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The Melbourne Bushies

- Fifty years along the track (1940-90)

Chapter 8 - Adventures on a Lilo

Bob Steel

Social activities have been an important part of the Club's life over the years, ranging from conversation and singing around the camp fire and on the van travelling to and from walks, to organised activities such as bush dances, annual dinners, boat trips, barbecues, talks in the Club room, and film and slide nights. Since the early days the Social Secretary, as a member of the Committee, has been responsible for organising the various events. These social activities have fluctuated over the years according to the enthusiasms and particular interests of the respective social secretaries as well as those, of course, of individual members.

Singing and dancing

Singing, around the camp fire and especially on the van, used to be a regular feature of Club activities. I remember arriving back in Melbourne in the van on a Sunday night, driving down Swanston Street, with everyone singing their hearts out to the incredulous stares of passing pedestrians! Popular songs included those by Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary, as well as Australian bush ballads from the pens of Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and others. Those who used to lead the singing, or feature prominently, included Doug Pocock, John Bach, Barry Short and Bill Hordern and, later, Graham and Stuart Hodgson and others, including myself. Unfortunately we don't do much singing now, probably because very few people know the words!

Then there were the bush dances. The Club would hire a hall in the country not too far from Melbourne, and would usually run a van there on the Saturday morning, to have a short walk in the area. Camp would be set up beside the hall for the night - very convenient to crawl into the tent rather than drive home in the small hours of morning, and also, being out in the country, it didn't matter how much noise everyone

Sack race on the beach, January 1985.
Sack race on the beach, January 1985. Saturday social day at Merricks Beach on Westernport Bay. Racers are: Jopie Bodegraven, Graham Harding, Bob Douglas, Geoff Crapper and Geoff Mattingley.
Rosemary Cotter

made. Some people, however, preferred to drive there just for the Saturday night. For those inclined or up to it, often there would he a walk on the Sunday.

Regular venues for our dances included the Main Ridge hall, on the Mornington Peninsula, Kerrie hall, near Mt Macedon, Badger Creek hall, outside the Healesville Sanctuary, Labertouche hall and Staughton Vale hall. Some dances were fancy dress events: the costumes and get-ups had to be seen to be believed!

Club member Roy Taylor had his own three-piece band. Roy played a hot violin and also the piano, and usually was accompanied by a guitarist and percussionist. Roy was made an honorary member in the mid-sixties for his musical services to the Club. Later on, when Roy was no longer available, we acquired the services of Ken Hook and his wife. Ken was a square-dance caller mainly, and we had lots of fun doing regular square-dance routines as well as the barn dance, waltz and various other dances. There was great hilarity as people tried to follow the dance steps as 'called' by Ken; couples would get tangled up with others, go in the wrong direction and so on.

A more formal occasion was the annual Christmas dance held at Jerram Hall (no longer standing) in the city in the fifties and early sixties. There was a band and everyone dressed up in their best. Later in the sixties the Club used to run end-of-year dances in the Victorian

Amateur Cine Society club rooms in Fitzroy. More recently, the Club has joined with YHA in their regular bush dances at the South Melbourne Town Hall and, in the last couple of years a group of keen dancers attended ballroom dancing classes at Coburg on Friday nights.

In 1988 and 1990 Sylvia Wilson ran the 'Bridgewater Bay Bash', based on the old church and school at Bridgewater, near Portland. This was mainly a walking weekend, with a dance thrown in on the Saturday night. In 1988 Sylvia arranged for a local group to play for us; it was a tight fit to get the band and dancers into the small school hall, which dates back to the 1870s. In 1990 the Bullards provided the music with their stereo system and tapes.

Lyrebird walks

In the sixties the Club ran an annual 'lyrebird walk' in the Dandenongs (an event originating in the forties) and would hire the Kallista hall. Leaving by train on Saturday afternoon, we would arrive at Belgrave and then walk up Coles Ridge to Kallista. Nothing much would happen on Saturday night: we would go to bed early, to get up on Sunday morning before it was light and walk silently into Sherbrooke Forest, watching for lyrebirds, particularly the males displaying on their mounds. We were seldom disappointed. There were a lot more lyrebirds in the forest then. Now, with the encroachment of suburbia and the predations of feral and pet animals, cats in particular, lyrebirds are rarely seen.

On one such walk Rob Taylor wouldn't get up, so his sleeping bag was picked up, with him in it, and carried out to the lawn beside the hall, close to the Kallista - Emerald Road; there we left him. It wasn't until later that we discovered he didn't have anything on: he had to hobble back into the hall, hiding his embarrassment, to retrieve his clothes!

Moonlight walks

We would drive to a coastal area on a Saturday afternoon, walk for a bit then have tea on the beach and, when the moon came up over the sea, continue walking along the beach until about 11.00 p.m. and find somewhere to camp. We would then walk on Sunday to the van pickup point. One such walk, which I led, started at Point Lonsdale. We walked to Queenscliff and back before tea on the rock platforms below the lighthouse, looking out over the Rip. Then in the evening we walked along the ocean beach towards Ocean Grove, finally camping in the dunes behind the beach. On Sunday we joined the day walkers at Ocean Grove and finished the walk at Breamlea. Another moonlight walk was along

the beach from Balnarring to Flinders, camping at Point Leo en route.

Moonlight walks began in the forties, mainly in the Dandenongs.

Lilo derby

The annual Lilo Derby, an event which evolved during the fifties, was usually held on the Lerderderg River. There were some very good waterholes between three to five kilometres upstream from Darley Ford. The overnight walkers would travel to Darley Ford on Saturday morning, walk up-river to a suitable waterhole, depending on river levels, and set up camp. The rest of the day would be spent swimming, lying about in the sun, skylarking, having lilo races, eating or just doing nothing. Some crazy energetic types might even go for walk in the area.

The day walkers would drive up in the van (usually) on Sunday and join us. There would be more races, high jinks, swimming, eating and lazing about before we all headed back home late in the afternoon. They were good weekends, usually held in January, when the weather is fairly reliable (or rather, it was in those days!). We once went further afield, to the Macalister River near Licola.

Wining, dining and parties

Annual Club dinners, held at restaurants in suburbia or the outer edges of Melbourne, are usually well patronised. Restaurants we have visited over the years include the Cuckoo, Olinda; Baron of Beef, Sherbrooke; Alfred's Homestead, Warrandyte; Eltham Barrel; Fergusson's, Yarra Glen; Edelweiss, Heidelberg; the ill-fated Swagman in Ferntree Gully; Potters Cottage, Warrandyte (where we held our 50th anniversary dinner, with members from the forties onwards attending); a Greek restaurant in South Melbourne complete with belly dancer and the obligatory smashing of plates, and a Lebanese restaurant with exotic dishes and loud music. Bushies can get quite lively when relaxed, well fed and perhaps with the help of some alcoholic beverages, so much so that we were banned from returning to a certain restaurant in Heidelberg!

Lilo Derbies were very popular non-qualifying walks. They were generally held in the Lerderderg Gorge. The usual place was a large waterhole about five kilometres in from the car park. Here, after the day's activities, Graham Mascas used to brew up a large cauldron of Gluhwein. What days! One Sunday morning when the water hole was filled with thick-headed bushies we were joined by a six-foot tiger snake. Surprising how quickly some people get out of the water when it becomes too crowded.

Rex and Sue Filson

Over the years we have met in various Club rooms around the city, and a tradition for some members of eating at a restaurant beforehand developed in the late sixties. Such restaurants have included Tamani's, when the Club room was in Hosier Lane, Campari's in Hardware Street and the Melbournian in Elizabeth Street, but usually we have settled for a regular place, such as Ponti's in Little Bourke Street when the Club room was in the Bushgear building. With the Club room now in MacKenzie Street we have been meeting at Toto's in Lygon Street.

Wine and cheese-tasting evenings have been held at various members' houses. We have used the services of an expert from a wine merchant, who has told us about the various wines. We then sampled the wines, as well as tasting the various cheeses. I attended two such events at the Andrews's in Mont Albert.

The Club also ran a 'bottle-your-own' wine session at Sandy and Geoff Mattingley's place in Carnegie. A large container of wine was obtained with a supply of bottles, corks, corking machine and labels. I think some people are still drinking that wine.

Wine bottling at Tony Morris's, Autumn 1976.
Wine bottling at Tony Morris's, Autumn 1976. Tony Morris appears in the dark check shirt; among the others are Malda Jekabsons, Max Casley, Graham Hodgson and Hugh Duncan.
Mick Mann collection

A long-standing tradition for the outgoing Committee has been a closing function, held at either a restaurant or a member's home. As President I had a couple of barbecues at my place. One year we also attended a jazz restaurant in St Kilda Road.

For many years we have had a party in the Club room on the last Wednesday before Christmas: people bring a plate of food and drinks. We sometimes have music and the obligatory Christmas decorations. Many members and former members are able to catch up with one another. In recent years these events have been organised by Betty Spencer, and Doug Crocker has turned up in his Santa Claus outfit with some presents for the children. We usually hold a Christmas raffle on this occasion.

President's Weekend

An annual event since 1945 (originally called 'Field Weekend'), presidents usually decided what they wanted to do with their weekends. Some chose to run a regular weekend walk, but others, myself included, organised a weekend camp in the bush, with some walking, a lot of eating, and games and fun.

One early President's Weekend I attended in 1963 was held at Gilderoy, near Powelltown. We built a huge pile of firewood, then Bill Hordern poured petrol on the pile and threw in a lighted match. The petrol-soaked stack, quite understandably, went whoosh! and we all had to sit about 10 metres from the fire for most of the evening. This was before a 'minimum requirements' fire by-law was introduced by the Committee to curb the pyromaniacs.

Another President's Weekend in my earlier days (1961), when Bill Thompson was President, was held at a scout camp near one of the many Sugarloafs in Victoria, in the Whittlesea area. Chiefly I remember a tent-pitching competition which I won!

The Avon River has been a popular choice for the President's Weekend: there have been three different trips to the area. One that I organised was at Huggetts Crossing on the Avon River north of Stratford in 1979. The camp site was accessible to 4WD vehicles only, so most of us had to walk down the five kilometres or so to the river. However, we could transport the important catering supplies in someone's vehicle. We set up camp on a shady, well-grassed level area adjacent to the river, then went swimming in a delightful pool with sandy beach, rocky out-crops and some rapids. After a bit of exploring downstream we got stuck into the main event of the evening - food ! We had roast meat from camp ovens, plus vegies and salad, followed by sweets and washed down with various libations.

This weekend was memorable in many ways. One man had brought along his young son, and the boy had gone to bed early, leaving a candle alight in the doorway of the tent. The rest of us were sitting around the fire talking. Someone happened to look up and notice that the tent had caught fire! We all rushed over, some people grabbing the tent and tearing it down while others grabbed the boy and pulled him out! The boy was very lucky to escape with just some singed hair.

Graham Wills-Johnson arranged a President's Weekend on the Avon in 1978, with the usual bit of walking, lots of swimming and lazing about, and food! On this occasion, we were sitting around the camp fire, relaxed after our feast, when a nude figure came bounding out of the bush, leapt over the fire and disappeared into the darkness! It was Graham Hodgson. Some of the girls leapt up and chased after him, and this was where Graham nearly ended his career, crashing into a wire fence, invisible in the dark! Fortunately it was just a couple of strands of plain, not barbed, wire. However, he was left with rather nasty-looking weals across his abdomen and chest. Later in the evening, G W-J went for a stroll along the river before retiring for the night, and a number of the girls piled into his tent to await his return. All was quiet as he approached and prepared to enter his tent. What a surprise he got to find it wall-to-wall with girls!

The first weekend at the Avon, however, was in 1976 when Dave Oldfield was President. Sue Oldfield was working at Melbourne University's Mt Derrimut Research Station, and was able to get a pig that we could use in a pit roast. A sizeable group of us headed out of Melbourne on a Friday night, camped by the cars, then walked to the flat the next morning. Rod and Geoff Mattingley drove their 4WD vehicles down and unloaded tables, chairs, the pig (already slaughtered and prepared for roasting) and other paraphernalia including camp ovens. A big hole was dug and a fire lit in the hole. When the fire had burned down to hot coals, the meat was wrapped in wet bags, put in the hole and covered with soil. Meanwhile vegetables were prepared and put in the camp ovens ready for cooking later; while waiting for the meat to cook, we disported ourselves in the river!

When we thought the pork should be ready, we uncovered the pit and pulled out the roast. It wasn't fully cooked so we cut it up and continued the cooking in camp ovens. It all worked out in the end and we had an enjoyable meal.

Another President's Weekend that I organised was at Parker River near Cape Otway. We were able to park on the top of the cliffs above the inlet and walk down a steep track to the beach where we set up camp in the sandy hollows behind the beach. Rod Mattingley brought a big steel barbecue plate, which we carried down to the camp (and later had to carry back up again!). We had an enjoyable barbecue tea with group catering on Saturday night. Some people even went for a midnight swim. I organised a similar weekend in the Cathedral Ranges.

Then there was the President's Weekend at Crocodile Reservoir near Fryerstown, memorable for me because of the cocoa making! First water was boiled, then powdered milk was added, but this was in the days before instantly dissolving powdered milk. The milk wouldn't dissolve so a number of eager hands plunged into the gluggy liquid to break up the lumps. I wonder why there weren't too many takers for cocoa that evening!

Camp-fire dramatics

We have become more of a day-walking Club and the weekend back-packing walks attract fewer participants. The latter are still the best way of getting to know your fellow walkers. Base camps are, however, generally popular, and at these we sometimes have singalongs around the camp fire, and apple pies baked in my camp oven. I remember one occasion when someone had the script of 'A Fruity Melodrama' and we staged a hilarious performance around the fire on a Saturday night. On another occasion we attempted a Goon Show script with the funny voices and sound effects. People have also performed their 'party pieces', such as 'Albert and the Lion' (a favourite English variety-hall piece made famous by Gracie Fields and others) recited by Dave Oldfield originally, and later Graham Mascas and Stuart Hodgson. Athol has also recited poems on occasion. I remember a walk in the Mt Howitt area when we were camped on the Stanleys Name Spur, just below the Crosscut Saw. It was a beautiful evening, fine and still. Everyone was quiet and Dave's distinctive Yorkshire accent rang out around the ranges as he told the story of young Albert, 'with 'is stick with the 'orses 'ead 'andle', and how he got eaten by the lion.

Sundry excursions

One fine Saturday the Social Secretary organised a barbecue and visit to Werribee Park and the historic mansion that dates back to the 1850s. Situated on the banks of the meandering Werribee River, it has an interesting formal garden as well as a zoological park and an equestrian centre. We spent a pleasant afternoon wandering around the old mansion and gardens that feature a lake with an island.

One year, when Prue Hardiman was Social Secretary, we went to her parents' farm at Gisborne for the weekend, camping in their garden. Some people went horse-riding, others played tennis, some went yabbying in a dam and some just sat around and talked. We had a big feed in the evening around a fire, with a spit roast.

The Club had two separate trips on a 54-foot ketch, the Aztec, on Port Phillip Bay. We met at the Ferguson St Pier in Williamstown; about 30 people boarded the yacht for a four-hour cruise down the bay for a few kilometres and return. The first trip was on a fairly calm day with light winds so we mainly motored but the crew raised the sails and we sailed for a short while. Most people lay out on deck in the sun. The ketch was well equipped with about eight berths, including a big state-room aft with its own en-suite. The large saloon had a fully equipped galley (kitchen) complete with microwave oven. Everyone enjoyed the trip so much that we organised another. Unfortunately the weather on the second trip was not so good - cool, cloudy and quite windy. I enjoyed the sailing into a 20-knot south-westerly, but some were not so pleased, and a few were seasick.

I remember a fine warm Saturday afternoon when a big group of us boarded the jolly Roger at Princes Bridge for a three-hour cruise up the Yarra to somewhere in the vicinity of Abbotsford and return to Princes Bridge. It was interesting seeing these parts of Melbourne from the river. There was a barbecue on board and we had a pleasant meal as we slowly made our way past boat sheds, rowers, cyclists on the bike track, and some quite impressive riverside homes. We even spotted a small kangaroo in the riverfront garden of one house.

Another time we cruised up the Maribyrnong River. We were picked up near the World Trade Centre, and motored down the Yarra past big cargo ships and container vessels to the Westgate Bridge, then back and up the Maribyrnong to about Avondale Heights and returned to Spencer Street. Seeing this industrial part of Melbourne from the river was interesting but at times depressing.

On two occasions in the early 1980s we organised weekend trips to Ballarat, with the primary objective of visiting the observatory, but also combining with other activities such as visiting Sovereign Hill and walking. The Ballarat Observatory, situated on Mt Pleasant, was established in 1886 by James Oddie and Henry Baker, and is now run by the Ballarat Astronomical Society. They talked to us about the objects we might see in the cosmos, and gave illustrations with slides taken by members. They then showed and operated for us their telescopes and talked about their history. Apart from the amazing views of the stars and galaxies, what sticks most in my memory is how cold it was, especially in the open-roofed buildings!

One of our visits coincided with the presence of Halleys Comet in our part of the heavens, which only happens once in every 76 years. Unfortunately it was a rather cloudy night so viewing was not particularly good.

Marysville guesthouse weekend

Graham Mascas and I conducted an Introduction to Bushwalking weekend for the Council of Adult Education at Mountain Lodge in Marysville in 1971. The guesthouse was then known as Mt Kitchener House. It was a great weekend and we were only sorry that the CAE didn't run it again. Some years later Graham and Marijke spent a weekend at the guesthouse and talked to Hubert and Lucette about having a Club weekend there. Thus was the now traditional 'eating and walking' weekend born.

The Marysville weekend has always been held in June, partly for the cooler weather and also for those who might want to go skiing (if there is snow). On that first weekend in 1983 we woke to find snow on the lawns outside and on the town and the hills all around! Some people had brought their skis but others, me included, rushed into town, hired skis and shot up to Lake Mountain for some excellent skiing on fresh powder snow. I have taken my skis up every year since and I think from memory that only on a couple of other weekends has there been skiable snow at Lake Mountain.

Marysville weekends include eating beautiful home-cooked meals, with cooked breakfasts, three courses for lunch and again at dinner on Saturday, and a full Christmas-style dinner for the midday meal on Sunday. Walks are organised for Saturday morning, then another walk in the afternoon before returning for a shower and dinner. Saturday evening is spent playing games, some people read, others just talk, but everyone has a 'nice night's entertainment', as Sandy Stone would say. On Sunday morning there is another shortish walk for those still inclined, before the aforementioned three-course 'Christmas dinner' lunch, after which people slowly pack, say their farewells and head for home.

Quiz games in the Club room

Stuart Hodgson, who is something of an electronics whiz, made an electronic gadget for staging 'Sale of the Century'-style quiz games with his students. (He is a teacher-librarian.) Stuart has brought his gear into the Club room on several occasions and we have staged bushwalking quiz nights with bushie-type questions and suitable prizes. We have also had a couple of games nights at members' houses, where we played the popular games of the day.

Highfield weekend

Art Terry had the idea some years ago of a weekend at Highfield, a hostel run by the National Parks Service, in Point Nepean National Park. Highfield is a former farm (and in fact is still managed as such) but, as it adjoins Greens Bush and is close to Cape Schank and Bushrangers Bay, is a good base for pleasant beach and coastal walking as well as visiting the remnant areas of Mornington Peninsula's natural vegetation. We have thus spent some pleasant weekends, with games and socialising in the evening. We usually drive into Flinders on Saturday evening to eat at the pub.

Photographs and film

Over the years many members have taken their cameras on walks and other Club activities, and we have had some very interesting and often hilarious slide shows in the Club room. Usually the shows would be of a particular trip or area, but periodically we would have a personality slide night, with photos of members in all manner of situations and poses. Most people these days seem to take colour prints and just bring in their prints to the Club room to show around. This is a lot easier, as it doesn't disrupt other activities, however I feel that nothing beats a colour slide for dramatic impact and realism.

In the sixties, Darrell Sullivan and I, among others, used to do our own developing and printing of black-and-white photographs and would bring them into the Club room pinned up on a board. These were mainly of people as well as some scenery shots. We covered costs by selling prints. The Club has also occasionally run photo competitions.

Graham McKinney, a member in the 'fifties and 'sixties, took a 16mm movie camera on various trips and would run in front of the party, with full pack and camera, and film as we went past; he would then rush to catch up and repeat this manoeuvre! Interestingly, we didn't always get to see the results of all this effort!

In the 'sixties, Doug Pocock was able to get cheap and sometimes free tickets to Cinerama films. Does anybody remember those three-projector wrap-around film spectaculars? More recently, Stuart Hodgson, who is a licensed projectionist, has hired 16mm films including feature films and we have had film shows at various houses. Over the years cinema nights have also been organised, either by the Social Secretary or, more recently, by Penny Stapley, who had a special interest in film. Other outings have included live drama productions and musicals.

Marriages and miscellaneous items

Over the years many people have met their future partners through the Club; some years have been quite busy with weddings. We have long had a tradition of giving a spoon with the Club badge on it to couples who have met through the Club. This reputation as a matrimonial agency even went as far as attracting an advertisement for bridal gowns in early issues of the News!

When I joined the Club in 1961, there was a by-law that prohibited alcohol on any Club activity! There was also a by-law that forbade double tenting with persons of the opposite sex. It was okay to have three people, with two of one sex, but not one male and one female! On many Club walks there would be the requisite number of tents erected but not necessarily all occupied! These by-laws have long since been deleted, and alcohol is not unknown on trips; however, it is usually reserved for more social occasions. We are still a fairly sober organisation, with people rarely getting noticeably intoxicated.

In the 'fifties, the Club leased a bathing box at Sandringham, near Red Bluff. It was leased yearly from Pam Abbott's family and members would collect a key for two shillings from the Bathing Box Secretary. Some successful barbecue parties were held there. In 1958 the box owners decided to sell it. After some debate at the Club's AGM that year it was voted not to take the opportunity to purchase the box outright and that was the end of the Club's use of it. However it was bought by a member, John Dittrich, who lived nearby.

Blackberrying day walks were a popular event no longer held.

Over the years guest speakers have talked to us in the Club rooms about the environment, nordic ski gear and particular walking areas. We have had demonstrations of gear and equipment. We have also had auctions of members' surplus gear and other odds and ends.

Other events and activities may loom large in people's memories but are not mentioned here. These are my personal memories of 30 full years, 1961-91, combined with input from some other members