Des Dwyer Oral History - Transcript 1998

Des was an active member of the Metropolitan - Caloundra Surf Life Savers. He recounts the many changes to the way rescues, uniforms, types of boats used and fund-raising shaped the club. His memories of early Caloundra life from the 1950s

Date of Interview: 20 January 1998

Interviewer: Dianne Warner

Memoirs of Metropolitan - Caloundra Surf Life Savers

This is an interview with Mayor Des Dwyer on the 20 January, 1998 who has been an active member of the surf life saving movement for many years.

D.W.    Des can you tell me a little regarding your background?

D.D.     With regards to the surf club, I can recall coming home from boarding school and being asked by one of my friends, Keith Martin if I would like to join the surf life savers.   I subsequently joined the club in December 1948.

D.W.    That was Metropolitan - Caloundra?

D.D.     Yes

D.W.    And in those days you lived in Caloundra?

Early association with Caloundra Metropolitan

D.D.     Yes, I lived in Caloundra, which at that time was only a small town. I had completed my primary school education in Caloundra and then went away to boarding school in 1947, 1948.   My association with the Surf Club started when I returned home from boarding school.

D.W.    So your association with the club started then.   Were you a strong swimmer at that time?

D.D.     Not particularly, and in those days there was really only the sea in which to learn to swim.  There were no coaches or facilities available locally.   It was a process of learning to swim without any coaching.

D.W.    Were there people there to guide you?

D.D.     When I joined the surf club there was a fellow there by the name of Maurie Schafer, who took a great interest in training squads for their bronze medallion and junior life savers.   My contemporaries and I owe a lot to him because of his dedication in coaching and training.

Captaincy of the Club

D.W.    You have a colourful history that goes back quite some ways.  You were Captain of Metropolitan Caloundra for four years.  Could you tell me about your years of Captaincy?  What it meant to you?

D.D.     It was certainly an honour for me to have held the position of Captain.    I remember it as a very exciting time of my life.  The whole fact of the matter was, it was a different set of circumstances.  Nobody was very wealthy.   I used  to go to the surf club for the weekend.   I would go down on a Friday night and come home Sunday night.  It was like going out of town weekend after weekend.  There would only be three or four local members of the Metropolitan Caloundra Surf Life Saving Club and the remainder of the club members were people who came up from Brisbane on a Friday night,  mainly on a coordinated rail and bus service.  It was with great expectation that we looked forward to those chaps arriving on the Friday night and spending the whole weekend together.

D.W.    So there was a lot of comradeship amongst the fellows?

D.D.     Very much so.

D.W.    How did the town treat you, the town of Caloundra?

D. D.    Oh, I think very well as a matter of fact.  There had always been a good appreciation of Mets Surf Club well before my time.  The inaugural members of the club always had a good association with the local people.  In fact, there was great support.  The town was very small in those days and there was an appreciation of the fact that the Surf Club was there as an integral part of the holidaymaking season and the local culture.

D.W.    You represented your club at branch level for seventeen years.  That is a fairly large part of your life there.  You also went on to become a life member in 1959 of the Metropolitan-Caloundra Surf Life Saving Club.  You then went on to become a life member of Sunshine Coast Branch of Surf Life Saving in 1970.  So you indeed have a long and colourful history with this area.  I am going to ask you to go back to those periods in time and tell me a little about some of the different ways that life saving has changed since then?  The equipment - what was it like at that time?

Changes in lifesaving equipment and resuscitation methods

D.D.    When I first joined the Club the main rescue equipment used was the reel and line.   In those days, surf belts were found not to be the safest as there was no safety release on them.  In fact the Ross Safety Belt came into being as a result of some unfortunate incidences where the lines and belts became snagged, pulling the beltman down under the water.  Lifesavers could not extricate themselves out of the belts.   The  Ross Safety Belt was a great advancement  in lifesaving because lifesavers could pull a pin to release the belt.  For many years, in the main rescues were performed with the reel, line and belt.  The resuscitation technique learnt when I first joined the Club was the Schaeffer Resuscitation technique,  where the patient was actually laid prone,  with chest down on the beach.  Pressure was applied to the patient’s back at a certain count in seconds of compression and release.  There was also another method called the Eve Rocker.   It comprised a stretcher on a trestle on which the patient was strapped, and again, performed in a timed sequence of raising and lowering in a seesaw fashion, on the trestle.  The patient was resuscitated as the lungs were compressed by the weight of the body when the stretcher was rocked back and forwards.    These are a couple of recollections of  my early days in Surf Life Saving.  I can’t remember the year after that when we worked with what was called the Holga Neilson method of resuscitation, which was a different type again.  But these were my early associations with resuscitation methods.

D.W.    So those resuscitation methods and the change in resuscitation I suppose people were working on different concepts and the Life Savers were taking up those concepts ?

D.D.     Certainly.  That’s right.  Surf Life Saving, the head body of Surf Life Saving Movement obviously was doing that, as they do today.  Whilst I’m not directly associated at this time, there are always initiatives and changes.  Surf Life Saving are continually upgrading and I think that’s why Surf Life Saving is acknowledged for its advances throughout the world.

D.W.    You actually, with this equipment you used these belts and rescued people with these belts?

D.D.     Yes, as I said before, if a life saver was on patrol, reel, line and belt was the main piece of rescue equipment.   There were surf skis made of wood but these were very heavy.  They were certainly nothing like the high tech ones available today.  Indeed the boats of the day were nothing like the lightweight boats of today and certainly boats would have been used for rescues.

D.W.    And they had been used previous to your generation coming into the surf life saving movement.  Caloundra was well known for some of its boat builders here.

Claude Boyd’s surf boats

D.D.     Yes,  Claude  Boyd was well renowned as a surf boat builder.  When he first came to Caloundra he lived at Moffat Beach.   He subsequently lived at Little Mountain where the estate is now located and eventually moved to Landsborough to construct surf boats.

D.W.    Did the Surf Life Saving Association in Caloundra for Metropolitan - Caloundra have any of Claude Boyd’s boats at the time you were in the Surf Life Saving Movement?

D.D.    Yes, certainly we purchased surf boats from Claude.  Before Claude  started here, I think I’m correct in saying that we bought probably one of the first new boats  on the Sunshine Coast  post war.   It  was a Millcraft constructed boat.   Those of us at the Club always said it was about the last of the double enders because by that time, the tuck stern surf boats had come into vogue.   For one reason or another, the Club at the time decided on this double ender, which was probably the last one of these boats.

D.W.    How did she go?

D.D.     This boat was not the most manageable boat.  I know,  Cliff Croughan was the Boat Captain when it was first purchased.  I can well remember we either got it on the Friday or the Saturday and competed in a Branch Title at Mooloolaba Beach on Sunday in huge dumping surf.  I don’t think we even had the right oars.  We hadn’t had enough time to get the correct oars for it.  It was a fairly traumatic day.

D.W.    How did you go in the competition?

D.D.     The senior boat crew certainly had their experiences in that competition.  I think Cliff may have suffered an injury and another fellow by the name of Neville Tanner in the senior’s boat received a back injury.  We progressively broke oars all day.  And in the junior title, we got out through the break.  The other three boats that were in it had all been swamped.  We thought we were out and we got hit with a huge wave.  We went down backwards and smashed the last sweep oar, so that finished us for the day.   All in all it was a memorable occasion.

D.W.    So time has gone on, you would have seen a change in equipment?

D.D.     A complete transition from those days to the sophisticated equipment of today.

D.W.    We are still seeing how important the life savers are.  Holidays in 1997/98 have seen many drowning on Australian beaches.  Unfortunately, this weekend we have seen where a life saver has been drowned due to people either not understanding what life savers are there for and the flags etc.  In your day do you think that people had more understanding of the need to follow instructions on the beaches?

D.D.     Yes, it was more of an accepted thing with the Surf Club in my early times.  I can’t speak prior to that.  There was certainly a respect for instructions from the surf life savers  and the setting of the flags.  But you have  to appreciate it was a different  world back then.  People went to the beach and adhered to the “Swim between the Flags” ruling.  In later years, probably from the sixties onwards,  people tended to arrive at the beach and walk over the sand dunes and swim where they wanted to.

D.W.    Of course beaches and roads have been opened up a lot since then.

D.D.     You’re right.  Back then it was fairly restricted.  When I first joined Metropolitan Caloundra,  North Caloundra didn’t exist.  It was through the work of Cliff Croughan,  and some local people in the area - John Arthur who had the Moffat Beach store, Mr Park and  Bob Jardine,  initiated the start of the North Caloundra  Surf Life Saving Club.

Early lifesaving uniform

D.W.    What were your uniforms like?  Did you fellows have uniforms?

D.D.     The swimming attire could best be described as long Speedos.  They were the traditional Surf Life Saving attire for swimming.

D.W.    Could you explain to me what long Speedos are?

D.D.     If you can imagine a pair of short togs with a singlet attached - rather like a pair of full bathers, similar to a female’s costume.

D.W.    When you competed in competitions blazers were parts of the uniform?

D.D.     Well you could just about say every Club in those days had blazers for its members, very nicely done in the colours of the Club.  In fact, in the early days of Queensland Surf Titles the Clubs marched wearing blazers and slacks on a Saturday evening.

D.W.    So that was like an element of pride in your dress as well.

D.D.     Yes, and when the fellows came up from Brisbane by bus  on a Friday night  they wore their blazers.

D.W.    I was told by Cliff Croughan, if you had to work and you couldn’t reach the train and bus system that came through to Caloundra and you put your finger out on the side of the road and if you wore your blazer you had no problems in getting a lift.

D.D.     Yes, that’s right.   Some people were very good to our members and to a lot of Surf Life Savers in those days.  Regular weekenders who came up here picked up our members and took them back to Brisbane.

Transport to competition

D.W.    So in those days, the Sunshine Coast was a broad expanse of area.  Also you would have competed on the Gold Coast and in lots of other areas.  How did you get to your competitions?

D.D.     We went by open truck, which probably would be taboo today.  We used ordinary Lorries, which would have been sand and gravel trucks in those days,  and we would tow the boat behind.   We would throw mattresses from the bunk room in the back of the truck and  travel to the Gold Coast or up the Coast.

D. W.   They sound like fun times.

D.D.     They certainly were.

D.W.    How many of you fellows would have been on one of those trucks?

D.D.     I suppose there would have been up to about twenty five.

D.W.    I hope they had a roof on, did they?

D.D.     Not always, nobody ever seemed to worry about the weather too much.  We weren’t the only club that travelled that way.  It was common practice and they were quite marathon trips, because if you were going to Noosa you didn’t have the Coast Road.  It was a network of roads to get to Noosa and quite a long way.  We would travel from Cooroy over the Range and down that way.       To get to Bribie, there was a barge.  There was no bridge.  When I was Superintendent of the Branch here,  I still had to leave very early on a Sunday morning to go down to do examinations at Bribie.  To catch the barge you had to be down there early and do the exams, because the Club had to finish about two o’ clock to get the boat  back to Brisbane.  It was a different world, but for me a very exciting time.

D.W.    It would have been a very exciting time in this area as well.  It had become a very strong area with regard to visiting tourists, and accommodation was booked out at holiday time.  All of the local papers at that time featured articles, mainly front page, where the Life Savers were mentioned and their great work in the community.  There was lots of fund raising going on.

Early fundraising events

D.D.     Yes, for instance now that you mentioned that, the Glide Away Hall was in             existence in Edmund Street.  It had been a skating rink before the war and was a very big dance hall.  It was huge and would have taken up four badminton courts.   There were dances  over Christmas and the Club was involved with those.   Dances were held every night at the Glide Away Hall or the old School of Arts.  We also had a huge beach concert, as did North Caloundra once they got going.  They had them on different nights to the Mets.  People participated and we got huge crowds on the beach at night.

D.W.    Many life savers participated as well, and in one photo I have seen, life savers were on stage doing a hula dance.

D.D.     Yes that’s right.  The fellows always participated and many people on holidays were good artists.  It was a great night out.

D.W.    That would have been for fund raising?

D.D.     Yes, fund raising for the Surf Club, and we did that as well as house to house collections which still happen today.  These collections have been going for all of those years on the Coast here at Christmas time.  At one stage there was the selling of Coca Cola on the beach.  The ritual each morning was  that  when a life saver went down on the beach on patrol he took a case of drinks with him.   Someone brought the ice for the cooler.  At the end of the patrol  each day everybody carried the empty cases back up to the club house.

D.W.    So, you were drink vendors as well?

D.D.     Yes, to try and raise money.  We also hired rubber surf-o-planes on the beach.  They were a big money spinner.

D.W.    Would Coca Cola have donated the Coke?

D.D.     No,  the Club purchased it.

Ongoing council support

D.W.    Was that your only form of fundraising?  Did you receive any assistance from Landsborough Shire Council?

D.D.     I think the Council over the years has always been supportive of the Surf Club.

D.W.    And Caloundra when it became a Shire itself?

D.D.     Yes, there has always been that involvement with the Councils of the day.             The State Government was always good with subsidies.  They still are today but in those days it was an incentive to raise money because you would get the subsidy from State Government.  By the same token, it was not easy to get a lot of money.  You didn’t have the big corporate sponsors we have today.

Advertising surf club events

D.W.    A lot of advertising for events was done by Skippers (Les Skipper was a local electrical retailer)  who broadcast on the beach?

D.D.     There were beach broadcasts.  In fact, Les Skipper was my employer when I first started work and I did my apprenticeship at Skippers.   At Christmas time a PA system was always set up on the beach.  Bob Smith, who has recently retired from the RACQ  station round here, used to do the announcing at one stage.

D.W.    So that was all a concerted effort and it certainly publicised the needs of the surf life savers, people could see you there on the beach in person .

Christmas Carnivals

D.D.     At Christmas time one of the most popular activities on the beach was a Surf Carnival.   We used to run with the club split into two teams, we would  run a full Surf Carnival on the beach to try and raise money.

D.W.    The seas in those times with that early equipment would be a test when you had to swim out into big seas with those belts.  That would have been quite dangerous at times in big seas for you fellows.

D.D.     Yes.  There were always lines being snagged and fouled with sea weed.

D.W.    Surf Carnivals were instigated to keep the life savers fit.  Did you look forward to these Carnivals and competition against your peers ?

D.D.     Yes.  I think it was absolutely necessary.  Whoever instigated this knew what it was all about.  It was to get away from the ordinary training that you did.

During the week as a local here myself and  three or four young fellows that I grew up with we would train under an old street light out the front of the old Surf Club on the dunes at the bottom of Edmund Street on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  Yes, and the fellows in Brisbane traditionally had a Club swim of a Thursday night in the old Spring Hill Baths.  As the name suggests it was really Metropolitan because its members were predominantly from Brisbane.  There was always this great association between the fellows on the Coast and the Brisbane members.

D.W.    Cliff Croughan told me, that you would be probably bashing each other in the surf and that night life savers would go and have a drink together.  That was the comradeship that was experienced?

D.D.     Yes, that’s right.  Clubs were very close knit.  It was almost unheard of for a club member to transfer to another club, unless you moved because of employment.  Other than that, you stuck with your club through thick and thin.   There was never a thought of going anywhere else.

D.W.    You were proud of it?

D.D.     Yes.

D.W.    So when you finished competing for the day, the rivalry went as far as that and then you were mates.  That  was a great thing.   Any acts of heroism that you recall from those times?

D.D.     Yes.  The photo that you showed me here today.  Bruce Richter he’s in it.

D.W.    This photo is the 1957 Metropolitan - Caloundra State R & R Champions.

Bruce Ritcher: Humane Society Medal

D.D.     Yes.  Bruce Richter was awarded a medal from the Royal Humane Society for an effective rescue on Kings Beach.  I think the rescue occurred out of hours.   It was certainly a very heroic act in those days and he was a worthy recipient of this award..  When you got  the big seas, the life savers in those days, certainly pulled off some wonderful rescues considering the equipment that was available.

D.W.    In those days, of course you would have relied heavily on your own members because there was no such thing as motorised boats or helicopters.

D.D.     There was nothing like that.

Hinterland Life saving members

D.W.    Did you have any members from the Hinterland of this Shire that you used to travel down from the farming community?

D.D.     Yes.  There were people who were associated with the Club in my time and certainly before that time.  Some of the people from Maleny whom Cliff Croughan would have been associated with were Ben Bennett and Les Boylan.  The late Randall Wimberley from Beerwah was associated with our Club when I first  joined.

D.W.    A quote that I read in the Caloundra Weekly in October, 1957 says, ‘Our local Life Savers have set a standard, second to none in maintaining a most efficient service.’  So that would have been in your era Des, this is the type of concept that I have picked up from all early newspaper articles.  The Life Savers certainly did play a large part in the culture of holiday making within the Caloundra region.  Also at that time Frank Nicklin was on the scene.  He became Premier in 1957.  He was a great advocate of the Surf Life Saving movement.  Would you like to tell me a little about your days with the Premier of the time?

Premier Frank Nicklin - association with local life Saving

D.D.     Yes, certainly.  He was well and truly associated with the movement before I was.  He was President of the Sunshine Coast Branch for a very, long time.   He was President when I was Superintendent of the Branch.  My first recollection of Frank Nicklin was when he was Leader of the Opposition of the day.  I was elected as a Branch delegate to attend Branch meetings as a young fellow.   Frank Nicklin and his wife, would pick me up on meeting day from Caloundra and drive me over to Mooloolaba where the Branch Meetings were held.  In those days the trip took longer than today - it was up to Buderim back down to Maroochydore Road and  back to Mooloolaba.  It was a fair day out in itself.  That was my first association with Frank Nicklin, in that capacity.   For a young fellow the Branch Meetings were an initiation into meetings and procedures.   Some wonderful debaters were associated with the life saving movement.  People like Jack Spender, who you have spoken to, and the late Jack Clarke.  There were people from Mooloolaba, Maroochydore and Alexandra Heads that were equally talented debaters.  The debates of the day were very intense.  But at the end of the day,  members of different Clubs were all good friends, good mates.

Important association with well-known locals

D.W.    Sir Leslie Wilson?

D.D.     He was associated with the club before I joined, but of course he was well and truly known here when I was a lad.  He had his holiday place at Dicky Beach.

D.W.    So with that type of person being involved with the club I have been told that a lot of holiday makers in Caloundra were business people from Brisbane.  When the life savers went onto the beach to take up a collection they never had any problem in fund raising?

D.D.     Nobody really had lots of money but they were very supportive.  The late Colonel Evans was another one who was a great supporter of the Club.  Also the late Miriam Westaway.

D.W.    Miriam Westaway, she was also a Councillor.  Was that for Landsborough Shire?  The life savers called her Aunty Miriam.  Westaway’s were from Meridan Downs out near the Caloundra turnoff?

D.D.     Yes, that’s right.

Auxiliary Committee

D.W.    Would you like to tell me a bit about the Auxiliary Committee.  They seemed to be very strong in what I have read.?

D.D.     Yes, there was a strong Auxiliary Committee prior to my joining the Club, with Mrs Westaway.  We had in my era, the late Bevan Henzell and his wife Judy who were associated with the Auxiliary for many years.  There was a group of  business people from the main street and other locals who worked very hard for a number of years for Mets.  Yes, there was good support.

D.W.    Land was selling in 1958, for about $2,500 for a prime seaside block at Kings Beach.  Would people who came to the area to build holiday homes join the life savers?  As far as the holiday makers on a regular basis were concerned?

D.D.     Yes.  We had people do that.  I can remember the Sykes family, they used to come from Gympie.   Gough’s were another family.  Families like that, which had holidays here annually. It was a traditional thing in those days for six weeks holiday.  There were others who didn’t necessarily join the Club but had a great association with the Club and helped out.

D.W.    Did you always have enough life savers to patrol?

D.D.     When I was Captain we did have.  In some instances, even in those days the weekend patrols were from 6 am. till 6 pm.  They were long days but we always maintained those patrols.  Later on, after some years, when I was President, we became light on for members, but again we still kept our patrols going.

D.W.    I see that in 1957, there were fifty active members judging by what the papers had to say.  In that year an Annual meeting was held at Eager’s Recreational Hall at Newstead.  Why were these meetings  held in Brisbane?

D.D.     Yes, Noel Heywood who joined the Club just after I did,  was Secretary of the Club and he also became one of the Principals of Eagers.  He had worked his way up from office boy in those days right up to a top executive position.  Not only that but  he was much respected in Surf Life Saving in the Queensland State Centre as well.  Because of the predominance of Brisbane members, it was easier to have the meetings in Brisbane. A few locals on those nights would travel down for the annual meetings.  The first meetings I ever attended were in Rubens buildings in Queen Street, Brisbane.   I had an old car which I used to drive down to Brisbane.

D.W.    A lot of time was spent travelling to these?

D.D.     Yes,  and with the roads the way they were, long drives too.  But as I said,  it was predominantly a metropolitan based Club.  Members were all regular attendees at the old surf club on the dune at Kings Beach and the bunks at a weekend would have all been taken by these fellows.

Tourism and holiday season impacts on Caloundra

D.W.    The holiday atmosphere must have been wonderful.  I picture the scene at the time.  It was very early days as far as development goes, and the beaches would have been in pristine condition.

D.D.     Yes, as it is today with the Clarke’s and the netting of the beaches, that used to be a very big industry here in the early days.  The Fishing Industry was one of the things that kept Caloundra going economically,   The oysters in the Passage as well. You said it was an exciting time, it was.  We would go from being a sleepy little village to having an influx of visitors over  the Christmas holidays.  As a young fellow, a few locals would go down to the bus depot which was where the Metway Bank is now.  There would be bus after bus coming into town on the first part of the holidays and flats, and the houses and the camping area would quickly fill up.  The whole place would change and there would be a level of activity that you didn’t see the rest of the year.

D.W.    Fund raising at those times took the form of angling competitions, beach    beauty competitions, open air concerts, quiz kid competitions, fancy dress etc so there was always something happening?

D.D.     Yes.  The Ambulance did a great thing.  They had a carnival as well to raise funds for themselves.  There was always a good association between the Ambulance and the surf life savers.

Kings Beach Carnival 1957: Prime Minister of England visits

D.W.    When Frank Nicklin became Premier in 1957, he arranged for a mini carnival to be held at Kings Beach because the Prime Minister of England, Harold         Macmillan and his wife were coming to visit this area.  Do you recall this event?

D.D.     I certainly recall this and was very much involved.  We organised for that for weeks before. In fact, I think I can recall that the weekend before the event  we went through the whole program as a trial.  It was called a Pocket Carnival and we did the whole thing to a timed schedule.   So, we had all the events that are traditional in a Surf Carnival but organised by the Club itself.  We had no other involvement from any club, it was solely done by Mets.  We had the R&R’s, the boats, the skis, the beach events.   It was almost spot on for time but it ended up a dreadful day as far as the weather was concerned.  There was wind, rain and big seas.  However, we still managed to have the Carnival on time.  The Prime Minister, Mr Macmillan sat through the Carnival with Frank Nicklin and other dignitaries and watched the whole event.

D.W.    Did they stay on in Caloundra?

D.D.     I believe they went up to the Perle Hotel for lunch.

D.W.    What was the response to the Prime Minister of England visiting Caloundra by the people?

D.D.     It was an honour and something out of the ordinary.

D.W.    Was there a big crowd?

D.D.     Well, considering the weather on that day we still had a lot of people turn up.  It was a shame in that respect.  Mr Macmillan was gracious about the whole event.  I can remember that.  He was quite enthralled by the whole display.

The Maclean Shield

D.W.    What was the Maclean Shield?

D.D.     The Maclean Shield was named after Doug Maclean who now resides here in the Currumundi Gardens Retirement Village.  He ran the Kings Beach store and donated a shield for competition between North Caloundra and Mets.  My son surprised me with a photograph of the team competing on that inaugural day, and which I have had  blown up.  It was forty years to the day on Boxing Day, this year (1997) that the first Carnival was held.   It was an annual event between the two Clubs.  Subsequent to that we initiated a three way Carnival between Bribie, North Caloundra and ourselves.  I think that it is a five way Carnival now.  That was very keenly sought after, not only for the competition but the camaraderie afterwards between the three clubs.   In that era, it wasn’t uncommon for members to stay active with the Club for seven, eight, nine years.  Weekend after weekend, we lived together, cooked and did everything together. They all went to the movies at the old Strand Theatre in the main street.   Long before I joined the club and then in my time, there were always a couple of seats that were booked for the Surf Club.

The Mets Clubhouse

D.W.    At that time also, I believe the club house was just about to be built?

D.D.     Yes, our old club house had been moved on three or four occasions as a result of cyclones.  It was snigged back.   There were pine walls full of borers.  We had negotiated with the Landsborough Council the site where the boat shed is now.  We got to the stage where the contract was let.  I remember to this day there was no water supply in Caloundra.  We negotiated a water line from what was then the Council reservoir up in the old caravan park.  It was one hundred and thirty pounds to get the water down to the boat shed.  We had the tap there in the yard and the builder commenced work.  There were piles under the boat shed and some concrete stumps were put in.  Then we had a cyclone and the sea came right through the dunes on Ormond Terrace.  Two things happened.   I think it was condemned as a Club House site because of devastation of the dune area.  I think the builder might have also gone into receivership at the time because of what happened.  We ended up not having a Club house and the Council allowed us the use of the Kings Beach Pavilion for accommodation.

D.W.    You stayed there for quite a while didn’t you?

D.D.     Yes, we did.  It was what the old café part was.  We used to use the kitchen at the back.  Then Maurie Schaeffer got some of us together and said we could build a boat shed.  We used the posts from the aborted Club house.  That boat shed is still there but it has been added onto now.   We lived in it.   It had a kitchen and stored our gear in there as well.  (1950’s).  subsequently we acquired the site where the existing club house is now.  It was smaller than it is now.

Weekend stays at the Clubhouse

D.W.    How many of you would have stayed there on the weekends?

D.D.     I would have thought, in that era (I keep going back to it because it was a wonderful time) there would have been twenty to thirty fellows regularly of a weekend.  Because where I worked with Mr Skipper in the main street there was a bakehouse next door and when members had their club swims they would find out who was coming up for the weekend and Noel Heywood who we talked about from Eagers, would ring me on the Friday or I would ring him to find out how many loaves of bread were needed which I would order from the baker next door. It was always about twenty loaves if I recall.

D.W.    So when you ordered these loaves of bread who fed all of these hungry life savers?

D.D.     Members were rostered for cooking and other duties.  Sometimes you got good meals and sometimes you didn’t.  My good friend Norm Irvine, who has had an association with the Club nearly as long as I have, for many years cooked the Saturday night tea and did a good job of it too.  Prior to that there were a couple of famous cooks, Cocky Sullivan and Ted the cook.

D.W.    Local things that had to be organised with all of these people coming up on weekends and staying in the club.  When you were competing did you ever travel interstate?

D.D.     Well, I certainly was associated with the 1957 R & R Team.  Some of us coached, I was one of those that didn’t do all the coaching but was still part of getting that team together.  We went to Bondi which was an exciting trip.  The first big Australian Championships I went to was at Coolangatta Beach in the 1949/50 season.

D.W.    When you were saying you coached did you have experts assist you or your Club, or anyone that was good that might have needed extra time?

D.D.     Yes.  Whilst we were close knit, there tended to be a lot of assistance from other clubs.  People that were expert in a certain area.

The first Mets Nippers: 1960s

D.W.    I understand that you were one of the people that organised the first Nipper            Squad for Mets?

D.D.     Yes, I was involved in the formation of the Nipper Club at Mets.    Trevor Fitzpatrick who was a policeman here at the time took on the Presidency.  The Nippers got off to a very good start

D.W.    What period would that of been, the start of the Nippers?

D.D.     You would have to check it out but over 25 years ago.

D.W.    Well I am sure we could sit here all afternoon Mayor Dwyer and talk of these wonderful early days at Caloundra and the Life Saving Movement.  Thank   you very much for your assistance.  Is there anything you may like to add?

D.D.     I have no regrets about the time I spent in Surf Life Saving. There are still quite a lot of life savers from that period still living and we are still good friends.  We have dinner together annually.

D.W.    Just one more thing I would like to ask you.  When you travelled interstate was it by train?

The Life Savers Train: Roma Street to Bundaberg

D.D.     No.  Isn’t that funny.  I really can’t recall, but I can remember what was called the Life Savers Train that left Roma Street to go to Bundaberg.

D.W.    You might like to tell me a little bit about the Life Savers Train that went to Bundaberg?

D.D.     Well, that was when they had the State Championships in Bundaberg on a couple of occasions.  As you know most of our Life Savers were Brisbane based, at the time all of those from the South Coast and Brisbane all congregated on Roma Street.  They all boarded the train with their gear in Brisbane and the rest of us from the Coast joined at different stations.   Those of us from Caloundra boarded the train at Landsborough.  Suffice to say that it was an experience.

D.W.    How did the club go in Bundaberg?

D.D.     We did very well, for us in those days.  I think that was getting towards the time when I stopped competing.  I have a friend I went to school with, Harvey Orrell and myself, and we paddled double skis.  We were just pipped for a Queensland Double Ski title in Bundaberg.  We came second.  I think some of our boat crews did well.

D.W.    Like I said, thank you very much for your assistance.  It has been great talking to you.

D.D.     I wish you all the very best for what you are doing.  It is a great thing for Caloundra.

D.W.    Thank you.  You are now known as one of the Sea Saviours.

D.D.     Laughter


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