Surf City, Sydney

an Historic Houses Trust blog

Archive for the ‘1960s’ Category

Ross Bailey and his Gordon Woods hotdogger


Photo Ted Harvey, 1963, courtesy Ross Bailey

Had lunch with my good mate and veteran Newcastle ‘Surf Rat’ Ross Bailey the other day. Not surprisingly we talked at length about the early years of malibu surfing north of Sydney and he gave me a handful of photos, including this one of him ‘on the nose’ aboard his brand new striped Gordon Woods 9 foot sixer.

He also gave me an old photo of him in 1963 outside the Gordon Woods factory shop at 208 Harbord Road, Brookvale  – that’s Ross Bailey on the right of the door, about to check out the new range.

Gordon Woods Surfboard Centre Brookvale 1963, photo courtesy Ross Bailey

Here’s the Gordon Woods showroom in 1968, with a few of Gordon’s lastest stringerless ‘involvement’ models on show. The image (below) is from the back cover of John Witzig’s Surf International Vol 1 No 1 in 1968 held in a private collection.

The old Gordon Woods shop in 2008…

The shop today, courtesy google maps…



Written by garycrockett

May 31st, 2013 at 1:38 am

Surf City Kings Cross


Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross Theatre, city view, late 1930s Sam Hood, State Library Of New South Wales [Home and Away #34748]

The 1963 conversion of the grubby, shambling Kings Cross Theatre (shown above) on the intersection of Victoria and Darlinghurst Roads into a hip, stomping night club echoed wider cultural wars underway at the time. Not only had television killed off local picture palaces, but the greasy, pale skinned rocker scene of the 50s was swept aside by a new freedom-crazed, sun-loving wave of surfers. And the Surf City ‘sound lounge’ was where they went to stomp – that primal, leaping-about dance to the rumbling wail of surf music. Surf City was alcohol free although pumped with action nonetheless. Stomp-mad teens were kept in order by ushers and barrel chested security goons, known fittingly as beach inspectors. Big local surf-bands like the Atlantics, The Denvermen and the Dave Bridge Trio packed the place well ahead of overseas acts like the Beachboys and Chantays, who also performed at Surf City in early 1964.

After surf music died in 1964 and the ‘beat’ boom overtook Sydney, according to Milesago, bands like Ray Brown and The Whispers, The Missing Links and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs did regular gigs at Surf City before its doors closed later in the decade.

Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross in the late 1960s, looking north toward El Alamein Fountain. Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive. Photograph (c) Wesley Stacey

Same view Darlinghurst Road Kings Cross, looking north, 2010, via Google streetview

Written by garycrockett

November 15th, 2012 at 12:14 am

Posted in 1960s

Keith Paull 1968


Steve Core recently told me he did this spacey paint job for Kieth Paull in the late 60s when both of them were working for Peter Clarke. Photo by (and copyright of) Jeff Carter, taken in 1968, around the same time Paull beat Nat Young and Midget Farrelly in the 1968 National titles, held at Long Reef.

Read Kieth Paull’s obituary from 2004

Written by garycrockett

September 23rd, 2012 at 7:49 am

Posted in 1960s

John Knobel, Narrabeen, Teenager’s Weekly 1962


John Knobel standing second on left, arms crossed, in original clipping from Teenagers’ Weekly supplement in Australian Woman’s Weekly 22 August 1962, private collection [although this image can also be sourced online here]

Just had a call from John Knobel, Bondi local in the 50s and 60s. That’s him standing second from the left in front of the red balsa malibu, wearing his home-made blue board shorts with a snazzy rope belt. John surfed on a Norm Casey hollow 16 foot toothpick before the malibus arrived in Sydney in 1956 although he was never part of the lifesaving scene. As a youngster he wheeled his board the few blocks to the beach on a hand cart made from a packing case. The switch to light-weight balsa in the late 50s was an amazing break through because “they could be thrown about from the tail” and unlike the old longboards were thrilling to ride. It was also pretty clear that shorter boards meant more fun in the surf, so his early boards were under 9 foot. John also recalled hopping over the back wall into the lifesavers’ change rooms at Bondi to rescue surfboards impounded by the likes of Aub Laidlaw.

I remembered that John Knobel gave me a copy of this image taken on the same day as the Teenager’s Weekly shoot.

Peter Bowes sent through a few names..

Top row left – Denis Lindsay
Top row right, Hawaiian shirt – Mick Dooley
Middle row right with spikey hair – Dave Standen
Black suit – Midget
Next but one – Bob Fell
Front row right – Puppy Dog Paton

Big thanks to John Boylan for adding more names… (Sept 2013)

“more names for front cover of 22 August 1962 Teenagers Weekly – top left Peter St. John, 3rd from left Ken McKnight, 4th Jim Pike, 5th Barry Watson, 6th Peter Menzies, 7th John Boylan, 8th Ross Gibson. Middle row blue Speedo’s John Mater, squatting Steve Try, middle behind Midget (Farrelly) Jimmy Ingham, all Manly boys.”

Written by garycrockett

July 24th, 2012 at 2:31 am

Posted in 1960s

The Australian Surfer 1961


From 1961, Australian surf magazines broke new ground in targeting young readers. Bronte surfer Lee Cross’s The Australian Surfer closely resembled John Severson’s pioneering Californian booklet The Surfer and only released two editions, while Jack Eden’s Surfabout and Bob Evan’s The Surfing World, both launched in 1962, became firmly entrenched in Sydney’s surfing consciousness.

The Australian Surfer, Volume 1, 1961 (courtesy Ron Saggers) took its size, page number and even cover image concept from John Severson’s The Surfer, which started life as a souvenir booklet of black and white movie stills in California the previous year.

First edition of The Surfer magazine, 1960, courtesy Ron Saggers. Note the Bennett surfboards stamp at top right. Barry Bennett, along with Ron Saggers’ uncle, the Sydney photographer Ron Perrett, maintained close contact with John Severson for many years. Right from the start, The Surfer was distributed locally through Barry Bennett surfboards.

Written by garycrockett

May 23rd, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Posted in 1960s

Dennis Elton, early 1960s

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While the future of this blog is unclear, I’m going to continue posting colourful snippets and mementoes of the exhibition. Here’s the first ‘post-show’ offering, a poster from Marilyn Birmingham along with a couple of pics generously supplied by Dennis Elton.

Rough cut movie poster for Dennis Milne’s and Dennis Elton’s locally shot ‘New, Different’ super 8 double bill in 1963, Surf Stomp / Follow the Surf, clipped into an early 1960s scrapbook by Marilyn Birmingham (nee Bennett), courtesy Marilyn Birmingham.

Dennis Elton 1963, photo, courtesy Dennis Elton

Bronte Boys 1961, hand coloured photo, courtesy Dennis Elton



Written by garycrockett

May 23rd, 2012 at 1:56 am

Posted in 1960s

Paper bikinis?


Came across this great 60s advert here. Maybe right, maybe wrong, not sure. Tracy looks pretty nervous as the first couple of shories froth around her waist and her absorbant swimmers start swelling, just like those ‘transpiration’ experiments in year 7 science, wondering what’s she’s gonna be left with in a few minutes – no doubt a soggy and tattered film of printed paper delaminating about her privates…oh well there’s another pair in the bucket Trace.

Written by garycrockett

March 1st, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Posted in 1960s

Valentin Sowada, Bondi Beach early 1960s

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photo courtesy Valentin Sowada, many thanks to Karin Sowada

As Valentin put it…from the Swiss Alps to Bondi Beach. Having arrived in Sydney in 1956, from his home town of Lausanne, by way of North Africa, Paris, India and East Asia, followed by a stint working in the Snowys before finally settling down in Tamarama in 1962, Swiss wanderer and photographer Valentin Sowada was eager to absorb what he regarded as Sydney’s very non-European qualities.

Here’s one of Valentin’s photos showing the great sandy patchwork of cultures and characters around early 60s Bondi. I’m wondering if the leopard print boardies and biblical tats on this bonafide greaser would have raised a few eyebrows.

Congratulations to Valentin, who turned 80 the other day, for your fantastic photos, your work with Qantas and other local magazines and more recently, your contribution of several photos in Surf City.

Written by garycrockett

February 28th, 2012 at 4:02 am

Posted in 1960s

Bennett V-bottom 1968

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WE WANT YOUR HELP… pretty sure someone out there will be able to help Norm with info on the likely shaper of his ripper Bennett v-bottom. There’s a number 5880 printed at the base of the fin. Perhaps there’s a sales or stock register on hand at Bennetts from this period…? Either email the author or post a comment on the blog.

Hi Gary – Spoke last week at the museum; you mentioned you may be able to help with the age and the shaper of my surf board. As mentioned the build number at the base of the fin is 5880. I brought it second hand in 1968. Regards Norm

Written by garycrockett

February 15th, 2012 at 2:25 am

World surfing contest, Manly

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MANLY 2012

photo Gary Crockett

Crowds hit North Steyne yesterday for the first weekend of the inaugural Australian Open of Surfing, and the return of big money stadium-style surf contests to Sydney after more than 2 decades. A few minutes after this shot was taken an approaching electrical storm forced organisers to empty the crowded stands and the nearby skate bowl.

MANLY 1964

centre spread photo Ron Perrott [American] Surfer September 1964

The first official international contest of surfers took place on Manly’s North Steyne, in May 1964. Some said it was 65,000 people on the beach, although this aerial shot taken of the big event by Ron Perrott for American Surfer magazine shows a smaller crowd. The photo caption reads… In a helicopter view of the World Contest, surfer-photographer Ron Perrott captures the colour of the spectacle. The crowd on the beach watches participants (left, center), while surfers on the right work out in the “free surf” area.

Written by garycrockett

February 13th, 2012 at 5:18 am

Posted in 1960s,exhibition