Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tasmania 1969. Part 3

Aurora Australis over Hobart.
Mount Wellington Hobart.




The Odyssey continues.....From part 2

At the end of the second days competition, our constitutions were beginning to slow down and Saturday night was a time for recovery. If my memory is correct we all had an early, sober night and at least 10 hours sleep. The competition ended Sunday afternoon and one of the local land owners allowed the SLSA to hold a massive farewell bash that evening on his property…..brave man. There was a rather steep admission fee to enter and be a part of this bash, but I assumed all of us would attend. I was wrong. Most of the mob wanted to revisit the popular night spot in Hobart where we entertained our wicked little trainee nurses and in return were suitably entertained by them. I had met this absolutely stunning long haired blonde who seemed to fancy me and who was looking forward to attending the rage that evening. I had a decision to make….The night club with the guys, or the farmers field with the blonde. I chose the latter. Just before dusk, Johnnie Towner dropped the two of us off at the huge gathering of Australia’s finest. As I watched John’s car disappear, I began to wonder how the hell was I to get home without transport, but, first things first. My blonde goddess didn’t hang around for too long. It turned out all she wanted was admission to the bash so she could locate her boyfriend and make up after a disagreement. I didn’t have time to grieve as a loud shout was heard, “Good day Avalon.” The shout came from several members of the South Narrabeen club who appeared to be well and truly in overdrive. “Where’s all your pissy mates?" I was asked and after informing them I was invited to spend an evening of self destruction with them. The northern beaches flag had to be kept flying……and it was.

The Australian Drinking Championships
All through the night the sounds of raised voices blurting out profanities along with the pop and hiss of newly tapped kegs became music to my ears. The area around the bar was surrounded by towers of nine gallon aluminium kegs and when night fell it began to resemble the skyline of New York City. Some bloke from Penguin surf club shouts at the top of his voice, “Hey, there’s the piss pot that won the drinking championship at Low Head.” What drinking championship? The what? Whereabouts? What’s are fucking Low Head? Tasmanian championship, bollicks, let’s have a national…….Oh Shit, here we go again. 

 Urged on by my south Narra mates, I breezed through the qualifying rounds, then the quarters and semis and for the second time that week, it became a one on one drink off. My opponent was a nine foot six tall Maori built like the proverbial brick shit house. Bloody hell, who sent you I thought, the Phillistines? What happened to the little Jewish kid with the slingshot, he must have been trampled underfoot? Fourteen times we downed our 10 ounce glasses without a result. On the fifteenth attempt, three of the five judges believed my crown was slightly damper than his and Goliath was declared Australian Beer Drinking Champion. It was traditional for the winner to then down a two litre jug of beer, but because I had made it such a close competition, I too was expected to do likewise. Down the hatch it went, not a struck match between us. The massive Kiwi placed his empty jug on the table, raised his arms above his head in triumph, burped, then fell to the ground and remained completely motionless for the next hour, despite several buckets of water being thrown on his prone, unconscious body. I was spirited away by my newly discovered companions, who knew what had to be done. They made me watch as one of them shoved two of his fingers up his backside, then down my throat. Revenge was swift and sweet, not a single solitary lumpy bit within the liquid laugh that followed missed him. Several others scattered in all directions to avoid the overspray.

"Name 2 days of the week beginning with T?"............. "Today and Tomorrow?"
A missing keg
I was carried to a parked car and unceremoniously deposited in the back seat and a blanket was thrown over me. Shortly after the vehicle quickly filled with rowdy drunks and we proceeded to leave. Just short of the main exit we found ourselves at the rear of stationary vehicles. We enquired what the problem was and were told that some of the nine gallon kegs had gone missing and spot checks were the order of the evening as vehicles were leaving. We were absolutely shocked and opened our car’s boot to await inspection. Eventually the rear door of the car opened and a friendly face bid me G’day, then after a quick look, shut the door. The boot was closed and we proceeded on our way. We arrived at our destination, the summit of Mount Wellington. It was absolutely freezing. The blanket covering me was removed and another blanket underneath my feet was dragged from the vehicle to reveal a nine gallon aluminium keg on the floor. Ah! Breakfast. 
Within an hour the keg was drained of its contents and rolled over the edge of the mountain. I was returned to the Sandy Bay camping area, but what followed I simply cannot recall. I remember waking up all warm and cosy in my sleeping bag. I could hear what sounded like young voices talking. “What is it?” “What, it’s a bloke is it?” “Shit he’s not dead is he?” “Should we call an ambulance?” I removed my head from the sleeping bag when someone began to kick me. Forming a circle around me were several Catholic school kids in uniform wondering what they had stumbled across. I was in the street, or should I say I was in the streets gutter. The grass footpath was at least 3 metres wide, then a barbed wire fence, then another 4 metres to the back of our tent in the camping area. For me to have rolled out here meant passing under the tents bottom flap, underneath the fence and eventually into the gutter and it was uphill all the way. How very strange. None of my travelling companions would admit to anything, only that I was a heavy snorer…….Hmmm! 

Roscoes shout!
On the Monday morning it was recommended we have a day of rest, the almost constant raging was beginning to have an effect on us all. We arrived outside a pub, hoping to sip on the odd beer and lemon squash, but it had not yet opened. We decided to have a slow wander around the area and return when the hotel was open. Roscoe was buggered. He was not going to walk another inch. He sat on the footpath, his back up against the wall of the hotel and in no time he fell sound asleep. We left him there, but only after placing a hand written sign alongside him and an old empty jam tin between his legs. The sign read, ‘I am a lost and lonely lifesaver from Sydney, please help me to return home.’ When we returned 30 minutes later, he was still there snoring his head off with at least $10 in his jam tin. $10 then would be worth at least $100 today. We insisted he have a shout.
The carnival was well and truly over, it was time to strike the tent and continue our trek, this time in a westerly direction. Our up to date map of Tassie did not show any roads in the vicinity of the south west corner of the island, merely a notation that read, ‘This area as yet still unexplored.’ We decided that discretion would be the better part of valour and we agreed to head for the western town of Strahan. The mountain scenery was breathtaking and one was very easily distracted. This, at times became a bit of a worry, particularly after rounding a sharp bend and discovering half the road was missing. Whoa! When I says Whoa, I means Whoa!!! The three cars squeezed through, the right hand bumpers scraping on the almost vertical cliff face with the tyres on the left a good 4 inches in from a 1000 metre drop. We all were stunned the following day when one of the Narrabeen clubs arrived pulling the surf boat and trailer. They told us they simply carried it all across……..Dickheads. 

Queenstown and Strahan
Queenstown, what a barren, yet unique place. Not a blade of any type of vegetation to be seen within miles of the town. The copper mining had denuded everything. Pete commented that the approaches reminded him of Spain. Before entering the town itself, we drove past the Aussie Rules field and one of our party noted that the softest part of the playing field was the moss growing on the rocks. The hotel we entered had all the lights dimmed, to the extent where it was difficult to see what was what. This was for the benefit of the miners who spent most of their working days underground in pitch black surroundings. We also noticed the miners who were downing a few were drinking 15 ounce schooners. This was a first as most Tazwegians tended to drink 6 and 8 ounce glasses. Later on that day we arrived in the extremely pretty fishing village of Strahan. We drove west of Strahan to where the road ended and for most of us it was our first look at the Great Southern Ocean. A feeling of complete and utter isolation gripped us all. It seemed as though we were standing at the literal end of the Earth. The beach we were standing on disappeared over the horizon where every now and then the light of a distant light house could be seen flashing. The surf was exactly the same as depicted in the photo below. What a lonely windswept place. 

Returning to Strahan we pitched the tent, had a barbecue dinner then adjourned to the pub……Surprised? I didn’t think so.
Our publican was a female and appeared to be a little cool towards us, without being rude. This did not prevent the consumption of several ice cold ales although it was obvious we were definitely beginning to slow down. At 11pm. everyone was being hustled out by her and when we began to rise she told us to wait a minute. When the last patron had left, she entered our little lounge area carrying a tray full of beer and sat down in our midst and became our second best friend. At 1am. the local police arrived to enquire why there was liquor still being served two hours after closing time. Our friendly publican stated that she was merely entertaining visiting lifesavers from Sydney and asked them to join us. “I think it would be extremely rude of us not to have a drink with you all,” said the Sarge. We all decided to call it quits after our law enforcement officers left at 3:30am. After sausages, bacon and eggs with tea and coffee for brekky, we continued our journey north, next stop Burnie.

Zeehan then Burnie......Thanks Alison
We stopped briefly to look at some of the mining ruins and equipment at Zeehan, then arrived in Burnie. Sludge and I introduced ourselves to one of the local butchers and left his shop with a bucket load of meat purchased at a heavily discounted price. The Burnie club allowed us to use the surf club that evening, but many discovered that sleeping on a wooden dance floor was nowhere near as comfortable as sleeping on soft grass. I slept outside on an open balcony, a trestle table for a bed and woke up soaking wet with dew. The next day we fronted up uninvited at the Burnie Board factory and were given a gorgeous brown haired sweetie named Alison as our guide. She changed from a pretty floral patterned dress into a tight fitting pair of grey slacks and a figure hugging white top which had the words 'Tour Guide' sewn on the left hand side.........Yowza!!! 
Alison was an excellent guide who appeared to be fully familiar with the workings of the huge Mill and we were given the Cooks Tour with all the bells and whistles. All in all it took around 90 minutes to complete our fact finding mission and when we finally returned to the office, one of the senior managers asked if Alison had looked after us and enquired if there was any one thing in particular that we found extremely interesting.
We all looked for a large hole to hide in when one of our wankers answered, "Alisons Arse."

Alison before.
Alison afterwards. Wherever she went,  we were right behind her...... Any wonder.
The bay to the right of the Burnie surf club was a disaster as the pulp mill dumped all of its filthy crap into it. The surf was a reddish orange colour and did not smell that great also. All this smack bang alongside the main surfing beach. Thank God it has finally been shut down. As I write, there are some brain dead cretins who are determined to build a similar one along the beautiful Tamar River. My only comment is ………..Screw the lot of you!!

Next stop was the garden town of Devonport. What a beautiful part of the world. We had permission to sleep overnight in the surf club and once again the advantages of sleeping on grass came to the fore. Towner and I went for a paddle in Bass Strait, the water was absolutely freezing. One of the local men approached us and pointed to a house across the park and down the street. He invited all of us to attend a soiree at this house starting at 7pm. When we arrived, there were only a dozen or so people in attendance, but there was food and drink aplenty. We all sat down to a full on three course home cooked dinner followed by beer and spirits. It was exactly what we all needed that evening. A quiet night, good food, good liquor and stimulating company. We walked across the reserve back to the surf club and by 11:30pm. were sleeping like babes, despite the hard wooden floor, that was responsible for a few stiff and sore backs the next morning. We met our old mate from Bicheno, the Mayor of Devonport. We all piled into four white Fairlanes and were taken to a deep valley, where at least 500 metres below a dam wall was beginning to rise. We were not aware at the time that this was the beginning of work for the Lake Barrington/ Devils Gate Dam and Power Station. Since finding out, I have managed to locate and post a photo of the finished project below. The cars and trucks below resembled ants as they crawled backwards and forwards. We were told that where we were standing would be 30 feet underwater when the dam was completed.

Work commences. 1969

The finished product.  The Devils Gate Dam and Power Station.

We returned to the Council Chambers for nibblies and cocktails and could do no more than sing the praises of this incredible island. One more night was spent on the rock hard dance floor. Once more Sludge and I prepared breakfast and before we knew it we were off to Launceston. What eventuated later that evening had to be experienced to be believed.

Back to Launceston......The St. George Hotel
It was around 1pm. when we entered the St. George hotel and ordered our first round of drinks. We were all seated side by side along the bar and began drinking steadily, rather than quickly. The staff informed us of a nice pie and sandwich shop nearby and a late lunch was purchased and consumed while at the bar. By 4pm. some office people had popped in for a couple before heading home. Our little group was getting rowdy and some of the locals joined us and began to become a little rowdy themselves. Peter Coleman picked up an empty pint mug and announced the introduction of a swear mug. It was to be 5 cents a profanity. It began to fill quickly.

By 5:30pm. two of our blokes started charging patrons 50 cents to enter the pub and $1 to leave. By now there would have been at least 60 patrons having the time of their lives. Every 15 minutes or so, Pete would jump onto the bar and would announce it was the swear box’s shout. Men and women left the ladies lounge to join us all in the public bar, further adding to our now rapidly increasing numbers. At 6pm. a bridal party arrived at the reception house next door. The groom and groomsmen were kidnapped and force fed large quantities of liquid amber.
When it was discovered that the bride was in tears, not knowing where her just hooked hubby had gone, we dragged her in as well along with her bridesmaids and some of the guests to boot.

By 6:45pm. even more people began leaving the wedding reception to further swell our numbers. When 7 pm. arrived there were at least 150 people jammed into the public bar. Some patrons went home for dinner then returned with other members of their immediate and/or extended families. It was now a dollar to enter and a dollar to leave. No one left. Beer was flowing over the steps and onto the footpath at both entrances. Two policeman on the beat stuck their heads in the door and asked what the hell was happening. They were sent on their merry way after downing two beers each. The swear jug was shouting the bar every 10 to 15 minutes. The only way to get to the other end of the pub was along the top of the bar.

Two weeks takings in one night, not bad.

Several firemen arrived and joined in the merriment, we even had a Catholic priest and a Rabbi participate. I’m certain it was the Rabbi who suggested we have a Talent Quest. The band next door in the ladies lounge agreed. A large box appeared from God only knows where and became the stage. At least three dozen people performed and at long last it was down to the final two. What a marvellous singer I must have been. I was one of the finalists and was up against a member of the Tasmanian Opera Society. He sang ‘The Holy City’ and lost. I sang ‘Ob La De Ob La Da’ and won. Fair Dinkum, can you believe it? The Pub should have ceased trading at 11pm. but was still going strong at pumpkin time. The streets were full of extremely happy people attempting to remember where they lived and they began disappearing around corners and up streets and lanes. By 12:30am. all was quiet. We slept on the cold hard floor of the Launceston surf club, that happened to be in the heart of the city over 25 miles from the beach. Just after dawn we were all aboard the car ferry awaiting to be taken to Devonport and from there back home to the Harbour City. One of the Low Head guys came to say goodbye and informed us that the St. George hotel had only two breakages, one glass and one ashtray. During the wild evening they took a fortnights takings and said the Avalon club was welcome back anytime. A month later a letter was received by the Avalon committee from the St. George hotel confirming all this.

Back to Devonport then Bon Voyage
The ship set sail for Devonport and all of our mob were very subdued. We all nodded off in our deck chairs, but made sure we were present when the old Bonox was offered. Once again I’m hoping my memory is correct, as no images come to mind about what took place after we disembarked at Devonport.

The Empress at Devonport.

 I am partly certain that we half slept the afternoon away while hanging out in the wharf’s lounge drinking coffee and soft drinks. Around nightfall the ship departed and we all said goodbye to the Apple Isle and its wonderful people by doing our rendition of the Maoris’ Farewell from the top deck, John Towner on ukulele.
The bulk of the trip home was reasonably calm. It was spent sleeping in the deck chairs at the blunt end of the ship, sipping on coffee and the rare beer.
One day during lunch, JD was dining in his Dirty Pierre outfit. One of the senior waiters was heard to remark, “I’ve seen some disgusting people in my life, but that filthy little French bloke, I wouldn’t let him take my garbage out.”
On another occasion a smart arse waiter was hung over the ships rail to teach him a lesson. He was a pillar of society for the remainder of the trip.
Finally, when being shown around the bridge by the First Mate, one of the guys asked, “What does this do?” and then inadvertently deactivated the ships auto pilot. The ship suddenly did a sharp turn to starboard and everyone on board who happened to be standing at the time had no choice but to do the Star Trek Shuffle. ( i.e. Running sideways uphill )
The ship kept zig zagging for another three miles before settling down. 

"Bloody hell !"
We all surfed throughout most of the winter at Avalon and when the development of the first rubber duck began towards the year’s end, many of the guys took an interest and pitched in to help.
At time of writing, the preceding events all took place 39 years ago. When it comes my turn to leave this mortal coil, if only some of the memories recorded here come to mind, I will depart completely content and with a whopping great smile on my face. Would I do it all again...........Every single bit of it.

No comments:

So What's This Blog About, You Ask?

Click on Here to see the Annandale to Anarchy Statement of Intent. Politically Correct and Easily Offended Types needn't apply.