On a Sunday Night on an Australia Day Long Weekend, in the late 1960s, a young half pissed Russell Wight and an even younger pissed Warren Pietsch left their “Prince of Wales” Hotel rooms to journey into the deep dark heart of Melbourne.
It was about Midnight and they were going to “The Catcher” Disco, a well known notorious haunt that raged on into the early hours of the morning.
They got off their tram in Swanston street and walked to Flinders Lane. The big Question was whether they should go up or down Flinders Lane. They went Up!
After about 45 minutes of huffing and puffing it became obvious to our two desperadoes that they were going in the wrong direction. Turning around it was downhill all the way, crossing Swanston Street and continuing on down the Lane.
At about 2 a.m. a heavy blues sound could now be heard in the distance by our now sober heroes. Another quarter mile and there it was!
No. 471 Flinders Lane, the dirtiest, black, creepiest shit hole they had ever confronted…
At the door great big bouncers (see above picture) stood menacingly.
Abo turned to Russell and said. “I’m not going in there”. “What about you?” Russell who by now was shaking his head said, “I’m game”.
But, and lucky for them they both turned on their heels and went back to the “Prince of Wales” Hotel.
“The most notorious club at the time was the Catcher, in the dark deserted & desolate end of Flinders Lane, an austere painted black disused warehouse that you could hear from blocks away before you could even find it.
It was a walk on the wildside, the surly sociopathic end of the rock music crowd slouched around a bare room listening to the harder and wilder end of the music scene. Bands like The Purple Hearts, Running Jumping Standing Still & The Wild Cherries raged until the early hours.
There was a totally dark, mattress filled room called The Gobble Room and everyone had an edge that may have come from raiding their mother’s diet pills”.
One local trip, Bob Parker volunteered to play his piano accordion. Poor bloke got booed off both buses and never volunteered his services again.
Wayne Vitnell on his first and only cricket trip, got on the bus bragging how he could outdrink everyone. He was pissed by Bordertown and spent the whole trip, sick as a dog.
The plane trip when a young playing member took his own bat with him on the plane. Whilst distracted his cherished bat was borrowed and passed around the whole plane, only returning when signed by most of the passengers on the flight. Never touch his bat!
The show in the canteen when Bob Allen coerced Rod Parham to perform on stage with that delightful blonde entertainer. Who cared whether she could sing or not.
I recall the contribution made by Fred Godson. Fred was a cricket umpire who had officiated in many State games. He was befriended by Ron Hamence and was asked to officiate in our home matches. He enjoyed the weekends so much he and his wife became a member of the club for decades.
For many years the cricket club ran “The Golden Circle” draws. There was a weekly draw during the year with a final big draw. This was well supported by all GPD members and the proceeds were used to offset the cost of the cricket weekends, which were not paltry.
Unfortunately, with the division of the Melbourne Printing Office into smaller units the quality of cricketers and number of members steadily declined.
Our own Cricket club began to face similar problems.
To try to keep the weekends going it was decided to amalgamate the two clubs and we visited Mildura and played as a composite side in 1995 and 1996 against Mildura West Cricket Club.
Bruce Lockier provided the off field entertainment.
Unfortunately in 1997 the decision was made to “declare our innings closed” and an “Auld Langsyne” was held in Melbourne.
A great finale was held with the cost to all participating members being subsidised from the remaining club funds. We stayed at the Travel Inn Motel where we held a Welcome Dinner on Saturday night and a Farewell Luncheon at the Cuckoo Restaurant.
Thanks to all those who helped create the Institution.
The Cricket Club was a major institution of the Printing Office. It began in 1951 and continued for nearly fifty years before our final visit to Melbourne in 1997.
The main organisers over the years were Jack Findlay, Ron Hamence, Les Hawes, Ted Burkert, Bob Allen and Bruce Brown.
The Victorian GPO first visited us in January 1951. A picnic was organised at Balhannah which included a tug of war and the first annual cricket match.
Our first cricket side had such notables as Merv Clark, Eric Swinstead, Ron Hamence, Len Michael, Howard Nilsson, Alec McDougall and Dean Groves. The Victorian team included Bill Purves, Doug Stewart, Albert Willcox and Bill Duckworth.
South Australia won the match 183 to 156 runs.
The next year South Australia visited Melbourne and this tradition continued with each team travelling to the other State in alternate years.
The home teams won the matches up until 1964 which coincidentally was my very first trip, at age 16. The bus left on Friday with a stop at Tailem Bend and tea break at Bordertown.
Those days there was no booze on the bus. We drove through the night with most people trying to catch some shuteye or singing “Forever and Ever.
We arrived in Melbourne around 6 am and had to stop opposite Flemington race track. We were not able get into our hotel, until 9 or 10 am. So we watched the horses doing their track gallops for several hours. It was freezing!
After checking in a group of us decided we would go to the Young and Jackson Hotel, to see the famous nude painting of Chloe. We got lost!
That evening we had a Cabaret at the Brunswick Hall and the next morning we went to the Kew Mental Institution to play cricket.
We had twelve players including Barry O’Donnell and myself. We were put through our paces by Ron Hamence and Laurie Blackwell to see who would make the final cut.
The final team was announced in batting order, Blackwell, Walker, Blundell, Buckby, Wight, Lind, Evans, Groves, Fisher, Crawford and Ron Hamence.
Victoria batted and we restricted them to 5/125. Laurie Blackwell and John Walker had an opening stand of 84 and our first success in Victoria was a possibility. Several quick wickets fell and with the overs dwinding Malcolm Lind and Dean Groves were promoted up the order. We won by 13 runs.
That night when I returned to the room there was Mort and Grubby drinking in the room. I went off to bed.
Later, I felt this hand coming up from under the bed. I grabbed my beloved cricket bat and whacked this guy with it. I thought I had killed hm. I ran from the room screaming with Mort and Grubby chasing me, saying it was a joke.
The cricket club was much more than just about cricket. Most members joined to experience a unique weekend.
On the Saturday, many members went to the local races and at night entertainment was usually a Cabaret at the Tube Mills, and later the Show Boat on the Port River.
The atmosphere at the cricket was hilarious, who can forget the “Arfa Dunga” show at the Unley Oval put on by Colin Rawlings and David Barber.
The Monday was a men’s only day until the late 1970s when the women became involved. Bus trips were organised to places like Hardy’s winery.
The Les Hawes trophy would be presented along with the handover of the Perpetual Shield.
After a night at North Melbourne Football Club listening to a pissed S.A. captain saying “excuse me” all night, “Chalky” Marks created the “Excuse Me” club.
You were given a leather strip with a number on it. If you did not present it upon request, you were fined 20 cents, The fines were used by Chalky to buy prizes drawn on the Monday.
Bob Allen would arrange with the GP to borrow the delivery van over the weekend. It was used to carry the cricket equipment, “odd” keg of beer and tressles. Ron Garland normally drove.
Once we stopped for a piss break outside of Bordertown. We all got back on the bus and ten minutes up the road, “Nobby” began muttering “Where’s Artie?”
We turned the bus around and went back about 15 kms. There was Artie trying to negotiate the wire fence alongside the highway. (see part 2)