Monday, February 9, 2015



Lunch at Far West Manly

It's not often that one gets the opportunity to be part of something special and when it does occur, the memories of what took place remain indefinitely and are treasured.
Two such special occasions occurred many years apart involving visitors to the beach from the same organisation.
My former boss and mentor, Avalon SLSC Life Member Reg Wood only recently sent for my perusal a large collection of stories and various anecdotes recalling special events that happened, some of which took place when T Model Fords were regarded as state of the art transport.
My fading memory brought to mind a very special and highly emotional event that I was truly grateful and honoured to be a part of sometime during the mid/late 1960's. 

Both Woody's tale and my story are published below and go to show that many hard bitten reprobates can shed the odd tear or two when caught up in the midst of something heartwarming and emotional.
A simple lesson can be learned from Woody's tale and that is, never judge a book by its cover.

A DAY TO REMEMBER   (by Reg Wood).

He was about eighteen years of age, a nice bloke, although a little slow. He was not a member of the surf club, but always joined in with us, not saving many lives, but merely joining us when we went for a swim and he was forever borrowing one of our surf skis. Being a bit slow he had trouble sitting on one of the racing skis. Actually, that's how he got his nickname, 'Drifty'. He caught a wave on one of the racing skis, the ski tipped over and we could not see him. We rushed over and found he had his feet caught in the footstraps and he could not get them out. A lesson learnt. The boys commented that he had looked like a piece of driftwood, hence the nickname 'Drifty'. I must add here, that in our day you were not fully accepted into a group unless you had a nickname.

'Drifty' heard of a surf ski for sale, so we went with him to check that he did not get ripped off. It was a large, heavy and wide ski, very stable which was ideal for him. Little did we know that the one we thought a little slow would come up with an idea that would bring so much happiness to a group of youngsters.

Sunday came, a beautiful day, a small surf with a long sandbank and it also brought some young visitors, about a dozen or so Far West youngsters. These young kids had never seen the ocean and/or surf and you can imagine them, all with brown arms and legs, white bodies, shrieking, jumping up and down, splashing one another, a sight once seen, never forgotten.
Then down came 'Drifty' with his newly acquired ski. He spoke to the youngsters chaperones about what he intended to do and got their approval, then in no time he had the rowdy bunch of kids all queued up. You can imagine them all shouting at once, their little faces writhed in smiles, pushing one another to be first for a ride on the ski.
He picked one up and sat him on the ski, then proceeded to push the craft with the youngster on it, out to around knee depth water. He then waited for a small wave to come and pushed the ski onto the wave and laid on it with the little one, riding it all the way to the beach.
"Me next, me next," up went the cry, jumping, clapping of hands, what a sight to see. In and out he went, every time with an excited, smiling, yelling child on board. His legs must have been aching, but he kept on until he had given all of them a ride, although there was more than one of them who sneaked in for a second go.

There must have been some pretty tired youngsters at the end of the day, but a day they would never forget. I would imagine that when they returned home and told about their day at the beach and their ride on the surf ski, the waves would grow bigger at each retelling and why not? Wouldn't you?

Some things you never forget, do you?

Reading Reg's little story became responsible for me recalling one the most fullfilling and happiest days of my sinful life. 
My recollections are as follows.................

During the mid/late 1960's, Avalon Surf Club President George Thompson formally requested that my good self, along with several other miscreants be present on the beach Sunday morning, preferably sober and/or not reeking of the previous night's liquid refershments.
It turned out that we were to be honoured with the presence of a large group of young children from the Far West Childrens home at Manly. President George had evidently planned a day out for these youngsters that they would never forget and it was to be all hands on deck to see that everything ran smoothly.

Several of us were delegated to begin digging a large hole in the sand slightly to the north of the clubhouse. We were told to pile high the sand around the holes perimeter creating a fortress. A sign was erected nearby informing beachgoers to stay clear of the area for their safety. Some heeded the warning, others didn't.

Sometime between 10 and 11am. the Far West bus arrives and at least 3 dozen highly excitable and shrieking children poured forth from it.   Not one of them had ever seen the ocean before and they could not contain their excitement and eagerness to splash around in the shallow and small  shorebreak. Our job was to supervise and protect if called upon to do so.

The Prez and others had prepared a mini carnival for these kiddies and the events got underway within 30 minutes of their arrival. Some of them were given caps to wear and many believed they were now fully fledged lifesavers.
There were beach flag races, beach sprints including a relay race, a tug 'o'war and a wading race through the shallows. Many of the kids were taken for rides on various surf skis and malibus, their laughter was deafening.
Nippers wading race at Caves Beach Newcastle Branch.

By 12:30 pm they were all exhausted and adjourned to the club's dance floor for lunch. There were copious quantities of various coloured drinks to wash down the food and turn a normally quiet child into a hyper active whirling dervish.

After lunch had settled I was introduced to an exceptionally pretty young supervising lass with smoky eyes, whose name I seem to recall was Tegan.

We were put in charge of the rowdy, highly excitable mob of kids and with the whole noisy shebang trailing behind, we set out for the Avalon Fire Brigade Station for a prearranged tour.
The station was on the western side of Barrenjoey Road, which even at quiet times was an extremely busy highway. On Sunday afternoons, forget it. 

My cute female supervisor must have thought me either very brave or stupid when I stood in the middle of this busy road and stopped the traffic both ways. She had the kids lined up in threes and holding hands, in preparation for the crossing. We made it to the other side without losing anyone and I began to realise how Moses must have felt when parting the Red Sea so the Hebrews could cross over to the other side.

The Firies were absolutely marvellous. They dressed some of the kids in their oversize uniforms, helmets that completely covered the kids faces were placed on tiny heads, Horns were honked, bells were rung and sirens sounded, some of the older ones got to slide down the fireman's pole while others clambered all over the engines.

Out the back there was a demonstration just how powerful those fire hoses were. The youngsters loved every minute of their visit and were in no mood to leave the station.

The only problem we all had was the fact that there were only so many hours in the day and there were many sad faces when it was time to return to the clubhouse. All good things have to end sometime so sadly, it was farewell to the Fire Brigade and back to the surf club.
Once again I was called upon to part the Red Sea and we reached the eastern side of Barrenjoey Road and arrived safely back at the clubhouse just in time for the Pillow Fight Competition. Young Tegan appeared very impressed with my performance as the leader of the pack and after thanking me, I was given a peck on the cheek for my efforts.

During the Pillow Fight Competition, many a fully trained and fully grown Avalon life saver was knocked off the wooden pole by those who were not much taller than knee high.
One of the Far West kiddies was George. He was not as quick or as sharp as his other companions, but not once throughout the day was he seen without a beaming smile on his face. The most wonderful thing was the way all and I mean all the other young folk looked after him, with some of the older ones taking him under their wing, so to speak. You should have seen the look on his face when he was declared winner of the Pillow Fight competition. Was it a set up?..........Of course it was.

Meanwhile back on the beach and taking up residence in the dirty great hole dug in the sand were several senior lifesavers including myself, wondering what was to happen next. The hole was around 3 metres square and 1.5 metres deep and despite further warnings there were some thrillseeking sunbakers who were content to remain where they were. Boy, were they in for a shock.
My female assistant was looking forward to joining us all in the hole, but when inside information regarding what was to occur became forthcoming, she reneged at the last minute.........wimp! 

President Thompson had gathered all the rowdy mob up on the front deck and announced that an evil bunch of pirates had landed on the beach and were about to launch an unprovoked attack on the clubhouse from their sandy fortress. Each kid was given as many bags of white starch that they could carry and were told to dip them in the provided buckets of water. On a given signal they ran down the trapdoor steps and charged the fortress. It resembled the battle scenes from the blockbuster movies Troy and/or The Lord of the Rings. Those in the hole, along with the clubhouse, the hole itself, parts of the beach and at least four or five dozen thrillseekers who refused to move away, disappeared completely under a huge cloud of swirling white powder. The battle raged for around 10 minutes and at the completion of hostilities, Avalon Beach resembled Antarctica minus the penguins.

The Big Bang.

"You were warned to steer clear."
All the youngsters flopped around in the shorebreak along with everyone else who happened to be covered in starch until once again all was spic and span.
Most of the kids had brought a change of clothes and showered in the clubhouse, then changed into something dry. The ones that didn't were not upset at travelling home still damp with traces of starch still apparent. Many of us guys and the girls from our Ladies Auxilliary were full of praise for these youngsters as many had never been given the opportunities that we took for granted. Quite a few had experienced hardships completely unknown to us spoilt and lucky buggers, yet a day at the beach was something they would obviously remember and cherish the rest of their lives. It would have been around 5pm. when the supervisors rounded up all their charges and after the mandatory head count, all were aware it was day's end.

These supervisors said they had never experienced such a wonderful day and were truly affected by the reception they received from all and sundry. As for the kids, they all gave us hugs and kisses and there were many of us, including myself, who shed a tear when it came time to say goodbye. The highlight for me during these goodbyes came when I was singled out and praised by Tegan, who then, much to my surprise and delight, followed up by planting a sweet and juicy wet one full on the lips. Whoa! Before entering their bus the mob all lined up and a group photo was taken, then we were given three deafening cheers for the Avalon Surf Club and its members. Never got to see this group shot, but my little dark haired beauty presented me with one of herself, that stayed in my wallet up until years later, when my lovely newly acquired bride to be demanded to know, "Who the hell's this?" 
Newly acquired bride to be. 
The bus quickly filled to capacity and began to depart. As it was about to leave the carpark, we all began singing Auld Lang Syne. It turned left at the entrance to the carpark and proceeded up Barrenjoey Road and  disappeared from view. We all attended the club's Sunday drinks (ie: QY's) with the only topic of conversation being what had made this a Sunday never to be forgotten, the end result of which I am certain transformed us into becoming much more understanding, tolerant and most definitely was responsible for us all becoming better human beings.

Woody ended his tale by saying, 'Some things you never forget, do you?'

He's absolutely right you know.


ps:     I never heard from or got to see the beautiful Tegan ever again........sigh!                                                            

Most of the photographs were nicked from the Web, but accurately reveal what occurred all those years ago.



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.