Surf City, Sydney

an Historic Houses Trust blog

Archive for the ‘1950s’ Category

Vern Cooper


Just heard that Vern Cooper, who shot that great ‘ockanui’ footage of Allan Levick at Bondi 1957, passed away earlier this month. Sad news although here’s a few words by Allan Levick honouring his old friend … I pay tribute to my very best mate of 60 years, VERN COOPER, for his foresight, in actually “shooting” that footage on Bondi Beach, on his “U-Beaut” 8mm movie camera. Little did he know that he would be responsible for filling in that little bit of surfing history! Sadly, Vern passed away 10 days ago, but he was fully aware (and proud of) the small part he played in “History”. Kind regards, Allan. Condolences and best wishes to Vern’s family.

Written by garycrockett

June 29th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Posted in 1950s

Allan Levick, Bondi 1957


A few months ago I posted a piece on Allan Levick and his hollow mal. Here he is in action at Bondi in 1957.

In 1957 Vern Cooper filmed his friend Allan Levick surfing at Bondi on his ‘hollow mal’, built by Gordon Woods. This is extremely rare footage, possibly unique, featuring the Australian hollow mal, which was a plywood adaption of the American ‘malibu’ style board that first appeared in Sydney in 1956. Big thanks to Allan Levick for providing the footage and Dennis Greaves for the digital transfer. Kind thanks to Vern Cooper for making his amazing footage available.

Written by garycrockett

May 24th, 2012 at 8:16 am

Posted in 1950s

Bob Burnside Malibu

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Here’s the board that kick-started modern surf culture in Australia back in 1956, when Bondi boardmaker Gordon Woods managed to convince the visiting American surfer Bob Burnside to part with his Joe Quigg balsa ‘malibu’ and then use it to churn out a handful of plywood knock-offs, called hollow mals, following the same rail, rocker, tail and fin specs. Australians to this day still use the word ‘mal’ to describe a longboard.

MANLY 1956 :: Bob Burnside carrying his balsa ‘malibu’ built by Joe Quigg, in Manly around September 1956, movie still from Greg Noll’s Search For Surf 1958.

BONDI 1957 :: Bondi lifesaver and surf rat Scott Dillon in 1957 with the Burnside balsa ‘malibu’ (circled) and Gordon Woods on the left with one his plywood ‘hollow mals’, built to match. Photo courtesy Gordon Woods.


DEE WHY 1958 :: Gordon Woods with his Quigg ‘malibu’ at Dee Why, Sydney, around 1958. That’s future ad-man Ross Renwick on his right with a Gordon Woods balsa ‘teardrop’, featuring the next generation of pintailed, wide bottomed hot-dogger plan shape. Photo courtesy Gordon Woods.




Written by garycrockett

March 20th, 2012 at 10:06 am

Posted in 1950s

Lillian Galvin and the Manly beach beauties


1950s Ray Leighton photo of Pat Crum, Lillian Galvin, Pam Toyer, Pam Inch and (Lillian’s sister) Dorothy Galvin on hollow boards at Manly

Allan Jackson sent me a note recently about his mum, Lakemba femlin Lillian Jackson (that’s her second on the left, cool smile), immortalised in this 1950s photo, and offered to ask Lillian to provide added info on the photo.

Here’s what she wrote… I have been in touch with Betty Leighton regarding the names of the girls on the boards. Pat Crum, Lillian Galvin, Pam Toyer, Pam Inch and (my sister) Dorothy Galvin.

Dorothy (my sister) and I went for a ferry ride one Sunday afternoon and from then on surfed at Manly for years. Met Ray Leighton fashion photographer who took our famous photo on boards on beautiful Manly beach. He was a member of the surf club. I remember the saying Seven miles from Sydney a thousand miles from care.

On a stage near the club one Sunday I sang Lovely Hula Hands with leis and hula skirt and a musical accompaniment. Still dream of going to Hawaii. All this in the fifties – always loved the Harbour cruise (who wouldn’t?). The Corso and the pine trees and walks along the promenade.

Lakemba is a long way from Manly ferry ride tram and train then bus or walk a mile home. Too expensive to live there then and still is. Sadly Pam Toyer, Pam Inch and Pat Crum now deceased. Did meet Rex Mossop in the early days. Dorothy and I purchased a booklet on Ray Leighton’s life and gave 5O dollars to the surf club. Betty Leighton was a really good surfboard rider and is shown in the book.

Hope my memories of Manly will assist you with the work you are doing at the Museum. … Regards from Lillian.

Huge ‘surf city’ thanks to Allan and Lillian Jackson for the support and contribution.

Allan also mentioned a short bio piece he had made recently of his mother Lillian (aged 88) and aunty Dorothy (91).

Written by garycrockett

February 23rd, 2012 at 10:27 am

Posted in 1950s

Gidget and Elvis ‘clean-teen’ screen romp

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SPECIAL FILM SCREENING – Gidget (1959) and Blue Hawaii (1961)
Presented by Nell Schofield (actor and presenter) and Jaimie and Aspasia Leonarder (Mu Meson Archive and broadcasters)
Saturday 11 February 2012
From 1pm

Museum of Sydney
Cnr Bridge and Phillip Street, Sydney


event details here

Tired of grey skies? Wanna feel sun on your skin again? Come down to Surf City this Saturday arvo for a frothy dose of classic hollywood ‘clean-teen’ fun. Together Gidget and Blue Hawaii kicked off the ‘beach party’ teen flick genre of the early 60s, when the boards were big, the boardies were tight, the bongos were beatin, the butts were wigglin and the surf was bitchin. This big screen double feature will be accompanied by commentary and analysis from Sydney’s own Gidget Nell Schofield and cultural boundary riders Jaimie and Aspasia Leonarder. So take note all you grems, fems and hodads – don’t disappoint The Big Kahuna.

Written by garycrockett

February 8th, 2012 at 3:56 am

Posted in 1950s,1960s

Allan Levick, Bondi 1950s


Former Bondi boy Allan Levick called recently to talk about his 1950s Gordon Woods ‘Okanui’ surfboard. I asked him to send in some pics and pen a few memories.

photos courtesy Allan Levick

I had only used this brilliant surfboard for around 3 months………(it was fantastic to ride a board which you could take where YOU wanted to go, not just where the wave dictated)…….when I was invited to join a group of “Bondi Boys” to go water ski-ing, which was still in it’s infancy here in Australia. I immediately became addicted to this “new” exciting water sport, and, rather reluctantly, stored my board away.

Here’s a few words on the origin of my nickname “IKE”. As a young Bondi kid, of around 12 years of age, I decided to try my hand at being a “paper-boy”, selling newspapers on the Bondi trams, to earn some “pocket money”, in order to fund my regular trips to the “flicks” (movies) and my growing addiction to “Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate” (which remains with me today ! ) The owner of the Newsagency Shop, Alex Griffin, grew a moustache and I “christened him “IKEY-MO”. However, HE turned it back on ME and instructed the rest of the team of “paper-boys” to ALWAYS, in future, refer to me as “IKE” and the name has stuck to this day!!

I am also sending pics of the “high-jinks” we young “Turks” used to get up to on the Beach, in those Halcyon Days!

Bondi Beach c1950s, photos courtesy Allan Levick

Just one more anecdote……when I was around 15, I bought my first 16ft long “toothpick” surf board and put together a 2 wheel trolley using old Bike wheels to walk the board down to Bondi Beach (about a mile from the family home in Denham Street).

Bondi Tram photo sourced from lindsaybridge on flickr

On countless occasions, I would “scale” on the rear of a tramcar, and trail the board and trailer all the way down to the beach behind the tram! (Quite a remarkable sight!) The conductors thought it was a great “lark” and, only once, did the local “cops” grab me and gave me a “strict talking to”!

photo courtesy Allan Levick

In conclusion, (not really anything to do with surfing, but you may be interested), water-ski-ing became my passion and I used to get up to all kinds of tricks, eg. barefoot ski-ing, ramp jumping, and the most spectacular and unique, of all, was my own invention…..”ski-ing” atop a 6ft tall stool (ladder) on a 3ft diameter, plywood disc and executing 360 degree turns and backwards ski-ing.

photo courtesy Allan Levick

The “stool” was not attached to the disc which made the exercise even more demanding. Sounds unbelievable but, fortunately, I have photos to prove it, some of which I will attach. I am retired now and still ski occasionally, but haven’t been “up the ladder” for 5 years (I reckon I could though!).

With kind regards, Allan Levick


Written by garycrockett

January 23rd, 2012 at 1:50 am

Posted in 1950s,1960s

Stu Ford photos 1957

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An intriguing collection of photos arrived in the post recently without any notes or sender info. The images are mostly captioned and appear to be linked to a 1950s Bondi surfer called Stu Ford.

I asked veteran Bondi surfer Anthony Anderson, whose uncle was the board builder Noel Ward (pictured below), to put the feelers out and not surprisingly he turned up some interesting info.

According to Patty Ward (Noel’s wife via her daughter Kim)… Stu Ford was the guy who Noel and Scott Dillon asked to come to Bondi from USA to look at bringing short boards and fibreglass long boards as opposed to the timber ones they were originally using to Bondi. They were also asking about the long board shorts to be imported (the ones Noel is wearing in the photo)….big thanks to Anthony Anderson

Noel Ward, Bondi 1957 c/o Stu Ford…?

Written by garycrockett

September 16th, 2011 at 2:01 am

Posted in 1950s

Gordon Woods 1967


Gordon Woods taking orders at Brookvale in the movie Ride A White Horse Bob Evans Promotions Productions 1967

Cup of tea and a biscuit with Gordon Woods today and barely scratched the surface on an amazing story of canoe building at Bondi in the 1930s, tom blake hollows in the 40s, contemplating Peter Lawford’s balsa and glass mal in 1951, picking up his Velzy balsa board from Bob Burnside in 56 and the first hollow mals, the arrival of balsa, foam and paradigm shift to Brookvale, fruitful interactions with Californians Dick Metz and Chuck Foss, having kids and running a busy board building operation into the mid 70s, before switching to yachts and other things. Very grateful for Gordon’s time and support.

Gordon mentioned that he drove a taxi for a short while in 1950s, while his board making business caught on. It made me wonder what kind of jobs surfers did to make ends meet and keep them surfing: Jack Bluey Mayes also drove cabs, Magoo McGuigan was a fireman, Nipper Williams was a beach inspector, Max Bowman was an electrician, Bob Pike was a wool classer, Mick McMahon a butcher, Mick Dooley was a garbageman, while others, it appears, were policemen, accountants, labourers, shift workers, dock workers, etc, etc.

Written by garycrockett

July 28th, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Posted in 1950s,1960s

Ron Turton Palm Beach


Cracker collection of photos sent in by Ron Turton, who surfed with the ‘Beachcombers’ at Palm Beach around 1959. Ron’s sister Pearl Turton became a Sydney surfing sensation when she won the national contest at Avalon Beach in 1963 and as Ron writes… became an overnight hit with the media. Brian Henderson’s Bandstand (in a bikini!), The Australian Womens Weekly and Everybody’s magazine. Her uncle in England even saw her on the front page of a Pommie magazine in a barber shop in Surrey . She was only 16 at the time.

Thanks again to Ron for sending these pics my way.

The first Australian surf board riding club – the ‘Beachcombers’ of Palm Beach NSW and their boards 1959. Seated – John ‘Olly’ Oliver, John ‘Johnny Mac’ McIlroy,  Ron Turton, Neridah Wright, Joy Gassman, Billy MacTaggart, John ‘Pine Apple’ Prosser. Back ‘Ho Dad’ John Pullenger, John Dunn, Peter Dever, Frank ‘Speedy’ Gonsalves. (info Ron Turton)

Leone Power of Collaroy Beach NSW a great fan of the surf. (info Ron Turton)

Ron Turton Palm Beach NSW Winter 1959. One of the guys had an underwater camera and used to take pics of marine life. I was on this wave near the dressing sheds and up he popped in front of me and took this fuzzy photo! Evasive action required on this 9 footer! (info Ron Turton)

Some original Beachcombers Surfbord Riders Club Palm Beach NSW 1961 near the present day dressing sheds. Note Johnny Hawkes Beach Buffet in the background washed away in king tides. The Beachcomber’s Club was underneath the Beach Buffet. Back row – Ken ‘The Blue Streak’ Mackey, John ‘Pine’ Prosser, Richard Parkinson. Front – John ‘Olly’ Oliver, Ron Turton, Pearl Turton, Glenys Pearson, John ‘Beaver’ Gonsalves, Ronnie Berczelley and Laci ‘Hompus Stompus’ Berczelly. Note the jackets with the initials on them. ‘Cooky’ Burnes style from 77 Sunset Strip! (info Ron Turton)

John ‘Pin’ waxing board, Rodney ‘Rouge’ Harris standing, Sitting – Two Campbell brothers (the Elder is Lee ‘Bombie’ Beacham, Alan Ward, another Campbell and Laci ‘Hompus Stompus’ Berczelly. Pic taken at Palm Beach dressing sheds. South Palm Beach in the background the washed away Beach Buffet and Beachcomber’s club. Check out Col Brown’s famous Ford Twin Spinner it went on many a surfing safari. (info Ron Turton)

Written by garycrockett

July 4th, 2011 at 2:05 am

Posted in 1950s,1960s

Dunlop Surfboards Brookvale 1964


image sourced from The Surfing World Vol 5 No 4 December 1964 page 14

Just had a great conversation with Bruen Finey, a fibreglass sculptor and manufacturer in Brookvale in the late 1950s and 60s who made surfboards for Dunlop along with his own business ‘Crest Surfboards’ out of a factory in Roger Street. Dunlop distributed his boards far and wide across the state – wherever they had a sports store.

Bruen left the army after 1945 and studied sculpture, funded by an ex-war service grant, and took up working with fibreglass and foam in the 1950s, building chemical vats and shop displays, based in Brookvale where land was cheap and other fibreglass companies were located. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by garycrockett

June 20th, 2011 at 10:37 am

Posted in 1950s,1960s