Thursday, October 10, 2013


A great way to start a long weekend.
I realise that many people would not give it a second thought, but I have always been more than surprised by the numbers of my fellow Aussies who cannot resist travelling overseas around holiday time.
Call me a damp squid if you like, but throughout the 1960's and 70's despite many of my mates and colleagues heading off overseas, it never once entered my mind to do likewise as everything I required was here at home in good old Oz. Why should I holiday in Bali and pour my hard earned money into the economy of the world's fourth most corrupt nation  and risk being blown up by some fruit loop muslim fundalmentalist. To me it simply did not make any sense and still doesn't.

There was something about the Easter weekend that was always responsible for a strong feeling of satisfaction and contentment becoming present. I would arrive at the surf club around 5:45pm. Thursday evening laden with the weekend supplies of red meat, eggs and spuds, stow my gear in the locker and then check out the surf. 
Good surf, out would come the Mal. Sloppy, mediocre surf would mean a paddle on the plywood surf ski. No surf, wait for a few more of my fellow anarchists to arrive, then off to either the Newport Arms or the Mona Vale pub for an evening of self destruction.
I was rapidly turning into an extremely lazy surfer and conditions as depicted above in the pic were just what the doctor ordered.

I would sleep on my mattress snuggled in my sleeping bag on the surf club verandah. Despite doing this for over 12 years, you could count on one hand the number of times I was dive bombed by the ever present mosquitoes. Sleeping in the bunkhouse throughout summer, you would be literally eaten alive by the blood sucking mongrels, not so on the front deck. In the early days sleeping in or around the clubhouse was a dangerous experience with many older drunks only too keen to launch midnight attacks on sleeping figures and toss them into the surf after several initiation procedures. Thank God the Mitchells had a granny flat that eventually became the weekend sleeping quarters of these warped terrorists and us younger guys finally were able to sleep soundly without being molested.

By 5:00am. Good Friday morning, the sun would be in the sky and by 6:30am. I would be wide awake and checking out the surf. Sometime between 6:30am. and 7:00am I would roll out of bed and drag out the surf ski, or Mal, surf permitting. It was quite common for me to be the first to enter the water and after paddling out the back I would sit and survey the beauties of Mother Nature.

At time of writing, now merely a hole in the ground. It survived 53 years from November 1960 until now.

The clubhouse appeared deserted, two joggers would be seen heading north along the beach, three or four folk would be swimming a few laps in the rock pool and occasionally one would notice the odd senior citizen having his or her early morning dip in the surf. The smell of the seaweed on the nearby rocks was almost intoxicating and helped clear the breathing passages, the surf craft would rise and fall as the small swells kept rolling in, seagulls would fly overhead and every now and then one would notice a wobbegong shark or stingray scudding across the sandy bottom in the crystal clear water. What was going through one's mind was four more days of this to go..........What a life.
Why would anyone want to go overseas when it's all here free of charge?

During the early 1960's it was a common sight to see an exceptionally pretty blonde female surfer girl paddling south from North Avalon to join me for what could end up being a three hour surfing session. Sometimes I would have to pinch myself when local girls Denise and Lenya would also put in an early morning appearance on their Mals.Ah!!! There is nothing that comes near the feeling of exhilaration one experiences while surfing, but when one is joined by not one, but three bikini clad goddesses, the feeling goes completely off the scale. Denise, Lenya and about eye candy. All three could surf as well.

There were, of course many times when I would find myself on my Pat Malone, however there nearly  always was Huey who saw to it that the sacred surf kept on rolling in and although it would have been preferable to have either male or female company, nevertheless the ocean still had the ability to cleanse one's soul, making life more than worth living.
Only someone who surfs, or has surfed could fully undestand what I'm on about. Full on addiction without drugs.

Nothing lasts forever and when one retired to the club's kitchen completely exhausted, into the frypan would go the sausages, eggs and bacon and a high cholesterol breakfast would be washed down with at least two mugs of Moccona premium coffee.

Seeing how the beauties of Mother Nature were referred to earlier on, one is prompted to mention the notorious Avalon sand hills that back then were mostly sand and spinifex. So very much of what occurs naturally took place regularly in those sandy clearings between the grass and we believed it was almost our duty to ensure public promiscuity was performed in an acceptable manner. I became a member of the Phantom Shadows who would lie in wait for  some unsuspecting couple to commence horizontal folk dancing and on the odd occasion we would even award points for an exceptional performance, before disappearing into the undergrowth.

There was more than just one occasion when a small group comprising both sexes would have the odd skinny dip in either the rock pool or in the surf itself during the early hours of the morning. The next day there would be tongue in cheek greetings along the lines of, "Gee, it was good to see you appreciated my company earlier on." Or, "I noticed you were up late last night."

"I thought you looked familiar."

Commencing late 1962 and into 1963 the Surfers Stomp dance craze took off at Avalon and was responsible for a surge in club membership. Not all stayed, but most did and this took quite a burden off our active patrolling members. Prior to the Stomp I can recall being rostered to do 21 patrols one season and afterwards when the membership spiked it became 11 or 12. Avalon Beach was patrolled on Saturdays from 1pm. to 5pm. and on Sundays from 9am. to 1pm. with an afternoon patrol taking over from 1pm. to 5pm.
Sunday morning patrols were the most interesting as many of the local cuties, along with many visiting top sorts would camp in close proximity to the patrol area.

One other thing that kept me busy was I had joined the boat crew and we would attend all the open and restricted surf carnivals. It was common for us to compete at Freshwater on the Saturday and on Sunday we would wind up in Sydney Branch competing at Maroubra. Every now and then there would be a marathon requiring us to row from Shelley Beach at Manly all the way to Palm Beach, or from inside Pittwater, out through the heads and down to Narrabeen.
Were we any good? Well, as an A Crew we were up there with the best of the B Crews. We trained hard and often, but still were able to spend more of our time in the pub downing large quantities of that frothy amber fluid.

Some of this.

Lots of this.

From the mid 60's onwards I was spending way too much time in the Avalon RSL with fellow imbibers. The old gang that was so prominent and full of mischief throughout the early 60's had broken up. Jim and Mike left the club and were never seen again, Michelle and I had ended our relationship and she was frequenting other circles, Jim Rayner and Nipper had taken off to New Zealand, Paula had visited Canada and was attending University and no longer was seen on the beach and her sister Lesley I can only assume lost interest in the sun, sand and surf and fell off the radar. All of the aforementioned were responsible for the happiest times of my sinful life and none of them will ever be forgotten. They were truly special times with special people.
It was the three girls who suggested we keep on coming to Avalon throughout winter. Tom lived at North Rocks, Jim and Mike at Carlingford, Nipper and the other Jim came from Marrickville, Michelle from Eastwood, Lesley and Paula from Fivedock and me from Annandale. The girls parents had holiday homes in Avalon and we most certainly put them to good use. Many a freezing cold winter's day was spent snuggling up together in the Hopewell's house at North Avalon playing board games, darts, table tennis and listening to records.
Even on the coldest of nights, there was something about snogging with a gorgeous blonde surfer girl underneath a blanket that was responsible for a warm, cosy feeling of satisfaction. It only took a matter of minutes to completely fog up all the windows in Tom's station wagon.

We would drive around all over Sydney and have an absolute ball doing absolutely nothing. We would demonstrate what rotten bowlers we were at the Balgowlah Ten Pin bowling alley. God only knows how many Drive Ins we attended. At least two of us would lie on the back seat floor covered in a blanket and would enter the Drive In for free. The Squash courts at Newport were honoured with our presence every now and then and the girls weren't that bad belting that little black ball around. 

We would go on the odd picnic together and enjoy each others company. Therin lies the story. It was not what we did that gave us pleasure, it was who we were doing it with that made it exceptional.

We were different people from different parts of Sydney who derived great pleasure out of each others company and at the time it seemed as though it would last forever, but unfortunately nothing does.
The last time I can recall seeing the two Hopewell sisters was when they were part of a Resuscitation squad being examined on the beach on Sunday March 24th. 1963. Before they had completed their examination a mass rescue took place that involved many members from surrounding clubs. The girls pitched in to help and I found myself swimming a surfline out to our damaged and sunken surfboat with the young ladies as my linesmen. They received commendations from the Manly Warringah SLSA for their wonderful efforts.
All six girls in the training squad were known to me and had been responsible for making my life exceptional to say the least, yet despite this way too many years passed by with me forgetting who they were, despite manning the reel line and belt for my belt swim. Just recently an old surf club annual report resurfaced and reminded me of who they were.
Denise Ware, Lenya Laurich, Carolyn Druce, Patricia Jarrat and the two Hopewell sisters, Lesley and Paula excelled themselves during the mass rescue and went on to obtain their Qualifying Certificates later on that same day.
Several months later I did meet up with Lesley Hopewell, but for some unknown reason she obviously was not too pleased to see me.

It was the end of an era.

Many folk lead lives that are full of satisfaction and I can truthfully include myself among them, but I was given the opportunity to have as friends very special people, even if only for a short period of time. Along with my love of the sun, sand and surf, these dear friends have left their mark on me and during the past 50 years I have always been aware of what a lucky boy I was. In fact I was much more than just lucky, I was indeed really and truly blessed.


I have only just been informed of the sad passing of one of my favourite people, namely Lesley Hopewell.

Lulu was struck down with the dreaded cancer several years ago and when I was told she had succumbed to it, a part of me died as well.
The happiest years of my life were the ones spent with Lu and her younger sister Paula during the early 1960's.
I was privileged to have known the two sisters during what was all too short a time and those not forgotten memories will still be with me when it comes my turn to leave this mortal coil.

Rest in peace Lulu.
Many thanks to former Nestles co worker Jim Hahn for advising me of the devastating news.

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