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Kapunda captures King’s Head cup-house

pub photo

It’s fair to suggest that nostalgia can often interfere with the truth. This might be why I convinced myself that our destination had a certain mystique, a mythology all of its own that would reveal itself through a grand, weaving story.

Christmas a couple years’ back Chrisso texted from near New Orleans that he’d tell me the reason for this venue when he returned.

I could hardly wait, and some months later when we caught up I asked, in a rather formal, yet compact sentence, “So, why is the Kapunda boys biannual reunion held at the King’s Head pub on King William Street?”

I was looking forward to his complex and engaging narrative.

“Because it’s on the tram line.”

“That’s it?”

“Yep.”

Oh.

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Last Friday on yet another unseasonably warm evening not quite twenty of us descended upon this ripping old-school boozer to share tales and to laugh and to stir and, above all, to connect.

boys 3

We gathered in the cosy front bar at a large wooden table. It seemed that there were travel yarns to tell. Where you been, somebody asked.

Crackshot replied, “An eight-week odyssey through Western Australia.” Anecdotes followed.

Chris offered, “I had a week at various resorts in Fiji.” Crisp yarns were shared.

“And what of you Mickey?” somebody, possibly Puggy, asked.

“Mannum.”

Oh.

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We prefer the King’s Head as it’s fiercely South Australian. Some would say, the KG of the pub scene. There’s only local drinks and food available. Not a Carlton Draught or Moreton Bay Bug in sight. It’s a point of difference.

As is the complete absence of TAB, and wide screens with footy, racing and darts glaring out across the punters. It’s a refreshing change and means you must immerse yourself in the company and conversation.

It could be described as a place where you can enjoy a pub holiday.

We do.

There’s a sparkling galaxy of beers on tap including brash youngsters Pirate Life, Mismatch and equine Hills star, Prancing Pony. A volley of correspondence earlier in the week created a bubbling anticipation for Kapunda chap, Chris Higgins’ Greenock Brewers Victorville Ale. An app confirms this.

But we’re a week too early. The Greenock beer is not on. It’s a disappointment but doesn’t seem to decelerate our eagerness.

Around seven a grinning group of old muckers rolls through the doors like oranges. Whitey, Woodsy, O’s and Dames present themselves. Our ensemble is complete with beers and handshakes and schnitzel and warmth and reminisces; some keenly remembered and some forgotten.

boys4

So, there’s Lukey, Puggy, Crackshot, Matey, Rus, Bongo, Schultzy, Bobby, Nick, Whitey, Woodsy, O’s, Dames, Fats, Swanny, Chrisso, and Mickey.

Happily, just about everyone has a nickname. It’d be a shame for somebody to miss out.

Shortly after Nick tells us one of his favourite stories. By then, we’ve already dealt with the famous night at the West Torrens Cricket Club in 1986. Former Torrens opening bowler Rocket is an apology tonight given he’s in New Zealand, bro.

Nick continues, “Years ago at a U2 concert, Bono started clapping, slowly and deliberately.” He clapped too, to emphasise his point. Nick likes a story.

“Bono said, ‘Every time I clap, an African child dies.’”

“Somebody in the crowd then yelled out, ‘Well, stop fcuking clapping then.’”

*

Without being previously aware we’d also lobbed into the King’s Head on the night when a DJ was playing 1980’s electro/ synthesiser/ new wave music.

boys 1

Normally this would make me change the radio station quicker than an Ali jab, and reach for the sick bag but the combination of Coopers and friendship and ridiculous memories makes it fun. I recall

Blancmange’s “Living on the Ceiling”
Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?”
Flock of Seagull’s “I Ran”
Pete Shelley’s “Homosapien”
Visage’s “Fade to Gray” and the gold medallist
Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.”

Maybe that we were all at school for some part of the eighties invests this music with involuntary affection for our shared past.

Or maybe it’s the beer.

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It’s another terrific evening and a great chance to connect and strengthen our community. It’s also a tradition. I do like a tradition.

However, when Nick and Fats and I wander out of the neighbouring La Trattoria, post-pizza and red wine, the trams had stopped for the night. Ubers were urgently beckoned.

Time for nighty-night.

Maybe I’ll jump on a tram after our Christmas cups, at the King’s Head.

pub photo 2

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Pub review: The Prince of Wales, Kapunda

prince

I’d driven non-stop for over four hours, dodging kangaroos, AM radio (up next the latest from Danni Minogue!) and berserk truckies like the one in Spielberg’s Duel, and Friday-exhausted, fell into the front bar around 8pm. It was a hike from Kimba.

“Hello West Coast smack-head,” greeted mine host. “Christ you’re getting fat, Mickey.” He continued. “Are you still driving that dopey sports car?”

Welcome to Kapunda’s Prince of Wales hotel, run with gruff affection by lumbering iconoclast Peter “Puffa” Jansen.

The blunt cranial and corporeal references are like warm handshakes. These are Puffa’s way of welcoming me into his cosy pub. His is an inclusive environment: no-one is spared his jibes, and these are all part of the boisterous charm. To not be abused would be offensive.

But to understand the publican we need to know more of his curiosities. He was fond of a mid-week luncheon and these sometimes included local identities such as Norton Schluter. Norton ran the Greenock Creek Tavern: a Barossan boozer with such similar atmospherics it could be a sister pub to the Prince.

Legend has it that Puffa and some captive chaps once when out to lunch. When traversing the state Puffa preferred to sip cans. He reckoned they “travelled better.” Post-dessert they inexplicably then drove to Broken Hill in the big publican’s even bigger Falcon and returned four days later.

The Prince of Wales is a snug pub with a front bar like a lounge room. It’s this spatial dynamic which assists the natural intimacy.  The decor is spartan and the space is dominated by the beautiful, antique pub fridge with timber doors and those ancient chrome door handles. About the bar are maybe ten black-topped stools.

bar

Often, early in the afternoon, there’d be but a single conversation with the tethered denizens such as Roger and Matesy, and the quips would shuttlecock about the bar and there’d be volleys of chirping from in their cups.

Retrospectively, I can see that chief among its attractions was a clear-minded absence of TAB, thumping music, big-screen TVs and dining options. The Prince was solely dedicated to conversation and cups although I recall watching the 1989 Grand Final in there on, I imagine, a boxy old Rank Arena, and willing on Ablett the Elder before the clock ran out.

It was a venue for personal firsts. On a lazy Sunday afternoon I was introduced to the English public school tradition of spoofy which initially only required three coins but, if you lost, it resulted in significantly more fiscal investment, especially if there were six or seven of you in a roaring circle. And the pain of loosing to Goose or Whitey went far beyond the mere monetary.

spoofy

Also in 1989 some mates and I hired a VN Commodore wagon and headed to Brisbane for about three weeks. Of course, we set off from the Prince. Ever the social benefactor Puffa said, “Here you yo-yo’s take my radar detector. I’ve seen how you blokes drive. It might save you a few bucks. Just bring me back a carton of that new Powers beer from Queensland.” And the detector did ping numerous times across New South Wales. We delivered Puffa his slab.

I also remember old mate Trev and his band ‘Imelda’s Shoes’ playing one Sunday afternoon in the bottle-o drive way. I stood by the war memorial as the drums and guitar blasted down Mildred Street.

Puffa loved a bet. Up on the wall behind his bar, next to the clocks, was a row of coasters on which the wagers had been scribbled. It was like a silent bookie. Puffa once said to me just after Christmas, “Don’t worry about the Sydney Test, smack head. It’ll be a draw. It’ll be rained out.”

I’d seen the forecast, so retorted, “I reckon it’ll stay dry.”

Puffa then barked, “I’ll give you 4 to 1 that it’ll rain. Easy money for me, you yo-yo!”

Of course, Fanie de Villiers bowled South Africa to victory in a rare, entirely rain-free Test. After I returned from New Zealand in late January Puffa took down the coaster and I enjoyed his cash momentarily, before donating it in yet another ill-conceived spoofy final. I had a skill for that.

Although it now offers a broader range of tap beers I’m sure we only drank West End Draught in either schooners or butchers. My A3s cricket captain Kym Ryan took his lager in a handled mug, and this seemed sophisticated. In 1986, it probably was.

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Early one morning during our last year in Singapore my cousin Puggy- called a “smack head” by Puffa as often as anyone- sent me a message to say that the iconic publican had passed away.

Trev and I called in a while back when in Kapunda for Woodsy’s birthday. We invested a vigorous hour as the pale sunlight bent through the windows, and I expected Puffa to burst behind his bar and bark, “Hello smack head!”

When next in Kapunda I urge you to visit and enjoy a butcher of West End Draught! But not a game of spoofy.

Puffa

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“And see which one of us can tell the biggest lies”

khs

I’m not sure why it was chosen. Maybe, because it’s convenient and the tram runs outside the front door. The Kings Head on King William Street prides itself on offering only local beers and wine and its food is also sourced entirely within the state. Brilliant.

So, last night about a dozen old mates congregated in the pub. Congregate’s a good verb for we function as a congregation which, of course, means people attending worship. We exchange the important details. Home. Kids. Schools. Work. And then we get to the evening’s real agenda: the past. The stories tumble like a waterfall.

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There’s the footy grand finals, and Lukey’s screamer at Angaston oval. There’s Bongo’s unlikely major from inside the goal square. There’s the boys all getting a hat like Rexy Ryan’s.

There’s the cricket grand finals. Where is Jeff Charity?

There’s schooner schools and the afternoon when Stef dropped four and owed 28 beers and had to drive back to She-Oak Log to get more money.

And then there’s Tarlee discos with Tony Clarke spinning the records and the lads still in their cricket whites.

There’s the boys at Adelaide Oval late in the day after lots of niggle with some rough-nuts further up the hill and someone retorting, “If I want shit from you I’ll squeeze ya head” and then it was on, and as the toll climbed there’s Lukey advising, “If you just lie there, then they won’t hit you” and then with our Spidey senses tingling, knowing to all meet up in a pub an hour or so after scattering.

There’s Chris on the boundary at Angaston and “Gilesy, you dropped an expletive lemon” and the rest of that ragged evening doing laps of Quodlings’ farmhouse with his Dad hobbling after him.

There’s Sundays at the Railway and opening the blinds around mid-morning with Uncle Mick Dermody and raspberry in our butchers.

There’s Mikey’s T-18 and Woodsy’s 180B and Crackshot’s ute and Lukey’s Alfa.

There’s Cathy Coppin’s sympathy when we didn’t have enough for a ‘goon ($2.20) and she said, “Here. Just take the bloody thing.”

There’s spoofy at Puffa’s and Whitey saying, “Good call.” And then he lost and had to shout anyhow. Again. But you already knew this.

There’s the Pines and the Duck Pond and Gundry’s Hill.

There’s Kapunda High and a HQ Holden opening up a rear gate and a Torana having strife out the front one Saturday after a cricket club show.

There’s a woolly-faced monkey (Puggy/Slide/Greg) buying more than one of us our first beer in the Clare Castle Hotel. When he was fifteen.

There’s the Kapunda Pizza Bar and Johnny Guzzo and getting kicked out from tilting his pinball machine. “Fungul! Out! Out!”

There’s Lumpy Nixon and Dobby and black duffel coats and black ripples.

There’s a bus trip to Coolangatta and all falling asleep in a nightclub watching Boom Crash Opera and missing “Onion Skin” after fifty cent Bundy’s.

There’s New Year’s Eve at Lukey’s and Dad saying, “You young lads won’t drink a keg” and replying “We’re already on our second.”

There’s Puffa saying, “Here you yo-yo’s take my radar detector. Buy me a beer when you get back!” And we drove all the way to Brisbane and returned.

There’s Whitey and the Lienert brothers and Beetle Teagle and Wally Moyle and Nugget Coppin and many others.

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It’s a ripping night. There’s giggling and tears of laughter and stories. Just stories. No politics or work or superannuation. Just stories.

Christmas is off to a flier.

cch

 

 

 

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My best pubs

 

Love a list. Love a pub. Don’t you?

This week the Footy Almanac sought opinion on our favourite pubs. I instantly penned a digital love letter to some cracking watering holes. How could I refuse?

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks- St Albans, Hertfordshire

England’s oldest and most charismatic boozer. Ceiling so low it made me feel like a centre half-forward when I walked in, and most certainly as I left. We lived about a Par 4 away, and invested some time there on weekends. When we returned in 2014 it was the only pub in town we visited twice with Alex and Max.

cocks

The Magpie and Stump- Mintaro, Clare Valley

Gum trees and vineyards; idyllic beer garden. No aural pollution from within or without, just birdsong. Happily by its bar on a rainy Sunday morning before the SANFL grand final I first heard a publican say, “Another cup of tea, Vicar?” which amuses me more than it should.

Prince of Wales- Kapunda, South Australia

Hometown favourite. Colossal former mine host. When I lived five hours away in Kimba, and would visit, he’d greet me with, “Hello, West Coast smack-head.” I knew then that he missed me. Also home of spoofy.

The Kings Inn- Mousehole, Cornwall

Redolent of pirates and rum, romance and treasure. Of course, it’s pronounced Moz-all.

kings

The Exeter- Rundle Street, Adelaide

Eclectic perfection. Once, this happened: Dawn’s closer than dusk. Only Nick and I remain, our Doc Martins moored to the floorboards. He’s from a farm in Shea-Oak Log. We met in school. Years ago, we saw the Rolling Stones at Footy Park.

ex

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Honourable mentions

The Goat- St Albans, Hertfordshire

The Taminga- Clare

All Nations- Richmond (frequently home to Mick Molloy and Bill Hunter, drinking in concert)

Greenock Tavern- Barossa Valley (mine host Norton, and then Mick)

Lemon Tree- Carlton (sadly now gone; snuck in there when in Melbourne during my mulleted 1980’s)

Seacliff Hotel- Adelaide

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What’s your top battle-cruiser?

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The original Footy Almanac post is worth a look and you can find it, and other great stuff here-

Best pubs of all time?

 

 

 

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The Sinner of ’69- The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed

 

bleed

It was a hot day in Tanunda and lunch was done. A Sunday, there was energetic engagement with some Carlsberg lagers, and sitting in the garden, Nick and Holmesy1 agreed that these were excellent session beers.2

Of course, there was music. In its desolate, dirty beauty Let It Bleed burst from the outdoor speakers, and I now confess to you, dear reader, that I’d not heard it before. What had gone so wrong for me? My diet had been confined to Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out, Tattoo You 3, and various compilations.

Nick and I saw The Rolling Stones at Football Park in 1995, partly driven by fear of Keith’s mortality. Why did we worry? But I hadn’t investigated them as an albums band, and was denying myself history’s ultimate run of releases.

Beggars Banquet. Let It Bleed. Sticky Fingers. Exile on Main St.

For me their 1969 record is their best, and while its bookends of “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” are correctly celebrated, there are other songs worthy of our attention.

Let It Bleed

This song is so languid; it could be summer in Tallahassee. Each component: guitars, piano, drums and vocals is lazy and loose. The slide guitar and autoharp evoke places remote from the band’s London home while Charlie’s drumming, especially on the outro, is spectacular.

Twenty-year-old Mick Taylor debuted on the album which would be the last for Brian Jones, so incapacitated by drugs and drink that his contributions were minor, and indeed he was soon lost to music, lost to himself. Drowned.

On blossoming display is the genius of Jagger’s singing as his vocals assume an American country twang that could’ve fallen into parody, but here is homage. Over the ensuing decade he’d continue these reverent performances on tracks such as “Dead Flowers” 4 and “Sweet Virginia.”

Damningly, I’ve never heard the song on Australian radio, but its sexual decadence and portraiture would henceforth define the band.

I was dreaming of a steel guitar engagement

When you drunk my health in scented jasmine tea

But you knifed me in my dirty filthy basement

With that jaded, faded, junky nurse oh what pleasant company

 You Got the Silver

For me “Jumping Jack Flash” is caricature. As hard rockers they’re competent, but this is uncomfortable territory; they’re in the wrong church. Nashville and the Mississippi Delta appeal to the band more than Chelsea.5 Blues and country rock are their spiritual habitat.

I’d never appreciated Keith as a singer. But on this song, the first on which he’d take lead vocals, he adopts a character so plausible, in such robust sympathy with his public persona, that it creates a compelling world. Its antagonism was likely inspired by Richards’ then girlfriend Anita Pallenburg, which gives it bemused venom, a telling context.

Hey babe, you got my soul,

you got the silver, you got the gold

A flash of love has made me blind,

I don’t care, no, that’s no big surprise

Both songs reveal The Rolling Stones’ song writing and performing powers, but within a genre not commonly acknowledged. These show imagination, a hunger to grow musically, and remarkable poise- especially as they were not yet thirty.

Our age of downloads and streaming services has made a curio of the album concept, but Let It Bleed is a record of a time and a place that denotes the stratospheric talents of Mick and Keith and their coterie.6

Play it this summer in its ragged, murky entirety. Over a couple Carlsbergs.

Footnotes

  1. Their real names.
  2. Session beers do not include either Coopers Sparkling Ale or Carlsberg’s Elephant beer. Failure to realise this can be catastrophic for all involved.
  3. Tattoo You came out in 1981 and was played on cassette in many HQ Holdens in Kapunda, the town of my youth. “Slave” was an audio calling card for many as we could hear our mates coming around the corner before we saw them, especially for some reason, late on Sundays before we’d go to the Railway Hotel.
  4. A wonderful version of this song by Townes Van Zandt features during the end credits of The Big Lebowski. It captures the laconic nature of the film magnificently and links thematically to The Dude, “possibly the laziest man in Los Angeles County.”
  5. Chelsea, the west London suburb mentioned in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” the album’s closing song about disillusionment.
  6. Ian Stewart and Nicky Hopkins contribute brilliant piano throughout the album. Merry Clayton’s background vocals on “Gimme Shelter” are rightly recognised as iconic, and in the view of this author are the best of all time.

keef

 

 

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Cricket and the Country Member 

tarlee 2

Footy’s finished and I’m thinking about cricket. I love cricket stories.

I remember Fonz, from Kimba, telling me how his country carnival team was dismissed in Adelaide for two. Yes, the entire side.

Two.

I also recall Woodsy and Whitey in a grand final at Greenock. As the shadows spread, Kapunda needed a dozen with five wickets in hand. Rolled by four runs.

And, I think of Tarlee.

A farming settlement between the Barossa and Clare Valleys. Its oval is microscopic, utopian for batting, but a bowling Hades. Along one side wanders the Gilbert River, while just beyond, lies the rail line.

Saturday. Distant decades back, my first footy coach, Bruce Dermody, bashed the ball long, very long, and in a rare but happy junction between work and play, it plummeted into a moving train carriage. Bruce was a Station Master!

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During the ’92 World Cup I remember Dean Jones hitting a six at Adelaide Oval against Sri Lanka. Not square at the Victor Richardson Gates or into the George Giffen Stand, but straight, towards the petty enclave of North Adelaide. The shot rose and journeyed past the seats and the path, and onto the grassy mound.

It landed among the folk under the Moreton Bay Figs. As Geoffrey Boycott might have said, “I don’t go that far for me holiday.”

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Davo. We all need a mate called Davo. Tarlee had a fella called Jason. Davo was a sportsman; as a dashing centreman he’d won an underage association B & F. Where footy’s forgiving, the glaring nature of cricket can be cruel. He drops Jason on four. Simple catch.

Jason then bludgeons the ball repeatedly into the reeds along the Gilbert River. It drowns, often. He almost gets a triple century. But Davo responds by taking a hat-trick with his Thommo slingers. That’s a diverse afternoon. Like marrying a gorgeous girl. And then at your reception, she whispers, “ I’m pregnant. To your uncle.”

Stumps are drawn. Hours later, ghosts in cream dinner suits are haunting the streets, and pubs. No, look closer, these are not suits, but cricket attire! The same disembodied phantoms are then lured to the Tarlee Institute disco (cheaper drinks, but poorer skin care routines than the Ponds Institute).

The DJ is a farmer. The band is called Undercover. Of course, they include “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors. Their cricket whites survive the prickly outfield and muddy river, but the floorboarded infield of bundy and beer-slop is lethal; it has a Strontium-90 half-life.

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Simon O’Donnell at the SCG in 1986. Flat-bats one into the top of the Brewongle Stand. Like Mooloolaba and Coonawarra, Brewongle is a comfortingly Australian word, murmuring of open roads, and backyards, and drifting eucalyptus. Now sirens to my equatorial ears, these are calling me home.

Brewongle, as is mostly thought, is not named after an Aboriginal term for camping ground, but rather for the former tea room run by two sisters within the old stand. Ah, myth and reality.

One Australian summer we’ll take our boys to Sydney. The Brewongle beckons.

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Fifteen, brazen, bearded. Precocious in myriad ways. My teenage cousin Puggy played representative cricket with fellow Barossans Greg Blewett and Darren Lehmann. After mobs of runs against men, he made his A grade debut.

Nuriootpa’s opening bowler Horry Moore was broad, fierce, and scary-quick. A walloper from Nuriootpa, he’d sort this punk out. In competition, youthful self-confidence is always insulting. His red torrent began.

Crack! Puggy drove Horry’s third lightning bolt straight back over his head. Two bounces, under the fence, onto the road, with gravel scuffing the ripe Kookaburra. Who was this kid? He got 94 in slick time.

At season’s end he’d win the association batting aggregate. Puggy’s drive was a haughty declaration, an unworldly rebellion, and bluntly instructive of life being a string of little births and, for Horry that innings, little deaths.

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Eudunda. As you drive across the last hill before descending into town, a bluish plain swims into view. This flat scrubbyness seems, on certain days, as a wintry ocean. As a kid I used to think, instead of this saltbush and mallee, it’d be wonderful if it was the sea. As it was, eons ago.

To the north, and by Burra Creek, is the unironic locality of World’s End. Snaking nearby we find Goyder’s Line, which shows where rain and soil might allow crops to be grown confidently. Goyder is still right.

A sleety, snowy gale there once forced footballers to scurry under the fence and huddle between the Kingswoods and Chargers. I was ten, and hadn’t seen such apocalyptic storms. World’s End seemed even closer.

Kapunda’s Bull Ant got some brisk runs one January at Eudunda (former club of mine Footy Almanac host, John Harms). He was a stylish left-hander, but, then again, ignoring Kepler Vessels, aren’t they all? Clipping one off his pads, it hurled high over the boundary, and clanged about on the clubroom roof like Glaswegian hail. It sat there.

In protest at the heat, ruthless flogging and distasteful realisation they were supposedly enduring this for fun, the locals all flopped on the grass. No-one moved to retrieve the ball. Mutiny. Finally, the bowler mumbled, “Well, I served up the poop, I better go fetch it.”

And he did.

sheep

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Frogger, Bush Biscuits and Staring at Parked Motorbikes

fish tales

Growing up in the country wasn’t simply footy, cricket and an occasional hit of tennis.

Frogger

A gastronomic and social revolution followed Johnny Guzzo opening The Kapunda Pizza Bar in the late 1970’s. Located on the Main Street, it was a superior example of the wider world invading. Goodbye chops and three veg!

This meant Rawady’s Deli no longer sold the town’s most exotic food: the Chiko Roll. Of course, neighbouring Nuriootpa had a so-called, “Chinese Restaurant,” but the Barossa Valley was always a brazen place.

The KPB immediately became a teenage hangout. Within its fuggy walls were a jukebox, pinball machine and cabinet game. Trigonometry and flora transects would not win me. Enter Frogger!

Our heroic frog needed to cross a road, and then a river teeming with turtles and alligators. Superior to Space Invaders and Galaxian; both were earnest and dull next to Frogger’s narrative silliness. Beyond the usual disposable deaths, it rewarded the escorting of a lady frog.

And the cultural legacy! In 1998, the game starred in the Seinfeld episode, “The Frogger,” involving George’s world record score of 860,630 points. While, “Space Invaders” by Player One featured on the 1979 K-Tel compilation Full Boar. Side 2 holds up well

Split Enz- I Got You

Flying Lizards- Money

Sniff ‘n’ the Tears- Driver’s Seat

The Sports- Strangers On A Train

Cheap Trick- Dream Police

Ry Cooder- Little Sister

The Aliens- Confrontation

Jo Jo Zep & Falcons- Shape I’m In

Graham Parker- Hey Lord Don’t Ask Me Questions

Jimmy & The Boys- I’m Not Like Everybody Else

Roller-skating

“Lay Your Love on Me” by Racey was popular when I started high school, and ceaselessly requested on 5AD’s evening show.

Roller-skating on the betting ring at Kapunda’s Trotting Track. In a wheeled version of musical chairs I won Racey’s follow-up single, “Some Girls.“ It wasn’t even in the shops!

Collecting the record from DJ and Tarlee farmer Tony Clarke, it was a dazzling jewel in a Tintin adventure. A giggle of girls gathered around me to behold it. For about five seconds I was John Paul Young.

“You’re so lucky!”

“That is so cool.”

“Can you even wait to play it on the Pye 3-in-1?”

The chorus was ruthlessly relevant

Some girls will, some girls won’t
Some girls need a lot of lovin’ and some girls don’t
Well, I know I’ve got the fever but I don’t know why
Some say they will and some girls lie

I was sure it’d make me outrageously popular with that most desirable of creatures, the older Year 9 girl.

It did not.

Extra ball! Multiball! Special!

The highest weekly pinball score at Johnny Guzzo’s won a can of coke. I know! It was usually collected by a yoof wearing a black duffel coat, and the black boots with a fearsome reputation among mothers everywhere, Ripples. Although some dressed tough, Kapunda boys weren’t.

When not applying plantations of pineapple to pizza (jalapeno and salami were yet to be invented) Johnny Guzzo would play pinball. He was fun, but kicked out anybody who tilted the machine too violently. Exiled onto the Main Street, Johnny’d be yelling after them, “Vaffanculo! Si cazzo rompi. Esci!”

Bang! A Special! A free game! The whip-crack always turned the adolescent heads away from their smoking and bantering, to see who’d won.

It is a Believe It Or Not mystery that I claimed the coke. Once.

I often think that when my mid-life crisis finally hits, I’ll buy a pinball machine. May be Fish Tales.

Bombing the Canteen

Every summer, every boy tried to splash Mrs Chappell, the Kapunda Swimming Pool’s manageress, as she sat in her canteen chair. Mrs Chappell sold confectionery, shelved seductively in glass bottles. These were probably taken from a Fowler’s Vacola preserving set.

Launched stealthily from the diving board, drenching the canteen could only be achieved with an impeccably executed bomb or cannonball such as a Storky, Arsey, Suey, or my cousin Boogly’s speciality, the Coffin.

Being built like a full back didn’t result automatically in a bigger splash. The best bombs had slick skill and my friend Lukey, still Robbie Flower skinny, possessed Grand Master technique.

Eating at the pool was ritualistic. Bush Biscuits were similar to Arrowroots, but larger, harder, and somewhat impossibly, more dreary and tasteless. According to the manufacturer, they were, “made for camping.” Forget blood brothers, Bush Biscuit bonds run deepest.

They became our currency. Decades on, and always over beers, fellow pool-haunter Fats and I still jest about the Bush Biscuit ledger.

“You still owe me a Zooper Dooper from 1983.”

“What about the time I bought Boogly, Lukey and you Sunnyboys?”

“I remember the day you pinched my Wizz Fizz, you know, when I got kicked out for bombing Mrs Chappell in the canteen!”

For the record, Fats remains indebted to me.

Staring at Parked Motorbikes

I never loved the motorbike. Several of my schoolmates did. Upon arriving, during recess, at lunch, and after school, they’d gather under the tree where the teachers’ motorbikes were parked.

Like a hypnotised cult they’d stare at the machines as if in a David Lynch film. Or Puberty Blues.

Through barely-opened mouths, they’d mutter about carbies and clutches. They had nicknames like Gomer and Lumpy.

“How’s the throttle action?”

“What do you think’s the top end?”

“I reckon Mr H polished his petrol tank last night.”

When every working part had been mentioned, they’d cycle through them again. Never making eye contact, but staring, bewitched, at the motorbikes.

After school, they’d then break camp to Johnny Guzzo’s and, on the footpath, repeat their low automotive mantra, while gazing at a different set of Kawasaki’s.

Working at a Catholic school in Hertfordshire I was reminded of Gomer and his Suzuki pornologists. A friend, the Religious Instruction teacher, once had the following priestly exchange

“So boys, it is a sin to masturbate, because, in the eyes of God, in so doing, you are thinking about sex with a woman.”

A hand crept up. “But sir,” an anxious boy asked, “is it still a sin if you’re thinking about your favourite car?”

bush