HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW
It doesn't matter how bad a situation is, time will eventually see to it that things will improve. Problem is, the same thing applies to all the good things in life as well. Just when you think life cannot get any better, fate steps in and with cunning stealth cruelly brings to an end what has been taken for granted during the past several years.
What follows is an example of how even perfect situations can go wrong.
|Dee Why Point.|
|Australia, you're standing in it.|
|North Narra has Laura, we had Paula.|
When it came to surfing, 1963 was a great year from start to finish. By the end of 1962 I had gained enough skill on my Malibu to take on almost anything within reason. It had been early in 1962 when I joined Jim, Trevor and Paula late one Sunday afternoon at North Avalon for what turned out to be a whole new surfing experience for me. The three others were on their Mals and I was paddling senior member Doug Crane's old and solid wave ski. This relic from the past was at least 1 metre wide and weighed almost what seemed like a tonne. It was so heavy and stable, it was possible to stand on it and perform a tap dance without losing one's balance.
Although impossible to change direction when standing up on it, I experienced a feeling of exhilaration and sheer excitement as I flew across the face of many a wave causing my three companions to abandon ship on a regular basis. The sudden and unexpected appearance of a one tonne solid timber missile travelling faster than Donald Campbell's 'Bluebird,' only half a second away from crushing you to death, was more than likely responsible for a premature bowel movement, preceded by a brief profanity. Even Paula, who never, ever used even mild bad language, was heard to let out a terrified sounding, "SHIT!! as she narrowly avoided being steamrollered by only a few millimetres.
A handful of other surfers had seen more than enough and were determined not to meet their Maker on this pleasant Sunday evening and got the hell out of the water quick smart.
A new legendary figure was born and Jim Rayner named it, 'The Hot Dog Ski Man.'
After this thrilling session I was hooked, I had to get me a Mal and with the help and guidance of young Paula I paid a visit to Gordon Woods at Brookvale and had one custom built. It was yellow, weighed around 35 lb. and was 8 feet 4 inches in length and was regarded then as a short board. I then had to learn how to ride it, which meant many hours of frustration and constant foul language each and every Saturday and Sunday, but after 4 to 5 weekends it eventually became worthwhile. It was the number of sessions spent with the guys and of course my favourite surfer girl Paula, that eventually enabled me to become almost as good as she already was.
Most of my ski riding took place at the southern end of Avalon and along the middle sections, with the boardriding sessions taking place mostly at North Avalon. I was still keeping company with my mate Tom riding on our surf skis, but I had been converted to the joys and thrills of riding a Malibu and the better I became, the more I was enjoying it.
Alan, Jim and Nipper were nearly always out the back with me and sometimes we would have sessions that lasted over 3 hours or more. Alan was the daredevil, as he didn't seem to care how big the surf was, he was determined to find the perfect wave and quite often did, despite some hairy wipeouts that did absolutely nothing to discourage him. He was consistently rewarded with many first class rides that would have racked up the points during any surfing competition. I tended to restrict my wave riding to those under 7 feet or so, unlike some of the bone crushers that brought to an end many a social row in the surf boat.
At the end of January 1963 I moved into a flat 200 metres south of the surf club building with my three other Malibu riding mates and all things surf related became the only topic of conversation throughout the days and evenings. Our four Malibus took pride of place in the living room, standing up against the southern wall.
What kept us occupied on the weekends was the club's Stomp Dance that was attracting over 800 guys and gals, who were literally altering the position of the buildings foundations each and every Saturday night. I was still associating with my former gang, namely Tom, Jim the Rodent, Mike and the two blonde sisters, Lesley and Paula. The two cuties were attending the dances and would still keep us company on the odd excursion to a Drive In or a tour of Sydney. Paula always would join us for our surfing sessions, while Lesley would be seen sunbaking with the Rodent and taking the odd dip in the surf. It was still business as usual.
From my point of view, life simply could not get any better than it was. The first wobble of the wheels occurred sometime early in 1963, I'm certain it was before Easter '63. One weekend Jim and Lulu were a loving item and the following weekend it was all over. What caused it, I haven't a clue as Jim did not want to discuss it and Lesley almost immediately stopped visiting the surf club. Paula was in the early stages of preparing for a holiday in Canada and it was around the same time she too dropped off the radar.
|........to this. No thanks.|
As the years fly along way too quickly, one quite often has to pick the brains of former troublemakers to be certain that those memories remaining are indeed accurate. Research is needed when images of past events are proven to be wrong. That same research has shown that during March 1963, Paula and Lesley were part of a girls Qualifying Certificate training squad at Avalon who covered themselves in glory during the biggest mass rescue in the surf club's history. I have mentioned elsewhere that not once did I see the girls being coached on the beach. I am still carrying out further research to attempt to ascertain why.
It was on a Wednesday afternoon during early December 1962 I was approached by Lesley in the clubhouse. She was obviously feeling frazzled and worn out at the end of what seemed to have been a long and difficult working day. She was on some kind of assignment at the Avalon Primary school, while I was on the last week of my three weeks holidays that were spent at the club. She evidently had been driving home to Fivedock at days' end, because she was always nervous about sleeping in the Avalon house by herself. After a short conversation I offered to cook dinner for the both of us in the North Avalon holiday home and offered to keep her company that evening and let Mother Nature decide what happened afterwards. She appeared too tired to argue and willingly accepted my kind offer and followed that up by planting a long lasting juicy wet one full on the lips, that caused the three surf club juniors in the kitchen to cheer and applaud, along with the odd risque comment etc.
We arrived at the house around 4:30pm. and dinner was ready to be served at 6:00pm. That's when a voice was heard coming from the main bedroom, "Is that you Lesley?"
It turned out that unbeknowns to Lulu and myself, her Mum happened to be in the bedroom sleeping off a migraine that struck when she was playing golf at Palm Beach that morning..........Bugger!
Although recovered from her massive headache, Mum had no intention of going home, as I am certain she was more than just merely suspicious about what was more than likely to occur after dinner and through the evening.........Double Bugger!!
At Lesley's insistence, I ended up sleeping over at the the girls' house however and just after midnight who should arrive unannounced, none other than my favourite little surfer girl Polly. What transpired shortly after her arrival will not be made known here, but suffice to say, I was able to see things that would not have been revealed if Lesley had not forgotten to inform her sister of my presence. After breakfast Lesley dropped her Mum off at the Golf Club and went to work. Mum obviously drove home to Fivedock, as she was not seen again. After I had finished doing the breakfast dishes and putting them away, Paula and I started discussing her up and coming future career, which required her to attend University. She was looking forward to becoming a Physiotherapist and was showing me some of the paraphernalia she had either purchased or acquired in advance. I simply refused to believe her when she announced that once she commenced Uni, none of us would be seeing her ever again. She explained that she would no longer be coming up to Avalon as her studies would be taking priority and she would be moving into a flat, hopefully in or near Glebe. I am certain some of her fellow Uni students were classmates of hers at school. Little did I realise at the time I was only going to be acquainted with this beautiful young lady for no more than the following four months.......Oh God!! I'm crying.
Sadly she was true to her word and as I type it has been 50 years since I last saw her. My last sighting of her was when she was part of that girls Qualifying Certificate squad being examined on the beach during late March 1963. Her sister Lesley was also a member of this squad as well. I remember noticing these girls being examined all those years ago, but it has been only recently that I discovered who they actually were. Early in the afternoon a mass rescue took place at Avalon and the girls training squad volunteered to be my linesmen when I offered to swim a surf line out to the damaged and mostly sunken surf boat that had drifted in the rip to Little Avalon. Throughout the passing years, I have always been ashamed that I could not remember who the girls were, with the exception of Lenya Laurich and Denise Ware. It was a blessing and honour to have been her friend and companion for what was all way too short a time and the same applies to the other five brave young ladies as well, one of whom turned out to be a former girlfriend of mine.
After learning the devastating news, it was around 10:00am when Paula suggested we wax up the Mals and take advantage of a more than half decent surf rolling in at North Avalon. I walked the 500 metres along the beach to the club and after prepping the board I commenced returning to the beach's northern end. Polly was already out the back cutting them up. In no time I had joined her and it wasn't that long before I experienced the most indescribable feelings of pure unadulterated joy, that reinforced my belief and faith in a Divine Creator. What followed has been recorded at Dancing with Dolphins.
If my memory is correct, it was not too long afterwards many of the surf club members were invited to attend a party at the Hopewells house. I think it was to celebrate Paula's 18th birthday and the finish of school. Many of her friends from Sydney and school were in attendance and for the first time we were consuming beer and spirits on the premises. There was one guy who appeared to be taking more than just a mild interest in Paula and someone informed me he may have been her boyfriend, something that I openly disputed. As the evening wore on, he was becoming extremely intoxicated, as was I and when he started bragging that he would be spending the night with Polly to a group drinking outside on the front lawn, I decked him with a swinging left hook. It took him quite a while to regain conciousness and for a short while I was in the bad books with all and sundry. I made no apologies however.
The next day this guy sat alongside me while I was contemplating never ever to drink again, while sitting in front of the clubhouse. He had no idea that it was me who had thumped him and we got on like a house on fire. Throughout the next 5 years or so, he would turn up occasionally and would always sit with me and we would rabbit on about who knows what. Not once did he fail to ask whether I had heard anything from the Hopewell sisters, particularly Paula. Like me he obviously still had strong feelings for her. He eventually dropped off the radar around the late 1960's.
All of us flatmates were kept busy assisting the club's caretaker Harry restore the dance floor and environs to its former pristine condition. The building was starting to show signs of wear caused by an average of 1200 stomping footsies pounding away every weekend. There were over two dozen club members required to maintain the peace during the Stomp and it happened to be the same lot week after week.
Alan, Jim, Trevor and I surfed at every opportunity, with me taking more than my fair share of sickies from work. I was turning into a good for nothing surfing beach bum. We drank way too much beer and devoted way too much time attempting to attract members of the opposite sex into our sinful lair. Most of the time we bombed out ungracefully, but in all honesty, there was zero tolerance to drug taking. When Alan bought a 1949 Ford Prefect at Auto Auctions in Sydney, trips to all parts of Sydney and along the NSW coast became frequent.
|The Long Reef Bombora.|
When the Avalon Stomp was eventually shut down, the North Narrabeen club inherited the band and their dance was soon going gangbusters and on one occasion we drove Al's jalopy down to Narra to check out the stray females, if any. There happened to be three young gals who had been holidaying in Avalon who regarded us as being reasonable value. I was lucky, I cracked on to the oldest looking one and she was only too happy to visit our flat after the dance, along with her two younger looking companions. No details of what eventuated are going to be forthcoming, but suffice to say some lucky teller of tall tales did indeed get lucky. Seeing more of the young lady's body than would have pleased her parents, one commented how well formed she was and she replied by revealing she was still a schoolgirl not yet turned sixteen.........OOPS!!! We dropped her and her friends home at North Avalon and we agreed to meet outside the surf club at 10:00 am on Sunday. Unfortunately for her, the surf was up and all four of us guys surfed South Palm Beach from 9:00 am through until 12 Noon. It was the second best surfing session I ever had. Arriving back at the club long after Noon I was told three good looking girls were looking for me. I noticed them climbing the Avalon sandhills about 150 metres away and called out to them, but they disappeared over the top of the tallest dune and were never seen again.......Phew!!
For what it's worth all the horizontal folk dancing that took place in the flat could be counted on one hand and apart from the previous mentioned encounter were nothing that would raise one's blood pressure.
The longest and by far the best surfing session I ever had was at Dee Why Point one Wednesday. Alan, who was a Fireman at Manly, checked out the surf at Dee Why on his way home from his night shift and dragged us all out of bed and onto the car's roof went the boards and we were all off for a surf. We started at 8:45am and called it quits around 1:15pm when the southerly began to arrive.
Sometime fairly early in the year we were on excellent terms with the Westons, namely Phyllis and Eric and their two anklebiters who lived in the flat below. Eric was an excellent cook and kept us fed on a regular basis. Two nurses from WA arrived and stayed with the family below and when eventually there was a move to a larger house in North Avalon, these two Florence Nightingales left as well. Lynn and Julie were two major mischief makers and used to take great delight taking the piss out of us sweet and innocent board riding gentlemen living in the upstairs flat. After they took up residency with the Westons at North Avalon, Jim started seeing Julie, unbeknowns to the rest of us and the two of them ended up tying the knot and as I type they are still living in wedded bliss in Geraldton WA.
Not that long ago I was delighted to have spent at least 2 hours on the telephone rabbiting on about the 'good old days' with former flatmate Jim Raynor and his better half Jules. I was also saddened to learn from Jules that Eric the Chef had passed away 10 years ago. Hearing of the loss of another worthwhile person appears to be turning into almost a weekly event lately, making one very much aware of how short life really is.
Looking back I find it incredible that we all survived 12 months in the flat providing and cooking our own food, although on one occasion I collapsed at work from the effects of food poisoning. One item that was never part of our establishment was a television set. We mostly sat around at nights chin wagging or listening to a radio and playing the odd recording.
One night during either late winter or early spring there was a knock on the door around 9pm. It was our club captain John Fuller with none other than the 'Wild One' himself, Johnny O'Keefe. We provided coffee and I began reminiscing about JOK's dances at the Leichhardt Police Boys Club on Wednesdays and Saturdays, before getting down to business.
JOK wanted at least 3 to 4 dozen young male and female surfie types to dance the Stomp on his TV show, 'Sing, Sing, Sing.' The music was going to be played by Digger Revell and the Denvermen and would be their latest hit the "Avalon Stomp.'
As we were over the top mal riders, it was assumed we should be able to use our influence with the young lemon juiced blonde boardriders to put together a suitable crowd of stompers. It was a piece of cake, we ended up in a very short space of time with approx. 30 to 36 young guys and gals who were only too happy to be seen on national television. Many of them were junior and young senior surf club members and their girlfriends. The others were a potpourri of kids from mostly around Avalon. All the guys would be issued with specially made white Tee shirts with green printing on the back that said, 'Avalon Beach SLSC.'
The girls would be supplied with multi coloured shorts and sleeveless sun tops, provided by John Fuller's mother who owned a boutique. The dancing would be performed in bare feet.
The oldest girl would not have been more than 16 and everyone was a little cutie.
Channel 7's choreographer Ken Jeacle took us all in charge and we had several rehearsals. Ten of us senior guys would march in with the reel, line and belt, do one lap of Studio A, then halt and place the reel on the ground. After the applause, we would pick up the reel, march towards the camera and make a right turn and exit stage right, leaving our captain John Fuller alone in the middle of the studio. JOK would then appear on camera and introduce John and interview him for 1 minute. The March past guys who were dancing would have approx 90 seconds to change and join their partners waiting underneath the raised camera and boom microphone.
A squad of TV sheilas appeared wielding giant powder puffs and all the guys were smacked in the face with powder going everywhere to eliminate the shine on their ugly faces. The girls however were taken away to parts unknown to be given the full on treatment. When they returned after about an hour or so, all these 15 year old sweeties resembled 25 year old prostitutes caked in make up with eye shadow, false eyelashes, red rouged cheeks, bright crimson lipstick, false suntans and their faces and hair covered in silver glitter........Whoa!!!
Our new white March past costumes were at the cleaners, so we had to wear the old moth eaten woolen green ones with our bare flesh showing through the many holes in the butts. When we marched on and halted in front of the Denvermen, we were subjected to many whispered obscene comments from them about the moth holes and our hairy arses. We whispered back and told them to go fuck themselves.
The Wild One stuffed everything up by calling John over before we had time to march off. Alan Towers saved the day by quietly giving the required commands and we exited stage right. Trouble was the dancers now only had around 20 seconds before the music began. Some were still pulling on their jeans over the march past clobber when the first dancers were appearing on screen. Thank God they only just made it and the performance was superb.
I never got to see it the following week on the telly, but 12 months later it popped up on a nostagia show and oh my God, wasn't it embarrasing.
If my memory is correct, the surf club was paid 250 quid for our magnificent performance. Later on that year Hendo and the Bandstand family arrived at Avalon and this time it all happened on Channel 9.
Two Canadian guys, Tom and Brian arrived from NZ in the company of a red headed Kiwi named Tom White from Titahi Bay. It was only going to be a three week stay, but over two years later the Canadian TomWood married one of the vivacious local cuties, whose name I am ashamed to admit I have forgotten, before eventually returning home with her to Canada. I've often wondered if she ever got the opportunity to wear her ever so brief bikini in the wilds of the northern hemisphere........I thoroughly doubt it, what a pity! As far as I know Brian never returned home and remains an Avalon resident to this day.
Towards the end of November Tom White and I travelled to Newcastle to try our luck with three Kiwi girls of Tom's acquaintance, but upon arrival at their flat we discovered they had gone visiting friends further up the NSW coast.....Bugger! Their land lady allowed us to sleep over in the flat that evening and upon entering we both knew at once this was a girls flat as all one could smell were flowers and perfume, unlike the Avalon digs that was a cross between a peat bog and a brewery. Turning on the television we were shocked to learn that the American President John F.Kennedy had been assassinated that same day and both of us were left with a feeling of disbelief and genuine sorrow. We both had an early night and woke up smelling of frangipani and perfume. After breakfast we spent the whole morning surfing on our Mals at Merewether, before heading south.
We stopped off at Macmasters Beach and enjoyed a small well shaped surf that was breaking near the southern corner of the beach.
Sometime in December'63 Brian Henderson and the Bandstand mob arrived in Avalon to film an episode with the Stomp being the main theme. Hendo was all set up on the stage of the surf clubhouse while the bulk of the featured artists were filmed doing their thing on the beach and on the rocks near the pool. On the Sunday there was an outdoor concert alongside the dressing sheds with Col Joye and the Joye boys the main attraction.
I was befriended by one of the cameramen and spent a considerable amount of time assisting him move his TV camera from point A to point Z. Back then the recording equipment was nowhere near as light and compact as it is today and he was extremely appreciative of my help. I struck up a conversation with one of the top singers going around at the time, namely the highly talented Kevin Todd. On the Monday he was with me in the club and expressed a desire to have a dip in the surf. The surf was not that big, but it was most certainly fast running, so I asked him if he was a strong swimmer and he indicated he was.
I provided him with a pair of flippers and we both headed out the back. Several times he was clobbered when he didn't dive deep enough, but he persevered and was able to join me beyond the break.
He swam onto a few solid waves and was enjoying himself despite being buried more than once.
I noticed his attractive partner at the time, the shapely and talented Laurel Lea was waving frantically to us on the beach and beckoning us to come ashore. We caught a wave in and copped a blast from her.
"You could have drowned," she said scolding him.
"Nah!" he told her, "I was with Pogo Hon."
One thing I remember was when we came ashore, Kev's well lacqeured hair had not changed shape, despite all the time spent body surfing. God only knows what those TV people used as hairspray. Kevin Todd was a great singer and a terrific bloke to boot.
I along with everyone else discovered many months later that these two were actually married at the time, but it was kept Hush Hush.
|Laurel Lea and Kevin Todd|
The two of them joined many others of the cast and crew who attended a party we threw in our flat for them all when filming ended. I seem to recall even Hendo popped in for a short visit.
Laurel Lea tragically passed away in January 1992 from leukaemia. Another talented and beautiful person passing on way before her time.
I think it was around December I noticed Lesley passing by in front of the surf club. I called out to her and she looked briefly at me and said, "Gooday Pogo," and kept on walking. It had been at least 9 months since I had laid eyes on her, as she disappeared after her relationship with the Rodent ended. Every weekend after the breakup, I was expecting her to suddenly appear, but it never eventuated. Seeing her on this occasion had the effect of exciting me no end. Not that long afterwards I saw her approaching me and I walked towards her to strike up a conversation, but she almost dived into the middle of a few local guys and started talking to them. When on patrol shortly afterwards I called out to her as she was passing, but all she did was break into a jog and ran away from me. It was obvious she did not want anything to do with me, why, God only knows. The last time I was with Lulu we were still second best friends who had nothing but love and respect for each other and a friendship I believed would last a lifetime. To this day I have no idea what caused her to turn against me as she obviously had.
At the end of January '64 I left the flat and because of what had to be a massive misunderstanding, I found myself suspended from the surf club. At the time it was a tragedy, but I learned to live with it and when September arrived I rejoined expecting everything would return to normal. Unfortunately I was sadly mistaken. I discovered at the AGM that everyone had left the Avalon flat, Paula had started attending University and would no longer be coming to Avalon, Lesley was knocking around with some bods away from the beach and had lost interest in all things surf and club related and according to those who knew her, she had experienced a complete change in personality, something that I most certainly could vouch for. Tom's comment to me was, "Don't go wasting your time on her Poge, she's not the same Lulu that you and I once knew and loved." Hearing this caused my eyes to fill, as I was still more than half in love with her and her younger sister. If I was to bump into either one today, the many tears that I would shed would be ones of sheer joy.
(I have just been informed of the passing of Lesley who lost her battle with cancer several years ago. Those tears of joy have sadly been replaced by tears of sorrow at the loss of one of my favourite people. God bless you Lulu. I learnt also that Paula had lost her husband as well. My belated condolences to Polly.
Growing old is a real bugger.)
Alan had gone overseas on his way to South Africa, Jim and Trevor were about to leave on a working holiday to NZ for 12 months and on his return Jim would be off to WA with his beautiful Julie to become a happily married Sandgroper.
|Jim and Nipper off to NZ.|
Who was left? Just little old me. The mob had dispersed and I had to become used to different ways to entertain oneself with a new pod of mischief making troublemakers. For a short time I realised that although now owning a car, there was only me in it as everyone else had gone. It was not a pleasant feeling.
Season '64-'65 was almost like starting all over again. I threw myself into competing at the open surf carnivals as a member of the A boat crew. Because all of us rowers rowed and trained together, we tended to drink and play up together as well. We trained twice a week at Narrabeen Lakes and the newly built Pub at French's Forest was honoured with our presence more than once or twice. If we were only half as dedicated to being successful as the current boaties are, we could have won more than our fair share of trophies, but it was not to be.
Every now and then we would excell ourselves and pull off some unexpected wins in competition, but sadly, not often enough.
I began to devote more of my time to staying aware of what was happening in the club and on the beach. I blamed myself for the the loss of many close and dear friends during the previous season, because way too much time was being devoted to riding my surfboard. I once again accepted the thankless position of Social Secretary and after a slow start, I eventually threw myself into my responsibilities and the season ended on a high note. The club had reintroduced the Inter Patrol R and R Competition and no one was more surprised than me when my bunch of social misfits won the damn thing. I was spending less time on the Mal and reverted back to the surf ski, which was used for many fishing trips to the offshore reef. In retrospect, I was probably spending too much time in the Avalon RSL, but I was very rarely there on my own.
Life was on the up and up and I was enjoying it once again.
For the next eight years I managed to survive and although the times that went by way too quickly were an absolute blast, they could never be compared with those first five years. The loss of so many good friends and colleagues in one hit, brought about an ever present sadness that never should have been there at all.
I have reached that point in my life when one becomes aware of the fact that compared to the past, there are only a handful of years left to enjoy what remains of one's life and knowing that the next journey will last for all eternity. Compared to what awaits all of us after life, our physical existence is no more than a few fleeting seconds and because of this it should be remembered and cherished, because it's all we're going to get.
Once again I find myself with tears streaming down my cheeks as I recall what I was once blessed to have and to be a part of. Regardless of any perceived or real differences that may have raised their ugly head, I hope and pray that everyone has found meaning and satisfaction in their lives and they are deriving the same pleasure from the past memories as I have experienced now for many, many years.
As the blog heading says, nothing lasts forever, but when one was living with and through it as was the case, it seemed as though it would go on forever, but fate at times can be one big heartbreaker.
The opening lines of the love song from the musical Chess sum it up perfectly...........
'Nothing is so good it lasts eternally,
Perfect situations must go wrong.'
How very true.