Cliff was a formative member of Metropolitan Caloundra Surf Life Saving Club
Interview with: Cliff Croughan
Date of Interview: 13 November 1997
Interviewer: Di Warner
Transcriber: Colwyn Boulton
Interviewing Mr. Cliff Croughan early Royal Life Saver and Metropolitan Life Saver who operated out of Bribie Island later the club transferred to Caloundra, as a Metropolitan Caloundra life saver .Instrumental in helping to set up Dicky Beach Surf Life Saving Club Member of Bribie Island and formative member of Metropolitan Caloundra Surf Life Saving Club
Images and documents on Cliff Croughan Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Image: North Caloundra Surf Life Saving Club members pictured with the belt and reel which was used to rescue those drowning, ca 1950.
Cliff Croughan oral history - part one [MP3 44MB]
Cliff Croughan oral history - part two [MP3 44MB]
Cliff Croughan oral history - part three [MP3 40MB]
Cliff Croughan oral history - part four [MP3 44MB]
DW Interview with Cliff Croughan early life saver
CC That’s right
Early Royal Life Saving formative years and location
DW Cliff you are a known identity in Metropolitan Caloundra Surf Life Saving Club and formative member of North Caloundra Surf Life Saving Club (later to be called Dicky Bach Surf Life Saving Club.
CC I’ll give you my version of it we came on patrol was we came to Caloundra for Easter.
DW You were patrolling at Bribie Island then?
CC. We were at Bribie Island and we came up here and there were six of us. There was myself, there was Jimmy Fraser, Doug Mabin, Sid and Les Hardcastle they were elder members in the club. I’m going back to like when we came, I’m only talking about when we came to Caloundra - our first patrol in Caloundra, more or less. But anyway the point was there were six of us altogether
Yes, well anyway to cut the whole story short. Ken, he got the information about the start of the club or the club patrolling, not starting it. And incidentally, digressing for a moment, those people that were at Mooloolah, they had nothing to do with the life saving club, they didn’t patrol, once we took over the beach that was it.
DW Yes they were gone. Wally Warner had gone then, you see that was 1928 when the Royal Life Savers were on Kings Beach.
CC Well 1928, well it must have been 1930, that’s right, when we got there.
CC 1930 -that’s right it was Easter of 1930 and make sure that this is correct. I’ve got confirmation of this. Ken O’Connell was going to get it. You see I don’t know where all the paper work that I dug up and photos and different things are. There weren’t many photos but the few that I had and the paper work and things that he wrote down. Jimmy Fraser came along with stuff - paper and yarning and going back all over the different things. He had all this and of course he’s a very astute man, Ken he was a businessman and a man with paper work, no worries to him. I have a different problem, I’m useless at.it. Why I’m saying that is that he asked certain questions on the way through querying what we were saying. This is what I’m more or less suggesting to you. If I said that a certain bod was at a certain place but I wasn’t too sure of it and you happened to put it down. if there are any members in or outside the club that could come along and say no he’s way out on that one. You have only got to make a few mistakes like that. Your information then right throughout is more or less useless. That’s where Ken O’Connell was, he was number one with it because of the questions. The thing was as I say we used to sit there of the night time, anywhere from 9 till 10 o’clock at night just the two of us. Even when Jimmy Fraser was there and Doug Mabin we sat around and these questions were flying at each other and we brought it all together. Therefore, I thought that I had some information I had written bits and pieces down. I will ask him when next time I am going to see him.
CC I thought I had that in this back room. Well, I went through that back room three times and I must’ve given him the lot. So I have nothing. The only thing I have is -
DW Is your memory Cliff.
CC Yes and that’s a bit doubtful at times. It’s not doubtful from the point of view of the club or the members but it’s doubtful of times and things like that.
DW That is ok
CC I can’t understand it. Is it possible not to get hold of him and get this information because he was that keen?
DW I’ve had a letter from Ken.
CC. Oh you have?
DW Yes, he left it at the club.
CC Oh I see.
DW No-one knows where it is now he’s contacted the club.
CC Oh I see
DW Yes, I contacted the chief life guard down there who’s going to try and chase it up as well but at this stage no-one knows where that information is, that early history. Whether it’s in someone’s garage, or you know, just someone’s put it somewhere and forgotten where it is, but it’s very unfortunate.
DW How old were you when you joined the lifesavers?
CC When I joined the lifesavers club, you had to be seventeen to join a lifesavers club and that was in late 1920’s - 1930 I think it was. Anyway, I was over sixteen.
DW You lived on Bribie?
DW You lived at Bribie Island?
CC No, I lived in Brisbane.
DW You lived in Brisbane, whereabouts was that?
CC Over West End or Hill End it was at the time.
DW Where did you learn to swim?
CC Beg your pardon?
DW Where did you learn to swim?
CC Well, I can’t remember that. I just seem to know water was around and hop in and then I joined the club. How I came to join the club was well, I didn’t know about life saving or anything else but I was still nearly a kid. My mother took me down there was an apprenticeship going. I was only just sixteen at the time and I was taken in to see these bosses in this place. It was a motor body building, factory. In those days they used to send the chassis out a lot of Dodge stuff it was. They used to send the chassis out and we used to build around it. This was what I was apprenticed to do. Jimmy Fraser was a foreman of one of the departments. Well, there were about ten apprentices. Why I’m bringing this up- it has nothing to do with the life saving side of it. The point was that in there you were issued with each day one of the men or some of the men would want an apprentice and you did all the messy work or bits and pieces. And anyway, eventually I was with this Jimmy Fraser. Well you did it the hard way those days and, to cut a long story short, Jimmy Fraser took a yen to me. The point was we were down in a place on Commercial Road at Bulimba just round from there. I don’t know if you know Brisbane do you?
DW I do, yes.
Valley Pool training with the champions
CC Well, Commercial Road it was the building across the road from where this factory was where we were.
DW What was the name of the factory?
CC B.H. Connors Motor Body Conveyances and what have you. And anyway they finished up. Jimmy Fraser one day said to me - this was after I’d been there about three months, and he said to me, ‘What about coming swimming?’ Now he used to walk around to the Valley Pool from there which is, I suppose about a mile away. I had to knock him back because I had no money. I mean I couldn’t afford to get into that pool. So eventually, he woke up to this and he said, ‘For the first month you can get in, if you’re only young you can get into the pool for a month’. Being an idiot well I thought, yes, and I got into that pool and it was one of the finest things that ever happened to me. Tommy Boast one of Australia’s champions and Theo Thynne they were all there. All these fellows were training there and also there was Americans coming out and training.
When I went round with Jimmy Fraser he was a great friend of all these fellows and they used to train together. When I came anyway, these blokes in their own way used to get hold of me at different times and show me little points and this and the other. That’s where I started from there. Anyway, the point was then he got me into the club and as I say I was just sixteen. I was supposed to be seventeen. I was just under seventeen
DW So you swam at the pool at the Valley for about how long?
CC Oh, quite a while.
DW Twelve months or was it more?
Metropolitan Club early Royal Life Savers
CC Well eventually when we used to go down to the Valley Pool I used to go down when I finished my trade and everything else and I was put in charge of a department there. I used to go down myself straight after work. I used to live in the water in the end. I used to like training and all that sort of thing, you see. And then of course with the club, well then with Metropolitan Club itself. Well there was a funny thing there, it was Royal Life Saving in those days, not surf life saving. Yes, the Royal Life Saving, Metropolitan were I suppose between all the clubs. I’m talking about more or less south, coast clubs and that.
CC I never knew much about them but in the Royal Life Saving, Metropolitan was number one at it. I say that like they were, their name was number one or well up in it.
DW Swimming skills and everything
CC Everything, that’s right. It was Royal there was no surfers, no surf life saving. You were in the Royal Life Saving.
DW Yes, they had the governing body sort of thing did they, the Royal Life Saving?
CC Well they were Royal Life Saving yes. I’ll explain it in a few minutes. This is going on the air is it?
CC Oh right well.
DW Yes, that’s alright, we need to know all of these historical things.
Royal Life Savers transfer to Surf Life Savers
CC Well the point is that the Royal Life Saving is more or less still water stuff but those days it was surf stuff. There was no such thing there was no surf name then. I mean even if you were in the surf it was named Royal Life Saving. Anyway the point was I was training to get my bronze, surf bronze. The day after I was to get it I’d gone right through the whole lot. I wasn’t the only one. I’ll only tell you about me and the instructors and everything else and the next day they said to me, ‘You’d better start again’. I said, ‘why?’, and they said, ‘that’s the Royal Life.’ We had heard that the life saving movement had come in, and it was in Sydney. Later it was the surf life saving movement. It was the same sort of thing only the methods were different. Anyway the point was that I finished up I didn’t get the medal, I didn’t get the surf bronze even though I had passed it. I had to start again with different types of methods which was only a matter of time till I got it. I don’t know some weeks or something.
DW How long did it take you to train for your Royal Life saving medal?
CC For my medal?
DW Yes, to get that actual accreditation to pass your tests in order to receive your medals
CC Well not the surf, do you mean to surf?
DW No, I’m just talking about the Royals for the moment.
CC Royal Life Saving?
DW Yes before you were ready to be a Royal I was told by the gentleman from Mooloolah, Wally Warner, that it took him nearly a year to complete his training. He has written here, ‘Wally trained for his bronze medallion while still living at Mooloolah; he attained his Royal Life Saving medal and Life Saving medal there too. It took him about twelve months training in order to pass the test. Testing for the bronze was carried out at Alexandra Headlands.’
DW Royal Life saving medal tests entails swimming in the Maroochy River. Wally and others in training had to swim across in front of the Maroochy Hotel. Did you have to do that?
CC No, well as it was all in the pool at Ithaca Baths. It was our headquarters as a matter of fact. The point was that the Royals when it came to the medals, well even though I was doing this surf, the Royal Life Saving were still the Royals. You got the Royal bronze and you got the silver and then you got it was two or three others. The point was that, when it stopped there, I was also training for the Royals but the methods in the Royals were baths, all bath stuff. Like you tow a patient and then there was when it came to the silver. I think it was fully clothed, you had to be fully clothed. I think it was the silver or it was one of the others, anyway I got three of them but the point was the life saving methods of the Royals were in their own way more adequate for the average person to know. Particularly today when you’ve got a swimming pool and a little kid falls into a pool. I’m not saying that the life savers, the blokes in the surf couldn’t do the same thing but I mean the knowledge of the Royals. I mean the methods of resuscitation and all that sort of thing, it was all good.
DW It seemed to take a long time by what he said there, at the start of training in order to pass the test, twelve months that seemed to be fairly lengthy.
CC Yes, you couldn’t do it in a day.
DW A thorough testing process
CC All your methods with the Royals, the bronze was the first medal, first one you could get. I think you had to swim fifty yards or a hundred yards, anyway breaststroke.
DW Are you saying there are fifty yards breaststroke, fifty yards backstroke and one hundred yards freestyle?
CC Right. Well in the next one the silver was different, you had to do more distance and then there was the other one you got where you were fully clothed. The point was I did everything in fully clothed the first trip and I couldn’t, I couldn’t float. They had what you call a pendulum float and I was lying on the water and just went down about a foot and stayed there. So anyway, came up, I’d finished all the rest of the swims and everything else and they knocked me back. So I had to go again which was about a fortnight afterwards and I got knocked back again because I couldn’t float. You wouldn’t credit that. There was me still about a foot under the water looking up at the officials. Anyway the Royal Life Saving actually, to my way of thinking was for pools and baths and different things. I used to later on when I got further up in the game and I went through it as an instructor and examiner and different things, then I used to go out with it. One was Joe Betts, heard of Joe?
Royal Life Saver members – Caloundra region
CC And Pop Venning, they were, they were top brass in the Royals.
DW Yes, Wally’s saying here, ‘Secretary of the Caloundra Life Savers in ’1927 1928 was Ben Hapgood
CC Who? Maurie Hapgood?
DW He’s got Ben here.
CC Oh, Ben Hapgood
DW Well maybe it was Maurie Hapgood and he’s got the name wrong there.
DW How old would Maurie Hapgood have been?
CC He would have been pretty old in those days. He would’ve been about twenty four.
DW Perhaps that might be Wally’s (meaning) because there are some things he’s not really sure of too. Well he was actually the Secretary there if that’s right then, from 1927 to 1928. And I’m just looking here for Betts because I believe he was the one that used to go with them. They used to sometimes go to Cooroy in the early days and Pop Venning came to Cooroy. Wally was telling me that the Cooroy Life Savers were the Noosa Life Savers. Early trainer at both the Caloundra and Noosa Clubs was Jack Hibbert.
CC Hibbert, yes that’s right.
DW Gus Weir
CC I wouldn’t know.
DW They must have gone. Hibbert was there was he when you were there, Jack Hibbert?
CC Well, you see they would be different clubs.
DW I thought that after Metropolitan Caloundra came in, perhaps they then amalgamated those little clubs for training?
CC A club like say Mooloolaba or Maroochydore or Metropolitan, they have their own members and they train their own members. If they were going to go for exams or the medals then the executive of the Royal Life Saving used to come along, they were the examiners and they would examine any of them, any clubs it didn’t matter who they were. I mean the actual members you really met later on in competition stuff when you’d probably go to one of their beaches or they’d come down to your beach and things like that. So, that’s where you’d meet a lot of ordinary members in the place, not only in surf too.
DW You said you knew the name of Jack Hibbert who was the fellow that trained them on the Mooloolah Railway Station. He was the night officer on the trains. Wally Warner, he was the person that gave me the other interview that started this off. I’ll just read that again, ‘We trained on the Mooloolah Railway Station platform, most of us came from Mooloolah, the training used to take place in the evening after we had knocked off work. We did our drill on the platform; we trained for our first aid in Mooloolah Railway Station. The chap who trained us was Jack Hibbert’. He must’ve had his first aid. He would have been a little older than Wally because Wally was only seventeen.
CC Yes, you see I met some of these people later on. I’m talking about what was the other name you mentioned?
DW Jack Brandenburg
DW Who is now deceased Wally says. He says the only one alive that he knows of - from those men I’ll read their names to you. I have their oral interview here as well as Mooloolah memories. They were some of the original lifesavers from the Mooloolah district who helped start life saving at Kings Beach. Their names were Wally Warner, Frank Griffin, Jack Brandenburg, Walter McAndrew, Vic Paulsen, Hapgood and Hilton Perkins.
DW Hilton Perkins
CC Perkins, yes
DW Frank Griffin
DW Frank Griffin.
CC Griffin, yes
DW Vic Paulsen and Walter MacAndrew?
DW He went on to be a police inspector.
CC I know the names but, Jack Brandenburg?
DW He still lived in this area because Wally used to come down here and see him.
CC That’s right, he came to me one day -
DW That’s what I’d like to hear.
CC It’s going back awhile now. Well, he came one day and he said to me, ‘Cliff’ he said, I don’t know how it came out but he said, ‘We were in this set up here in this club on this beach before you were you see’. We were talking a few minutes about it and I never took much stock in the fact that I knew that. He wasn’t - there was no baloney about it. I mean he was saying that and that’s all there was to it. There would be no argument, I mean as a matter of fact, whether he ever told Les and Sid Hardcastle because they finished up very top brass in our club. Les and Sid it’s a pity that Les is gone. Les Hardcastle’s wife’s only just died in the last few months. She was a great supporter of Mets. Not only that, she was a great supporter to all. I guess you ought to say me but the point is she was, she knew everybody and everybody knew her. Well, she just passed away I think - I was told the other day, or the other week. But see, Les Hardcastle and Sid Hardcastle, well they used to be up here a lot and there was also Jack Brandenburg, I think he was in Caloundra a long, long time, going back now. There was a fellow by the name of Dud Ryan in our club and a fellow by the name of Lennie Taylor. Dud Ryan was the sixth bloke in that first patrol we were on. Dud Ryan was a Royal.
CC Dudley yes. Anyway he was a builder and Lennie Taylor was and they were both mates. Dud Ryan was a builder and Lennie Taylor was a plumber I suppose you’d call it - but anyway they put roofs and different roofs and things on, cement roofs, bitumen, and metal roofs on. That was in Brisbane when we were there. They were members of Mets long before I knew about Mets and then they came up to Caloundra some years later but they were great mates.
DW Wally said sometimes there were Brisbane members who would come to Kings Beach in the early days but not many. He said you might’ve got one or two on patrol. He said his family moved to Noosa. He went to Noosa, to Cooroy, and they started the Noosa Club, or Noosa had started but he joined Noosa and his younger brother Len too. He said sometimes there was a couple of those fellows came from Bribie and so perhaps those men that you’re talking about now may have been that sort of middle link there after his time. Brandenburg and everyone from that period and then the next generation started. I suppose they would have been that little bit younger. Wally is now 87 years old.
CC The thing is that in the surf movement, life saving movement, there was no such thing as animosity between different clubs
DW That’s what he says; we used to just go from club to club.
CC. That’s right. There was no such thing as animosity and you’d probably go and have a drink together. The next day you’d fight each other in the surf, you know or whatever you’re doing. Well that’s how I was brought up and boy did it really make me a better human being then. But anyway the point was that Dud Ryan and Lennie Taylor came up here. This was another thing - apparently work down there wasn’t so good, so they came up to Caloundra. They worked around Caloundra here and around the local coast. I don’t know if it was because of a fellow by the name of Jack Corkery or Sid Hardcastle.Then there was a fellow by the name of Ivan Soden and his brother. Well, what I’m going to say- Soden, the Soden brothers, and Pop Soden finished up, he was Soden’s Carrying Company. They had a gigantic outfit in Brisbane and we used to go and have our meetings there. I’m going back a hundred years here.
DW The meetings were at Soden’s?
CC. They used to be in Pop Soden’s, down at the bottom of Creek Street right facing the wharves.
There used to be a ferry used to come across to Creek Street. I mean Creek Street there was this big complex and this factory we went to. They were carriers and they used to bring whatever they had you know into the place. That’s all I knew about it, I mean there was trucks and different things there. And then we used to have our meetings there and later on.
DW What, the Bribie Club too?
CC Life saving, yes there was Metropolitan Club too.
DW I guess that’s where it got the name Metropolitan, because it was a Brisbane based group.
CC Club, yes that’s right. The point was that they when I first went it was 1930, that was the first, patrol we went for. We broke away - we didn’t break away we came up here too. Well I was only a kid anyway.
DW Who asked you to come here? Did Mets asked you to come?
CC No, not the Mets, Landsborough Shire Council.
DW They were actually paying, they were paying to keep this early days club to come and these early days fellows. Wally told me that they used to give to them; I think it was five pounds at Easter and ten pounds at Christmas, for the patrols.
CC It was a lot of money. Yes well, that’s why we did this first patrol that Easter and some money was given to the club and to a lot of these people it didn’t make any difference. We never saw the money it had nothing to do with us, we paid our own way.
DW You paid your own way up here to patrol. You had to pay for your own food and everything like that?
CC. Own food and everything else and you were talking about Jack Brandenburg and you were talking about tents, now the thing was digressing for a moment to get into Caloundra those days, and I’m talking about the early days do you know where the turn-off, at Mooloolah Cemetery is?
CC Well, there was no road past there, the road used to come down - it was a track and, and you come from Landsborough we used to catch a train up there and then there was Billy King, the only boarding house here you know, he used to have this sedan car.
CC. Well, it was a sedan car and he could fit about fifteen bods in it and we used to be outside of it.
DW All the life savers would be on King’s transport.
CC Yes, that’s right.
DW On the roof of it?
CC Yes, and anywhere we could hang on.
DW Did he charge you?
CC Any older people like aged about 22, or 23 they were sitting inside but anyway, not only that we had to push it if it got bogged.
DW Did he charge you to get to Kings Beach?
CC Yes, but I don’t know what - it was a shilling or something like that. But the point was that we used to come, you’d come up to where the cemetery was - that was not this side of the cemetery but the other side - and the track use to go up and pass I assume now because we used to go up to this track. There was no road other than that we used to go up until we got to the top of the hill and then we used to go down and come round where the - what’s it called now the road round the back there.(Sugarbag Road)
DW Nicklin Way?
CC Anyway, we came round and it was still only track stuff. We came round and down and went along the small hill in front of where the garage is down here now. He came out down there and we went across, it was all sand dunes there, there was no houses no nothing there and in some of the times it would be flood waters would be like great heaps of water around there but it used to go across and it was Fristrom’s place. You couldn’t get any further than that it was all sand dunes right in amongst the dunes and that’s where they put the tents, you were talking about.
DW A camp there, they camped there too?
CC. Yes there were two tents there for us. The council put them up but the funny part about it was.
DW Landsborough Shire Council put the tents up.
CC Oh yes, they put them up. We had nothing the first time. We had a blanket each and Mrs Fristrom gave us a meal.
DW Wally said it was pretty rough.
CC Oh yes it was rough alright, it couldn’t be any rougher.
DW The Royals would go and buy their food at Fristrom’s and that she was quite kind to them.
CC Well the funny part about that digressing for a moment when we got there the first times- we got there about five o’clock in the evening and all of us all we had was small suitcases and different things. Anyway, there was a crowd of people in the boarding house, like running around and Fristrom’s. You know where Fristroms were in the old days?
DW I don’t come from this area but I’m getting to know the names due to my work.
CC Well, they had a shop. Then there was a petition and a dining room behind it. So when we got there. I don’t know whether she’d known or not. (Mrs. Fristrom)
DW You’d come on a Friday night would you?
CC It was a Friday night because Easter was on.
CC When we got there, whether Mrs Fristrom had written to the club and asked she told us you know she’d be interested in feeding us. When we got there I forget what it was, so much a meal, a shilling a meal whatever it was. That’s right we were standing there and, and she said it would cost a shilling a meal and if you wanted to back up it would cost you one and six. This Sid Hardcastle always reckoned he wasn’t miserable he was just careful. He was (really broke) and Les’s just his opposite, his brother I mean. He was one of the top brass in the club anyhow but he wasn’t with us and Sid said, ‘Oh’ he said, he always growled. He said, ‘I don’t know about that’. We said, ‘Shut up Sid’. We were thinking of our stomachs. Anyway, you couldn’t go any further up there; it was all, all just sand amongst everything else.
DW Plenty of wild flowers?
CC Oh yes, well later years there was coming past here there was wild flowers all the way up the coast here. There was a little bloke there used to, he used to live with the blacks and he used to go every day and go up and come back with a great heap off these wild flowers and he’d sell them around the town there.
DW What, around Caloundra?
DW He lived with the aboriginal people?
CC No, he was a white man. Well the aboriginals, they were living do you remember the old Francis Hotel? Well that used to be there and it still is but I mean there was nothing there only it was a bit of a track around from Kings Beach through Billy King’s house, a boarding house it was. There was a bit of a track through to the street there. It wasn’t a street only a track anyway. But on the corner was this piece of land which has now got housing on it and that’s where they, some of these blokes used to live. They were nice there are still some of those boys around here.
DW Who were they, do you know their names?
CC No, I do know their names but I just can’t think.
DW And everyone got on well?
CC Oh yes no worries. There were a couple of families of them and there were two or three boys you know. There was no, never any worries well they were just nice people. The point was that was the only way and the only amusement we ever had was lifesaving, was only later on as the years went by conditions improved. When we patrolled on the first morning we had a rescue and all the people that came here those days used to live in tents. They had their own tents and where that park is it was all sandy. There was only the one Fristrom shop. There were tents all over the place there, right through the back and everything else. They were all country people. Well they’d come down on the beach and they’d fish and swim.
Metropolitan Life Saving Club transfers to Caloundra from Bribie Island
CC The next thing when we took a collection around I think we went back with about ten pounds I think it was and that was terrific. Then, later on, a few years later on we of course we decided when we went back that we wanted to move from Bribie. We didn’t want to give the club away but we wanted to come and patrol at Caloundra.
DW You wanted to come to Caloundra; you decided that was best?
CC Yes, but they said no, they’d stay on so more or less through the top brass of our club and they, we came here and some of them stayed down there at Bribie Island.
DW So there was this split or, was it an amiable split?
CC. Oh yes, there was no arguments there. It’s just that there was a change. There was Wally Smith and his wife; he was one of the head serangs in the taxation department. Wally was a president and what have you.
DW He was the president of?
CC. Les Hardcastle was the president of the club and then he came over. There was Pop, not Pop Venning but Pop Soden who was a patron of the club. He was the one with the knowhow and his two sons. Well they came, and they sometimes I was given to understand they told me themselves that they used to come here (Kings Beach) at different times when the club wasn’t operating.
CC The funny thing about all this. You know talking about the life saving side of it and all the rest of it was the friendship side of it. Through all these years we could mention names and these chaps patrolling would come up every weekend and everything’s like you know, it finalized the set up.
DW You started to come every weekend then in the summer season?
CC Yes. The point was the patrols were organised to come, there was six members organised and there’d have been anyone else to come, fair enough. Well then eventually we built this - we had the hut built, it was only a small hut but anyway that was the first clubhouse. I would have been about nineteen then. These other fellows - what I’m coming to is this other part of it, the friendship side of it.
These different fellows met girls on the beach and like it was a different sort of life. If you were on the beach, if you went down the beach today you’d probably be on your own. I mean in those days when you got down there, there were some women or somebody to talk to you. Then when we were sitting around they knew you or knew us and everybody sat round and talked. And what, what used to happen then these fellows finished up meeting these girls and getting themselves married. I knew all their wives. Not only me, I’m not only talking about me but all the other members, everybody. Every member knew the girl and the bloke and what have you, you see. So we went through life which is a terrific thing you know. Even some of those, some of the women folk, not many but some of them are still alive today. I mean when they come up they sing out you know, to you and what have you -that’s if you’re down there. Now I am getting back to the ridgy didge side of it, the memberships and all that. It is something that you would have to be absolute sure about. This is where Ken O’Connell would’ve had that he had everything. If I mention something, it was either Jimmy Fraser or even Les Hardcastle there and he’d say, ‘Well I think it was so and so” so then you talk about it. The thing was because it had to be ridgy didge the whole thing.
DW It is important I have this early story here and some people are just astounded that Mooloolah had these young men coming down here in 1927, ’28, and it’s important to get lots of versions and then look at the whole picture because someone’s interpretation of an event might not be the same as someone else’s.
CC That’s right, that’s the thing I was coming to. I was lucky in the respect that Jimmy Fraser was an older member, not in age and an older member. Ken O’Connell would ask a question and I would imagine something and Jimmy Fraser would come in and say, ’I don’t think that’s right.’ It’s not a case of truth but it’s a case of knowledge. Jimmy Fraser passed away, I went to his funeral. He lived down the Gold Coast. Well I went to all their funerals. Then there was Freddy Riddle he was a great, terrific member. They were all good people but he died a couple of years ago now.
DW Why was he a good swimmer?
CC They were all good swimmers, they’re all gone, they were all terrific swimmers.
DW Why was he a terrific member?
CC. He was a quiet sort of chap and he would do anything for anybody, for anybody, whether you were a lifesaver or somebody outside. He always wanted to do something for somebody in his own quiet way you know and also he had a personality.
DW He lived at Caloundra?
CC. He did live at Caloundra, yes. And the funny part, he would do anything for anybody he was the sort of a bloke that was a quiet sort of a chap you know. He had a beautiful physique on him, oh he was as brown as a berry and to look at him he could’ve gone on one of these shows.
DW Modelling shows?
DW Yes, well that’s very interesting too. Your early days going back to when the first hut was built, I suppose that was a luxury after living in the tents?
CC Oh yes.
DW You had beds and things like that?
CC No, they made bunks, it was a bunk room. This is a bit peculiar too, there was this bunk room. They were double bunks. There were, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 - there was sixteen, two or three, two, sixteen, (I’m talking to myself here), there was sixteen bunks. They were wooden framed things, and even the frame was wooden slats. Slats were on it and then the club bought some mattresses. It was up to you to look after them see. Well then there was sometimes there’d be twenty bods and there was Eddie Fisher. He died recently, he was a terrific still water swimmer he was a beauty a quiet bloke. Eddie, couldn’t get one, he never had a bunk, so the funny part there was no ceiling there was rafters, so he gets two pieces of wood and puts them across these rafters and eventually he gets hold of some, I don’t know if somebody got him a mattress and he used to climb up there and he used to have a candle that he used to read up in the rafters.
DW He must have been keen.
CC Oh yes. But we had some good memberships and on top of that later on.
DW A strong membership once you sorted out up here.
CC Oh yes, we had champions- a lot of, a lot of good swimmers in the club too. There was one chap, he came from Sydney he was a champion breast stroke swimmer Noel Morrison. Noel was a big man he was about six foot three. We were training for the still water championships then and he came one night and said to me, ‘What about you and I training together?’ I said ‘yeah, righty ho.’ Anyway we used to go training and on top of that he was a great still water person. I mean Royal Life Saving and we used to be asked to go out and instruct and look at different groups including the scouts. I went out to the Catholic College at Goodna is it? It was a Catholic brick college there.
CC Nundah. I went there and I went there for - and also they never had a swimming pool there then - but the first night I got there, I went out on a train, there was no bus and I couldn’t afford a car. I had to walk about two miles to get to the station I think it was. But anyway, it was ‘Morrie’ and I, we trained together and we went through the Inter-Dominion Championships, we got picked for that and we went down there to Sydney and Melbourne.
DW When would that have been?
CC. 1938 - I tell you what it was the Inter-dominion Championships was that year and the following year it was all, all the different countries. When I say all the different countries, Great Britain, America and a couple of others but anyway the point was the next year they changed it over, or two years later, I’m not sure when they changed it over. Well they still call it the, not the Inter-dominion Championship, oh, I’ve forgotten the name for it. But they classed March Past, R & R, and then the still water side of it. There were two branches of that side well I was in the surf side of it and this is funny too. There were two branches of this surf and still water.
DW Royal Life Saving and the Surf Life Saving?
CC. Yes, it’s Inter-dominion Championships, and there were two branches. It was like there was one branch in the surf and one for still. Anyway we were in Sydney and we were in Sydney on the Saturday night, in the Astra Hotel we all stayed. There was another group South Africa was up on the next floor to us but anyway the Astra Hotel was right on Sydney Beach.
DW What, Manly or Bondi?
CC. Not Manly - Bondi
CC Anyway we got there the Saturday evening and anyway the next morning there was gigantic seas running and all of a sudden we were called out to rescues. Well I wasn’t with them they were called out to help. They couldn’t cope; the Bondi team couldn’t cope with the people who were in trouble and in all the huge seas.
I think it was the same day that there was an American, I might be guessing on this or wrong but there was this American warship, there was a warship going out of Sydney Harbour (US Louisville) and this ferry had all the people on it who were all waving to these sailors to the Americans. Anyway it went over on its side.
DW The name of that craft was the Rodney, yes I know the story. (The Rodney turned over in Sydney Harbour on 14 February, 1939 with 5 drowned and many missing)
CC Well the Americans hopped overboard to save some of the people in the Harbour. There were many people drowned
DW How did you go at the meet when you went to Sydney and swam down there? How did you go when you went down? Did the club do any good?
CC. Well, we were the club, yes we were the club. We were a state, we were Queensland. Oh we won; of course there were some of the top, swimmers like Tommy Boast.
DW Venning was supposed to be a very good swimmer too.
CC Snow Venning, but he was still water.
DW Was he a champion?
CC He was a champion yes. He was a free styler and he was also a champion diver off his own tower. Did you ever go to the Ithaca Baths?
DW Ithaca Baths, no.
CC The tower used to be on the side of the pool and when you climbed up and looked down the pool looked to be about that size. It was only an ordinary pool. But you had a, for this Royal Life Saving stuff you used to have to jump, dive from two towers and you’d get up there and look down and you think you’re going to hit the other side.
CC What happened was that, when the life savers got there the night before they got ready for the competition I was told I had to go over to another hotel in the city.
CC Yes, because I was with the still water stuff, and Noel Morrison, I never knew and I was just led over to this place, it was just up in Pitt Street it was, up a side street there. There was an underground railway just at the top of it. When I got there this next day and the people that were there - it was a private hotel. It had about three storeys and they took me up to this beautiful room, two big double beds - I tell you a lie, a big double bed and a single bed. I think it was about the second storey up and I never took much notice I just threw my stuff in and then that night the train blokes, they came down by train -there was no plane service. They couldn’t afford plane service.
DW This was the Queensland boys?
CC. Yes well also it was a ladies team too, the Neptunes, there was the Queensland ladies and the men came down. A lot of them, a lot of Neptune’s in it, they were mixed - it would have been a mixed bunch I think. The point was Nancy Holmes I knew quite well. I coached some of them for a little while. Then later on as adult and lady lifesavers I was coaching them for a little while.
CC Anyway, the point was who should come out. I went down to the station to see who it was.
DW Down to Central Station?
CC. Yes, and Noel Morrison was there. ‘I’m Captain’ he said, ‘You’ve got an order straight away.’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘Go and buy me a beer!’
DW He was captain of Queensland?
CC. He was captain of the Queensland team. The ladies, they had their own but what I’m coming to we all knew each other. Most of the ladies and us knew each other. When I was going they said there’s one person here that’ll be in your room. I didn’t take any notice of it anyway it was Noel Morrison. When we came in and we came up to the room he said, ‘you little beauty’. The funny part about it was all the girls were up in different rooms up on the next floor and little places and that and they came down, well they were going to throw me out they reckoned.
DW They wanted the room.
CC. It was a wedding room we reckoned we were in.
DW Had you been to Sydney before?
CC. Oh yes, I’d been to Sydney before but not for swimming. We were training at the Olympic Pool across the other side of the Harbor Bridge. We had free access to the pool you know and the train. The train used to pull up alongside of the pool there. We were going over and hopping into a train at six o’clock in the morning, the girls as well.
DW North Sydney Pool
CC Yes the Olympic Pool. One morning there a chap he was training there with some Americans. He came out here for the still water championships anyway of course we all got on pretty well with each other, all the teams. Well he used to be short sighted he couldn’t see the end of the pool. When he broke all the world’s records and everything else in the place you wouldn’t credit it would you? He was a big chap, very quiet. This Noel Morrison he was a beauty too. They were funny days I’ll say.
DW Did the clubs pay for you to go to Sydney?
CC Yes. We were the Queensland team and we were all paid for.
DW Did any dignitaries see you off to go down there to compete for - ?
CC Oh yes, there was Mick (Kirwin) and there was a number of people there. I can’t think of their names anymore. I’ll tell you one bloke that was there old Pop Venning. I mean he used to be around everything those days. He was well and truly up in life saving, particularly in the Royal Life Saving movement.
DW He was an Englishman wasn’t he? Is that right?
CC. He was an Englishman, yes
DW Where did they see you off, South Brisbane Railway?
CC The point was that we, they had all of us; we swam in a pool different nights and what have you they had this other championship on at Manly. Well Manly, do you know Manly at all? When you get off the ferry there was a closed enclosure, like a wall actually it’s a pool.
DW Yes kids used to dive in there for pennies.
CC. Yes it goes for 200 yards along it would be roughly about a 100 yards out and there was a tiny little sandy beach. This particular day we were picked to go for this still water stuff. …Two methods, one swimming one way and one the other and Morrison and I were picked. You had to do two, there were two styles, and one was breaststroke towing a patient lying down the one who’s swimming the breaststroke is swimming on top of the patient. We went across the pool which would be I suppose a hundred yards wide and when you get to the other side it’s only these slats you know down.
When you got there you turned round and the patient that was going across finished up being the rescuer and you - in a method which was a, the fifth method which was the arms over the shoulder and underneath the arm and you tow him. I’m telling you ….vice versa it was coming back was the breaststroke and Noel Morrison was the breaststroker and I was the patient. Well that’s what we’d been picked for we didn’t put in we were just picked for this. Anyway we went across and came back and we were leading all the way back and blow me down we didn’t know, there was a bloke - two, chaps with a piece of rope stood out in the water like that, and from the sand the water was about two foot six deep and we’re swimming away there coming in and one of them moved over and - Western Australia was close to the rope and he won the competition, the swim. Well we weren’t very happy with that but we got nowhere with it because they told us that. We said, oh well forget about it so we did.
DW You believe you were done in there?
CC Yes. This other place we competed too. It wasn’t far from the city. What happened there was this beach and it came round and two walls came in like it was a sort of a gutter but it was about twenty yards wide and it was when the tide was out, the tide ran in and out….rocks on the side of it and ran in and out and we had part of the competition there. It was dive in pick a patient and bring it back across. That was a dead loss too, I mean they should’ve had better than that but then we went down through - in the surf side of it we went down through, oh through the mountains down to the Bulli Pass. We got down there, anyway it was (belt swim’s) on. This is for the safety.
DW You better tell me about the belts, tell me a little bit about the belts. What were the belts?
CC. Oh the belt swim, anyway the thing was we started swimming and next thing they started ringing the bell, a shark attack but the point was we didn’t take any notice of it we kept going out because we’re used to this, that sort of thing up here. Anyway we thought well we’d got them beat but we hadn’t we had to start again. They reckoned we should have been towed in. Our mob wouldn’t tow anybody in.
DW So what was the belt like Cliff that you used then? Were they still the cork?
CC. They had the cork belts, they had the cork belts those days and later on they got rid of those and they just had canvas, it was a piece of canvas like this, and your liners like in the back because those corks were dead losses. If you stopped anywhere these corks would float up and hit you in the chin and all sorts of silly things. They were a bit of a dead loss those things, they were funny though.
DW So they advanced in things like the equipment and it became safer I suppose.
CC. Well it was a lot better with those belts.
DW The canvas belts
CC The canvas belts, oh yes.
DW Was there anything else like as far, you had your reel and your belt. There was nothing much else then. Did you have any boats?
CC. Yes we bought we had our first boat here.
DW When would have that been Cliff?
CC. The funny part about it, it was before the war because it was, it was, a clinker built boat and it cost us about two hundred pounds to build it, to have the thing but the funny part about it was we had been given a boat before this and I - somebody in Bribie I think it was - and we were given this boat. Anyway - you needed a (great) bucket to keep the water out of it.
DW She leaked like a sieve. No wonder they gave it to you.
CC. That’s right, that’s what we reckoned. But anyway we bought this; we had this other one built.
DW When would that have been do you think?
CC Well, the funny part about it, the bloke that built it is still alive and lives in Caloundra. His name is Claude Boyd. I was talking to him in Coles the other day, Claude and Mary Boyd. He bought a block of land on the top of the hill there going out of Caloundra. It was a saw mill there in the old days. Have you been here many years?
DW I come from Noosa I do know the Sunshine Coast reasonably well but I’m you know, this is all new to me but I’m familiar with the area but as you probably know I’m a New South Wales girl.
CC. Oh, yes, you know going up to, if you were going out of Caloundra up the hill.
DW Caloundra, Little Mountain.
CC. Little Mountain, that’s right. Well the point was, that’s where the road, the track came up and across that Little Mountain and down to Sugarbag Road -
DW Meridan Downs is it? You’ve got Meridan Downs out further?
CC. Yes, well Meridan Downs. Used to belong to the Westaway's and I was Miriam Westaway’s pet. When I came up here I was so young but I used to stay there at different times in the winter time and go horse riding all over this country to - now all this Meridan right through to Mooloolah, through Mooloolah River and also to Mooloolaba. I should say they had properties, they had cattle stations out the back of the other side, the back of Mooloolah and those places and they had another one, another cattle property somewhere out there. And why I’m saying that, I was invited up there for a couple of days. -
DW As a young life saver?
CC. Oh yes I was only young and they’d driven these cattle from the railway station at Landsborough, or wherever.
CC Mooloolah yes. They drove these cattle to sell and they used to put them in this finishing paddock where the road is now, well it was only a bit of a track then. They gave the road free, you know, to the council but anyway the point was there were Miriam Westaway and Bill Westaway - they were one. Cliffy Westaway was across the road, there were five families altogether there. Terrific people, they were great sticklers at the club too; they did a hell of a lot of things for the club in their own way.
DW Wally, the man from Mooloolah - that was in the earlier days when he used to take a horse and cart out there - used to deliver things out to them and they were very friendly with him as well.
CC They were terrific people. Actually they were terrific. They thought the sun shone out of us the Westaways. They started this club all free - got women together and they started this club and they started a ladies committee for feeding the teams when they used to come into Caloundra for competition stuff.
DW So they’d bring down the food to the boys in the new hut - the fellow was still up in the roof?
CC Oh yes, Eddie Fisher. They used to do some funny things and the funny part about it was the latter part of the setup of that clubhouse, later years there was gigantic cyclone came along and everybody moved the club back.
CC Yes and everybody got out. Maurie Schaefer he was a builder in Caloundra - Maurie was a great member of the club. He used to buy a big chunk of corned beef and he’d boil it, you know we had a wood stove there and anyway I went up there, I don’t know if it was a week or it was 10 days and he said (if) I’d like to go halves with him I could have some meat, so I had to cook it too. I’m the worst cook in Australia. Anyway we had this corned beef we used to chew. But anyway the thing was that, Maurie had an idea for sunburn and he got this bottle it was like a glass container, it was a bottle or jug or whatever not a jug it was like a wine container.
CC Anyway, he made this brew up for sunburn and we’d a bloke there, Dud Ryan, and Dud Ryan was as black as the ace of spades he wasn’t a darkie, far from it but he used to get that way and he was in perfect condition but his lips used to get burnt to hell. Maurie let him have some of this stuff - it was methylated spirits, a drop of oil and some acid he used to put into it. We all used to use it in the end but it got to the stage where Maurie used to buy it and the boys used to use it and they wouldn’t put their dough in for it.
DW Did it work on his lips?
CC Oh yes it was terrific. I always used to use it and I never used to get burnt. I’d get brown and that sort of thing.
DW You never burned.
CC No, I never had a skin cancer.
DW Maybe it was the the brew that he made up.
CC No Maurie bought it and Maurie used to hide it and they’d know where he hid it.
DW We were talking about this boat, this first boat after the one that leaked that someone donated from Bribie, that Claude Boyd built - that was a proper surf boat was it that you purchased?
CC The first boat we had one before that. We had a boat built and it was built by some people in Brisbane they were down the creek, Breakfast Creek down that way somewhere, getting near the mouth of the river, or facing the mouth of the river. (Norman Wright) Anyway we got that from them and then the next boat we had - Claude built it because he was a terrific builder, I think that’s the way it was.
DW. So the first boat that you got that was the boat that, that came from Brisbane, which was the one that was the leaking boat and then the next boat, was Claude’s boat.
CC. I think that’s the way it was.
DW. Do you know did it have a name?
CC. I think it was called Caloundra; I’m not sure, the Caloundra I think it was called.
CC I was put in as skipper of the boat, or one of them, I don’t know which one it was now but then we used to get some great surf…that too, go out in the big stuff, beautiful.
DW You were all brave.
CC. Oh no, that was an amusement. But of course with the boats today I mean they’re a different problem, I mean they’re much lighter. This one, this second one we had and I don’t know whether I, I wouldn’t be game to say who built that one but it was, or was it another one. Anyway it was like you know, a deck boat but what happened was when the war broke out the navy took the boat over. I don’t know which one it was now because I had disappeared in the meantime (Cliff joined the RAAF went to war) and anyway the point was after the war they bought this boat back, it had been sitting on a wharf on the Brisbane River somewhere for years.
Yes, it was useless; I mean you know it was leaking and everything else. But, the boats, of course they were a good thing. Another thing too was in those days it was in the middle of around about 1936, 1937, something like that, there were people by the name of, and had a property at the bottom of the Toowoomba Range. Wealthy people and this Hugo Barassi was his name they had this home, they bought this home in Caloundra. It’s a double name it might come to me, but anyway they had this home just where the Caloundra Hotel is. There was a house just diagonally across there and Hugo Barassi came up with them. We had a surf ski that this Dud Ryan had built and I bought this surf ski off him, I didn’t pay anything for it. I still owed him for it. But anyway, this Hugo, this man came around, he was a tall man, he was about six foot something.
CC He said, ’My name’s Hugo Barassi,’ and shook hands with us. Then one day he asked could he, borrow this ski, so, anyway he was loaned the ski. I don’t know who, whether it was me or somebody else that he asked and so he borrowed the ski. I think I must have said he could use it. Anyway because next thing he used to come around and have a yarn with us and that. He was an upper, top brass Englishman he was as brown as a berry he was - anyway his father was Lord Barassi. We never knew that at the time but when we found out did our mob have some names for him. I better not mention them. Anyway the point was that he was a terrific bloke and he went to Hawaii for a holiday. I don’t know how long he was away for and those days the clubhouse had a veranda on the front and it was open, it was just a roof on it, there was no deck.
CC. If you go in a straight line towards the passage you go 50 yards, maybe 75 yards and all sand dunes there and that water that runs out there now it was always running out, fresh water it was. There is an internal creek there somewhere but at the club house it was all sand dunes and it was all tea-tree and everything else, there were no roads or anything. Where it used to swamp the place out and everything else like that but this clubhouse was there and nothing around it -
DW Where the water used to flow down and is now a drain.
CC Yes right back towards, go near the Passage not quite that far but near that and it was all sand dunes up in the back of it, there were no houses or anything like that and anyway this clubhouse had this veranda on it. The veranda was about the width of this and just the ceiling on it.
Anyway this particular day I came up or we came up or some of us. I go on the veranda for something and there’s this long surfboard I reckon it would be about ten feet long and it is what they call a cork board, it was made out of cork and, and edged all round. A beautiful thing it was just standing there. We said, ‘You little ‘beauty who owns this?’ Nobody knew who owned it so we left it there - needless to say fancy leaving it on the veranda, it had been there a couple of weeks before and we didn’t know this. Next thing I don’t know when it was, the following weekend or something like that and this Hugo Barassi comes around. He’s talking for awhile - he says, ‘You used the board yet?’ We said, ‘Which board?’ He said, ‘The surf board, I bought that for you people’. He’d bought it all the way back from Hawaii oft the life savers. So anyway it was a beautiful board.
DW You all mastered that board?
CC. Oh yes well we were, we were doing surf, we were doing surf, , ski riding and there was two members of the club had their own ski - later on this is only - when I say later on in the last five or six years maybe, it might’ve been…about that, and these two blokes on a double ski it was, they’d go out and they pick up these, all the big shoots, all the way down, they could handle it like nobody’s business - I’m trying to think of their name. One day I was watching them and they went out to where the bar is and they went out - there was big seas running out - and they went straight out and they picked up this one that was sitting right on top of it and one bloke stands on his head and the other bloke’s just guiding it and they run all the way down and right in up the Passage, it was absolutely amazing.
DW When would that have been?
CC I reckon that would have - I’m losing years now - but I reckon that would’ve been probably 10 – 20 years ago I’d say. The bar was different those days than to the way it is today it was wider, and there was - you’d get a big sea that could run in and also it, it’d die out in the Passage. I’m trying to think of their names, they were renowned for it. They would’ve been surf board riders, would have been no worries. The surf board set up I mean it is a terrific thing all people today you know. I watched the other night there was a program on and these fellows were standing up and running along the side of waves, this is in Sydney.
CC My father-in-law, he was the head chef at Duntroon Military College and we went there- later on - of course my wife came from Canberra. Her sister still lives down there and the whole family came from Canberra. They had a show there when we were there one time we’d been invited. An official show, all the top brass were there.
DW Surf Life Savers?
CC. No, this was military and what have you and we were invited to this, meals and food and free drink and everything else on but all the top brass of Australia were there, you know the lords and ladies of the land - the only no hoper was me.
DW. Did you have a uniform?
CC. Club uniform? Yes we had a, we had a blue sweater and had the one, the earlier one, the blue sweater I think it had a red and white edge around the side, sky blue it was. A proper sweater, you’re talking about now or we wore a blazer. A proper blazer and we had the emblem on it you know a Metropolitan Caloundra blazer. That was done up in red and white, our togs were a blue and white togs for the march past.
DW Would they have been like a one piece?
CC Yes one piece yes, like the - now you - those days the march past you had to have all that then if it was the ordinary competition use, very light togs and you had a badge like with the wording Metropolitan Caloundra badge on it. But all the togs were the same.
DW What about rescues Cliff, were a lot of rescues I suppose, people -
CC. Yes we had a lot over the years we had a lot of rescues.
DW How long were you in the club, like in an active member of the club?
CC. Well, I was there until 1939 when war broke out. I was an inspector in the Ford Company by that time.
DW Still living in Brisbane?
CC. I was still living in Brisbane and I was single and the point was that when war broke out, I was then making money, you see I was getting about 30 odd pound a week which was a lot. I had just come from just working on the line because I gave my own trade away, well it wasn’t that I gave it away but it was nothing doing and there was this better pay. I say that, anyway one day I was doing this stuff and the war had broken out and I thought to myself I might as well pack it in here. I might as well go and do something for the country. So, I just told the big boss I was leaving, anyway that was in 1939 when I joined, and then I went away.
Cliff Croughan enlists in WWII
DW You joined the army, did you?
CC No the Air Force.
DW. It’s a wonder you didn’t go to the Navy with all that love of the sea.
CC. Yes well, but the thing was that I don’t know why. Anyway I went down Sydney, I was trained down there for different things and then I disappeared for a while - I was six years away.
DW You were where, where were you?
CC At war
DW Where did you go?
CC I was right through New Guinea, then up in to finish up in Arnhem Land went across to Islands and from there over to places - we were a fighter squadron. The last place on top of the Gulf - I met a bloke there I hadn’t seen for about a 100 years and he looked a 100 years old too. It was up at Malaya anyway, it was I can’t think of the place now but he got wiped out while we were there. But anyway, the thing was it was war.
DW You said you’d met him, you hadn’t seen him for a long time?
CC. He was an Australian. He was with a British fighter outfit. They got wiped out anyway. The point was when I came back, war finished when we were just coming into Singapore it was supposed to be finished but there was a - we went round for a look in one corner of the place and they opened up on us and we didn’t like that. Then I had to go back then to Borneo.
DW Would be about 1944 or 1945?
CC. 1945, the war had just finished and I went back there and the funny part about it was they were sending a lot of us - they was recruiting people here to go and go up to Japan.
CC. Yes, peace-keeping. Anyway when I got over there back into, into Borneo the powers that be - they said, ‘what are you going to do now?’ I said, ‘Go home’ I said, ‘What do you think I’m going to do?’ All our gang had gone and all these recruits were coming in, anyway, there was one old bloke there, he was really old he must have been about 50. He was sitting in a tent on his own and somebody said to him - there’s an Aussie down there do you want to see him. So, I went down and he was, he’d come in to finish the area, there was stuff around it different things like that and he was a flight officer. He was speaking to us but he was an elderly man I think he’d been in WWI - but ….a gentleman. So, I said, ‘How do I get home?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, you’ll have to walk.’ Anyway he said to me, ‘Well what I’ll do’ he said, ‘There’ll be an aircraft coming in one day’. He said, ‘I’ll let you know’. It was only two days later and he around in a Jeep, he said, ‘get all your gear’. Well all my gear compiled of a pair of Yankee underpants and a shirt that had been torn in the back - that’s all I had left. So anyway, I go up and who should be on this plane but a bloke I did me rookies with, he was a squadron leader. He came from South Australia and he said, ‘Boy will I give you a bloody ride home’ he said. Anyway, that was it for me.
DW So you came back to Australia?
CC. Yes, I came back to Darwin and I had the first, you know like fresh food when we got there about seven o’clock at night. Then he had to go back out, go the same night so anyway, I was booked - like stayed in a camp there an air force camp. Anyway they gave me some tea, or a meal, I think I came outside, I was that sick, the next morning they gave me breakfast and I was that sick again they raced around and got the doctor. What it was, I’d never had fresh food in probably four years, nearly four years since I’d had fresh food and I was eating this and loving it but boy was I crook.
DW It was playing up on you.
CC. Yes she’s a funny old world with the different people you meet. Incidentally this, Macka, he was a flight lieutenant when I was at Wagga Wagga. I was put up there doing one of these special courses. The river was the Murrumbidgee and it is a deep river it’s only about 50 yards wide and they had a clubhouse there on the side. It’s a well-known river and it’s always running, you know, crystal clear but running and deep. I went down this day with a couple of bods for a bit of a surf, a bit of a swim, we had no togs we just had underpants on when we went in for a swim, anyway the point was that they, when we came out there was two blokes there talking to us and they were members of the city council that was there. They said, ‘we saw you across the other side,’ it was only 50 yards wide but it was running like nobody’s business. It pretty cool the water too and anyway we ran across there and came back again a couple of times and what have you and he said, ‘how long are you here for?’ We said, ‘oh wouldn’t have a clue,’ we said, ‘we’re here for life’. So anyway we talked about this clubhouse and that he could get into it, he had a key or something. He just said, eventually anyway what it was, I don’t know how it was said but we were asked if we’d like to start a club there. So anyway, we went back to my camp and he went back to his and we met a few days later. I saw one of our boys, one of our officers there and I said to him about the request. I asked him, told him what the story was and he said, ‘I’ll be in that’ so anyway we started a club there.
Establishing a surf life saving club during the war years at Wagga and Coffs Harbor.
CC Well it was a swimming pool we patrolled it and the funny part about it was we patrolled this club off and on, but you see we were doing different things, I was training at certain things and going places and he was the same way but when we got together we organised a team and there was also some ladies life saving-, not life savers Air Force people. They joined, there was some others joined.