Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Wood Chopper - Pambula's Gordon Radford:

Since his first Pambula Show woodchop in 1951, Gordon Radford has become one of the most recognisable faces of the event locally.

Gordon’s foray into the sport is perhaps unsurprising. Both his father & grandfather were champion axemen, & his uncle, Bob Radford, was a world champion. In recognition of his father's contribution to the sport locally, the local A. H. & P. Society introduced the Percy Radford Memorial 300 mm Standing Block Championship.

Despite this Radford family tradition, however, it was actually while working as a farm hand for Frank Kelly that Gordon first got involved with the sport. With the encouragement of his boss, he decided to try his hand at chopping, & it was Frank who also gave the newcomer his first axe.

Gordon learnt the art of the sport through self-instruction until moving to Goulburn in 1963. There, he said, "I got in with a couple of blokes who...showed me a lot of the finer points & it went from there, I really kicked on from there."

When he came back to Pambula to pick up wife Dot & son Kevin, it was just in time for the local show, & although he hadn't brought any axes with him, his father Percy encouraged him to enter the woodchops, lending him his beautiful Plumb axe. Gordon had improved so much during his time in Goulburn that he broke the show record for the 12-inch underhand, chopping it off in 17 & two-fifths seconds. He was quick to point out that "...the wood's your time, the better your log, the quicker you cut it..." That said though, he still managed to take 12 or 15 seconds off the previous record to set a new one that still stands today.

Gordon recalled a chop at the 1963 Yass Show when he won a tray & £30. Money was a bit tight at the time, & he laughed that "The tray didn't mean anything that day, but the 30 quid did. I shouted Dot & Kevin pies & peas at the cafe."

For many years, Gordon cut with fellow wood chopper Bob Munday of Kiah. He recalled "...we used to go all around together to wood chops." After teaming up at the butcher's block, the pair won everywhere from Pambula, Bega, Eden & as far up as Tumut & Canberra, winning about 17 events on end & taking out the Bega & Tumut events off the hefty handicap of 50. They also took second place in the event at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney.

Gordon has literally hundreds of ribbons for his efforts in the wood chopping arena, not only from local shows but many other venues as well including the Sydney Royal Easter where he first cut in about 1962. And on a number of occasions he has even managed to take out the entire programme at Pambula, a feat that doesn’t occur very often. This long association with the sport has seen Gordon compete on all of the Pambula Show Society's three home grounds, probably the only person who could truthfully make that claim.

Although he no longer cuts at the local show, his lengthy involvement continues. Now a patron of the Pambula A. H. & P. Society, Gordon's involvement with the committee dates back to 1967. For many years he held the position of Vice President & he ran the wood chopping events for even longer. 

The wood chops have been popular both with competitors & show patrons since the first Pambula Show in 1902. Originally the events were as much an effort to hone skills as the show pavilion was an attempt to improve yields, the timber industry, particularly sleeper cutting being an important local industry back when the show started out. With the Australian sleeping cutting industry now defunct, wood chopping has become a competitive sport, maintaining important skills from yesteryear.  

© Angela George.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Memories of Pambula - Terry Dowling

This article is based on oral interviews conducted with Terry in 1993 & 1996, which have been transcribed exactly as told.

Born in Sydney on May 4, 1920, Terence John ("Terry") Dowling was the eldest child & only son of Herbert John & Margaret.

Within a few years of his birth, his parents moved to the small far south coast township of Pambula where his father had been born & raised and where the Dowling family had lived since the 1850's. Terry's great grandfather William had been the original selector of the South Pambula property he named Punt Hole Farm. The holding is  known today as Boondella.  Terry noted "That was selected bloody land, old Billy Dowling selected that, old Bill & his gang...well that was a hundred & twenty bloody years ago..." Named after Punt Hole, the spot in the river from which local produce was transported down stream to waiting ships, Terry pointed out "It's hard to believe that a fair sized boat come in to that Punt Hole isn't it, so it gives you an idea of how the Pambula River has sanded up..."

John Dowling at Punt Hole Farm.

His two younger sisters were born in Nurse Cousemacher's lying in hospital in Bullara Street, Pambula. However, after his father passed away in 1929, his mother, herself a Sydney girl, made the decision to return to the city, taking Terry & his siblings with her. This was during the harsh days of the Great Depression, when the razor gangs reigned supreme & not surprisingly, it didn't take long for the curious country kid to become acquainted with their activities on the inner city streets. Terry remembered one in particular, "Chow" Hayes, commenting "...there was a gangster years ago by the name of Chow Hayes, this was when the razor gangs were in, Tilly Devine & all, this Chow Hayes , I thought he was bloody dead years ago, there was this newspaper article, it must have been in the Age, & here's this bloody photo of Chow, this is only last year [1995], now he'd have to be in his nineties, it was about another gangster, & he shot him, put four or five bullets in him, & he said 'If I thought the bastard was still alive, I'd have put another one in him', I don't know how many years he spent in prison, but he'd just got out, I remember Chow and those razor gangs, I'd be one of the few still around that would know them, well I was only a kid that they never worried about..."

Terry always maintained that during those harsh, impoverished days, even the rats were dying of starvation in the city, so the young teen decided to head back to Pambula. He pointed out that "...the widow's pension that my mother got was her rent for me, right, so I came back & lived with my Grandmother & then my Aunty. Well that enabled my mother & two sisters to have a roof over their heads in 27 Little Cleveland Street, Redfern..." an address that he recited with disdainful emphasis right up until his last days.

Terry's aunt Deletha, with whom he lived after coming back to Pambula.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
With money in short supply, he took a train as far as the few bob he had in his pocket would take him, & then took to "shank's pony". "I got a train back as far as whatever bit of money I had, & then as soon as I seen bloody daylight, I was walking, & a vegetable bloke picked me up somewhere along the road, the old bloke gave me a bloody good lift..."

Back in Pambula, Terry led the carefree life of a country kid. He lived first with his Grandmother in the little weatherboard cottage next to the School of Arts (now the town hall), & then later with his Aunty, Uncle & three cousins, Ernie, Mick & Allan ("Bubby") George, in the house that stood in Merimbola Street where the Oasis Units are now located.

Although they was never had much as far as money was concerned, Terry always insisted that life was much better in the country compared to the city during those Depression years. "When I came back to my Auntie's place, we lived like Lords food wise. We always had a good garden, chooks, plenty of butter, fresh milk, cream, we had a bloody old fishing net...& we'd go down & set that behind the race course & get half a corn bag or a corn bag of beautiful fresh fish, all sorts, Christ we lived well. We never had any money, but listen, nobody else had any money either, everybody was used to that, but as far as food, & we had a good bed to get into, we had plenty of bloody blankets." It was during these Depression days that Terry's philosophy on life was born - he maintained that as long as he had a roof over his head, a dry bed & food in his belly, he had everything he needed in life.

Deletha "Stump" George, Terry's aunt.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
Despite, or perhaps because of, those harsh economic times, the local community looked after its own, & Terry remembered the cooperative small town spirit & helping hand constantly extended to family, friends & neighbours with fondness. "You didn't swap anything, you gave somebody something which you had excess to...I went with my Uncle one night & he caught a bloody Jew fish...about five foot refrigeration, just the old Coolgardie...the next morning he was butchering that up to take across to Mrs. Radford, well he probably had fifteen or twenty bloody pound of big cutlets...if you knew somebody with a big mob of kids & you just had excess things, well then somewhere along the line, those poor buggers, they'd do something for you, if they never had any money, they'd do something, do their best anyhow."

Even the "swaggies" that were constantly moving through the region would get & give equally. "They never come & asked for bloody nothing, they'd ask you if they could do a bit of work for food...Well everybody had a wood heap right, & mainly they'd have these bloody old knotty logs, & these poor buggers, they could split it, but even young people back then, they seemed to be more experienced...There'd be twenty mainly young people walking from Sydney to Melbourne & vice versa, they'd be crossing each other, camping in the bloody old tennis courts down there, the football ground, well the next day the coppers would be down there to move them on, too right, never let them stop too long in the one place." 

Pocket money was unheard of, but Terry & his mates were always on the lookout for a chance to "...make a buck..." With local blacksmiths Bill & Dan Smith offering 1/6 a bag for charcoal, Terry & Bubby saw an opportunity too good to pass up. After spending £3/10/- on an old eighteen-foot clinker built boat, complete with anchor, ropes & two or three tins of paint, the pair cast an entrepreneurial eye over timber growing on the town common. They promptly set fire to the area & burnt everything in sight, & then spent an industrious day bagging the charcoal up for sale. Loading their precious cargo into the boat until there was barely any freeboard, the teens set off up the river, propelled by an old bamboo blind hoisted on an oar. Everything was going well...until a gust of wind drove their boat up onto oyster leases, ripping the bottom out of it & dumping the fruits of their hard earned labour into the water. Then, to add insult to injury, the pair had to walk empty handed all the way home, where they promptly " into strife..." for being late for milking!

Dan & Bill Smith were the focus of another of Terry's tales, this one centring on a practical joke gone horribly awry. "There was an old bloke, Jockey Gleeson, who lived opposite Auntie's place, where Ronnie Haigh lives. Old Dan & Bill had the blacksmith's shop that Kevin Fanning's father had...they had a bit of a mine somewhere...mainly those times they'd be blacksmithing up tools & that sort of thing, & this old Gleeson comes in this Saturday to pick up his gear at the blacksmith's shop. Now Bill & Dan had quartz that they broke, melted brass on the forge, tipped it into the bottom of the quartz & pressed the other quartz into it. Well now, if you've ever seen anything like gold in quartz, that was it, they were having a bit of a joke with old Jockey see. They had an old sugar bag planted, & this old blacksmith's shop was a bit dark, no bloody electric light or nothing, & of course they take him in & show him this gold. This sent old Jockey off...he went down & shouted for everyone in the pub, right. He said 'Dan & Bill's cracked it!' & they said, 'What are you talking about?', & he said 'They've found this reef.'...Poor old bastard, he probably spent all the money he had buying grog & celebrating old Dan & Bill Smith's bloody success...By Jesus, that turned out sour in the finish with poor old Jockey, their friendship & everything busted over it...What started off to be a practical joke, see, it busted the friendship & nearly sent old Jockey bloody silly, that's how it affected him. Of course the gold had affected him in the first place, anyhow, he went out & camped in the bush...he was married, I don't know whether his wife left him, pissed off or what, but the gold got him that bad, he went bush, he was that mad on gold that he went & lived with it...Poor old Bill & Dan, they were bloody upset too, because they didn't mean it, they were always playing jokes on one another see, & this time it backfired, he never spoke to them again..."

Terry's school days were spent at Pambula when students numbers stood at around seventy, with just Mrs. Woollard & Principal Mr. Haines teaching two classes. Empire Day & the Queen's Birthday were important annual events, & gardening was a subject he took to with gusto. "We'd do weekly gardening lessons, my bloody oath we did. Our old headmaster was a pretty cluey guy, wish I'd listened to him a bit more, my bloody oath, he was no fool, old William Gorrie Haines...But you were all junior farmers because every bloody junior had to milk a cow before he went to'd get home & milk the cows, well you had no milking machines so you had to do it..." It was during his school days with Mr. Haines that Terry developed what would become a life-long love of gardening, something that remained with him for the rest of his days, & even after moving to Morwell (Vic.), his backyard was dominated by his treasured veggie patch.

Pambula Public School, upper division, 1935.William Gorrie 
Haines is pictured fourth from left in the second back row.
Public transport was unheard of in rural areas then, so school children had to either walk or ride to school. Terry remembered "A lot of poor bloody kids had to ride horses three or four miles & now they've got buses picking them up. There was a paddock at the school for the horses, but no bloody chaff or oats though, no nose bags for the poor bastards, only the palings to eat, right."

Principal Haines was someone that Terry spoke about with almost a touch of awe & reverence later in life. "I can remember the first surfboard I ever saw in my bloody life, old Billy Haines, our old school master made that out of balsa wood. You know all these modern surfboards they've got now, old Billy Haines sixty years ago made them, my bloody oath he did, bloody unsinkable they were. We never had the money to buy the balsa wood, the glue or anything, Mr. Haines did it for us. We were supposed to be surf men, we were the big surfers, all we had to surf on was a big chunk of pine...but old William Gorrie said 'I'll make you something better than that.'"
A young Terry Dowling.
"As far as the Pambula Surf Club went, we never had enough money to go to friggin' Merimbula, so how could we compete against anyone, like go up the line to Sydney, Port Kembla & where they were having the big surf tournaments, we never had the money to go there, our parents never had it, so there might have been some champions there, but the poor buggers never got a chance."

The epitome of the Australian larrikin, many weekends would find Terry cutting firewood for local Police Constable Bottrell as punishment for some misdemeanour or another. He said that although he initially left school at the minimum leaving age of fourteen, he struggled to find a full time job, so quickly found himself back in the classroom at the insistence of the policeman. "I couldn't find a job so bloody Bottrell sent me back to school, see I was getting into trouble & he got sick of it. I cut the bastard cords & cords of wood, & he said 'The best place for you is back to school.'" Restocking his wood heap was the Constable's penalty of choice for the young trouble makers around town, & Terry laughs at the memory: "Old Puddin' Burgess & I cut some wood. Wasn't too sharp a saw either, bloody old cross cut saw, we had to pull our bloody guts out with it...He was alright though, old Bottrell, he was only trying to look after us, poor bastard, jeez he had it, but he was alright..."

Harry Rule, Deletha George, Terry Dowling & George Dowling at 
the Pambula River Mouth.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
Terry & his mates thought all their Christmases had come at once when they discovered firearms & ammunition in a shed at the back of the Pambula Voice office, but once again, Constable Bottrell beat them to the punch. "There was these two brand new revolvers, '44's, with a big heap of ammunition, they were in the back of the old Voice office, it must have been when they were travelling with gold from the old Yowaka Mine. We were going to pinch them, Puddin' Burgess & I...but oh Jesus, they'd blow a friggin' hole in the friggin' ground, I'd hate to be shot with one. But they were brand new mate, & boxes of ammunition, I don't know how they got in the back of bloody Eustace Phillipp's shed...I've got a faint idea that Bottrell got them, he didn't want them to get into the hands of us fellows right..."

Mention of the Constable reminded Terry of his first car, a Charon ute that he purchased with money earned cutting & bagging wattle bark. "When I was sixteen I bought this bloody ute for sixteen quid, which was one ton of wattle bark, £16 a ton, that was what wattle bark was...Poor old Hocky Woods who lived at South Pambula carted that ton of bloody wattle bark down to Eden for me & he never charged me any cartage or anything, because he knew that if he did...I wouldn't have enough to pay the old bloke, I can't think of his name, but he was a carpenter, he lived in Eden, & he'd made this little ute out of this Charon...well when I got the bloody wasn't friggin' registered & I had no friggin license, see Bottrell's up on the hill & he could see me driving around the bloody lanes all over the place, so he was giving me a bit of rev one day about something I shouldn't have done or did do, anyhow, he said, 'What about this car you've got? You'd better come up & get your license,' I don't know what I said then, 'I haven't got the money' or I don't know, I just forget what I did say right, but he knew it wasn't bloody registered & he knew I had no bloody license, but he let me get away with it, see he wasn't a bad fellow, old Bottrell, he was alright, nothing wrong with him..."

Terry dropping a line in.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
"By Jesus, we had some fun with that car, it was only seven horse friggin' brakes, we drove it over to Brereton's, to Ken's fishing, old Stump [Terry's Aunt] & I, we used to run it on kerosene, we never had the money to buy bloody petrol, but by Christ she was buying a lot of kerosene. You only had to unscrew the carburettor bowl & fill that up with petrol & then she'd fart & blow & away she'd go...we'd go down fishing at Brereton's there down at the mouth of the river in Summer time, & when you leave Kenny's to go up that sharp little bit of a hill, well there was only one way I could up there, I had to go backwards, it wouldn't friggin' well pull up in first gear, it wasn't strong enough, you'd have bloody flames flying out of her before she had any go in her, wouldn't pull a bloody sick old mouse over, we'd be going up backwards & old Stump would be screaming 'Watch where you're going, where are you going?', & I'm saying 'I'm still on the friggin' road woman,' & then at the top you'd swing towards that little road down to Middle Beach, hard left, she'd go round screaming, full lock you know, because you had to keep revving, but she'd be firing then until she got to where the bowling club is [Lumen Christi], she'd be hot enough by then. By Jesus, though, by the time you got into the friggin' old shed, she was about to blow, old Stump would be out of it & running into the kitchen screaming 'It'll catch on fire, it'll catch on fire,' & I'd be saying 'On fire my arse woman!'"

Terry with his beloved Aunty Deletha, or "Stump" & 
his son George at the Pambula River Mouth.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
 Colour, creed or social standing meant very little to Terry - he took people as he found them, & when asked about the small party of Chinese market gardeners who lived in Pambula during his youth, he simply commented "They were bloody good people." He remembered "They were directly behind the bakehouse, the bank, the Dr.'s Wing, all in that area, they went down into that little gully behind the Top Pub...there was a little bridge across there, I think there's a big motel on the corner there now...they were growing carrots, parsnips, spuds, rock melons, we used to be down there trying to pinch them for something to do!"

"At one stage there, they had a pretty big garden...They all lived in there together, one camp right in the middle of it...They had a little timber house, iron roof, it was a respectable little joint right in the middle of their garden...They were just ordinary guys...just ordinary old working clothes the same as us, oh they had those old Coolie hats in hot weather, but other than that, they were just ordinary old blokes."

Terry (left) & Bubby fishing at the Pambula River Mouth.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
 Doing the rounds through the township with their vegetables, Terry remembered "...they never had a bloody horse, all they had was this little cart & a bloody strap, & one bloke would pull that around the town, he'd have a little chock that he'd drop under it to hold the shaft up & they'd go to a house & the woman would come out & get her few spuds or carrots or parsnips or whatever...This old Lambie [one of the Chinamen], he'd take his cart to the show & sell his stuff & then he'd get pissed...old Lambie would get pissed at the Pambula Show, well he'd pay us blokes to take him home, we'd put him in this friggin' cart & pull him home & he'd pay us, I forget how much, but it was pretty bloody good money, three or four bob each, we'd pull him home & then get him out of the bloody cart there."

This reminded Terry of another of his enterprises - catching & delivering echidnas to the Chinese gardeners. "I tell you what, the Chows used to love those bloody porcupines, those echidnas, I hate to say it, one & six they'd give you for them. Puddin' Burgess & bloody Jackie Newlyn & I walked that bush, we bagged every bloody poor old echidna up for the friggin' Chows, wouldn't matter if you took them friggin' fifty, they had the money to buy them, they must have loved them...we took them to them live, they didn't want them any other way bar alive, not damaged or nothing, I don't know how they cooked them, but it wouldn't matter if you had bloody fifty, they'd pay for them, the poor old bloody porcis..."

Terry with his four sons & Michael George, the son of his cousin Mick.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
Although Terry remembered about four or five Chinese gardeners in Pambula when he was young, they gradually disappeared over time. " would come & go, I don't know where he'd go to, but he'd disappear for a bit & then come back...they were pretty old blokes, they'd be 70 or 80 years old see, pretty old guys, but all of a sudden they must have left the place. I think it got down to two, & this old bloke, Lambie, he was one of the last two there..."

Farming & agriculture were the dominant industries in the district during Terry's youth, when around 130 individual farms dotted the area down to Kiah, up to Towamba & around the Ten Mile, but he noted with regret how far numbers had diminished over the years. "...the last time I was at Pambula there was only one bloody farmer the Victorian side of Bega supplying Bega with milk, Bennett's old farm, there wasn't a friggin' farm left, it's full of friggin' donkeys & horse riding & this shit, right. There was all big families see, they had a few cows, they had chooks, a few cows, a bit of butter & cream & they sent a bit of cream to the butter factory... All out round Six Mile & Greig's Flat & where Fourter's & that lived, Nethercote, see, farms everywhere, not a lot of big farms, but they'd have a bloody can or two of cream there, & there was a butter factory exporting butter directly to England...what's it now? Friggin' donkeys! Hasn't the place gone backwards?"

Terry's eldest son George with his catch.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
 Although a baker by trade, Terry turned his hand to many occupations over the years - milking cows, helping on dairy factory cream collection rounds, loading sleepers in Eden & roof tiling, among other things, but his first job after leaving school was trapping rabbits. "In the Winter time we were busy chasing rabbits, money in the bunny, money in the bunny!", he recites.

"I'll tell you what, we usually used to throw the carcase away & keep the skins. Now they throw the skin away & keep the carcases...Funny how cycles turn around, that was when people had very little to eat & rabbit trappers were catching thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred a bloody night & they'd just throw them in a heap & let the crows eat them, all they were after was the skins. Our rabbit skin export was second to our bloody wool. Did you know that? That's bloody right mate. Our fur trade & rabbits in the whole, what we exported to England was second to our bloody wool clip, second biggest export. Export of coal, beef, iron ore & everything right, that's how many rabbits were in Australia...they used it for hats, underlay for linos & carpets, coats, all sorts of bloody stuff...I can remember buyers coming around, but they bought them with the skin on...see when I was going to school, you'd take the rabbits into the bush & you'd throw them away, because everybody had rabbits in their bloody front garden, they were everywhere...there was hardly a thing of buying a rabbit because they were so plentiful, it didn't matter where you went, there was no myxo, no calici & no disease amongst them, all they did was kept multiplying & breeding & spreading from one end of Australia to the other, there was nothing to curb them, none of this scientific business..."

"If I set traps or went ferreting, Ernie & I, or Bubby & I, we caught ten or twenty rabbits, I used to have to get the best two out of the lot & they would be cleaned immaculately, & Aunty had a lovely silver tray & a bloody white table cloth & I used to put these two rabbits on the bloody tray & I'd take them up to old Mrs. Tommy Robinson, knock at the door, come in, put them on the table, take the bloody starched white tea towel off from over them & she'd poke & prod & turn them over & look at these two rabbits & she'd only take one, six pence, I had to take the other one straight home & Aunty would cook it , because they'd be two perfect rabbits but she wanted the choice of two, & when she got the choice of two, six pence without blinking an eye."

Terry with his sons as well as those of Ernie & Mick George, two of the 
cousins he grew up with at Pambula.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
The simple things in life were definitely the best as far as Terry was concerned, & never was he happier than when he could trap a few rabbits, shoot a duck for dinner or hook a fish fresh from the ocean. These were loves that he shared first with his four sons & then later his grandchildren, but he was less than impressed when new laws were introduced that put paid to those activities. "I'll tell you what though, I don't know about NSW, but if you're caught in Victoria using a steel jaw trap, you're fined twelve thousand bloody dollars, $12,000 if you're caught trapping a bloody rabbit...see there you are, I've got a hundred rabbit traps, I can't do a friggin' thing with them, nobody wants them, I can't set them, & I can't sell them, I could probably give them to somebody, but then what can they do with them? So what do they do, poison them! And then I've got a shot gun that's forty bloody four or five years old, & I've got to hand it in. Unbelievable! I say really it's unbelievable."

Terry & mate Harry Rule fishing near Jack Severs' Beach.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
In terms of working, he pointed out "We were working all the time, never got much money, but we worked. I remember turning the bloody old sandstone over for Percy Radford when he was getting an axe ready for a wood chop, you'd turn it over for half a day for two bob. Well then, in turn, poor old Perc was a sleeper cutter, he only got two bob for cutting a nine by bloody four by four sleeper, two bob, that's all those sleeper cutters got for a hard wood sleeper, oh, that might have been black butt & other stuff, I think Woolly butt & box might have been a bit dearer..."

Other sleeper cutters that Terry remembered by name were Albie McCamish, Dick Miller, Chris Reedie, the Bobbins boys & Mick Perrin, who he said "...was the king of the sleeper cutters, he used to cut about twenty a day, other blokes would average about ten or twelve...see look, when I was about ten or twelve, I used to go with old Goggie Haigh & bloody Les Turner to all those sleeper cutters on the bloody trucks...that was a good outing, going out into the bloody bush, way down over the border, all those sleepers were brought back to Eden, so when you come to work it out, the sleeper cutters had the bloody best of the timber cut around Eden to the border supplying bloody hardwood sleepers to New Zealand & bloody India, so what are the greenies yapping on about bloody wrecking the bush for? They got the best of the friggin' timber there eighty years ago, seventy anyhow. Those poor bastards...there wouldn't have been one in ten had a safe, they'd have a bloody sugar bag with the bread & bloody bit of lousy meat...that's what they kept their tucker in, & hung it in the shade..."

Terry (third from right) with a few of his mates outside his Morwell home.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
It was just prior to WWII that Terry moved to Morwell in Victoria's Gippsland region, & there enlisted in the 22nd Infantry Battalion of the Australian Army in June 1941. As with many of that era, though, you were wasting your breath asking him about any of his war time experiences - he'd usually just brush over the question & promptly shift the conversation onto another topic. However, his larrikin streak did show itself when he explained why he opted to become a machine gunner "So I could shoot the bastard's faster, before they could get me!"

Bubby & Terry in front of Bubby's Pambula home. This was 
probably the last shot taken of the pair who had grown up like 
brothers before Bubby passed away in 1976.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
Following the war, Terry married Morwell girl Queenie Bolding in 1949, & they had four sons - George born in 1953, Dan in 1955, Colin ("Spence") in 1956, & the youngest, John, in 1957. When Queenie died suddenly in the early 1960s, Terry took to single parenthood, continuing to raise his boys alone until joining forces with Peggy & her children, between them raising the family that Terry referred to as "the tribe". Despite settling in Victoria, he & his family continued to visit Pambula whenever the opportunity offered to catch up with his Aunty "Stump", Bubby, Ronnie Haigh & many others & drop a line in the rivers & lakes.

Terry (left) & Peggy (right) with Betty George in front of Betty & 
Bubby's Pambula home, C. 1976 on one of Terry's last visits 
before Bubby passed away.
© The estate of A. C. ("Bubby") George.
After a full & busy life, Terry passed away on 2 September, 1998, doing exactly what he loved - out in the paddock working. At his funeral, his family opted to forego the usual hymns & prayers, instead farewelling him with John Williamson's "True Blue" & "Old Man Emu", & what more fitting way to say goodbye to a fair dinkum old Aussie bloke who epitomises what being true blue really means.

© Angela George.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Eden's historic Thompson's Point Baths - A rare and important recreational facility:

For generations of Australians, the beach and ocean has played a significant role in our culture and lifestyle - coastal indigenous peoples were utilising the shoreline and neighbouring waterways for centuries, and unsurprisingly, it took little time before the early European settlers also began making use of the resource.

With the British medical profession highlighting the hygienic and therapeutic benefits of open-air bathing in cold saltwater, ocean swimming began to gain popularity by the late 18th century. Australian coastal waters, however, also represented unfamiliar and often intimidating prospects - pounding waves, strong currents and threat of shark attacks all served to unnerve those who braved the ocean, particularly in an era when few could swim properly, let alone strongly.

Metropolitan areas began to construct purpose-built baths in an attempt to protect swimmers from these physical dangers, providing participants with a safe environment in which to utilise the health benefits of the ocean. The development of these facilities also addressed the 19th century Victorian social standards of decency and morality by enabling restriction of widespread public display of the human form. Since 1833, a daylight hours ban on bathing had been in place, restricting opportunities for swimming, but as the 1890s turned over into the 20th century, a shift in social attitudes saw the activity regarded more as a healthy activity and cost-effective competitive sport as opposed to those earlier therapeutic and hygienic values.

Thompson's Point Bath, C. 1907. 
Courtesy of the Eden Killer Whale Museum [EM3869].
Finally, in 1902, the issue came to a head when Manly newspaper editor William Gocher took a personal stand, entering the ocean at noon on three successive Sundays before being finally arrested on the third occasion in front of some 1,000 onlookers. His efforts had the desired affect, with the liberalisation of the law the following year, although all swimmers over eight years of age were still required to wear neck to knee bathing costumes.

Australia's early beach culture had begun, and combined with the increasing affluence of an expanding middle class, greater disposable income, more leisure time and a developing sea side tourism industry, a shift in attitudes and values saw escalating public demand for improved beach access and safer swimming facilities. Just one result was a rising number of ocean baths constructed up and down the coastline to provide smooth, calm swimming environments with greater protection from drowning and shark attacks.

By this time, Eden was already becoming a popular far south coast holiday destination, with its sandy beaches and convenient ocean access being highlighted to promote the benefits of the town.

Thompson's Point Baths and wharf. 
Courtesy of  Eden Killer Whale Museum.
It was in December 1899 that moves were first made to secure a public bathing facility for Eden - that month a public meeting was held to nominate individuals to take charge of a site recently granted for such a facility. With a committee consisting on J. A. Boyd, C. Downton, F. H. Phillipps, T. H. Wellings and C. J. Williams, September the following year saw the inaugural meeting of the Trustees, with F. H. Phillipps being appointed Chairman; T. H. Wellings Secretary; and J. C. Williams Treasurer.

The following month, a letter was forwarded to the Minister for Lands requesting a special grant of £300 for construction of a "suitable bathing area" at Thompson Point, along with additional correspondence to local member, the Honourable W. H. Wood, asking for his support for the special grant.

November 1900 saw a request to the Lands Department for an officer to inspect the site and assist with construction cost estimates, while in February the following year, the Minister for Public Works advised that Mr. Bossier, Clerk of Works, had been requested to inspect the site and estimate baths costs while in the area.

Jean Helmore (Whiter) with friends at the Thompson's Point Baths.
Courtesy of Jenny Drenkhahn.
By March 1901, Mr. Bossier had undertaken the site inspection, but as he was not qualified to give estimates, the Minister for Public Works requested the Merimbula Wharf construction Superintendent to inspect the site. The Trustees received a £75 grant from the Lands Department the same month but although Mr. Bloomfield, Engineer of Harbours and Rivers Department, suggested Shelly Beach as a more suitable site during his July inspection, the committee decided to stick with their original site at Thompson's Point.

By 1904 public donations had reached £10/18/- and the following year after £25 was paid to the Trustees by the Lands Department for construction of the Public Bath " the foot of Flinders Street..." Contracts were awarded -  J. A. Spurling was paid £15 for the excavation of the rock, while John Hines was paid £11/18/- for cementing the baths and erecting a room.

The two dressing sheds on the reserve above the baths can be seen in the foreground.
These were destroyed during the disastrous 1952 bush fires.
Courtesy of Jenny Drenkhahn.
After only three years, the Trustees were looking to enlarge the facility, and with a £2 donation from a Mr. Whitney and £25 from the Lands Department, the contract was awarded to J. A. Spurling at a cost of £45. During October 1907, C. E. Walcott provided a loan of £8 and by the end of the year, expenditure on the Thompson's Point Baths stood at £70/18/-. However, despite use of the site for around a decade, it wasn't until 1913 that the Land Board issued the trustees with a Permissive Occupancy.

By 1936, consideration was being given to again extending the baths and to that end, the Eden Advancement Association secretary, the Harbourmaster and Mr. Denholm inspected the site and took soundings. With estimates not considered to be "...excessive...", the advancement association members agreed that a shark proof swimming area was an "...absolute necessity...", and decided to apply to the then Imlay Shire Council for a £1,200 grant to undertake the work. Although the shire supported the move and agreed to submit a grant application, the President said that he would let Minister for Works and Local Government Mr. Spooner "...toss for it - the baths or the Burragate Bridge..."

View of the Thompson's Point Baths and the footbridge that provided access from
the cliff top, C. 1930s.
Courtesy of Jenny Drenkhahn.
By mid-1936, the association had begun considering alternatives to the Thompson's Point Baths site, calling a public meeting in July to "...devise ways and means of bringing about the construction of the proposed baths..."  The Eden Town Baths Committee, consisting of local residents such as G. D. Impey, V. T. Welsh, H. P. Wellings, J. B. Eurell, H. Denholm, H. C. Hartup, P. T. Brown, J. Turnbull, W. Blaxter, T. Tracey, T. L. Ramsey, S. G. Earngey, W. H. Quin and W. J. Duffy with J. A. Ireland as secretary, were appointed to take over the project from the Eden Advancement Association, with the objective being the "...establishment of safe swimming baths at Eden..." However, when they met the following month, only six of the fifteen members showed up, and after the group faltered, Eden Advancement Association again stepped back in to the fold to continue what was to be a lengthy and drawn out process.

Thompson's Point Baths as they presently appear (2015).
Between the mid-1930s and 1960, a number of alternative sites were raised, including Snug Cove, Cattle Bay, the wharf area at the end of Weecoon Street, Yallumgo Cove (Ross' Bay), Shelly Beach, both the northern and southern ends of the cemetery, Imlay Park, and, finally, Aslings Beach. Options explored included wire netted bathing areas, heavy rope shark-proof nets and stone sea walls, while other local governments, including Manly, Sutherland, Kiama, Kogorah, Bulli, Ramsgate, Cronulla and Rockdale were all contacted to secure information regarding construction and maintenance costs. Eden Advancement Association also approached the Imlay Shire Council for preparation of plans, specifications and costing estimates for the various options.

Public fundraising for a new facility commenced in early 1937 and over the years a plethora of events including street stalls, sports days and balls were held. By May 1937, the trust account for the project stood at £150 and the same month £1,000 from a £10,000 shire-wide town improvement scheme grant was earmarked for a bath at Cattle Bay, land which the Eden Advancement Association purchased around 1939. However, by this time World War II had broken out and local fundraising quickly focused upon patriotic rather than infrastructure work.

Not surprisingly, with so many other competing demands and no facilities to dispute its place, the Thomson's Point Baths continued to play an important recreational role for the community.  After the Permissive Occupancy was terminated by the Lands Board in April 1946, a peppercorn rent option was offered to the Eden Advancement Association. 1947 saw a £1 payment by the Eden Advancement Association to the Lands Department for permissive occupancy of the area, although this was refunded early the following year, when it was noted that payment was not usual.

By 1949, the facility was still being described as "...the present rock pool..." and by March 1953 council was trying to determine ownership and construction dates of the facility in order to respond to public requests for repair of the footbridge that provided access from the cliff top. The permissive occupancy was apparently still active by 1962 and in November that year Mrs. F. M. Smith wrote expressing concern as to the safety of the footbridge.

It was in 1946 that the the option of Aslings Beach was first raised as a potential alternative site for a new ocean pool, but despite local media frequently raising the "...urgent need for [a] shark proof swimming pool...", it wasn't until 1960 that the site at the southern end of the beach was finally agreed upon. Construction of the Eden Memorial Swimming Pool (now referred to as the Aslings Beach Rock Pool) commenced in January 1961 with the official opening taking place in November 1961.

Nonetheless, the Thompson Point Baths were to remain a popular and important recreation and educational facility for the local community for many generations. Even after construction of the Aslings Beach facility, it continued to provide a sheltered, calm and safe swimming area, free from sharks and other ocean predators for many of the district's youth right through and in to the 1960s.

Today , the Thompson's Point Baths are the oldest and one of only three remaining examples of ocean pools within the Bega Valley Shire Council local government area and one of the oldest extant non-metropolitan examples across the State. 

They are indicative of the birth and growth of the Australian beach and later surf culture that figure so prominently in the local and national Australian way of life today. A popular communal gathering place, the baths reflect an era in which broader social and cultural attitudes towards sea bathing shifted from secluded bathing primarily for therapeutic and hygiene reasons towards public sea bathing pursued as a legitimate healthy leisure time activity.

The baths have a strong social significance for the local population. As a focal point of recreational and education activities from its initial completion until beyond the 1960s, the baths are held in high esteem by many generations of the local community who played, relaxed, sunbathed and learned to swim there. They provide significant evidence of the value placed on recreational bathing by residents over a period of more than half a century.

Considered in conjunction with the Aslings Beach Rock Pool (originally known as Eden Memorial Swimming Pool) and the Eden Olympic Swimming Pool, the Thompson's Point Baths provide important evidence of the growth and development of bathing and swimming facilities within the township from around the turn-of-the-century right through to the present day. They also provide a link with and illustration of the impact that the growth of the amateur swimming movement had on community expectation, demand and provision of increasingly improved public facilities.

Eden's Thompson's Point Baths is a representative example of community recreational tidal pools that were once popular along the NSW coastline. However, as a result of changing community swimming habits and the fact that construction and maintenance of many similar facilities were largely a public / community responsibility, it is an increasingly rare example of its type. They also provides an important physical link with important local builder and contractor John Hines and are an unusual extant example of his work.

Retaining its traditional irregularly shaped layout and appearance, the baths are set in an aesthetically spectacular harbour location, providing an important physical link with, and documenting the development and use of the foreshore for local social and public recreational facilities. The baths are also an important illustration of an ingenious early design solution to exploit and alter the natural environment for the provision of amenities for human use and enjoyment.

In July 2013 the Thompson's Point Baths were nominated for inclusion in Schedule 5 (heritage) of the Bega Valley Shire Council's Local Environment Plan (LEP). 

© Angela George

Bega Budget
Drenkhahn, Jenny, pers. comm.
Eden Baths committee minute book, Eden Killer Whale Museum collection
Eden Magnet
Eden Magnet and Pambula Voice
Helmore, Paul, pers. comm.
Henry, Geoff, pers. comm.
Korner, Joanne, pers. comm.
Magnet and Voice
Moore, Cheryl, pers. comm.
Pambula Voice
Raymond, Pat, pers. comm.
Roberts, Karen, pers. comm.
White, Jody, pers. comm.
Whiter, Peter, pers. comm.
Whiter, Robert, pers. comm.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Eden's Hotel Australasia - a local hub & the heart of the town:

A landmark building in Imlay Street for more than a century, the Hotel Australasia was the last of Eden's nearly two dozen hotels to be constructed & the most recent to close it's doors.

Mrs. Sabina Pike purchased the one acre allotment that would become the site of the hotel in late 1904, paying £500. This was reportedly the highest price paid for land in the township for a forty year period. In the wake of the purchase, local media reported on Mrs. Pikes intention to build "...a large up to date hotel..." on the block & by December 1904 she had awarded the construction contract to Mr. John Hines. With plans to erect a two-storey 43-room brick structure "...on up to date lines...", it is believed that the move was made in response to the expectation that Twofold Bay would become the site of the Australia's federal port.

Eden's Hotel Australasia, C. 1908.

At the time, the search for Australia's federal capital site was continuing & with Southern Monaro sites such as Bombala among those being strongly touted, Eden business people & residents were looking forward to the establishment of the Bay as federal port & elevating the township to a position of importance. Local media, writing of the new hotel, commented that Twofold Bay was being raised to a rank of "...prominence..." as a result of the "...strong representations made in favor [sic] of Southern Monaro..." becoming the Federal Capital site. Even as far away as Lismore, Mrs. Pike was being acknowledged as looking forward to the time when Twofold Bay took its place as the federal port.

Hailing from Moss Vale, building contractor John Hines arrived in Eden in early 1901 & was responsible for the construction of a number of important public & commercial buildings both in the township & throughout the district, including Bank of NSW (1904), Robinovotz's Store (1904) & lock-up & lock-up keeper's residence (1914) in Eden, as well as the police sergeant's residence at Pambula (1901). Remaining in the district, he married Rachel Davidson of the Twofold Bay whaling family.

A horse team carting sleepers outside Hotel Australasia, C. 1908
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

Hines erected brick kilns near the town cemetery in late 1904 to take advantage of the onsite clay & it was here that the bricks for the Australasia were burnt. The same year, he erected a saw milling plant north of Lake Curalo to utilise the ready supply of timber, & there milled the timber for the hotel.

In December 1904, local media commended Mrs. Pike for her "...enterprise & energetic action..." in undertaking what was an extensive local development & later the same month, Mr. W. A. Robertson was granted the first license for the Hotel Australasia.

Work on what would become one of the district's premier tourist accommodation centres commenced in December 1904 with the marking out of the foundations, while Mr. Hines' workmen began carting "...large quantities..." of bricks from his local works to the site.

January 1905 saw the laying of a solid concrete foundation & Hines' kilns were in "...full blast..." turning out bricks for the building. Carting continued on a daily basis to meet the demand of the outer walls, which were 18 & 14 inches thick, with inner walls of 9 inches.

A gathering outside Eden's Hotel Australasia, C. 1908.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Providing employment for "...quite a small army of men...", the ground storey was completed by mid-April 1905 & by July, the roof had been put on. Wunderlich pressed metal ceilings that were described as "...neat & handsome..." had been fitted, giving "...a light & airy appearance to the whole of the rooms...", much of the flooring had been laid, staircases were ready for installation, & with brick work of the parapet completed, plasterers were busy adding a "...very attractive design..." which "...when completed, will show a very handsome front..."

With work "...proceeding apace...", by August all upstairs rooms had been plastered, with downstairs "...undergoing similar treatment...", while the front balcony was nearing completion & within a fortnight the rear example had reached a similar stage. An arched vestibule at the main entrance presented "...a very pleasing effect..."

Occupying a "...commanding position..." overlooking the ocean & bay, building design took advantage of the glorious views of Twofold Bay, Boyd Town, "...the distant verdure clad hills & mountains...", Mount Imlay, & the mountain ranges & valleys by boasting wide balconies & verandas at both the front & rear of the building.

Local media were reporting on completion  of Eden's "...handsome addition..." by mid-October 1904, noting that it was "... credit to the contractor...& an ornament to the town..." Acetylene gas fittings were completed by the end of the month, showing the whole building " great advantage..." when lit. A 17,000 gallon underwater tank at the rear of the building supplied the hotel with water while another of 3,000 gallons provided for the stables.

Shortly afterwards, the new building was the subject of a lengthy & highly complimentary write up. Noting the enterprise & energetic action of Mrs. Pike in her "...endeavour to further the interests of this district in meeting the demands for additional accommodation...", the writer commented that the growing demand of visitors from "...various parts of Australia..." for accommodation year round "...would seem to justify the erection of an hotel of an up to date & substantial character..."

Carrying an extensive description of the Hotel Australasia, the Eden Observer & South Coast Advocate noted many details about the newly completed building, including:
  • Forty-four rooms, including twenty-five bedrooms;
  • The main private entrance via a large double door;
  • Private entrance leading to a hall 11 feet wide & 34 feet long;
  • Two large dining rooms, including a private dining room, located on the left of the hall "...richly furnished & choicely papered with a handsome three light chandelier hanging in the centre of the ceiling..." & a "...roomy & comfortably..." public dining room in close proximity to the kitchen;
  • Corridors branching off the main ground floor hall, on both sides of which were "...roomy well ventilated bedrooms, all of which are beautifully furnished, the drapery being very choice..."
  • A "...splendid roomy kitchen...", scullery & two pantries;
  • A "...handsome..." kauri pine staircase providing access between the ground & upper floors;
  • Another "...fine hall..." running along the upper level, with two more corridors on either side & a number of  bedrooms, as well as access to the back balcony overlooking the north bay & ocean;
  • The "...large & roomy..." front balcony with two "...nicely furnished..." bedrooms opening on to it, this area being set apart for tourists, which was noted to be "...of a strictly private character...";
  • Two bathrooms;
  • A smoking room;
  • Sitting room;
  • Two public parlours along with a private parlour;
  • Store room;
  • Luggage room;
  • Tap room & bar, with another office attached;
  • A six feet deep concrete & brick cellar under the public bar;
  • A garden at the rear, enclosed from the more public part of the yard;
  • A "...spacious aviary..." adjoining the hotel on the northern side & boasting Australian native bird species "...many of great interest to the student of natural history & attractive to all persons...";
  • A "...large space of ground..." at the rear of the building, divided into two distinct areas, partly for use as a vegetable garden & partly for stable quarters.
  • A twelve-stall stable;
  • Out offices;
  • Two separate sample rooms for commercial travellers, one attached to the main building with office attached, & the other alongside the servant's ironing room;
  • The whole building, with the exception of bedrooms, fitted with acetylene gas with a Hopper Patent Acetylene Gas Machine, patented by Sydneysider Mr. C. Bissaker;
The article concluded that "Altogether the Hotel Australasia is a very fine building...having an imposing front & situated in a position of attractiveness. Mrs Pike has not, apparently, spared expense in placing in her new hotel a superior lot of furniture, which accords well with the style & finish of the building."

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia second from left, C. 1910.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Finally opening its doors to guests in early January 1906 under publican Mr. W. A. Robertson, building owner & developer Sabina Pike had taken over the reins by the following month & was to remain as licensee of the Australasia for almost two decades. A divorcee with a wealth of experience in the hotel trade locally, "Aunty Pike" as she was fondly known, had previously operated Eden's Commercial Hotel with her former husband James during the 1890s, before taking over as publican of the Great Southern Hotel for at least a decade. It was only when  the Australasia was nearing completion that she relinquished that position & in January 1905, the license & goodwill was transferred to Sam Solomon.

Writing of her business acumen, the Australian Town & Country noted that Mrs. Pike's successful local business activities had led to her establishment of "...the splendid hotel..." where she managed the business personally & did "...everything possible for the comfort of her guests..."

Describing the business in 1906, an journalist noted that the Australasia was "...the largest & most modern building in Eden...", commenting that it was "...thoroughly up-to-date in all its appointments & is furnished most elaborately...", which, combined with the "...magnificent views..." of ocean & harbour, made the premises " ideal place at which to stay..."

Local residents gathered in front of the Hotel Australasia for a trip to the Pambula races, 1910.

With such glowing reports appearing in metropolitan papers, the Hotel Australasia soon began to attract a notable clientele, including politicians & other public figures. During his 1907 tour of the region, Australian Governor-General Lord Northcote & his vice-regal party were entertained by at a public banquet the Australasia before spending the night as guest at the hotel. Impressed by a tour of the bay & harbour, he made mention of the "...greatly enhanced popularity that Eden & its beautiful port of Twofold Bay would enjoy as a health & holiday resort were its attractions & advantages more generally known..." The following year NSW State Governor Sir Harry Rawson & his daughter toured the region, during which they were also treated to a banquet entertainment at the Australasia. Expressing his admiration of Twofold Bay's beauty, His Excellency said that he "...anticipated a great future in this district, & felt sure that from what he had seen of it, his good wishes for its prosperity were ere long be realised." By 1909 Mrs. Pike was advertising that the hotel was "Under the Patronage of his Excellency Lord Northcote, late Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, & his Excellency Sir Harry Rawson, late State Governor of New South Wales...", while the 1912 edition of the Illawarra & South Coast Steam Navigation Company's Illustrated Handbook described it as " of the finest hotels in the State."

Eden's town band standing in front of the Hotel Australasia, C. 1911.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Always keen to maintain her position as hostess of the town's premier hotel, Aunty Pike's Australasia was also the venue of choice for local residents holding functions, including public farewells, birthdays & fund raisers, among other events. In 1916 she was advertising the "...large airy rooms..." & "...commanding magnificent panoramic view from front the back balconies of ocean & bay...", noting that coaches met all steamers & boats & launches could be arranged for visitors.

Hotel Australasia, C. WWI (1914 - 1918).
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Mrs. Pike also looked forward to the growing needs of her clientele & was continually updating & improving the Australasia. In 1911 she "...lately had considerable improvements effected to the Hotel in the way of addition lighting..." with gas illumination laid on to all sides of the building making it " of the best lighted on the coast..." Later the same year,  Mr. F. Kellsall "...thoroughly renovated..." the taproom, including repapering of the walls & laying linoleum on the floors. By 1912, with automobile travel gathering popularity, a motor garage was added & in 1916 a "...fine motor repairing pit..." of sleepers was constructed by Mr. C. Gandon. Electric lighting was installed in 1922.

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia, C. 1915.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
In June 1923, Sabina Pike's license for the Australasia was renewed by the Eden Licensing Court, but the following month, after almost two decades at the reins of the Hotel Australasia, local media reported that Mr. H. B. Gunter (or Gunton) of Melbourne had purchased the property & goodwill as a going concern. With the new owner taking over in July, the township farewelled Mrs Pike, who was departing to take up residence in Sydney, but the following year the woman who had done so much for the commercial, social & tourism development of the town returned to Eden after purchasing Mr. Frank Dawson's "...seaside home..."

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia, C. 1915.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

The business remained a popular one with locals, tourists & visiting officials alike. During 1929, NSW Minister for Agriculture Harold Thorby & his ministerial party were publicly entertained at a dinner hosted by the Australasia, while in 1938, English, Scotch & Irish representatives of the British Empire Rifle Team were accommodated en route from Melbourne to Sydney.

Hotel Australasia, C. 1920s.
Next to take over the Australasia was David Bourke, who purchased the property from Mr. Gunton in 1925. No new comer to the business, Bourke had taken up employment at the hotel by 1917, &, described as Mrs Pike's "...right hand man...", had remained involved with the business for more than a decade before leaving the area briefly to run Adaminaby's Australian Hotel. Returning to take up the reins at the Australasia, the license was transferred by the Bega court in March, & the new owner wasted little time promoting his business as "The best place to stay...", noting the "...superior accommodation & cuisine..." as well as mentioning the "Vice-Regal & other Distinguished Patronage..."

Hotel Australasia, C. 1926.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection
Under his management, the Australasia underwent further renovations & extensions. In 1925, Mr. A. Mawson completed additions, including "...two large bathrooms upstairs..." & constructed an underground water tank to enlarge the hotel's supply. Three years later, Messrs. Bray & C. Gandon undertook exterior renovations to the premises.

Hotel Australasia, C. 1930.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

1929 saw Bondi's George Impey take over the business & in the wake of American author Zane Grey's interest in big-game fishing at nearby Bermagui, local potential began to be explored. Keen to see the sport developed from Twofold Bay, Mr. Impey made a standing offer to reward the master of the first fishing boat to bring a marlin into Eden. The challenge was answered in 1936 when Sale (Vic.) angler Mr. W. A. Borthwick landed a 240-pound Black Marlin from the deck of the Dorothea & the local boat owner & master Art Goulden found himself collecting the £5 reward. By 1946, hotel proprietor Lance Robinson was promoting Eden's "...famous fishing...", offering launches for hire & during the 1950s, advertisements in Melbourne newspapers for the Hotel Australasia were referring to Twofold Bay as the " resort of Australia..."

Marlin hanging from the veranda of the Hotel Australasia, probably C. 1930s.
During 1935, William Alexander Greig and his son Ron re-roofed the premises, while 1937 saw further improvements carried out by Mr. Denholm. In 1941, what was referred to as "...extensive works..." were undertaken, including alterations in addition to four new bedrooms erected at the north-western end of the of the building.

Imlay Street, Eden, showing the Hotel Australasia to the left, C. 1930.

 After almost a decade, George Impey sold out to Andy Graham in 1939, & following this, there was a rapid changeover of publicans. Mr & Mrs. J. King had taken over by September 1940, but disposed of their interests in the business that month to Mrs. Julia Dingle who installed Mr. E. Ritson as manager. By the early 1940's, Lance Robinson was in charge, followed by Mr. Winrose who became publican in 1942. The following year, Mr. George Moore purchased the hotel lease, but by 1945, Lance Robinson was once again behind the bar as publican.

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia to the left, C. 1930s / 40s.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

Despite the business occupying a central place in the heart of the community, Eden residents were not averse to taking action against publicans if they felt their interests were not being considered. Such was the case with both the Hotel Australasia & the Great Southern during 1945 when the town's two hotels were declared "" during an open-air meeting attended by a group 60 & led by one of "...the principal trawler owners..." Alleging overcharging & not adhering to opening hours, a deputation waited on the publicans in an attempt to secure agreement with their demands, but upon receiving a reply that the hotels would carry on as usual, pickets were set up to " for defaulters..." It is believed that this may have been the catalyst that led to the establishment of the Eden Fishermen's Club.

Imlay Street, Eden, showing the Hotel Australasia to the left, C. 1940s.
Mr. Robinson, together with by Eva Chapman & Miss Roberts, remained in charge until Towamba farmers James ("Jim") Love & his wife Irene (fondly known to many as "Mum" Love) purchased the property in early June 1958 paying a £3,000 deposit on the £30,000 overall price. Taking over the following month, the couple's reign was to be very short lived & after Jim took his own life the same month, Irene returned to their Towamba property. Robinson & Chapman again took charge of the Australasia until 1960, when ill health forced Lance to relinquish his position, Peter Cesco taking over the business in April that year. It is believed that it was during the 1960s that the facade underwent the major change to its current appearance.

Rear of the Hotel Australasia, showing vegetable gardens, out buildings and water tank, C. 1940s.
Mr. Cesco was followed by Harold & Agnes Bennett between 1962 & 1965 & after they sold to Arthur Meahan, Doug & June Patience arrived to manage the business. The couple had previously operated Meahan's Town Hall Hotel in George Street, Sydney, prior to their arrival at the Hotel Australasia.

Hotel Australasia's fee schedule, C. 1940.
Image courtesy of the George Family Collection

Around the early 1970s, Brian Horner took over as publican of the hotel, remaining until 1975, when the Parkers replaced him. By about 1976, Jim & Noni Greenhill had taken over, followed by Frank Stanmore in about 1977. An Australian & NSW rugby league five-eight great of the 1940s & '50s, Stanmore played representative football in 1947, moving to Sydney to play for the Western Suburbs. A member of the club's 1948 grand final winning team, he was selected for Sydney & NSW that year, but despite being also selected to join the Australian national team tour of New Zealand, didn't play a test match as result of a dispute between his former club at Cessnock & Wests. During the 1950s he was selected to play in the victorious Australian team against Great Britain during the Ashes series; represented both Sydney & Australia against France & played in the 1952-53 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain & France, playing in four tests & captaining the Kangaroos to victory in seven out of seven matches. Although retired from professional football by the time he arrived in Eden, there is little doubt that he would have fitted in well with the town's avid rugby league tradition.

Hotel Australasia, C. 1940s.
Around 1980, Stanmore moved on & Larry & Betty Galloway took over. Among the other names that have, in more recent years, been associated with the Australasia were Brian & Dawn Linklater, John Crosby, Donna Shannon & Dennis Lees, the Slater family & finally the Taits, who held the license when the historic venue closed it's doors without warning on 23 May, 2010.

Now popularly referred to as "The Pit", it was apparently during Frank Stanmore's time that the name had its origins. According to one source, when it came around to official closing time, the publican would shut the premises to the public, pull sliding doors across what was then the main lounge area & continue to serve to the private party. The "Snake Pit", as this arrangement was referred to, was a common occurrence during the brisk trade of the local tuna fishing season. Eventually shortened to "The Pit", this is a name that has remained in common usage locally right through to the present day.

Imlay StreetEden, showing the Hotel Australasia on left, C. 1940s.

It was also around this time that the up market roots of the Hotel Australasia's early years changed radically. Becoming more working class in its clientele, the customer base tended more towards the bush workers of the timber industry, along with the rough & tumble of the seasonal tuna fishermen, many of whom, according one source, had been "barred" from the Fishermen's Club. This was also the era when the so-called "Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll" movement hit Eden, & the Australasia was to play an integral role in that lifestyle locally.

In more recent years, the Australasia moved to what some would perhaps consider a surprisingly egalitarian establishment where men & women from all walks of life, educational backgrounds & socio-economic levels from young professionals to the die-hard "Pit Crew" of old mixed with ease & mutual respect. As one local resident recently put it, it was "The heart & soul of Eden..."

Following the hotel's sudden closure, the property was placed on the market & after being passed in at a March 2012 auction, sold to Artarmon-based retail development company Great Southern Developments Pty Ltd in April 2013. With proposals including redevelopment to encompass a large format supermarket, it then came to light that the building had never been included on the Bega Valley Shire Council's Schedule 5 or Schedule 6 Local Environment Plan (LEP), despite its obvious heritage value.

Local residents are seeking to rectify this situation, with a nomination for inclusion of council's LEP having been recently submitted, but the wait for Australasia's fate must continue as government officials assess the relevant issues & come to a conclusion as to the future of one of Eden most recognisable historic landmark structures.

Bega Valley Shire Council met and considered the issue of including the Hotel Australasia on their Local Environment Plan on July 24, 2013. However, despite the fact that an assessment by their heritage adviser Pip Giovanelli recognised the historic value and significance of the property and recommended its retention, a majority of councillors voted not to list the Australasia.

In response, an online petition has now been set up to allow residents and interested individuals to express their concern. Anyone wishing to sign the document can do so by going to

At their March 2014 meeting, Bega Valley Shire Councillors voted six-two in favour of listing the historic Hotel Australasia building on Schedule 5 of the Comprehensive Local Environment Plan, providing recognition of the property's heritage significance.

In April 2014 Hotel Australasia property owners Great Southern Developments lodged an appeal in the NSW Land and Environment Court against Bega Valley Shire Council's decision to reject their Development Application for demolition of the building and construction of a retail complex on the site. A decision is still pending.

The developer is now looking to sever the applications to demolish the building; and construct the proposed new supermarket complex. There is a very real possibility that this could result in the building being demolished and the town being left with nothing in its place but a vacant site. A petitions has been got up, which is being carried by local businesses in hard copy; and you can also sign on line asking Bega Valley Shire Council not to allow the DA to be split into stages:

Article links:
Eden Magnet, April 11, 2013:

ABC Open, September 30, 2013:

Eden Magnet, March 27, 2014:

Eden Magnet, April 16, 2014:

Inheritance, April 25, 2014:

Eden Magnet, April 29, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 1, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 10, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 30, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 31, 2014:

Bega District News, July 31, 2014:

Eden Magnet, July 31, 2014:

Batemans Bay Post, July 31, 2014:

ABC NSW, August 3, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 4, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 6, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 13, 2014:

Eden Magnet, August 15, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 1, 2014:

Eden Magnet September 1, 2014:

Canberra Times, September 7, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 9, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 10, 2014:

Eden Magnet, September 19, 2014:

ABC South East, 25 September, 2014:

Eden Magnet, November 13, 2014:

© Angela George.

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