and associated with would be literally impossible, but the tribute that follows is about the few who had an effect on me in ways that they would not be aware of. It would be extremely unfair not to mention that today there are more than just male legends but female ones as well. When I rejoined the club back in 1990 the first female club captain held the reins and this year, namely 2008, when I attended the AGM, the first Female Club President had been appointed.

Madame President Christine Hopton off for a wave.

 Many of the girls, both young and not so young will go on and in time will be remembered for their contribution long after many of us ageing troublemakers have gone to shake hands with Huey. They too will become legends.
Throughout the years this small surf club hosted the first international malibu demonstration during 1956 and was responsible for taking an American surfers dance, namely the Stomp and inflicting it upon the Australian population, designed and introduced the IRB to local, interstate and beaches overseas, pioneered the use of leg ropes on surf rescue boards and was responsible for the introduction of surf life saving as we know it, to the Brits.


Avalon Beach. As it was during the 1950's and as I remember it.

Front row: Max and Norma Watt, Reg and Marj Wood, Beryl Imison.  Rear:  Brian Friend, Keith Feehley, Ken Davidson, Don Imison.

  A former sparring partner of mine, namely John Farley, stated in one of his letters to me that one does not always get the opportunity to serve an organisation that one truly loves. It’s frightening how many years have elapsed since I was given that opportunity.
I was a cheeky, self centred little bugger from the inner western suburbs of Sydney, when Reg Wood and George Shuttleworth plucked me off the streets of Annandale and were responsible for the gritty sands of Avalon becoming my new and vastly improved stomping grounds.
On Sunday 20th December 1959 I obtained my Bronze Medallion in what was the last squad before the introduction of the oral resuscitation methods. Back then it was the Holger Neilson, Silvester Brosch, the Eves Rocker, the Fireman’s carry, the one man drag and the Reel, Line and Belt that ruled. The nine surf clubs from Warriewood to North Palm Beach were competing in Restricted carnivals, with the host club able to invite an outsider. Avalon’s invitee was always Manly. The red, white and green nearly always won the carnivals’ point score. It was extremely rare for Avalon to finish out of the top two placegetters.
I would train for hours at a time in the old rock pool, I surfed on my Malibu, I body surfed and paddled for miles on my plywood racing surf ski, mostly with my good mate Tom Schweitzer. All of a sudden I was super fit. For a small and some may say a fairly insignificant club, Avalon was blessed with a variety of multi talented personnel. These were people I certainly could not match, or even hope to emulate. The speed and skill of Bob Head and Aub Shanks in the open surf and belt races. The strength and ability of Max and Jackie Watt at surf ski racing….I should also mention Peter Kelly and Wal the Plumber. The supreme all round fitness of the late Bobby Nicholl who dominated the beach events and was not that slack in the surf to boot.  Boat sweeps Brian Sproule and the late and great Brian Sheehan with their ability to pilot surfboats through all kinds of surf. (At least some of the time). 

From the front.... David Boon, Reg Wood, Doug Crane, Fred Woodley, Jim Campbell (Sweep)

Active members John Greaves, Bull Campbell, Bob Head, Ian Tiley, Don Mitchell and his baby brother Warren pioneered the introduction of local surf lifesaving techniques and equipment in the UK. Warren , of course, went on to introduce the IRB to Australian surf lifesaving. The SLSA administration benefited through the efforts of Michael Byrnes OAM, Allan Slevin, Ray Cosgrove, Ken Davidson, Harry Ragan and the like. Even as I write, some of these local legends that include the Branch honoured Life Members Doug Crane and Don Imison, are still actively involved in the day to day running of the Avalon club. 

One name keeps on appearing throughout many of my blogs and that name happens to be Reg Wood. Putting it mildly,Woody was quite a colourful personality throughout the 1950's and along with many other dubious characters created organised mayhem at Avalon and along the Warringah peninsular.
Woody, flanked by Doug Crane (L) and Harry Ragan(R).
Reg was given the nickname of Mongrel by those who knew him and was also known as Clem or Clemmie. When I began my Fitting and Turning apprenticeship at the Nestle Company during February 1959, the maintenance foreman happened to be Reg. Some of my fellow apprentices at the time who I am currently in touch with, no longer regard Woody as their boss, but as their mentor. He bent over backwards to ensure 'his boys' reached and were successful in achieving all their goals. He would conduct at home, math classes to assist any of the guys who were having difficulties at the T.A.F.E. He had an association with the Police Citizens Boys club and was a qualified wrestling instructor who trained John Kinsella when he competed at the Mexico Olympics during 1968. Along with his 2IC George Shuttleworth, Reg was always endeavouring to boost the membership numbers of the Avalon Surf Club. Throughout the 1960's he and George managed to see to it that the flow of new recruits continued unabated. Some of the newly signed up apprentices were having trouble completing their mandatory test swims at Avalon, so Woody conducted swimming classes at the old Drummoyne swimming pool.

Up at Avalon he was doing the same thing, plus he organised and led an aerobics class in the clubhouse, hopefully to improve the physical fitness and well being of the members, many of whom enjoyed the odd amber ale and lager occasionally. 
During 1989 he retired and moved to the South Coast community of Sussex Inlet, where the local surf lifesaving club benefited from his wide knowledge and skills. He had joined the Avalon club in 1944 and was made a Life Member in 1965. Throughout that time he held several positions, among those being Club Captain, Board Captain, Judiciary and Life Member committee member.
After his move to Sussex, he became a member of the South Coast Board of Examiners at age 70 as an Assessor and Trainer. He was fairly well known throughout the district as he was all the time doing the rounds drumming up where possible new recruits, not just for the Sussex club, but the SLSA in general.

Eventually the years caught up with him and at age 87 he retired from the active side after 68 years of devoted service to his two clubs, the SLSA and the community at large. I am willing to bet he will still be giving them heaps at the monthly committee meetings and other social functions etc.
Woody with grandson Brad.
All I know is my life as a young teenager was heading in the wrong direction when I was conned into joining a surf lifesaving club in a Sydney suburb I had never heard of, back in 1959.
Reg turned my whole life around when he became responsible for me being taken of the streets of Annandale and I was transformed into, what I hope is a fairly worthwhile individual, when the sacred sands of Avalon became my new stomping grounds.

There are so  many throughout my life whom I owe quite a lot to, but at the top of the list is one Reginald Wood. His persistance and faith in me and others, turned us around and was responsible for me adopting a totally new lifestyle which made those years of surfing and public service the happiest years of my life. For arguably the first time in my life I was given the opportunity to make a worthwhile contribution to society and thanks to Woody, I was successful. This is something I am eternally grateful for.
The aforementioned, along with others too numerous to mention, were more than likely never outwardly given the respect they deserved by the young and foolish all those decades ago. Today, however, one can more than just appreciate the inspiration and leadership provided by these very special people. The Avalon club would not be where it is today if it were not for their unselfish dedication and specialist skills. Although not reaching their high standards, I am nevertheless proud to have been given the opportunity to follow in their shadows and to contribute in my own small way and didn’t I have fun and create some mischief whilst making that contribution………You bet I did.
Trevor ( Pogo ) Fuller

Doug Crane,    Max Watt

The above tribute was written during October 2008, but unfortunately, time waits for no man or woman and two of the Avalon Club's living legends have sadly entered the hereafter. Doug and Max will be sorely missed by all and sundry, but if ever you are out the back on your own swimming for a wave and a sensation of being given a nudge by something occurs, you can bet your life it will be the spirit of one, or either both of them out there with you, keeping you company.
"Send 'em in Huey!"

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