pods for primates : a catatogue of surfboards in australia since 1900
home catalogue history references appendix

march : merewether slsc, 1983 
Laurie March  : Merewether SLSC, 1983.

Extracts from:
March, Laurie: A History of the Merewether Surf Club 19080-1983.
 Merewether Surf Life Saving Club, 1983.

A highly informative work, based on extensive club records and newspaper reports and in-depth personal interviews.
The highlights are the recollections of senior members Ted Jefferson and Jack Blackett dating back to the 1930s.

Page 10
The Sixth Annual Carnival held on Australia Day 1914 at Merewether Beach, was most spectacular. With a heavy surf running, many competitors failed to get out and had to give in, but it was a satisfactory test for those who succeeded in the task.
A highlight of the carnival was to be an exhibition by the Merewether Canoe Trio and the Newcastle SurfBoat crew, but after several attempts to get through the breakers, the event had to be abandoned owing to the rough water.
Newcastle Club was again most successful winning the Surf Race, D. McHattie, Alarm and Reel F. Gazzard, and the Rand R competition.
Cooks Hill Club won the Parade of Teams and J. Lloyd of Merewether won the Fancy Costume Contest as King Neptune.

The Seventh Annual Carnival was held on Saturday 26th February, 1915 at the newly completed Newcastle Ocean Baths.
The weather was fine and a large crowd was in attendance.
Regret was expressed at the absence through illness of Club President Mr. P. R Dix.
An excellent programme was provided and was well carried out by the energetic committee.
An addition to the programme was an exhibition swim by T. Adrian of Manly Club who had recently defeated the mighty Kahanamokti over400 yards.
He swam the 400 ...

Page 11
...  yards exhibition in the very good time of 5 min. 51 1/2 secs. and 200 yards in 2 min. 30 secs., the first 100 yards occupying 1 min. 10 1/5 secs.
The 100 yards Kahanamoku Handicap was won by J. McDermott from J. Jones and H. Arnold. W. Leal just beat Vic Walmsley in the 100 yards inter-club handicap, while W. Dyet of Merewether won the President's Handicap from A Harris and A Parkinson.
The Fancy Costume contest was won by T. White as an itinerent street musician, and Merewether's H. Lloyd gave an exhibition of distance diving, which together with some novelty events made up a decidedly attractive programme.

Page 12
Australia Day 1924 was the occasion of the launching of the first surfboat the "John Bull", a standard surf boat purchased through State Centre at a cost of £10.
The boat of carvell planked cedar was of such great weight that almost the entire club membership was needed to launch it.
The Club's second boat, a clinker planked double ender, was named after long serving President K. D. McDonald.
Built by Towns Brothers of Dempsey Island (now Kooragang) at a cost of £108 ($216) complete with oars it was launched on 26th January, 1933, and served the Club until 194 7 when the last double ender also built by Towns Brothers at a cost of £250 was launched by C. J. Nightingale on the 11th October, 1947, and named "Merewether".

Page 14
BOAT 4: The Club's first tuck stern, built by Roy Phillips and costing  £450, was launched and christened "Merewether" by Mrs. Olga Brien in October, 1954.

BOAT 5: Second hand tuck stern purchased from Caves Beach Club in November, 1954.
This boat was damaged at the Maitland Floods in 1955 and disposed of shortly after.

BOAT 6: Built by Boyd Humphries of Swansea, and launched and christened the "Gary Wright" by Mrs. Jean Wright on 12th October, 1959.
It was wrecked at Merewether Australian Titles in 1960.
Donated by Ron Wright Cost £650.

Page 15
BOAT 7: Built by Bill Barnett of Millers Point, Sydney, launched and christened "Gary Wright" by Mrs. Jean Wright in November, 1960.
Money was raised by club members, with many small donations, and concerts at Wright Autos Showrooms.

BOAT 8: Built by Bill Clymer of Manly and costing £800 was launched and christened "Bill Reid" by Mrs. Alice Reid on 23rd January, 1965.

BOAT 9: Built by Bill Barnett of Miller's Point, and costing $1,200 was launched and christened "Laurie March" by Mrs. Linda March on 12th October, 1969.
Funds raised by club effort.

BOAT 10: Second-hand Barnett purchased from North Stockton Club, costing $300, launched and christened "Greyhound" by Laurie March on 14th October, 1972.

BOAT 11: The "Grace Darling" received from State Centre, following a pleading application, on condition that the Club give the "Laurie March" to needy club, South West Rocks.
Launched 17th September, 1972.
Built by Bill Barnett.

BOAT 12: Built by Max Taylor at Wollongong costing $3,250 was launched by Lord Mayor Joy Cummings and christened the "Neville J. Henshaw" by Mrs. Bernice Henshaw on 6th December, 1975.

BOAT 13: Built by Claude Boyd at Landsborough, Queensland and costing $4,050 launched and. christened the "Garry Miller" by Mrs. Diane McKenzie on 2nd March, 1980.

BOAT 14: Built by Burton Products at Gosford and launched and christened "Waratah Engineering" on 22nd October, 1983 by Jack Wiebe and Mrs. Anna Deluliis.
Sponsored by Waratah Engineering.

Page 62
(J. Mitchell #10068, Bronze Medallion, 18.2.1934, page 163)
As Phil Evan's brother-in-law Jack Mitchell performed many secretarial tasks while still too young to join ...

Page 63
... the Club.
Jack gained his S.B.M. in 1934 and between 1934-36 was Phil's official helper as Assistant Secretary. He also had a season as Delegate to the Branch and as Honorary Beach Inspector.
However, Jack's part in history lies not in these activities but in the fact that he was one of a small pre-war band that ushered in the era of surf skis at Merewether Beach.

The first ski to appear was owned by Mr. Alan Ferguson about 1935 but Jack Mitchell was the first Club member to secure one of the new craft.
He put his ski in the water about 1937 and was quickly followed by joint owners Bill Podger and Walter Watkins.
Stan Barratt and George Bowes purchased a plywood ski then built another from sheet iron.
This craft may have been unique in its construction but certainly not for its buoyancy.

George Bowes's interest in skis was understandable, for he was a member of the boat crew and Boat Captain in 1940-41.
He won what may have been the first carnival ski event when at Nobbys, season 1937-38, with Stan Barratt he won the Ski Rescue Race.

Page 89
(G. Spencer #17062, Bronze Medallion, 20.4.1941, page 164)
joined the Club and gained his S.B.M. in 1941.
He loved the surf and the big waves and even then his slightly balding head was a familiar sight out wherever the waves may be and at any hour from early morning to well after dark.
He, the Beatons, Chicky Lang, Geoff Davis and others would chase waves anywhere.
He was an exponent of the small handboard and "corners" were his specialty.
Graham was no champion but probably about a middle marker.
Graham was a more than useful competitor on the beach, running from scratch in beach sprints along with Jeff Lawson and Mick Hill and being a member of the moderately successful Beach Relay team of the 1942-46 era.
Graham severed connection with the Club in the early 1950's for an overseas trip and only resumed a casual acquaintance upon his return.

(W. Warren #17064, Bronze Medallion, 20.4.1941, page 164)
Alias "Wog" or "Paddles", Bill was to achieve fame or was it notoriety, for his love of the surf boat.
He gained his S.B.M. in 1941 and from the outset was bent on the boat.
After serving his apprenticeship under the redoubtable Ted Jefferson, he became Boat Captain in 1944-45 until 1946-47.
As a sweep Bill was at his best when superman qualities were required.
The old "K D." was the then craft and must have weighed two tons.
Bill was noted for the flattest feet you could ever see (hence the name Paddles) and it was generally believed that these acted like suction caps (or limpets) to keep him on those platforms.
He just didn't seem to get tossed out Bill swept the boat for a number of years mainly on patrol work but in many interclub carnivals as well.
When he left the Club he did not stray far from boats, he became a marine engineer.

Page 92
(J. H. Johnson #23660, Bronze Medallion, 18.1.1947, page 165)
Came to the Ciub in 1947 and was a stillwater swimmer of outstanding ability.
He was also quite a good surfer who liked wave riding in big seas.
His interests very quickly turned to the surf skis where he achieved considerable success.
In his first season he ran second at the Branch to Bill McIntosh and in 1948-49 took out third place at the N.S. W. Championships.
John was one of the pioneers of what was then the revolutionary "razor blade" skis.
They were very narrow and just to remain upright was a major feat.
He was paddling in the era of Les Laiarus, Frank Okulich and Bill McIntosh, all Australian Champions and he certainly made them paddle.
John became a marine engineer, and took his ski wherever he went and his tales of wave riding in W.A are legend.
He was without fear.

(R.A. Francis #25104, Bronze Medallion, 29.2.1948, page 165)
A very keen clubman in the late '40's and into the '50's, Bob was a cabinet-maker by trade and was regularly pressed into service in the field of boat repairs, etc.
He was the designer and builder of the aforementioned "Razor Blade" skis and to illustrate his faith rode one himself. He and John Johnson were constant training companions paddling miles to sea every afteroon often returning after dark. Bob was always close up but couldn't manage to oust the trio. He gave many years of service in the gear area and could always be relied upon for any assistance required.

Page 93
(M. Gilmore #128707, Bronze Medallion, 19.11.1950, page 166)
Better known as "Tacka", Max gained his S.B.M. in 1950 and became one of the more adept long board riders, taking out a number of races at interclub carnivals.
He was a "character" always up to some devilment and he and John Armstrong probably caused Doug Read to age prematurely.
Max was a very good surfer who loved the "Ladies".
He was fortunate to survive severe head injuries in a motor cycle accident, but came back after recovery in time for the introduction of the short Malibu board.

(D. Wilkins #30468, Bronze Medallion, 2.3.1952, page 166)
Joined the Club in 1952.
He was dead keen on the long board and for one so small could certainly handle that 15ft plank.
He was a surfer of above average ability winning the Novice Surf Race at the Branch Championships in 1953-54.
In the following season he ran third in the Branch Board Race Championship and along the way picked up a number of placings at carnivals.
Doug was forever a trier to be a member of the March Past team but somehow always seemed just outside selection.

Page 94
(J. Catsicas ... #41763  S. Catsicas ... #41766, Bronze Medallion  9.11.1952, page166)
Twin brothers who joined the Club in 1952 they were both excellent surfers with Steve (Spero) who won the Club Championship in the 1954-55 season being the stronger.
Both gained positions in the March Past team, Jack for only two years, Spero for much longer.
Spero was a member of the " A Grade" R andR team that was second at the Branch titles in 1952-53 and third in 1953-54.

(C.J. Andrews #N863, Bronze Medallion, 21.11.1954, page 166)
An exceptionally talented surfer who absolutely relished the big seas.
Col joined and gained his Bronze in 1954.
He was a fitness crank and despite his love of wave riding would always manage to find time for training for which he was rewarded when he became Club Champion in the season 1962-63.
Col would be classified as a complete surfer, a first class board rider and ski paddler, talents that in today's world would put him among the top ironmen.

He was always prepared to put a lot back into the Club and in this direction gained his Instructor's Certificate in 1956 and began coaching Bronze squads and Rand R.
He was elected Chief Instructor in 1957 and served for one year in this position after which, in 1959 he was elected to the position of Treasurer an office he filled until 1964.

Colin is still very active with the Fingal Bay Club and only last season took part in the four day Ski Marathon that started at Forster and terminated at the Sydney Opera House.

(R.J. Armstrong #N723, Bronze Medallion, 13.2.1955, page 166)
More popularly known as "Legsy', he gained his Bronze in 1955.
John was an all-round surfer of above average ability. At the Branch Championship carnival in 1955-56 he was placed second in the Novice Surf and third in the Board Race.
Legsy was a genuine "character" who could be certain to extract the most from any situation.

Page 95
He was a great prankster.
He was one of the pioneers of the short board along with Tacka Gilmour and "Luke" Clarke and one memorable weekend these three gave a magnificent display in a big westerly surf at Flynn's Beach, Port Macquarie.
John was a team man being involved in the Rand R teams and having the occasional row in the boat

(J. Sumpton #-, Bronze Medallion, 9.11.1957, page 167)
Joined in 1957 and was a surfer/wave rider of tremendous ability.
At risk of being repetitious he was and still is one of the best of the big wave riders with absolutely no fear of the surf.
He is a fitness fanatic training with rare zeal John spent most of his career on the rowing end of an oar, being a member, firstly of the Junior crew and later with the" A" crew.
As recently as 1982-83 season John was still training assiduously and rowing with the "B" crew that won at a craft carnival at Merewether.
Not bad after 25 years.

Page 104
(E. Jefferson #6127, Bronze Medallion, 22.12.1929, page 163)
I joined M.S.L.S.C. in 1929 aged 16 and gained my S.B.M.in the same year and had a very successful few years in surf, belt and beach events at both club and carnival levels.
The Club had some very good performers in this period, almost unbeatable beach relay teams, namely Aub Jones, who later lost a leg in World War II, Bill and Alan Lawson, Vince McEvoy, Neville Hughes and others whose names evade me, surf and baths swimmers Bob and Wal Hughes, Jim Tracy, Roy Murray and Bill Herald, an Olympian 100 yards swimmer, who joined the Club after the sun had set on his swimming career.

Looking at rescue craft of the '80's, fibre glass skis, boards and boats and overhead the helicopter, it is a wonder we ever saved a life in the '30's.
You with your mouth to mouth and us with the old Schaeffer method, we may just as well have given them a pat on the bum.

A word about boats: the one we had in the 1920's and '30's was named "John Bull" bought for £1 0 I believe.
The money was raised by asking people to give a sprat ( sixpence) to catch a whale (boat).
Which was the heavier, the whale or the boat is hard to say.

Our first new boat was the "K D. McDonald" and money to buy it was raised by club members working gambling devices at a fair, on ground known as "Kelly's Comer", bordered by Hunter, Darby and King Streets.
Members who worked the games were Norm Wiebe, George Hinchcliffe, Max Wynter, Peter Dobbyns and Ted Jefferson.
It took six weeks every night except Sundays, to get the cost of the boat, £108 fully equipped, the price quoted by N. & E. Towns of Dempsey Island, boat builders of great renown, exporting their boats to many countries.
Norm Wiebe and myself made several trips to Dempsey Isle (now part of Kooragang) to see various stages of building.
Norm being a shipwright, kept an expert eye on its progress and on completion made arrangements to take delivery at the wharf near Stockton ferry, Newcastle side of course.

I arranged a crew and we were taken to the wharf in George Barnes' coal truck.
On this day a black north east wind was blowing and a very strong tide was running out.
These combined, make Newcastle Harbour bar a really rough passage.
As we rowed down harbour, a Dredge Department tug ranged up alQngside ftnd the skipper advised us to turn back.
I called to him and said, "you look after your boat and we'll look after ours".
We couldn't go back, we were in swimmers and had no money to pay fares home.

At the entrance, conditions were a bit rough to say the least.
Joe Burrows made a few predictions, one being about bodies washing up on Stockton Beach but after a very traumatic half hour, we eventually made it and were headed for home.
It was probably one of the fastest runs between Nobbys and Merewether ever made, the boat just scudded along on every swell and in no time at all we hit the beach.

The "K D. McDonald" had a fair bit of success, winning at a special carnival held at Newcastle Beach to coincide with a visit by the Duke of Gloucester in the mid '30's.

A couple of times we put her aboard S.S. "Hunter" as deck cargo to Sydney.
We travelled steerage at 10/- return arriving in Sydney at 6.00 am Saturday.
We then rowed from Darling Harbour under the Harbour Bridge out through the Heads, past the Gap and then through all that stuff you see out at Smelter's but at Bondi outlet the volume would be ten times greater and so on to Bondi Beach.
On Sunday the trip was reversed, arriving in Newcastle at 6.00 am Monday.

The K D. could lay claim to the longest wave ride on the coast It happened this way; the Army would hold machine gun practice from the cliffs, just south of the baths, the Club was asked to help by laying targets at sea for them.
On the day the practice was to take place, a very heavy southerly sea was running and we were lucky enough to get out and set the targets.
We were on our way back to the beach, some hundreds of yards out between the two sets of baths and caught a wave which took us to the shore north of the storm water pipe.
The crew on this occasion was G. Hinchcliffe, Pluto Sullivan, E. Jefferson, George Knight and George McNamara.

We rowed the K D. to Redhead on their carnival day to lay buoys, etc then back to Merewether afterwards, reason being that Redhead did not have a boat.
After giving that boat many years of tender loving care, the K D. met its end on Merewether Beach, in season 1947-48 when it was driven by a large wave backward onto the beach.
Its stem was wiped out and the keel broken.

Although the Club paid for the boat it could not lay claim to ownership, because of some Council law about things kept on their property -the clubhouse.

Simple things like surf lines and belts didn't come easy. I can recall going to Council ...

Page 105
... meetings with club delegations to almost beg for a new line.
Lines then were made from cotton and subject to fraying and rotting and of course the rope to tether the horse trick, people with horses sneaking down at midnight and cutting a length of rope to tie up the old nag, which in turn meant the line got a bit short.
Times were sure tough, not like now with funding and sponsorships -good luck to you.

Just to make a cost comparison on boat gear: a Mountain Ash oar cost 12/6, Oregon 18/6, a sweep 25/-, boat repairs when necessary were free, the work being done by Norm Wiebe and myself.
The boss at work caught me making new rowlocks one day.
He wanted to know who they were for, I told him the Lighthouse Keeper in Canberra.
He said -give him this lot, but no more.

Surf clubs are now being recognised for their true value, as they should be, may they go on to bigger and better things.

Page 109
(J. Blackett #14323, Bronze Medallion, 18.12.1938, page 164)
My recollections of the M.S.L.S.C. go back beyond my direct association as a member of same, in that for many years prior to 1938 (the year I turned 16 and was eligible to join) I was constantly making a nuisance of myself at and in the old clubhouse.
We used to look forward to the annual carnival to sell programmes.
My earliest recollections of surf club activities are of the night races held in what is now termed the "Rock Pool" or old baths.
These races were very well conducted and big fields invariably took part Names that come to mind who splashed their way through three laps (50 yards) and six laps (100 yards) were Ray Anderson, Bob (Choc) Hughes, Wal Hughes, Jim Tracy, Harold (Sheik) Ragan.
Crowds of up to 300 people used to press their way to the water's edge on both sides of the baths to witness these events.

In the years immediately preceding my joining, we were members of the "Juvenile" Surf Club, which held baths races and conducted picnic days at Glenrock Lagoon under the guidance of Bill Parker (Snr) -a very popular day out for the kids and parents.
In those days Glenrock Lagoon was "The" place with a shop, etc.
Tin canoe races were held along with other games.
Kids of the time made their own play things -billycarts, scooters, sledges, etc.
The tin canoe was constructed from corrugated iron belted out flat on the bottom with bow and stem from packing crates or old kerosene cases.
The whole thing was nailed together and sealed with copious quantities of tar.
Of course none of these things was ever purchased.
Half the fun was "finding" the materials.
Perhaps the iron might be supplied from Water Board shafts or an old dump, while the roads of Merewether showed no harmful effect from the removal of a little tar now and then.
Besides the races at the Lagoon, an armada of tin canoes could be found catching the waves at high tide in the area between the southern wall of the big baths and the stink pipe leading to the gulf.

In 1938, I with J effLawson and Ken Walmsley joined the Club and proceeded to train for our Bronze Medallion under the instruction of Stan Barratt.
He was a tough coach.
If you didn't pay attention or do well enough, it was not unusual to suffer a toe in the rear.
Stan also led us in training (which wasn't too rigorous) as we all much preferred to go for a wave rather than swim up and down the baths.
In any case the two better surfers Ken (Fooper) Walmsley and Jeff (Skinny) Lawson were naturals and probably would rank among the best big surf surfers in Newcastle.

In these years the Rand R competition was held in A Grade and B Grade and we four ...

Page 110
... juniors, with Bill Reid and Sheik Ragan, made up a team that won the Northern District B Grade Rand R Championship.
The same juniors along with Stan Barratt and one other would then back-up in the A Grade which was particularly strong with surfers like Newbiggen, Brownjohn, Gillett and Young competing for other clubs.
Belt training then was done the hard way.
Stan Barratt was the Beach Inspector and for belt training we'd line two reels on the beach and proceed to swim out beyond the furthest bank (whatever) without linesmen or any such and then catch a wave or swim back ii to wind the line up.

This was a relatively good period competitively both in surf and beach events, the Club winning many events.
Allan Lawson was a star performer in beach sprints.

Other outstanding competitors on the beach were Ted Jefferson, George Dawson, Edrice (Coogan) Parker and Aub Jones.

The March Past team was a bit of a joke, quite often chasing the rest of the parade as it marched onto the beach.
We were known as the Late Merewether Club.
One reason may have been that we travelled to the outlying venues on the back of Bob Morton's 1926 Chev truck with the reels, the boat and all the competitors on the back.
Some of the more adventurous climbed into Stan Barratt's old Rugby and by good luck made it.
To local carnivals we carried the reels (to Newcastle around the rocks and Bogey Hole) and rowed the boat.

A point not made earlier was that the pre-war clubhouse was a weatherboard one on the end of the lower promenade approximately where the ramp leading from the new clubhouse commences and was of two floors.
The lower floor comprised dressing room and showers with the boat shed adjoining. The upper floor was clubroom and Board room.
There was a shark tower attached which consisted of a telepole with a railed wooden platform attached, accessible by climbing a wooden ladder, this used to sway mightily in any sort of breeze. Toilet facilities consisted of pan toilets on a promenade extension.

It was in this first year that a major rescue was performed (attempted) when just on dusk a group of nurses from "Hillcrest" visited the beach to swim and one of their number got into difficulties and was swept out in the run out behind the "Ladies" and those on the beach, attempted the rescue.
One who tried time and again to get out through a heavy surf and edge dump was George Dawson but he was unsuccessful.
The rescue was completed in darkness and attempts at resuscitation proved in vain.
Jim Tracy and Bob Walton gained awards for their efforts.

It was in 1939 that one of the boys, Jeff Lawson, won the Open Surf at Newcastle, in what was a mountainous surf.
Several boats were smashed to pieces among them Swansea-Belmont's which opened up at the stem and stern post (double ended boats) and laid open like a banana.
The entire crew bailed out.
As they were going out in the boat race they were rowing up the face of a mountainous wave and didn't look like making it, so they all jumped over.
The boat performed a complete somersault and was smashed to pieces.
The crew then had to be rescued which took about three quarters of an hour.
This will serve to indicate the size of the sea in which Skin Lawson beat Newbiggen and others.
I chickened out but Skin rounded the buoys and cracked a tremendous wave and rode it to the beach.
Carnivals in this era were held irrespective of surf conditions.
At the Merewether carnival of this year Steve Jefferson and John Hutchinson were sent out to swim the course, presumably, that if they could make it back the races were on -they did.

Surf boating in those days was hard work.
The old "K D. McDonald" boat was a double ender and must have weighed a ton and it was a winter ritual to carry the boat down to the little baths and sink it and moor it fore and aft and leave it for the winter so that the cracks would take up and make it seaworthy for the summer.

Even as early as this there were some mad boaties.
George (Stugger) Hinchcliffe was one sweep I rowed with who was followed by "The Little General", Ted Jefferson and the usual crew was Joe Burrows, Tighsey Hinchcliffe, George (Booser) Bowes, Stan Barratt and fellows of this ilk.
For a real thrill a minute we'd go out with Ray Anderson, whose good trick was to line us up onto the biggest available wave and at the critical time laugh like hell and dive over -"Good Fun!!".

This was an era when there was virtually no craft, other than the surfboat.
The only thing I can recall was a big oregon "Duke" board that weighed about 100 lbs.
Everbody was a body surfer and it was a real battle of wits to get a wave, particularly out the back of the "Ladies".
There was Jock Clarke and me with handboards, Plunkett Thompson with his surfoplane and ...

Page 111
most of the rest just body surfing.
No trouble to get your head "cut off' or be pulled back by the foot.

The N.S. W. Championships were always eagerly awaited.
The older blokes used to get a five gallon keg from Oph Tressider at the old Beach Hotel take it into Cap Beaton's backyard behind the old evergreen tree and knock it over.
They'd then get a sugarbag of quarts, catch the tram to town for the Flyer to Sydney.
Generally they'd get the guard drunk and take the train over.
We'd usually stay at the People's Palace Friday night, go out to the carnival venue and from there to either Coogee or Bronte on Saturday night for the big smoko.
These were wild nights.
Some of the personalities were Norman May (A.B.C.) of Coogee and Ken Foster (Australian Belt Champion) of Bronte.

A trophy called the "Mercoobron" Cup was competed for between the three clubs on alternate annual venues in Sydney and naturally on Merewether Beach.
It was competed for on the Sunday after the State (and after the usual smoko) and took on the importance of a full scale carnival -boats and all.

Prior to 1942 Coogee Beach was enclosed by a shark net and we earned great disfavour by climbing over the net and going for a wave off the northern point.
When at Bronte, if the surf didn't suit, we'd swim around the point to Tamarama or set out and walk to South Bondi.
The shows on Saturday nights were typical buck shows and each club had to perform.

Old Cap Beaton had the lease of the dressing sheds and he used to leave his wife up at the cafe and he'd look after the pavilion.
He really loved a drop of beer and as soon as he'd taken a few "bob" he would send Jim Tracy up to the pub for a billy can of beer.
This was where we were first introduced to poker machines.
Cap had one on the counter and you had to buy tokens to play it, you could cash in.
The police eventually made him take it down.

The years 1938 to 1941 were good years, in which I gained my Instructor's Certificate and put many members through to their Bronze medallions.

Then came World War II.
Older members began to join the services and the beach was fortified with barbed wire and tank!raps.
To get onto the beach for training one had to pass a sentry and receive the O.K.
The army occupied the caretaker's flat in the pavilion (later to become the surf club premises).
During the war the Association produced a bulletin that was distributed world-wide to all serving members.
The Merewether segments were prepared by Jack Winney and myself, writing under the pseudonym of DO- JO (which became corrupted to TOJO).

I entered the RAAF in 1942 and was discharged medically unfit in 1944.

When I was well enough to return to the beach I was surprised to find that there was no competitive activity on the beach whatsoever and enquiries elicited the information that "they didn't have anything like that anymore", a situation I set about correcting.
I began putting on surf races and beach events the very next Sunday.
I got 20 blokes together and we started March Past training using the few older fellows like Joe Burrows (standard bearer) as a nucleus but mainly all juniors.
Bronze squads were recommenced and Rand R training resumed Doug Ford, Doug Read and Peter Hollinshead are three names which come to mind.
Training was a seven day a week job along with at least two nights.
The night sessions were particularly good as during the breaks between marching teams were formed for Beach Relay, Two man Tumble, Musical Flags, etc.
We had at least 20 fellows who started together and were becoming competition conscious with the result that we built up as a club to become among the top.
In March Past competition in this year we trained hard and finally succeeded in gaining a third place. However, from the beginning of the 1945 season, we started an era of victory that was to extend for some 21 years.
From the year 1946, we produced many Newcastle District Champions and very keen competitors. The Allanson twins, the Beaton twins, Geoff Davis, Noel Long. Robbie Hudson, Wagga Brien, John Towner, Alan Taggart and Laurie March are but a few who took us to the top.
Australian, N.S. W. and Branch Championships came our way regularly.
I put these successes down to the fact that we always had 20 fellows (the March Past team) training three times a week together and I always thought it a retrograde step when teams were reduced to 12 men.

All of those named previously were natural surfers, although they did train in the baths but always with one eye on the surf.
Out of the baths (400 metres) and then out the back of the "Ladies" was always on.

In 1948, I think it was, we had an Rand R team that would train from 5.30 am (I used to go around each home personally and wake them), they would swim 400 metres, have a shoot or two, Rand R practice until 7 .00 am, home for breakfast and then to work.
Geoff Davis, Noel ...

Page 112
... Long, Doug and John Beaton and Robbie Hudson made up this team.

The Club management saw fit to invite a then top Sydney R and R coach to put on the final polish for the State Championship at Manly.
There was a mountainous sea and as was said earlier these boys were naturals in the surf I believe we lost our first State Championship because the wrong instructions were given to the team on the day.

During the early' forties the old weatherboard clubhouse was badly damaged by big seas.
It was demolished and the Club took up residence in the Surf Pavilion.
Fund raising and social functions were now strongly promoted.

The first major fund raising was for a new boat to replace the KD.
We (my wife and I) organised a form of lottery -2/- each number, using some 20 collectors who, each Sunday night congregated at the clubhouse.
All monies were returned each Sunday night for the draw.
This became quite a social night, as after the draw a dance would be held and the room was totally packed.
The providers of the music were like a who's who of music of the time, with Billy Lang, Vic McDonnell Tom Pavey and Nita Lawson coming along.

From memory the amount of money raised for this boat was £250 ($500) and Towns of Dempsey Island (now part of Kooraganglsland) made the boat and oars.
This system of fund ,raising and social activity continued for some years.
The money raised was used to assist the teams' travel (March Past and Rand R) expenses to Coolangatta, etc.

The Club was now benefiting from the return of older members and from new recruits, an interest in surf craft was rising.
We still had mad boaties e.g. Captain (Bill) "Henry" Morgan and Ron Bland, plus John Keysell who was probably No.1 on the long board, and surf ski riders such as John Johnson and Bob Francis, so that every aspect of the movement was adequately covered.

Mention of'Henry' Morgan and mad boaties brings to mind an incident at Merewether in 1956 or 1957, on the morning of what from memory was the Branch Championships carnival.
The sea was mountainous.
The area had been erected and everything was in order except that the buoys were not out 6.30 am. and no boat crew in evidence (maybe they smelled a rat) so the 'C4ristmas ~rew' volunteered.
It included Bill Morgan, Cliff Brown, Jim Wilcock or Jim Gillard, myself and Laurie March.
We must have loaded the best part of a half a ton of steel but we managed to negotiate a most horrible shore dump and were on the way.
Going out, ordinary waves were nothing and we were quite happy until 'Lightning' started to go white, his eyes stuck out like organ stops and he yelled" for Christ's sake row", to which the answer was "what do you think we've been doing".
But we soon knew what it was about.
The wave causing all the excitement was to say the least "big".
I've said to this day it was just like rowing up Glebe Hill.
Luckily we made it but only just.
We really flopped down over the back to be met by the rest of the set.
However, between the look of terror on Laurie and the strength of desperate men we made it out and back.
We laid the buoys so the carnival went on.
I reckon if we'd come to grief that day there would have been tragedy.
Now came the advent of the small (Malibu) board and we had a real pioneer in Legsy Armstrong.

In 1956 we ventured to Melbourne and the Olympic Games were on.
It was an adventure.
We went in four cars with the reel on top of Jim Gillard's car.
We travelled all night Friday, got to Melbourne on Saturday, visited the Olympic venues, got caught trying to climb the ...

Page 113
... fence at the swimming, saw some cycling and athletics and went out to Torquay on Sunday.
I can't remember how we went.

Many trips away were undertaken, among them one to Port Macquarie where our boys gave a display which was an eye opener -big westerly waves and the boardies were superb.
In 1960 the Club hosted the Australian Championships.
A terrific downpour on the Friday night scoured away (via the stormwater channel) half the competitors' area and we had to get a bulldozer to level it out.
Rightly or wrongly I claim that the tiered seating erected on the seagrass at the back of the beach irreparably damaged it and from then on the beach gradually deteriorated.

The surf on the Saturday morning was tremendous with larger waves breaking 400 yards out and a second break on a bank 200 yards from shore.
Despite the heavy seas, the carnival was successfully completed and with a good surf running on the Sunday was probably the most spectacular surf carnival ever.

The cost to the Club, however, was heavy to bear as our new boat was torn apart by a large wave caught from near the boat buoys.
The boat took it well but when the wave broke the force proved too much and the keel split from bow to second stroke.
A frantic search for bowman Mick Platt followed, some 400 yards to sea, with several body surfers diving in search of the missing Mick.
Imagine the relief to find that he had ridden the bow to the beach and was worried about the rest of the crew members -Laurie March, Ron Bland, Bill Morgan and Graham Cotton.

The loss of the "Gary Wright" was only the beginning, with Wanda, Redhead and Swansea- Belmont suffering serious damage and several other boats with minor damage.

Several boards and skis were wrecked and many others holed, while oars and paddles were continually being broken.
With boats being swamped and ski and board paddlers losing their craft, many fine rescues were performed, particularly by Oogie Richards and Stewart Ebrill one of which necessitated the joining of two lines to rescue two boat men from the Wanda Club, who were later taken to hospital for treatment.
Our March Past team was to the fore on this occasion, finishing third in the interstate and second in the Australian ...

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... Championship, with Rob Richards gaining second in the Open Non Championship Surf Race.
Despite the problems of the ocean, the carnivals were a great success with a photo of our Junior Boat crew appearing as a front page feature of the London Times, under a banner headline:- "They Do This For Fun In Australia".

Page 137

The Happy Crowd-Sea Gulls
, circa 1920.
Note the two possible cedar handboards.

Page 144

Above: Steve Catsicas and Hollow Boards, circa 1954.

Left: Surf ski 1950s style.

Page 147
"Gary Wright", 
Australian Titles, 
Merewether, 1960.

March, Laurie:
A History of the Merewether Surf Club 19080-1983.
Merewether Surf Life Saving Club, 1983.

Return to Surfer Bio menu
home catalogue history references appendix

Geoff Cater (2008) : Laurie March : History of Merewether SLSC, 1983.