Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Thirroul Ski Club
Interviewer: Claire Gerson
Interview date: 20/08/2019
Claire: This is Claire Gerson interviewing Gordon McComb and Hans Buettner for the Wollongong Library’s Illawarra Stories oral histories. The date is the 20th of August 2019 and we’re in the Bass Room of Wollongong Library.
Good morning Hans and Gordon.
Hans: Good morning.
Claire: Thank you for coming in, I’m ready to hear your, your stories, tall and true about the Thirroul Ski Club. I understand that this year’s the 50th anniversary.
Gordon: That’s correct…
Claire: Ok, were you there from the very beginning, both of you?
Gordon: Not really.
Gordon: Not exactly.
Hans: Not exactly ah. The ah, Thirroul Ski Club was actually ah, formed at the Thirroul Leagues Club, and by Stan Hatton, Gary Harris and Terry York which was finished up being our 1st president. And then, then after the Thirroul’s Leagues Club wanted to be part of it and we wouldn’t be in it.
Claire: Why was that?
Hans: Because on the account it would’ve been Thirroul Ski Club, and we didn’t want it to be Thirroul Ski Club.
Gordon: You mean Thirroul Leagues.
Hans: Thirroul League Ski Club.
Claire: You wanted it for yourself…
Claire: you didn’t…
Hans: yes, ourselves, yes.
Claire: …want a large club sitting on your shoulders as it were.
Hans: Then when we parted with the Thirroul Ski Club they would, the Thirroul Leagues Club they didn’t, ah, wanted to give us some money anyway, for buying something. In the early days when they started talking about forming the Thirroul Ski Club, they were, ah, without a publicity officer, which then when we did form the club. Noel was our publicity o-officer and also a member drive.
Claire: So, you, it sounds like you started with maybe half a dozen people.
Hans: A half a dozen people were started yes. And then from then on, I found out meself that, ah, at Jindabyne because my family and I we were staying in the caravan park because, ah, we didn’t have the money to go up to Perisher Valley accommodation right.
Ah, I would have been 9 years married, paying the house off. Worked as a coal miner all me life. In the early days as the Wollongong people and the old coal miners would know, the, the money was no good because we still was on fair except- and we also worked only three days a week, because the other days was a strike. If the weather was fine.
So, I found out that they were tryin’. Off Ga-Gary Harris and Stan Hatton, ah, to, ah, find out that if they, ah, looking at the lodge up there.
Claire: And had you already heard about the lodge; you’d heard about?
Hans: No, we didn’t hear anything, anything, down the lodge, all that we found out when Noel Way took the publicity officer and the membership drive after, before the ski club. Ah, that there was a meeting called by the people, ah to form a ski club and ah, that’s where I met Gordon an’ the Thirroul Leagues Club at that day ah to, ah, become a member, so we was signed up on 50 dollars, 50 dollars, 50 pound, it was and which I just couldn’t pay. And, and ah, that’s how Gordon and I met, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Claire: So, the fact that you wanted to form a ski club obviously indicates that there was an interest…
Hans: That’s right.
Claire: …in the area, did many people go skiing? Could they afford to go skiing?
Gordon: I started off ah, I was broke, and I was 25 years of age and l, [clears throat] I wanted to build up a bit of a bank account. So, I got a job on the snowy scheme, Snowy Mountains Hydro one, and um, saved up considerable funds.
But then I got introduced to skiing and fly fishing. And ah, I ah, made quite a bit of money up, up there. And ah, bought a block of land and ended up getting married. And then I heard about Illawarra Ski Club forming, and ah, I wanted to join that one and I had the 50-pound fee to join, but you had to go on work parties. And then and I was umming and hahing. And I wasn’t allowed to occupy the building I just built because I needed a front fence. Well that was the end of that 50-pounds see. So, I missed out on that one, and I was keeping my nose- ear to the ground to find out what was going on in the area.
And Alan Roberts, who was one of the pioneers with um, Gerry Hewitt, and um Stan Hatton. And he kept me informed of the, what was going on in the Thirroul Leagues Club. And ah, he told me about all the ah, prospects of building but we didn’t have any builders in the Illawarra and I thought no, no there was chemists, accountants and estate agents but no-one to do the work to build, so I pulled back from that one, and ah, any how I, man lost the plot.
Claire: That’s alright I’ll get you going with another question. Just out of curiosity do many of the people who are working on Snowy Mountain Scheme -Scheme…
Gordon: Oh yes everyone, ah, they were all, they were Europeans. German, Italian, Yugoslavs, Indian every, every nationality I was the shop foreman there I had all, [chuckle] yah know yah know I, I was the only one who spoke English, yah know everybody. It was a, it was a real mess.
Anyhow, I used to go skiing with them, and ah. Unfortunately, I had to give skiing away, because I hurt my back, and I embarrassing try to get off the mountain up at Charlottes Pass, when, it was after we formed club but.
Anyhow, ah when Maranatha came up, Hans and I went to see just to view the, the pictures of it was. ‘n it was a goer you couldn’t, couldn’t miss out on that one could you Hans?
Gordon: And ah so we signed up, up. And that’s, the bench is there on ah was $150.00 or something, anyhow-a, we joined up, and ah, and jus’ I thought we, thought we were both on the committee to start with, but Hans just told me I was on…
Hans: You were on the committee before me.
Gordon: So, then it was a lot of work went into it to establish a loan. Ah everybody wanted it, but we couldn’t get members, we just could not interest anybody I didn’t enticed anybody into, into the lodge I missed out, failed miserably but ah Noel Way he was the driving force on the recruitment and Harry got. Ah, he got a group of us to, to go as guarantor for a couple of one thousand dollars I think it was?
Hans: Thousand dol- thousand
Claire: But you had to raise $33000
Gordon: The bank would lend us so much there was Ian Brown from, ah, Thirroul Leagues Club he must have been one of the directors I assume, he put up $10,000 guarantor at interest rate of I don’t know how much, anyhow we had to pay interest on that $10000. Then ah, about 9 of us I think, went guarantor for 2000, that would be dollars then. And ah.
Unknown man: Excuses me [Cough] carry on.
Gordon: That was for $2000. And, ah, we were getting very worried we could not get members.
Claire: Did you know that there were, there were other [clears throat] parties who were interested in buying the lodge.
Gordon: No there was no-one that I know of.
Claire: So, you were the only people.
Gordon: Only people.
Hans: Yeah, yeah.
Gordon: So anyhow, ah, we had trouble getting the deeds, for some reason, political thing. Tony Filka used to swim in Bondi Rock Pool with one of the politicians that was, that was his job, and he hurried things up a little bit and then.
Ah, P-prior to that we had work parties, where we used to, um, go down and do work. This was before we owned the lodge, because we had to get everything going before the season started. That was the rush the seas’, the winter was coming, and we had to get the- I think National Parks put demands on us to stabilise a big rock in the corner of the Lodge, and ah, ah, face the, the Escapement, which was just plain dirt with rocks. So, ah we had to have a rock gathering.
Claire: It’s a beautiful looking building I mean it’s a classic example of Australian, modernist architecture, but it must have been really cold, with all that space underneath it and all that glass. Or did you not notice, you were so busy skiing.
Gordon: No, no, we were younger then, we were younger then.
Hans: No what it was, we had a big open fireplace on the main floor and well see top floor is in we put a top, Charlie Spiers, was had an engineering firm. Um, he put that up…
Gordon: And Rex Saunders did the.
Hans: And Rex Saunders.
Gordon: The pair of them worked together.
Hans: And ah, they worked hand in hand together and ah, then the volunteers we had to pay our own petrol wasn’t it, to go up there…
Gordon: Probably did yeah.
Hans: …in the early days? But the club supplied the food, so it, so ah. The late Charlie Spiers and ah, Rex Saunders on Friday, on Friday nights. Before we go on the working pass the 1st thing was to put ah, ah, load the trailer and the wagon up, with the gear that were needed scaffolding and stuff like that and ah, lot of things you can’t see on the photos. You come in through door and you had a, I call it a chook stairwell, going up to the top.
Gordon: It was all internal.
Hans: See it was that, that small which we couldn’t get any stuff in and any stuff
out there is a photo in there somewhere I noticed where we getn’ th’ I don’t the fridge or was it?
Gordon: It was a fridge, oh the stove had to come in…
Hans: A fridge and the stove out of the door on to the veranda. And then we had a, Charlie made the, makeshift crane with a chain block on it. And put it over the arm with it, and put it was a block or whatever. Lower them down, other whys we wouldn’t got into it.
And then, then in the finished when we get more bit, bit more financial then we started looking around. Then gas went in, an’ the bedrooms got gas heating in. And then extension got on with Kevin, which is doing at the present moment an’ excellent job. But we worked many ways from 1 stage to the another and much money we had to spend to go in.
Actually most of us, what kill’n’ a lot of the lodges is, is the national parks fees, at this present moment.
Claire: Being present in the park?
Hans: Yeah, bein’, being in it. They draw most of our money out, because you’ve got itemize everything on at this stage, which was in the be- beginning was [unclear] you’ve got to tell ’em how much power you use, much water use, you’re only allowed to use so much water and so on, so on but this our biggest expense even today it’s the national park fees.
Claire: Right. Just back to all the work you did, and the working bees, I notice [clears throat] that on page 28 of your book and I should mention its titled “The Thirroul Ski Club Maranatha Lodge 1969 to the early 80’s” that on page 28 there’s a list of all the people who were involved in a working bee. And what you did, and it covers an enormous rang, from power points, heaters installed, exhaust fans, lights installed all sorts of electrical and struct- structural work, so you were obviously a very, ah skilled and talented bunch of people.
Hans: Yeah, the biggest, the biggest problem we had. Ah, when we got on to oil, at time oil heating was in, and ah we changed over to oil or put oil on to get the boiler and the heating go’n’, ah everything had to be dug out, with the, by hand, to get the oil tanks in and where two oil tanks we got on.
Gordon: No well there was one was already there.
Hans: One was there…
Gordon: One was there, and they had oil heating, but it was inadequate…
Claire: So, you need to do that in Summer?
Gordon: We had to put another tank in…
Hans: We had to put another tank in.
Gordon: We’d run out halfway through the season and have to get somebody to get oil in, it was it was, no because, I, I don’t know why they had such a small, but it was nothing but trouble the oil, nothing but trouble.
Claire: But you do appear to have had an enormous range of, of skill, practical skills…
Gordon: Oh, there was some electricians.
Claire: … and knowledge amongst you, did you ever have to pay anyone to do anything, or did you do everything yourselves?
Hans: Oh, at, later, at the later stage we ah, ah got people in, tradesmen in to put extensions on. And ah, which was designed by Ian Eddy and stuff. An’ put two extra rooms on, applied for two extra or two extra bed was it correct, two extra bed. And ah and ah… that was go’n’ ahead.
And then the 1980’s, because I never forget that on the account, it was Easter time we went up there. We had to strip, the Lodge completely because it was not fire rated. And I never forget that, because while it was Easter on, I lost me mother in Germany. So, the late Brain Donegan said “I drive you home”.
I said, “Brain I haven’t got the fun- money to go over, over and see my moth- mother’s burial, so I’m stayin’ here”. So, we finished up. We completely put the fire rating up the way they wanted and some of the bedrooms, that wasn’t good enough for him so, we had to start again. The electrical went in completely by Brien Donegan and Bruce Norton because they was the two members what had the experience.
Gordon: Kevin Waddingham
Hans: Kevin Waddingham was…
Gordon: He was the 1st electrician before we owned the lodge Kevin Waddingham use to, I’ve got written on here about Kevin, you might want-, I can’t read it now and talk, so ah he, he was one I refer back to that book.
Hans: And then also, the fire, the fire extinguishers, we had to get a lot of extinguishers in, to come up to the lodge and put the alarm system on because every think had to be alarmed. So, I mean it has been updated up to now. But ah, safe the lodge is sound and safe.
Claire: And how many members do you still have?
Gordon: 300 I think.
Claire: 300 that’s a lot.
Hans: Which yeah was 20 beds, so, but we’ve got a good booking officer so-
Claire: I was going to say.
Hans: So, she is doing all right and she got a lot of work all right because she tried to put it in some time she got to put, ah a mixed couple in, you know, which don’t know each other. But our members got used to that, you see
Gordon: Some, some.
Hans: Some of them, yeah.
Claire: And in the early days how did you arrange for who was going to use the lodge, was there?
Hans: There was no arrangements.
Claire: Did you just turn up and be hopeful?
Hans: No, no, no, you had to go. Rex Saurnders was also the booking officer and the maintenance officer at that stage, and ah, the bookings had to go there. And the members had from the 1st of March to the 1st of April to book in 1st choice and then anybody can book in.
Gordon: The earlier days we use to, at the end of the committing meeting we’d get all the applicants in the, applicant forms to, and we would go through them and draw out and whoever missed out, it was bad luck. Because I can recall vividly one time, I got a booking and ah. Anyhow then somebody said. “Oh, there’s some more over here didn’t put them in”. So, we had to do it all again and I missed out so. It was all done at the committee meeting we all just put them all together and we’d sort them out and ah, any that were left over just didn’t get in.
Claire: Was that, did people wear that quite amicably or did anyone ever get upset?
Gordon: They had no option that was it, so that’s how it started. And then we got booking officers. But I remember the 1st, when I was on the committee we used to have to shuffle them all up, put them upside down and work them all around and then, you’d count the numbers of course, and that’s how it was done.
Claire: And I notice that you also use to go down by bus, and that for 40 dollars or 40-pounds you basically got the entire weekend. You got your bus fare, you got ski lifts, you got your food, you got your accommodation, if you needed it you could hire equipment.
Hans: Equipment hire.
Gordon: Was that.
Claire: That’s remarkable.
Gordon: I never went on the bus.
Hans: I never, I never used the bus because with working, which I worked a lot of time up, at the coal face till I retired and, ah. But the mai- main, problem was the… school holidays see, because we all, because we members had all young families see. And they all wanted to go in that 2 weeks which is was impossible so there was another draw out who was who’s going to come in and come out. But it worked out, some of them probably winged about it a bit, but others they just took it, that’s it.
Claire: Because how many people could the Lodge accommodate if pushed came to shove?
Gordon: Well the early days we use to put 30 in there sleeping everywhere but then. Ah, it was the restrictions that the National Park put on us. And ah, threatened visits, I didn’t experience any visits by the National Park but they, I’ve seen other lodges with everybody walking around outside and mattresses thrown out windows. Boonoona was one and I’ve seen that personally yah know. There must have been, because you always got wind of when, when the inspection was coming and ah, we’d just is sort of hide a few people. But they never, while I was there, I never experienced at visit…
Hans: No, I is.
Gordon: No, they threatened, but ah, but I didn’t strike any, there may have been I don’t know.
That’s how it was you know. We used to cheat a bit we had, we use to sell liquor and then we’d, we worried about losing our club, we use to sell but, people would buy, you know if I was hub capped and I’d have to go round and ah, show them all the different bee- wines we had and they all line up. They wouldn’t know anything about it the next morning, you know. “No. I didn’t do that, I didn’t do that,” and I’ve got it all written down, you couldn’t get the money out of them see.
Claire: Oh so…
Gordon: I shouldn’t mention this. [laughter]
Claire: What’s past is past and presumably you did it, you called it donations anyway. Yes.
Gordon: Yeah. So, that’s how it was in the early days.
Claire: The other aspects I find interesting about it because it seems to have in common. Ah. A spirit that was very much alive in Wollongong and Illawarra then and is long gone. Ah, and is shown in the fact that Bulli and Coledale hospitals were both built by drumming up local funds then turned over, was just this clearly a culture where people trusted each other and were prepared put a bit it in, and own things cooperatively.
Gordon: You had to tread carefully because there a few rouges about.
Gordon: You had to sort of have a sixth sense of the characters and we had good characters in our group I thought.
Claire: Presumably you had to pick you Treasurer carefully?
Hans: Well we were pretty lucky with the treasure so we can say that, and ah.
Gordon: Oh, one got into trouble for working the books on the companies he worked for, so, we won’t bring that in.
Hans: When ah, when we got to lodge the 1st year we were lucky. To have a good manager. And she was her name was Diane Schafer.
Gordon: She’s not mentioned in that book.
Hans: And ah Pete ’cause a lot of people don’t, didn’t know it at this stage but the old, old member would know, know about it, but Diane practically. Ah, sh-she had to present the menu. A, 5-day, ah 7-day menu to choose from what’s on the table.
Gordon: She was very young girl.
Hans: And she was only about 22, 23 and she practically paid our lodge off in one season.
Gordon: And there’s criticism of her in this book, that I didn’t like, somebody didn’t.
Claire: You mean she run it so efficiently, and with such good food?
Hans: Yeah, yeah, but, we on- I, we only had her 1, 1 year, and then the husband used to work on, on the lift for the company. And they moved up to America. And well we don’t know what happened after that.
Gordon: I heard it was drug related and then passed away over there.
Hans: So, so, but ah, Diane was ah, she, she, passed away.
Claire: So, she se-, but she set you up?
Hans: Yeah, but she set us up, and then we got a, a German lady as a cook, which is Karen Wade her name is there, and also are there and she was there for 5 or 6 years. And ah, it was, it was ah, pretty, pretty well that our employees we had been there for a longer time. Like the cook was got at the present mome- ah, Barbara was 10 years there. And the cook we got now he is 11th years there.
Claire: And do they live on site all year round?
Hans: They live on site that got a, ah a little flat downstairs with own bathroom and cupboards and stuff like so. Got a double bed in it, and ah, it’s quite, it’s oh, it’s not. Quite comfortable I can say because ah, like, they work all day upstairs, keep the lodge tidy and ah, it worked, works pretty well out.
Claire: And right from the start you had money to cover their wages?
Hans: Oh yes, yes, yes.
Claire: That’s a pretty costly too.
Hans: Well I, I served on the committee 25 years. And, I have been maintenance office. An’ also ah, that’s when, lot of the renovations start it up, was the fire regulated things or that so ah yeah.
Claire: And it’s remarkable you kept it going for 50 years. Because often with um, enterprise like this, there’s a rush of initial enthusiasm and that carries them through, for a few years and then people’s lives change, and other things come along.
Gordon: No, we’ve been very luck, really lucky to keep it going.
Hans: I mean, we had, we had a couple, ah, ah one, one couple we had to sack middle through the season and ah one, one couple. One girl she was an English girl she just packed up and went through the middle of the season, so some of our members went up. And, and ah, the members went up and took the cooking over and the cleaning over. So, without any pay.
Claire: Right, stepped in.
Hans: So, we stepped in.
Claire: But by and large that’s, that’s quite a good innings over 50 years.
Unknown man: Don’t, don’t, can you not tap the table.
Hans: Oh! Sorry.
Unknown man: Please.
Claire: I’m sorry.
Gordon: Lost focus now.
Hans: Yeah, so ah, that was the only time we had a bit of problems that we actually two people. One was sacked and the other, other one she left.
Gordon: There was a young, was a bloke called Beatie wasn’t there.
Hans: No, no that was Alan Beatie. No, no it was Keith and Diane.
Gordon: Yeah, I know it was them, but ah, oh yeah.
Claire: And when you went down for weekend what else did you do other than drink wine and ski, what did you… did you play music?
Gordon: Oh some, oh some, some wild parties. [Chuckles]
Claire: It was the late 60’s.
Hans: We, we done, we done ah, we done ah a lot of parties at home. Dress up parties and like Rex. The late Rex and he’s wife she was a school teacher. And she had another schoolteacher with her, they in the summer times, ah, ah, summer months they, they decided to write some plays. So, we all got to go, had to get dressed up and painted up and [chuckle] put a play on there. An’ yeah so.
Claire: I notice in the book there’s a reference to artwork and there’s a, a black and white picture of what looks like a water colour were there many artists amongst you?
Gordon: I didn’t strike any.
Hans: No, no I didn’t.
Gordon: They were mainly guests, I think.
Hans: One of, yeah, no, one of them was from Warrugang. Barbara brought the photos. I think Barbara bought one photo of the artists.
Gordon: Yeah. I don’t know who did those, yeah, I, that might be the ones from the member from Warrugang. No, I don’t, no I don’t know her, no I don’t know her.
Claire: I was curious I wonder amongst all the other skills there, there were people there with um…
Gordon: Oh yes there were people.
Claire: …art skills.
Gordon: People sitting on the rock playing guitar. Have parties upstairs with all the young the young, as we got older, all the younger ones are coming in. They’re going up stairs and they’re playing with their musical instruments guitar and they had a beautiful sing song they had along there sometimes. There was Bryan O’Loughlan children.
Claire: And was there a kind of seamless changing of the guard from generation to …
Claire: …generation with looking after the place?
Gordon: …it just went gradually, to my mind I think it was just a gradual you know…
Hans: Take over yeah.
Gordon: …our children sort of took over and went up. My children dropped out when dad stop paying the fees. [Chuckles]
Hans: It was not only you.
Gordon: Well they were working, they all, they all had jobs, my children all wor- ah were all working and earning as much money as I was, so I said. “Well you can pay the fees.” Well then, they didn’t pay them, dropped out see. My daughter is still a member. But ah that’s only because when I became a life member, I transferred my membership to her. That’s what they told me to do so I did it.
Claire: And of the 300 members that are still there in 2019, roughly how many do think have any relationship or association with the original members.
Hans: Oh, there’s a couple, oh there’s a couple there.
Claire: That’s why I was asking about the change between the generations.
Gordon: I think Brian O’Loughlan’s children are still there.
Hans: Bri- Brian O’Loughlan, his ki-, his kids like John an’ the, Walkers and the Smith, Ann Smith well she is a early member because her husband was a chemist at Thirroul…
Hans: …and he must have known, that, that, that…
Gordon: Don’t forget Jimmy.
Hans: Well an’ Jimmy Spiers which his father was a member early member in, and done all the reservations was put’n’ the extra floor in and stuff like that. So, he’s still there and his brother Paul so there is.
Gordon: Editor of that book, their parents started it.
Hans: Yeah, so…
Claire: So, I’m just curious so if I’m someone in Thirroul or someone in their district…
Hans: Yeah, yeah
Claire: …in 2019 how would I fi-, kno- find out about the Thirroul Ski Clubs? Would I hear about it from someone, from my child’s school or how would I know?
Hans: Well, well there is a website in the, on the computer where they can go in Thirroul Ski Club for accommodation.
Claire: And did you, set tha- not you personally…
Gordon: No, the club…
Claire: …but did the club set that up?
Gordon and Hans: Yeah…
Claire: So, they had someone there who knew about website…
Claire: So that’s good.
Hans: Because in the early, in the early days, we also advertised for members in the NRMA book. And, but we didn’t get anyone. And then in the mean-, in the meantime we also purchased another lodge in Jindabyne. So, we had Sundance Lodge at Jindabyne, which had all, that was out of the National Park.
Gordon: Yeah, we, I’ve got a photo of it over in the bag there.
Hans: And, ah, what’s ‘er name, that had about all you could take whoever you wanted to put in, and that’s been. Ah what’s ‘er name rented out, if the members didn’t want it, it’s been rented out.
And, ah, the real estate bloke he done the dirty on us. He had people in it which the members found out. And when they come into present as bookings for the months it wasn’t listed. So, we took it off. And then well the old, the old fellows like us, were maintenance while we were up there. We spent a couple of hours doing there bloody what’s ‘er name. Changing power globes and stuff like that. But, ah, we had that quite a few years too, so we had, and then when, then we sold it.
Claire: I just want to go back to the start for a moment.
Claire: ’cause um, one of the things we haven’t talked about although we mentioned that it was a fine piece of architecture was that it was originally owned and built by the Jesuits.
Gordon: That’s right.
Claire: And so, had the rare distinction of having an altar.
Claire: ’cause it, did it stand in place for a church.
Gordon: It was mobile, the, the altar was a, a mobile thing they could bring it out from the wall, and the priest would deliver the service there. But ah, this heathen pulled it apart and made a boot cupboard out of it. So, I’m not going to heaven, so. [Chuckles]
Claire: Right I was going to ask, so being consecrated so, presumably when you moved it, it was deconsecrated.
Hans: Yes, yeah.
Gordon: It was portable like pushing up against the wall and when the church services was on, they could bring it out, and have the services and then pushed back in the corner somewhere an’…
Hans: See at that time when we brought the Lodge, ah they had no church at Perisher Valley. The per- the, the Church was built later stage, which is the same style as our Maranatha. So, and then, well then there was no need to keep the, the, keep the what’s ‘er name the altar there.
So, but that’s only been out pulled recently, that thing. Because we still used it as a, as a boot drying cupboard. Where our ski boots put in an’ dried out. Till we came, ah, till our maintenance officer, sit next to you. Came up with other, with other ideas, which he saw while his ski’n’ holiday, was over- overseas so, which is excellent.
Claire: I see. Maranatha means the Lord is coming, in which language? Do you know?
Hans: Mara- is it…
Gordon: I was told that, only yesterday, and I can’t remember.
Claire: I’m just, doesn’t matter I was just curious.
Gordon: It was brought up last- on Sunday night at my place and ah, my daughter looked it up on the, on her mobile, and she did say what, what it was and ah, I can’t remember. It wasn’t Italy. No.
Claire: And the, um architect just could, just while we’re back there in the early days. Do you know if he, if he was known for designing any other buildings that were? Because it’s, you said its heritage listed, or heritage significant.
Hans: Yeah, it’s heritage- we can’t alt- alter the style or…
Claire: Probably just as well really.
Hans: No, I mean, I don’t like to see it be altered anyway because there’s a lot of, history going into the club, and ah the other thing is, ah. It would cost us a lot of money if it’s burned down for one reason or the other it would cost us a lot of money to build the same style there the way it was.
Claire: Have bushfires ever come close to it?
Gordon: Yes, yes.
Hans: Yes, yes. It come close to it yep.
Claire: And were there member down there to, protect it ‘n’ at the time?
Gordon: I don’t think so.
Claire: Or was it lucky…
Hans: No, I don’t think there were, was any members there, but the fire brigade, Perisher Valley fire brigade was there. So, that was it. Not only Perisher, Jindabyne fire brigade and that saved it.
Claire: Um, because presumably with the prolonged droughts and hotter summers that’s going to become a bigger consideration.
Gordon: Yes, the National Parks are a where of this, and ah, they well, only last summer, ah they were there taking trees out that were getting close to the Lodge. So um, no that’s ah, that’s a worry, and, and, the fire.
We are fire rated at present. But ah, but then they changed the rules, rules all the time, an’ you never know what’s, install for us the next season. It seem to b-, to me that the National Parks are trying to create employment in the area and they can create new, new rules every year to, I don’t know what’s going on. Or they want to buy the Lodge one of the two. [Chuckle]
They make it very difficult, but I think we’ve, on the right side of them at present. We have been on, you know on, the wrong side of the National Parks in previous years, but ah. Ah Kevin’s sort of done some sweet talking, an’ he’s ah, done a good job there. And ah, getting on side with the National Parks, because they enjoy, I think they enjoy coming up for a cup of tea, morning tea up there an’. That’s what made me think they might want to, buy the damn thing. [Laughs]
Claire: And what happened when you were on the wrong side of them?
Gordon: Made things very difficult. I didn’t, I was never, y’ know, in contact with them I just heard. It’s only hear say what I’m going on ‘n’. So, I better not say too much about that, on camera, play it safe.
Claire: Should we have a little break?
Claire: You… Just to backtrack to the um architect again, he was ah. What was his name John Playoust?
Claire: Playoust. Did you ever meet him?
Hans: No, no we, we, we don’t, no he was not even when Gary Harris and ah Gary Harris and Stan Hatton went up to take an inspection of that Lodge. They didn’t even meet the architect.
Gordon: No. Noel Way was the one that contacted him. He was the…
Hans: So, Noel did an’ [unclear].
Claire: So, he would have been picked by the Jesuits wouldn’t he, who built the lodge?
Gordon: I would think so. Definitely.
Claire: And instructed to put the alter in?
Gordon: Yes. [chuckles] He might have been one of them, I don’t.
Hans: Because actually, actually what made them sa- sale of it, that ah, you probably remember. He used to be a news reader, at ABC James Dibble.
Gordon: He was a…
Hans: So, yeah, so.
Gordon: He was a member there.
Hans: He was a, he was a member there. And that must have come out from him, that they can’t keep it anymore and it’s got to go.
Claire: Right, and you heard it on the scuttle but.
Hans: Yeah. But then, like I said before, earlier, that I met them down at the ah, for Lodge inspection down the, down the Jindabyne Caravan Park, so.
Claire: You mention the Illawarra Club. Were there other, are there still?
Gordon: Oh yes there was…
Claire: Were there then…
Gordon: That a very accu-…
Claire: A lot of other …
Gordon: That a very accurate.
Claire: Lodges that were own by other people from down here.
Gordon: Yes, still very active.
Claire: Again cooperatively.
Gordon: There the arrivals aren’t they, there the other races, there good crowd.
Hans: Yeah there was not only the Illawarra, at a later stage Lysaghts came into it.
Gordon: Ah, that no. Lysaghts were before us, ’cause I use to stay at their Lodge.
Hans: Ah alright.
Gordon: And I got photos at a historical society I got now, that with my children and my wife at ah, Rennex Gap that’s where the Illawarra you know.
Gordon: Ly- no, it was Port Kembla RSL before it was Lysaghts.
Hans: That’s right.
Gordon: You had to book had to book at Port Kembla.
Claire: So that was the one for the Steel Works?
Hans: Well they renamed it when they brought it, then it’s Lysaghts.
Gordon: It’s, Lysaghts brought it.
Hans: Because they formed the Ski Club and so, but the Lodge was there before Maranatha.
Claire: And did everyone think of it as, oh well that’s the Steel Works?
Gordon: No, that was the RSL.
Hans: RSL and then they must have got it off, off the Port Kembla RSL.
Gordon: I was going to bring the photos of, of that one.
Claire: Who owned the Illawarra one?
Gordon: The Illawarra Leagues Club.
Claire: Oh, I see, l see, so.
Hans: Mas-master Builders Club isn’t it.
Hans: Illawarra Leagues Club or Master Builders Club
Gordon: Master Builders have got their own, there’s two.
Hans: Oh, yeah Illawarra, an’, Master Builders
Claire: So, there’s a fair fe- four, were talking about four, so we’ve got the Illawarra…
Hans: An’, Snowy.
Claire: … we’ve got Thirroul…
Gordon: Snow County.
Claire: Port Kembal RSL, or ah …
Gordon: Oh no that’s, that’s.
Claire: … Lysaghts, and then we’ve got Master Builders.
Gordon: So, there’s a lot of skiers.
Claire: That’s quite a presents.
Hans: We got a; Illawarra’s good. So, we, we hold every year, an inter club competition. With all the clubs together.
Claire: Do take it quite seriously?
Hans: Yeah, so they take it quite seriously, so we came 2nd this year. Yes an’ to get. We’ve got grown up kids now, at one stage early the stage. Illawarra was the most established club. [Sneeze] From down here. And the 1st, 7, 8, years you could see the 1st Illawarra, Illawarra, Illawarra, win ‘n’ the championship, but the time has changed now. Maranatha is there also, Lysaghts is there. And ah, and our position is pretty, pretty ah, strong at the moment, with the coming up kids and they all local kids, so.
Claire: And what do you win? Ah a little Trophy.
Hans: Well the tro-trophies and, and ah, sponsorship it’s also coming in, and ah like.
Claire: So, we’re talking, big.
Claire: We’re talking big.
Hans: Oh, it’s only…
Gordon: Just local sponsorship.
Hans: It’s only locally ah, not, not big companies or something like that, you know like the ski shop in Wollongong in Crown Central. I don’t know what his name is. He, he put a lot of prizes on. He also puts a night on, to boost his business, and ah, some other people put in, I don’t know the exact prizes.
Unknown man: Rhythm, Rhythm, Rhythm at Cooma.
Hans: Rhythm at Cooma there we are.
Claire: So, and you, and you make a night out of the awards and…
Hans: Oh yeah, yeah big party a big party an’ after an’ ah finger food an’ eating, and’ everybody takes their beer and wine then there. So gunna, gunna, be, be after the race, real social night.
Claire: So that’s something that changed in 50 years. Thirroul’s now coming 2nd. What else if you look back over 50 year of the ski club. What, what’s particularly changed, or what stands out for you, as very different now, from what it was in 69?
Gordon: We’re getting less active. Age, age is catching up with us.
Hans: Age, age catchin’ up with us, yeah so. No, it’s quite good.
I, I can remember the 1st inter club competition we won, and it was me, I was in me fifty’s and there was Bruce he was in his forty’s and Little Jimmy was also in his forty’s and then did Peter Kreilis he was, he was the youngest bloke amongst it, and that was the1st year we won the ah, club championship, Illawarra championship.
So, I-I’m still very proud of that, that we got it, in that age group. And then be-before we had Brian O’Loughlin which was in the sixties. He got us a las- last, last in, he got a bottle of Jägermeister. [chuckles] So, [chuckles] but, yeah, no, no, he was pretty happy and proud of it, you know.
But the friendship, is there you know, which is good, it’s a family club. And we treat it as a family, there’s non-members are just as welcome. Than the members and we’re your got some good non-members in the whole club. Which use the Lodge every year.
Claire: And it’s produced lifelong friendships?
Gordon: Oh yes.
Claire: And have, and the children of members become friends as well?
Gordon: Some have.
Hans: Some of them yeah.
Gordon: Those who compete mainly.
Claire: And has that um, that spirit that was so strong in the early days of people mucking in an’ volunteering their time, whole weekends an’ school holidays, does- is that still there?
Hans: Oh, yeah, it’s still there.
Gordon: Oh yes.
Hans: The same as the mai-, the maintenance, you know, we still go up as maintenance, ah as we were doing in the new early days, so.
Gordon: We don’t do much work, but…
Hans: This is the other, this is the other thing, by rights we shouldn’t be up there because we all over 70. Like with insurance and stuff like that, you know. So, but we still go there. I mean we do as much as I can do, I still climb the tree as I did 10 years ago. [chuckles]
Gordon: No not the same mate, not the same. [All laugh]
Hans: But ah…
Claire: But there’s plenty of young, younger people there to pick up the slack.
Hans: Well the younger, young people are not interested on maintenance and they haven’t got the time either because they are the.
Claire: That was what I was trying to get, weather that, spirit I understand your still keen to volunteer and wouldn’t think twice about it. But are the younger and more recent members, are they willing to volunteer and give their time for the…
Hans: Well that’s…
Claire: necessary maintenance.
Hans: That’s again. A thing of the maintenance officer because we got people there, which you wouldn’t, which you wouldn’t invite to come up for working bee, because they got no skills or whatever they got. You know they just want to get up there for good time. So, the Maintenance officer, works out what job are priority of jobs are there to be done and he picks his per-, he picks his people, so…
Claire: Right so he needs to be pretty cluey?
Hans: So, he knows exactly just skill skills as a couple blokes from Canberra, there’s Gordon and me-self, we still go up there. But like I said we can’t, we can’t even if I wan’ a do much. But I can’t do it, so I’ll have to do that, but I do my bit, what’s got ‘a be done.
Claire: So, does that mean you end up paying people, more than you, to do things more than you used to?
Gordon: To get it done properly you’ve got ‘a pay people.
Claire: So that’s a change isn’t it?
Gordon: Yes. But we’ve got the money to cover it now. The Treasury mightn’t think so. But [chuckle].
Hans: They all sit on money, the Treasurer ha. But its ah, pretty, pretty nice ah, the way we’ve got the club working and the friendship is there, and people look after each other. The same as ah, when we, when the membership goes down below the 300 then they take people from non-membership, what have been using the Lodge over, over the years. Because they always come back, because they have a good time down there, and the camaraderie-ship, ship is there, the companionship is there so, ah, ah. They, they get the 1st bite of the cherry if can ah, if they want to become member.
Claire: You said in 1969 membership was 50 pounds what’s membership in 2019? You don’t know because your life members?
Hans: It’s 2 1/2 thousand I think or 3 1/2 thousand.
Gordon: 3 thousand 3 1/2 thousand.
Claire: Right that a lot of difference.
Claire: Yes, even allowing for inflation.
Claire: Yes, so…
Hans: The an’ an’ the ah, ah, the rates go- the booking rates goes up every year. So, goes up inflation, 5 percent…
Unknown man: It’s an interest free loan on membership for 3 1/2 thousand.
Hans: So, ah, yeah so that’s, that’s pretty well, ok.
Claire: So, you began in the year that ah, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
Hans: Yes, yes there’s quite a few things happen according to that ah, sign. It’s not only, it’s not only that, where is it. There we are. Fastest plane, your computers.
Claire: That’s right and it was only a slightly less…
Hans: Mobile phone.
Claire: Concorde aircraft maiden flight, the moon landing, the 1st jumbo took off. Woodstock music festival, the last live performance by the Beatles, the 1st computer message from one computer to another, and last but definitely not least the Thirroul Ski Club Maranatha Lodge was established.
Hans: That’s right.
Gordon: Very shakily but ah we survived.
Claire: Well thank you Gordon and Hans for coming in and telling me all about it. Is there anything else you want to add, or you happy to, wrap it up there?
Gordon: Sorry I missed out on, on this, spiel I was going to give, but I missed out on Tony Filka who was there, right at the beginning an’, all through he was I haven’t mentioned Tony but he’s in a.
Hans: Yeah when they went for the 1st Lodge inspection. Tony Filka like ah, Gary Harris and Stan Hatton they thought he was another buyer for the Lodge.
Gordon: Alan Roberts was on the…
Hans: But he, he. The way it turned out he’d heard by that time that the, Thirroul Ski Club is, gunna be before, started up and then he wanted to know about it, an’ ah, he was, he was, one of our members an’ our good members.
Claire: Right so he came for a sticky beak.
Hans: Yeah, so yeah, but ah, we were wondering, we were wondering where he is, but he must be over, over, a 100 year, 100 years now would he? Tony
Gordon: Well he’s still alive, he’s still alive an’ he’s in a home at Castle Hill, that’s right. So, we’ve got ta go an’ see him.
Hans: See, same is, the same is Noel, Noel what was the instigated, the Membership drive and stuff like that. He, ah. He is lives up at the north coast somewhere.
Hans: Gosford or somewhere there but , so, so.
Claire: He sounded really good at his job.
Hans: Well he was excellent, but he had the time, because he used to, his father used to have a Way Real Estate at Thirroul. And ah, he had a lot of time. From work, to do all that, see. Which was a big help at that time, see.
Gordon: Oh, got us off the ground.
Hans: Yeah. So, he got us off the ground and then well I, I can’t even remember when the, when the. Kiandra, the old Kiandra Ski Club when they got pushed out of the National Park, because we took, lot of members off them. And th-that was finished then where we had to restrict our membership. Some of them signed up, some of them didn’t join up.
Gordon: They all had to join a club, because the National Parks couldn’t give them cash for- to buy them out they had to buy them into other clubs, and ah, that’s how. And the others some of them, one fam- big family from the Illawarra, they wanted their money, but we just didn’t have the money to give them. So, every committee meeting there’d be a big a letter there demanding, a letter of demand, for their money, push it aside, got no money [Chuckle].
Claire: Was all this toing and froing with the national parks, was that because the 1st or however many of them, ski lodges had existed there before the, Snowy Mountains National Park, was declared.
Hans: Yeah, yeah oh yeah.
Claire: So similar to what happened in the Royal with all the huts.
Hans: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly right.
Gordon: There weren’t many in Perisher, you know there were a few big ones.
Unknown man: 1962, 1962 the lodges started to be built.
Claire: And when was the Snowy Mountains Park declared?
Gordon: Oh, early, early fifty’s I think or 48- late 40’s.
Claire: Oh, so it was there before.
Gordon: Yeah there was a lot of groundwork to do, but I, I went there in 55 I think I; I got a job in P-Polo Flat Cooma.
Claire: It must have been like the hearts and part of that proceed until apprehended attitude, yeah, that was very common.
Gordon: Ah, it was.
Hans: Lot of, the, some of the blokes didn’t sign up at the ski club. But then people got to know, here in the Illawarra district. That we had a Lodge, and the way by mouth we, ah got, ah got talking to people and then the members people come in. But nobody wanted to sign up when we started see. But anyway, it worked out, for the goodness of that ,and I wouldn’t ah, I hope I would see the last day of Maranatha Ski Club. So, ah which I don’t think I got any worries about that. You know.
Gordon: It’s in good hands at present. Good committee.
Claire: There’s plenty of life in it yet.
Hans: Oh yes, yes.
Gordon: All go.
Claire: Well on that note, I might say thank you again…
Hans Thank you.
Claire: For your time and your stories.
Gordon: Thank you very much.