Thursday, December 6, 2012


The Office.

Black  Sunday

The tale that follows originally was alleged to have taken place sometime in early February 1964, however the exhaustive research carried out and the recollections of several eyewitnesses has revealed the actual date to be Sunday March 24th 1963.

At the time I had been living in a flat at Avalon for close on two months and most of my weekends were spent becoming more proficient at riding my Malibu with my three flatmates, Jim, Nipper and Alan the Ding King. The joys of boardriding were such that even my responsibilities at the surf club were playing second fiddle. Maybe this is why there are so many grey areas as to what occurred throughout a considerable portion of 1963.

I have always been under the impression I was the Social Secretary of the surf club during this period, however surf club annual reports clearly show I was not. Despite this I know for a fact it was me and my loyal group of friends who were always in attendance when the band known as, 'Billy Jay and the Sundowners' began playing in the clubhouse towards the end of 1962 and they went on to make an absolute fortune from the Stomp under the guidance of Barry Feehley in '63. My memory is a little vague as to whether the band played on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday mornings, but they were content to play for nothing until hopefully the attendance picked up as the dances were poorly attended.
On Saturday evening, the 22nd of December 1962, they hit the jackpot.

The first Stomp dance was after Avalon's Open Surf Carnival in December 1962 and for that one off occasion the band was thrilled to see just over 500 young folk attempting to emulate Bob McTavish, Dave Jackman and their team of stompers, who had been doing their thing at the  earlier dances and at last had a decent audience to instruct. By 11pm. over 80% had given up the jiving and were now stomping and a new craze was born.
Throughout the Stomp's short life at Avalon, one small group of members was in attendance every Saturday evening without fail, collecting the entrance fees off the hundreds of people flocking through the club's front door. This group consisted of  two of my flatmates, Jim Raynor and Trevor Nipperess, along with Tom Schweitzer, Jim Gooden and myself. We were joined by other clubbies on a regular basis as well.
It was shortly after the Stomp was shut down, that the following events took place.

LA at its worst.

The scene of all the action. LA at its best.
LA on a flat day.

The photos above are of a popular board and belly board spot known as Little Avalon. On a good day it is very good, but on a bad day it can be not only very bad, but downright dangerous. Throughout my years at Avalon, never once was I ever interested in surfing at this spot, as I regarded it as too sharky. Sadly, one of our young members paddled out for a surf late one Sunday afternoon during the 1960's and never returned. His body floated to the surface the following Thursday. He was an epileptic and his decision to surf alone was responsible for him passing on way before his time.

It was this area that was responsible for the biggest mass rescue ever carried out at Avalon Beach. All Avalon club members took part and teams of lifesavers from Bilgola and Newport arrived to lend a hand and thank God they did.
Senior Avalon club member Brian Sheehan, unbeknowns to me had been training 6 highly attractive young ladies for their Qualifying Certificates. This training would have been taking place for several weeks, yet I never once was aware of it. As previously stated I may have been devoting too much time to riding my Mal instead of concentrating on surf club and beach and surf responsibilities. 
I am certain that I am a bit premature in relating what transpired as so much of what went down is still extremely vague, to say the least.
Prior to rewriting this story and for almost 50 years I have been under the impression that what transpired took place 10 months after it actually did. As I am typing this, investigations designed to provide a more detailed and accurate account of what occurred are still underway. When more detail is forthcoming it will be added to what is known at this point in time.

It was early afternoon and I remember returning to the beach after a session of surfing and was surprised to see what appeared to be a girls squad being examined by the Board of Examiners. As the years rolled by, the two girls whose images were clear in my memory were local Avalon girls, Denise Ware and Lenya Laurich. I thought the two Hopewell sisters, Paula and Lesley may have been there as well. As for the others, it was a complete blank. I left my board on the beach and entered the clubhouse for a shower. The next thing I hear is the shark alarm ringing  three times. Bloody Hell it's a mass rescue. Members were running from all directions and began assembling on the beach in front of the club house to await further instructions.

Down at the rock pool a Bronze Medallion training squad was doing its mandatory test swims and I believe they were the first to react as they were by far closest to where the drama was starting to unfold. From what I can remember at least two surfers were separated from their boards and were well on their way to New Zealand in a fast flowing rip. Several people dived off the rocks between the pool and Little Avalon to assist and found themselves in big trouble almost immediately. The young and inexperienced Bronze squad dived into the surf to help the struggling rockhoppers in the boiling surf, without considering the consequences. They too now found themselves out of their depth and were also struggling. The surf boat was launched and was negotiating the break just left of the rocks at the southern end. I was back in the surf on my Malibu and once again I was returning to shore when a freak wave appeared from nowhere and landed smack bang on top of the boat, back slamming it onto the submerged rocks. What I was doing back in the water, is something I cannot explain, although my flatmate Jim Rayner was with me as well. We may have planned to paddle our Mals over to the rocks south of the pool to assist if required. Time can be a real bugger when it comes to the recollection of certain events. The boats keel was split and it overturned tossing its crew and equipment into the surf. The oars went one way and the boat another. It was in the Bilgola express rip and heading south at the rate of knots, with water up to its gunwhales. Somehow two surf lines were attached and a tug of war began. The harder they pulled the further south went the boat. This prompted members of the public to pitch in and help with the hauling in. 

I was busting my woofer valve pulling on one of the lines with Barry Feehley in front of me. Suddenly the line snapped sending me and everyone behind me flat on our backsides. The line had whipped forward and struck Barry in the back. He fell to the ground in extreme pain and had to be taken to the first aid room still writhing in agony.

Another line needed to be taken out to the boat, that by now was almost at Little Avalon, however no one volunteered, so I bit the bullet, put my hand up and said "I'll have a go."
One of the girls in the resuscitation squad, namely Denise Ware came running over and told me she and her other team mates would be my linesmen. She immediately seemed to take charge and told the other girls to carry the reel towards the rocks. I donned the belt and was given a big hug from Denise, followed by a kiss on the lips and was told, "Be careful Pogo, please."
There wasn't any time for acknowledgements with the others, or greetings and salutations etc. my one thought was to get the belt and line to the boat before the remaining line snapped.
I entered the water and was on my way with arguably the best looking team of linesmen that any beltman could ever hope to have.

At first it was fairly easy as the Bilgola Express rip was doing most of the work for me, but when I reached the tip of the rocks and it became necessary for me to make a right turn, the line started getting caught on the bottom and I was being pulled under. Club Captain John Fuller was on his way in from the sunken surf boat wearing the belt from the boat's bow box and swimming in a surf line. His swim was exceptional as he was going against the strong, fast flowing rip. I never would have made it. He gave orders for two clubbies on the nearby shore to dive in and hold my rope off the rocks. This they did and I was on my way once more.

God knows how many times I was caught side on by the surf and dragged across the sharp rocks. It felt like some one was rubbing my legs with coarse glasspaper. It seemed as though I was never going to reach the boat and I discovered much later that another reel had to have its line tied to the end of mine. When you consider each reel has 500 metres of line, it gives you some idea of how far the swim was. At last I reached the boat and who happens to be in it, none other than Avalon's favourite milkman, Phil Kemp. 
"Quick Pogo, give us your hands, I think you may have company." he called out. 
No sooner had he said it when I felt something semi rough brush along my left leg. I have no idea what it was, but it was definetly not a penguin or a flathead. A second later I'm in the sunken boat with Kempie. My only comment was, "Fuck me dead!!"

I wrapped the belt and line several times around the boat's seat and made sure it was secure, then stood up and for at least the next two or so minutes gave the patient secured haul in signal, namely one hand raised vertical. When the line became taut, we knew the signal had been received and the hauling in had recommenced.

My physical appearance must have resembled someone who had been hit by a locomotive. The straps on the belt had cut into and/or had worn away the skin around and underneath my armpits. The bare flesh was now starting to sting and blood was trickling down my torso, along with the sea water. My arms felt like spaghetti and I had a sudden and overwhelming desire for an ice cold beer and a cigarette.
                                                                                                                     The belt swim. 
All about 600 metres or so.

The conditions on the day in question were not good, considering people were experiencing difficulties in the surf with little prospect of reaching the shore safely.What was it like, see below.
Although bad enough, it could have been worse.....
"Take a belt out?  Up your bum!"

One of the Board of Examiner members from the Manly Surf Club,  still in his white shirt, but minus his shorts, suddenly appeared next to us. "That's not a bad rip is it?" he shouted. Kempie told him to climb into the boat before he lost more than just his shorts. I cannot recall whether he too was bringing out another line to fasten to the boat. All I can remember is, when Kempie mentioned there may be a Noah cruising around, he fell into the wooden submarine quick smart.

Documents just to hand, along with an eyewitness report categorically state this examiner was indeed swimming a surf line out to the boat as well. 

As the three of us were now all aboard, Kempie asked did anyone have a deck of playing cards on them and after I answered in the negative, he asked me to swim in and bring back a deck for a game of Euchre. 
"I'll bring us back a few beers and some meat pies while I'm at it, if you wish." I said.
 "Great," said Phil, "I'll have a steak and onion and a Pilsener."
I wasn't too sure if he was joking, so I merely ended the conversation by simply saying, "Go root your boot."

Every now and then it seemed as though they were making headway with all the pulling, as the damaged boat was slowly drifting north against the rip. Even if this trend continued, it was going to be another hour or so before we would be safely on dry land again. The three surf lines attached were holding and they remained taut, which was a good sign. All we could do was to sit tight and sing a few verses of 'I do love to be beside the seaside.'

Word of the unfolding drama had reached Bilgola and after a while one of their surf ski riders on a single racing ski, came paddling up and offered to take us to the beach. Kempie was concerned about my well being as I appeared to be dripping blood everywhere, but most of it was the sea water making it look a lot worse than it actually was. Most of my cuts and scratches were only superficial, except for my armpits that were really giving me some yip.
"You two go in," the milkman told the examiner and me, so we both climbed onto the Bilgola bloke's ski and he started paddling north towards the beach and safety. He shouted out to Phil he would return for him shortly. He dropped us off in front of the Avalon rock pool and started returning to the sunken boat. Upon arrival Phil was still there waiting and much to his amazement, so to was little old me and the Board of Examiners bloke who was most certainly right about it being not a bad rip.

Second attempt, we were dropped off a bit further north and the examiner wasn't too keen to swim onto the beach as he only had on his undies. I told him to take them off as well and give my team of lineswomen a thrill, along with any other female folk on the beach watching all this unfold. He swam north while I attempted to catch a wave into what was known as the gutter. I was successful and ended up well inside this gap between the rocks. Some one called out to me and I noticed members of the public had formed a human chain and they were able to pluck me out of the boiling surf and safely onto the rocks at the northern side.

The Gutter.

There was skin off my elbows and forearms, blood and salt water were trickling from the bare flesh in and around my armpits and running all down my legs. I was helped across the rocks by two gentlemen. The others stood there applauding and shouting 'well done' etc. I reached the sand and next thing I know Denise and Lenya come running over with Denise almost in tears. At least two or more hours had elapsed since I had entered the water to begin my journey south.
"Pogo, you have no idea how relieved we all are to see you, we thought you must have drowned, you've been gone for so long," she said in a highly emotional state, then started smothering me with kisses and hugs and cuddles etc. Even Lenya gave me a big hug and planted a fat juicy wet one full on the lips. Wow!! what a reaction, I was sorely tempted to do it all again.

Denise shouted out orders to the other girls, who I am ashamed to admit I cannot recall. I can vaguely recall noticing the other girls still hauling in lines and being actively involved in the midst of what was transpiring all around us.  Denise put her arm around me to support my aching body and told Lenya to do likewise and they began half carrying me to the dance floor 0f the surf club that had been converted into a make shift hospital and rest centre. People on the beach were handing out compliments all the way to the club and several guys offered to relieve the two girls of their battered, bruised and bloodied burden, but Denise was having none of it. It must have been my after shave.

They literally carried me up the trapdoor stairs that were at the front of the club and deposited me in a chair in the middle of the dance floor.  The women and girls were rolling up bandages and the like, tea and coffee was all over the place and sandwiches were being made, along with cocktail frankfurts, sausage rolls and party pies in the oven and on the stove. Ladies Auxilliary women came out of the wood work and I found myself with a cup of tea and two Scotch Finger bikkies in one hand and a cream bun in the other while three other women were attempting to turn me into Boris Karloff as the Mummy. I nearly threw up when some well meaning lady poured a glass of brandy down my gullet.....Bleah!! Can't stand the stuff. When I eventually staggered out of the building I must have had at least 5 kilometres of bandages wrapped around me and I reeked of iodine and the Hydrogen Peroxide that had been slapped on with a 4 inch paint brush was still dripping off me.

What became of my highly attractive reel, line and belt team, I know not. Right through my entire association with the Avalon club, Denise Ware and Lenya Laurich were always present or nearby on the beach and in or around the club. Denise at times had a habit of lining me up with members of the opposite sex and not once were her choices disappointing. I always thought the world of Denise, but back then I didn't realise just how much. I do now.

I cannot believe that the girls training squad simply appeared to disappear. I have absolutely no recollection of ever seeing any of them  again, with the exception of Denise and Lenya, I find this incredible. The only two girls I can categorically state were there, were Denise and Lenya. I will attempt to research this matter further in more detail to see what I can come up with. There is the possibility that the two Hopewell sisters Lesley and Paula may have been two others. I would love to know for certain.

I am absolutely delighted to report that documents from the past have been obtained, thanks to a former member and Nestles apprentice Warren Warner who was known as Smiley. The six girls who comprised the Resuscitation squad happened to be, Denise Ware, Lenya Laurich, Lesley Hopewell, Paula Hopewell, Tom Schweitzer's girlfriend, Carolyn Druce and much to my surprise, my former girlfriend during 1962, Patricia Jarratt. 
It's amazing how well defined images that were previously non existant reappear when the facts are revealed. Upon discovering the names of the 6 girls, I almost instantly was able to see them quite clearly in my mind lined up on the beach being examined. The clearest image was that of the extremely pretty Patty Jarratt standing to attention on the right hand side of the line up. I still have no knowledge of them training  over the weeks leading up to their examination however.

As mentioned earlier this would have to be by far the best looking training squad ever to be awarded the Resuscitation Certificate. The girls received a letter of commendation from the Manly Warringah Branch of the SLSA for their unique and wonderful efforts. They not only excelled themselves during the rescue, but afterwards they completed their examination and gained their Qualifying Certificates.They were trained by surf club legend Brian Daniel Sheehan, whose experience enabled him to take control and coordinate the rescue efforts throughout the afternoon.

If one ever takes time to browse through some of my blogs, these girls are referred to on a regular basis, particularly the two Hopewell sisters along with Lenya and Denise. Despite all the fun and great times we had in the past, it still astounds me that, for so many years I could not remember with certainty who they were. Even Tom's partner Carolyn made two attempts to set me up with young ladies, one of them was to reunite Patty and I after our initial breakup. If someone had told me these two would be part of a resuscitaion squad, I would have laughed my head off.

It turned out that all the people who triggered this drama were rescued, given first aid treatment and received a clean bill of health. All in all around 20 or so people, which included Avalon lifesavers and the Bronze Medallion trainees, required assistance which thankfully was forthcoming. Teams arrived from Newport and Bilgola and demonstrated what a well trained and close knit bunch we all were. Without their help God only knows what may have happened. As stated earlier I am still in the throes of finding out more details as to the involvement of many others. My knowledge of how and when certain things unfolded is limited, as I spent most of the time with Vice Captain Phil Kemp slowly bleeding to death sitting in the sunken surfboat. Although heavily involved, nothing that I did on this day had anything to do with saving lives. That fell on the shoulders of many others, including those from the other clubs who sped to our assistance. Going on what my research has revealed, full credit should go to the girls instructor and senior member Brian Sheehan, who made many decisions that needed to be made. His experience and coolness under fire saved the day.

Although everyone's persistence finally paid off and the boat was pulled all the way back to the beach, it was damaged beyond repair. The club had lost its one and only surfboat along with the oars and sweep oar. Reels were damaged beyond repair and hundreds of metres of surf line went missing. Several members suffered injuries, including myself, but nothing too over the top, with the exception of Barry Feehley who experienced excruciating pain when that rotten line snapped. Once again, all our training had paid off and the surf clubs motto 'No lives lost' remained meaningful and intact. Thank God we had sponsors and supporters, such as our patron Norman H. Cook who saw to it that all the equipment was eventually replaced.  A week or two later I was having a beer with Kempie in the Avalon RSL when Norman H. Cook gave us a cheque for 200 pounds. With the help of other donations, we were able to purchase a brand new boat which we named 'Margaret' after Mr Cook's wife. Tom Schweitzer and I travelled over to Bailey's Boatshed at Abbotsford to have a look at this new custom built craft. It may not have been the best boat we ever had, but it most certainly was the prettiest.
One day a Council truck arrived at the car park with a boat and trailer and when the driver asked was there anybody around who could sign for it, I was only too happy to oblige.
We started season 63-64 with not one, but two new boats. The Council boat was a much better wave boat than 'Margaret' in my opinion.

Brian Sheehan. (in white). Cool headed in a crisis.

During the days that followed, the Sydney newspapers never stopped singing the praises of Surf Lifesavers and particularly those from the Avalon club. The weekend after the disaster one of the Sunday papers published an editorial referring to 'The heroes of Avalon' and the deeds that were all carried out and completed at a great risk to personal safety and loss of valuable and essential equipment. I remember reading the editorial travelling north on board the infamous 190 from Wynyard and broke out in goosebumps. I must have been visiting my parents in Annandale, as I was living in Avalon at the time.

Normally when the days work is done we all believe there is nothing better than an icy cold beer and enjoy letting our hair down. It is quite common for some of our celebrations to go completely over the top on a regular basis, but when it really and truly matters we know why we are, what we are, March 1963 revealed that. All that being said, QY's most certainly would have been a rip snorter that evening with many a beer downed without touching the sides. I slept like a log when at home in bed and ended up giving work a big miss on Monday. When all the gory details were published in the newspapers and on the telly, a decision was made not to dock me for my day off.

It was a Sunday out of the ordinary, true, but nevertheless simply another day at the office. When all research is completed, there will be mostly additions to the story and maybe the odd deletion.

Very rarely is a new blog completed when I learn, once again, of the sad passing of another former friend and/or colleague. All one can do is accept the fact that nothing or no one remains constant. So many good people have gone, who contributed so much to the SLSA, the Avalon club and to helping me become a worthwhile person.
They may never be seen again, but their spirit and my memories of them remain.


Harry Ragen, Alan Slevin, Ray Cosgrove, Malcolm Robertson, Phil Thomas, Brian Sheehan, Bruce Patterson, Doug Wells (Kegs), Ron Ware (Denise's Dad), John Campbell (Bull), Norman H. Cook, Stan Butler, Barry Frost, John Griffin, Phil Kemp, Norm Kahler, Bill Ingram, Roy Hartman, Doug Crane, Max Watt and the backbone of the former Ladies Auxiliary Jean Feehley.

All the above were surf club members, but there were some parents of our female companions who have sadly passed on. Lesley and Paula's Mum and Dad are no longer with us and I literally shed tears when I noticed their house had been sold during the 1990's. Life, at times can be a bugger, but it's mostly that all the good times simply don't last long enough. Even as I type, the tears have started flowing again, as I am completely shattered by having to add to the list none other than the beautiful and never to be forgotten Lesley Hopewell (Lulu).

I am certain there would be others, but the above are those who I personally remember with genuine feelings of admiration and respect.

"Requiescat in Pace."


Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Wild about Harry

What a pity there are no photos of the way the old clubhouse looked back in the 1960's. Since then there has been numerous coats of paint plastered on and a few minor changes here and there, but basically it's still the same old ageing building.

Throughout the '60's there were no large corporate sponsors or massive grants and donations flowing in on a regular basis. Money was raised by organising special events in the clubhouse and the never ending chook raffles and Art Unions etc. Another money spinner was to hire out the hall to various sporting and cultural groups who realised what a great geographic location the club was blessed to have.

Trouble was there were many wild surf club functions that tended to almost destroy the building itself and left it smelling like a cross between a brewery and an outdoor dunny.

Someone had to take responsibility for cleaning up the mess and transforming the dance floor and environs into a venue that would appeal to the more refined. The club would host a committee meeting on Friday evening and a wedding on Saturday.

Friday night, Committee Meeting.(in this case AGM)

Saturday Night. Wedding or other function.
Even my former bedroom is put to good use.

Every social club needs that special someone to see to the upkeep of the facilities at hand and to blend in with the club's many members. Being a club full of red blooded, highly strung and full on ragers, the Avalon SLSC required someone with the patience of Job to maintain the upstairs section of the building. Sometime during the early 1960's we were fortunate to gain the services of good old Harry, who became our live in caretaker up until the early 1970's.

Harry was a retired old age pensioner who still had a spring in his step and became more than satisfied with his cosy living quarters alongside the well appointed surf club kitchen. He would quite often be seen lounging around the stage, that back then was situated at the northern end of the dance floor, reading a book, or sipping on the odd drink in his deck chair on the verandah out front, taking in the beauty of Mother Nature, so ever present on the beach.

During his first year or so he was given more than his fair share of mischievious stirs by both the young and older members, who took delight in pulling his leg on numerous occasions. Eventually he became part of the furniture and was given the respect he deserved. He was loved by all and sundry as he had blended in beautifully with his surroundings and the clubhouse was maintained in an immaculate condition.

Aussie group.  The Atlantics.

When the Stomp was in full swing on Saturday nights, there would be upwards of 600 pairs of feet thumping up and down on the floor boards, removing all traces of polish and even some timber itself. The boatshed and locker room below would have all the horizontal surfaces completely covered in superfine sawdust around 3mm deep. The dance floor looked as though it had just been sanded in preparation for varnishing. Every Sunday morning out would come Harry's rotary floor polisher and by 12 noon he would have the floor gleaming. 

After midnight.
Harry's Dalek.

By 12 Noon Sunday.

During this period it was common for many local groups to hire the clubhouse, therfore the building had to be spick and span more often than not. Harry was given the run of the whole building, but very rarely would he be seen in the downstairs section. In the kitchen he had his own refrigerator for his perishables and would quite often be seen preparing his meals using the twin oven St. George electric range. Any club members preparing their own meals would store their food in the Milk Bar fridge also situated in the kitchen.

It did not take too long for Harry and I to become great mates. Whenever he ran out of milk, coffee, tea or sugar etc. I was only too happy to share my goodies with him and when the tables were reversed he would always share his produce with me. I would quite often cook breakfast for him and he would always reciprocate, especially when I was on vacation.

During my first few years in the club, I was forced to rely on public transport to take me to and from Avalon. This meant there were many times on a Friday evening when I was unable to leave home at a respectable hour to head north to the club. Quite often I would leave home at Annandale around 11pm. and take the tram into Wynyard and then board the 190 Palm Beach bus at the bus ramp in York Street. It would be the last Palm Beach bus and would always leave right on time at 11:50pm. and I would arrive at Avalon spot on 1:10am. 

One of our club captains decided to change the locks on all the doors, leaving me with no means of entering the club as my key had become useless. Grass roots members like myself were no longer permitted to have keys. The only way to gain access was to wake up poor old Harry at 1:15am. and borrow his keys to open the downstairs door to the boatshed. I was not the only bloke forced to drag him out of bed at some unearthly hour, but I was the only one who he allowed to use his keys to have duplicates cut. After a while our illustrious captain realised I somehow had managed to obtain new keys and he wanted me to hand them in. He finally gave up after I continually kept on quoting the Bible everytime he asked me for them.
I simply told him to go forth and multiply, although I did phrase it differently.

One day I noticed Jackie Watt on his surf ski taking up a position directly off the clubhouse to have a fish, so I paddled out to join him and check out the landmarks that positioned one over the hidden reef. Shortly after I arrived, the surf boat crew who had been out having a training row also arrived, just as Jackie was hauling up something rather large. Just as he pulled the 4 foot bull shark out of the ocean, he was asked by the boaties, "What've you got there Jack?" As the shark went spinning through the air towards the boat, Jackie called out, "Here, have a good look." The shark landed in the middle of the boat and did its impersonation of Chubby Checker, the crew decided discretion was the better part of valour and abandoned ship quicker than music lovers leaving a Britney Spears concert. As for me I lined up the necessary landmarks and after Jackie confirmed their location, I returned to shore.

Usually twice a year I would spend my holidays staying in the club and to save money I would do my own cooking. Most of the meals were fairly basic, mainly grills and fries with the traditional greasy black thumbprint on the side of the plate. Some of my semi complicated efforts were passed onto me by my Mum, such as the bolognaise sauce, savoury mince, roasted chicken and Harry's favourite, the infamous gravy beef soup. The gravy beef became so popular that Harry had to let me use one of his huge stock pots and batches up to 2 gallons at a time were produced. Every once in a blue moon the soup would be left standing on the stove top one day too many and would become a living organism. Anyone recall Steve Mc Queen's first movie, 'The Blob.'

During these holidays of mine, to save money for the essentials, such as copious quantities of Resch's and Tooheys, I would bring ample supplies of red meat and eggs and would put the well appointed kitchen to good use. Many delicious, but cholesterol raising culinary masterpieces were created there, complete with that ever present greasy black thumbprint on the plates side.....Yum!!!! As stated earlier Harry loved my gravy beef soup, that was created from a recipe given to me by my Mother. Even I was proud of it. It was so thick with ingredients and full of goodness, that even a blacksmith's anvil could float on it. My dear Mother never wasted anything edible and before leaving home at the start of every vacation, she would remind me of her gravy beef recipe and saw to it that I departed with at least half a silo full of barley. It took me quite a while to work out where all the dead insects floating on top of the soup originated from.......Good one Mum. Harry simply regarded them as extra protein.

Bugs holidaying in Barley.

One of Harry's pots was around the size of a small Mutual backyard swimming pool, so we were never short of body warming and gut growing nourishment. Towards the end of the 60's the Brunswick boy Farls used to bring his two boys down to the club for a decent feed on a regular basis. They quite often would ask for and receive second helpings.
Normally the soup would be placed in Harry's fridge each evening, but every now and then we would forget to do so. One morning I'm hoeing into bacon and eggs when Harry enters the kitchen and lifts the lid on the soup. "Oh good, you've heated it up," he said.
"No I haven't," I replied.
"Well how come it's boiling?" he asked.
We both stared into the pot at what resembled the mud pits of Rotorua and realised we were not the only living things in the kitchen.

A lesson had been learnt. We now knew we could only leave the soup on the stove for no more than 2 to 3 days, but definetly not a whole week. Despite this near deadly mishap, the gravy beef soup stayed on the menu for another several years......Mum's weevils included. 

One thing I was never short of was red meat, which included bucketloads of bacon along with my silo full of weevil filled barley. I would divide the meat into appropriate sized portions and it would be placed in the milk bar fridge. Because of my relationship with Harry, I was allowed to store some of my other produce in his fridge as well. Now that I knew the exact location of the offshore reef, fresh fish became a regular part of our diet. I would paddle out and after about an hour or so return to shore with at least 3 or 4 fish, the most common being red bream, tailor and the occasional flathead. To stabilise the ski and to help keep my feet out of the water, an 8 foot long length of floorboard from the old clubhouse would act as an outrigger. I pinched this idea from the Watt brothers. Whatever I caught was divided in two, half for me and half for Harry. 

No way in the world am I intimating that I was an excellent cook all those years ago, but when it came to produce, I had it all, thanks to my Mother. Whenever Harry and I were together in the kitchen we both ate extremely well and washed it all down with quality tea and coffee. If only my culinary skills then could have been on a par with my current abilities, we could have had some genuine masterpieces. As it was, we didn't do too bad anyway. Rump and Sirloin steak, Lamb Chops, Beef and Pork Sausages, Bacon and Eggs with lots of toast and Baked Beans.

Lamb Chops.
Sirloin Steak.
Typical breakfast. 

One Wednesday night I won the Snooker tournament at the RSL and the next day Farls and I attempted to oven bake one of the prizes, namely a plump and juicy chicken. It ended up a full on baked dinner and was absolutely delicious. Harry kept commenting on the mouth watering aromas emanating from the kitchen, so I saw to it he had a baked dinner as well, He loved it. 

I remember when Harry was asked to attend one of the Friday evening Committee meetings. He almost burst into tears of joy when it was announced he had been made an Honorary member of the club for services rendered. He went on to give many years of devoted service to the club and during those years he experienced a great quality of life, that enabled him to be a part of something worthwhile in his twilight years. The local kookaburras adored him and every evening just before dusk they would literally line up in single file and each in turn would be fed some mince or sausage meat that Harry purchased especially for them. On one occasion I remember 13 of these kookas all waiting on the wall of the club's back landing for Harry to arrive with their supper. The first in line would take his morsel to a nearby tree, eat it then return to the back of the queue and shuffle sideways to eventually receive its second piece.

On Sunday afternoons at 5pm. the QY's bar would be open for business and Harry would be quite often shouted the odd beer which he enjoyed. Every now and then he would shout me a coldie, which I truly appreciated. This was a common occurence for quite a while and it may have been years later I began to notice a habit that Harry appeared to have adopted. I began to decline his offers of the odd beer as I began to realise what he was up to. God knows how long he had been doing it. It was not his responsibility to wash the glasses and wipe down the tables at QY's, but he appeared only too happy to do so. Time and time again people would sing his praises when noticing him picking up all the glasses and trays, as they began heading home after a few beers. What they didn't notice was any glass containing slops was spirited away and poured into a collection of jugs that Harry would keep in his fridge. Whenever Harry desired an ice cold beer, out would come the jug from the fridge and a week old drop of slops would be consumed.

The years were beginning to take their toll on an ageing Harry and his behaviour started to go over the top as his health started to decline. Many of the slops he was accumulating contained the odd cigarette butt and other dodgy unidentifiable bits and pieces. Two members, who shall remain anonymous, waited until Harry was distracted and pissed in one of his jugs, then invited him to have a beer with them. They adjourned to the verandah and polished off several lagers, making sure they were drinking from their jug and Harry was drinking from the doctored one. He appeared to enjoy every drop. At the end of the session a whole new definition for the term, 'a night on the piss' was forthcoming.

"Bloody hell, which one's Harry's?"

The years had indeed taken their toll on poor Harry and when his memory began to go and dementia was taking hold, he was placed in a home by his family members and he was given the attention he sorely needed to live out his days in peace and comfort. The vast majority of years as caretaker were happy times for him and even though his leg was pulled on a regular basis, he never took anything too seriously. The highlight was when he was appointed an Honorary Club Member. Even his family agreed the surf club was responsible for prolonging the number of years that gave him so much pleasure.

I am assuming that as I type, Harry would be relating numerous tall tales of his Avalon years, to his Heavenly neighbours, many of whom would most certainly be grateful that he was not responsible for the supply of wine at the wedding feast of Cannae, or at the Last Supper..........I shudder to think!

"The beer tastes salty."

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