Location: New South Wales, Australia
Date: 1960 - 1967
Posted November 2010
I took this pic of the Sydney Opera House during Stage Two of its construction.
Fort Macquarie Tram Depot, occupying the site at the time of these plans,
was demolished in 1958 and formal construction of the Opera House began
in March 1959. The project was built in three stages. Stage I (1959–1963)
consisted of building the upper podium. Stage II (1963–1967) saw the construction
of the outer shells. Stage III (1967–1973) consisted of the interior design
and construction. Wikipedia
I began my working life here at the Registrar General's Department
near Queens Square, Sydney in 1958 aged 14. The building is across the
road from St Marys Cathedral, and Hyde Park. I worked in various departments
through the years until I became a cashier in the Births, Deaths and Marriages
section at age 22.
In 1962, aged 18, I bought my first car. I didn't know you were supposed
to inspect a car before you bought it, and I thought everyone was thoroughly
honest. There was a 1951 Morris Oxford advertised in the classifieds for
200 quid ($400). I phoned the dealership and the salesman offered to pick
me up from work the next day. At midday, I walked down those front stairs
of the Registrar General's Dept and saw a green Morris waiting for me.
Oh, joy! A real car, and it was mine!
The salesman drove me to the Dept of Motor Transport at Roseberry where
I applied for my learner's permit, then drove me home to Lakemba where
I signed the papers and paid him 50 quid deposit. Then he bit me for ten
bob to get a taxi back to the BMC dealership at Strathfield. I sat in that
car parked out front of our house all afternoon waiting for my dad to arrive
home. When he did, he wanted his dinner. DINNER? I've got a flash Morris
parked out front and you want your dinner? Dad! This is my first car!
Next came a 1959 Wolseley 1500, and then this little baby, a brand
new 1965 VW Beetle straight off the showroom floor for 950 pounds ($1900).
I wasn't particularly impressed by the Beetle up until that point but when
I saw this ruby red car with its white walls I just fell in love with it.
The photo was taken outside 40 Garrong Rd Lakemba which was the family
homestead. I remember an elderly neighbor Mr Cohen walking past and saying,
"That's the prettiest car I ever saw."
Ah, there's the old pink and gray Wolseley. My younger bro Warren got
involved with some local kids and formed a band. I offered to manage them
and it changed my life. I developed a taste for showbiz. Warren died in
2009 aged 61 of bladder cancer. Top left was the band's first gig at a
cinema where they played a song or two before the movie. I think the song
was Herman's Hermits' Mrs Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter. Bottom left
is Warren rehearsing in the backyard of one of the other band members.
He was about 17 then and worked as an apprentice mechanic for a Ford dealership.
Notice he's playing the guitar upside down. He was a leftie, and left the
strings as they were.
In 1966 I went through a Collins pocket dictionary (which I still have)
looking for a name for the band. Climax! Sounded pretty cool to me, so
Climax it was. Another local band managed by our future Prime Minister
Paul Keating was called The Ram Rods, but we were all too innocent in those
days to realize what connotations of names like Climax and Ram Rods might
be. By 1967, the band was working some of the main Sydney venues one of
which was Long John's Disco, Kings Cross. As manager, I always traveled
with the band and attended every performance. At Long John's one night,
the resident DJ was fired on the spot for being involved in an altercation
with a patron. The boss asked me if I'd like to take a shot at the DJ job.
I accepted, albeit nervously, and shortly thereafter tendered my resignation
from the Registrar General's Department. One of my workmates put that little
gem of a drawing together for me. Corny but cool.
I don't have a pic of Long John's exterior from the old days, but this
is how it looks now - Club Swans in Darlinghurst Rd opposite the El Alamein
Fountain. My DJ booth was to the right of the window above the red mail
box. The Cross was crawling with American sailors on R&R from the Vietnam
war in 1967. They were so used to dancing with each other or alone on board
ship, they taught us that it was cool, so we followed suit. The white building
next door was a brothel. One night a fire broke out and soon the street
was full of half dressed sailors and girls as fire fighters did their thing.
It was quite a sight! Long John's didn't serve alcohol, just root beer
and coffee. It was all pretty innocent back then. No "recreational" drugs
I have very few pics of the Climax but this is a proof sheet I managed
to save. We were out back of Long John's in the lane and there was a Jaguar
E-type parked there, so I decided to use it as a prop. I sent a few of
my pics and press clippings to my sis in law following Warren's death so
I'll write and ask if she can scan the pics for me. If it all goes to plan,
I'll update this page at a later date.
Yes, $1 admission. I was paid $50 a week. Long John, by the way, was
a well known Sydney DJ on radio 2UE named John Laws. He later became a
legend as Australia's most famous talk-back radio star.
There's the El Alamein fountain in the background, and me in the foreground.
That was back when I had lips and freckles. Our rhythm guitarist was a
photographer so he did most of the publicity shots. Don't I look intelligent?
Me as DJ looking sartorially splendiferous with my posh cravat. Sheesh,
fancy being that young. Sorry about the ciggie. I think it was a Senior
My mother was not impressed by my resignation from the Registrar General's
Department in favor of a job as a DJ in a Kings Cross disco so she threw
me out of the house. I moved into a little flat across the road from Long
John's - Havilah Flats. The white building on the far right could be it,
but I'm not sure. In any case, it was very similar and within very close
proximity (directly opposite Long John's). Anyway, being the naive little
cherub I was in those days, I thought all the girls who lived there were
waitresses who worked until the wee small hours (as I did). I'd see them
in the hall about midday with curlers in their hair, slippers on their
feet, and dressed in bathrobes, making their way to the communal bathroom.
All the flats were single rooms with tiny kitchenettes. Anyway, to my horror,
I discovered later that they were "ladies of the night!" And no, I didn't
get any freebies.
Being a night worker, I had all day to watch daytime TV and one of
my fav shows was Beauty and the Beast, a panel show hosted by Stuart Wagstaff.
I'd decided by then that my career would be in showbiz so I wrote him at
Channel 7 and asked for his advice. Dear Garry (everyone keeps giving
me an extra 'r'), Thanks for your letter, sorry I've been so long answering.
Would you please phone me at 921131 and we can follow up your thoughts
expressed in your letter. Looking forward to hearing from you, Sincerely...
He asked me to keep his number confidential but it's redundant now anyway.
So Waggers and I arranged to meet at a local coffee shop. We shared
a table at the front window which made Stuart feel rather uncomfortable
being on show to all the passers-by in busy Darlinghurst Road. He was a
very well-known and recognized Sydney showbiz personality, and still is.
I asked him what technique he used to communicate so well with the
television camera. "I imagine it's a door and a friend of mine is peeking
through the keyhole on the other side, watching me." Waggers must be well
into his 80s now, but he's still going strong. I saw him on telly the other
night and he's looking good.
UPDATE: As I mentioned previously, I wrote my sis in law with
a request for pics of The Climax I didn't have. She responded, and here
Warren and Mary married a few years after that photograph was taken
and had 2 children.
The booth in the corner just to the left of the stage was where I played
records as the DJ.
Nick, the lead singer, had a very good soulful voice. His "proper"
job was a hair dresser and he drove an MGB.
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