This book is about the local community of Bondi Beach before the cafe culture took over. It follows the local boardriders through a period of decadence and high times as it began losing its heritage to a relentless stream of yuppies. The story has a David and Goliath twist to it as a rich kid waltzes into town, sets up a surf shop and begins winning friends and influencing people. A staunch local named Dan has a run in with him and eventually opens a rival surf shop in direct competition with the corporate kid. And so starts a feud that divides the community and sets the scene for ongoing battles that are fought in the streets and in the water.
I would like to thank everyone who contributed material to this issue, and the many unique souls mentioned in their stories, some of whom are among the dearly departed. It is with great pride and a solemn heart that I respectfully acknowledge the many voices contained in these pages.
A huge thank you goes to the artist, Victoria Peel, whose pastel of South Bondi graces the front cover. Victoria’s great-great-great-uncle was none other than Barnett Levey, who is the subject of Bondi’s first larrikin, the last story in this issue. Vicki’s good friend, Joolee Eadie, is to be thanked for her photos of Andy Cochran, Barry Ross, Gary Moffatt, John Eccleston, Robert Fox and Wally Newell. These appear with the story by Robert Conneeley, entitled: The Hep Pit, which was actually taken from an interview by Matthew Ellks, who just happens to be his nephew.
I would also like to thank Margaret Dupré for her poem and the accompanying photos, one of which is credited to Dick Hoole, the surf film maker. In one of the photos, Margaret appears with her daughters India and Saffron sitting in front of the Pavilion. The decision to begin this first issue of Bondi Stories with a piece by Margaret Dupré is both a privilege and a tribute to one of Bondi’s classic characters.
Thanks also goes to Greg Webber, for his delightful vignette, entitled: Fuck Off, Trog!, and also for suggesting the name Bondi Stories, instead of Scum Valley, which was the original plan. Phil Leadley’s piece, entitled: The Lost Valley, bemoans the loss of community at Bondi, only to rejoice in its resurrection, through the bi-annual surfing contest and Old School Bondi Crew reunion. Thanks also goes to Mark Coleman, Richard Feyn, Michael Zaracostas, Lawrie Williams and Craig Robinson for sharing their accounts of one notorious beach inspector. Initially posted on Facebook, their comments appear within the article, entitled: The Beach Inspector. We will see if this becomes a regular feature.
A couple of blokes who have contributed immeasurably to surf culture through the medium of print, are John Witzig and Bruce Channon, both of whom documented Bondi’s surfing culture in the early seventies. John Witzig’s article, here entitled: The Beach Scene, captures the playground-like atmosphere of the urban beach. The piece by Bruce Channon, entitled Panache, is a uniquely revealing interview with some of the greatest names in Bondi’s surfing folklore: Brad Mayes, Steve Corrigan, Bruce Raymond, Ron Ford and Victor Ford.
I am especially grateful for Cheyne Horan’s contribution, entitled: The Hill, because it describes the world I entered as a kid stepping off the bus each day from Rose Bay in the mid-seventies. Ronnie Silcock gives us a taste of surf culture in the sixties, with a vignette entitled WindanSea. And his contemporary, John Sullivan, has given us an insider’s perspective on the legendary Bluey Mayes, whose life of surfing began in the 1930s. Harry Nightingale’s profile of his father, “Salty”, takes us back even further, to the very beginning of surfing in Australia. I cannot thank him enough for this contribution.
Last but not least, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the B’nai B’rith Society for granting permission to include the article, originally entitled: Bondi’s First Jew, which was written by Bro. Dr. George F. J. Bergman and published in B’nai B’rith Bulletin, in 1955. I have taken the liberty of changing the title to: Bondi’s first larrikin, to suit the broader public. The story of Barnett Levey is uniquely relevant to this magazine, when you consider that his residence Waverley House was named after a famous novel with a social agenda. Perhaps, Bondi Stories is echoing the very same sentiment. In light of his commitment to literature as a vehicle of social development, it is an honour to carry on his legacy.
Nobody ever tried to figure out Erin, ever.
He used to walk the Bondi Promenade from one end to the other every day and we would wait for him like jackals down by the wild south, and as he passed by we would savage him without mercy, everytime.
Erin was just a little slope shouldered guy with a pre-occupied air and who wore doublethick glasses and who had a kind of limp and whose purposeful gait and thoughtful demeanor were the antitheses to the order of things. He always had something on his mind, and we wanted it to be us. The young totalitariniasts of thought.
He was a Woody Allen kind of man.
Down there where the carpark rose above the walkway (by the skate rink now) we would look down on this peaceful little man who often times wore the beard of our spittle down the back of his shirt, and we would croon soft and intimate abuse as he raged back at us for our illegitimate insults; the founding Bondi Fascista.
And always the one of him, and always the ten of us.
He was just a little man, and how he dared fight back.
Erin would rage at our intrusion upon his freedom, this abuse of his right to walk in peace, this cowardly victimization of a man otherwise at peace, this daily terrorisation of his life, that he, without fail, had the courage to confront day after day, in the hope that one day we would go far away or be killed in a road accident, or die of alcoholism or choke in our own drug induced vomit, or be beaten to death by the Vice Squad, or at least be removed from his path by whatever dangers our arrogance exposed us.
And here, by God, spoke his prophesy of the end of more than a few of us old boys.
How their voices would be faint today, muffled by the earth.
How he shivered with indignation as he looked up at our grinning apelike faces, how he learnedly and indignantly exposed our intellectual shortcomings before he stomped away in a Holy Order of Anger and Righteous Might.
This angry little man. This righteous fellow.
Years later I learnt that he was the son of one of the two women who used to run a small delicatessen across the road from the old gym in Bondi Road, the one where we held the inaugural meeting of the South Bondi Boardriders Club. Our Alma Mater.
My wife would shop there from time to time when she needed a little European touch to a special meal, and once she mentioned over dinner that both the women who worked the counters had numbers tattooed on their arms.
Faded though in 1962, and half hidden by their long sleeved working blouses.
I went to the shop a week or two later, purely to see the faces of women who had survived the death camps, and impurely to purge myself of the sins of abusing their son Erin.
They were too busy, and all I could do was buy some fresh Parmesan and a bag of olives.
So this will have to do.