The Famous last photograph 1976.
A Splat in the Patty aka … Shitty Motorcross 1976
This is a two part story, one weekend, two stories.
I can only but apologise for the quality of this photograph, however beggers cannot be choosers and as my Sister now has all the family photograph albums, l will never ever see them again, nor any of the contents, which means l have a handful of photos of photos. The image above is one of 657 l have in my possession.
May 15th 1976, was a Saturday, l had just turned 12. The photo here is taken prior to me taking my first and last solo journey on a motorbike or rally bike in Wilsons Promontory or Prom for short in Victoria. May in Australia is right at the back end of autumn and just before the start of winter. Where l was living at the time was in Seaford, Victoria and the weather for the autumn had been cold, frosty and windy and wet. It was no different for Wilsons Prom back then, a relatively hard drive away from Seaford.
I had gone to the Prom for a weekend scout camp – long weekend Friday morning to Sunday afternoon and it was one of the notorious Father/Son trips. I didn’t mind them, but many a time in truth all l had wanted to do was escape the madness of living with my constantly battle ready parents. 1976, had been a tough, tough horrible year and l wasn’t overly excited at spending any more of my time with either of my parents than l had to . However, l couldn’t avoid this, at least l had the 11th World Jamboree to look forwards to later in the year, just prior to us as a family leaving Australia for good. Something l REALLY didn’t want to do, but once more at 12 l had no choice in the matter!
So the way l looked at things in 1976 was l was living on borrowed time, in ten months we would be sailing from Melbourne to Southampton, England and that would be that. So l had to make the best of everything l could, if it meant taking a few risks here and there then that had to be done.
We had set off Friday around the 6am mark and arrived at the prom for about 11am, unloaded all the gear, tents, rucksacks, boots. Met up with the troop, walked to our campsite and then struck base camp. I had been a little concerned about this particular camp, it was to be a day of activity and day of hiking, both l loved, but the Thursday before we had set off, l had developed a rather nasty toothache which by Friday afternoon had further grown into a really nasty abscess which had decided to occupy most of the lower part of my mouth.
This was really irksome l have to be honest and admit to, more so because l had been to the dentist the previous weekend, and the silly sod had pulled out the wrong tooth, and l couldn’t get a new appointment until the 19th. The bad tooth which should have been extracted was left in and a perfectly normal tooth had been pulled! Sadly that used to be the state of play with Australian dentists in the 70’s – more a case of hit and miss!! All the week following the wrong extraction, the abscess had been kind and had stayed away, however as luck would have it, atypical to my bad luck it decided to play havoc over the one time l really could have done without it.
It didn’t help matters that my Dad seemingly delighted in taking the absolute piss out of me and my misfortune, in fact any opportunity he could in those early years of being a teenager he jumped on board and would tease and insult me in front of my friends and their parents. Having a swollen mouth only served his humour better. My Dad thought himself a god, and gods are perfect, or he thought so in his eyes! If at any point in my life l started to disbelieve in religion it was in those year.
So all throught that weekend l had to put up with stupid jokes like ‘Chin up! Oh of course you can’t because your mouth is so big!” or ‘I have a thick headed Son!”, “Toothy!!” and the list of so called funny puns continued.
One of the Saturday afternoon activities had been motorcross, l had already decided l had wanted to do the canoeing and the archery which my two favourite pastimes next to hockey, they didn’t have the latter but the two frmer activities had looked reall good. However my Dad went not taking the piss out of me , was always on about me getting into more solid sports and being more ‘boy like’. He had tried to coax me into the likes of cricket over my preferred baseball and to take part in English soccer rather than Ozzie Rules, but l still preferred my hockey. I had been doing ice hockey at one point, or rather l had been trialling for ice hockey, but had slipped over and when not slicing open a fellow teamsters cheek had managed to break all my toes in my right foot, so that ended my chances of a career in ice hockey – l was declared too clumsy for the sport.
So he cancelled my afternoon classes of archery and canoeing and put my name down for motorcross, which l wasn’t really that happy with for two reasons; 1] l wasn’t that good at balancing on bikes and 2] l was really terrible with balancing on BIKES!! He would not hear of it, irrelevant to how many times l tried to tell him why he and Mum wouldn’t let me have a paper round and of all the times l had fallen off my Dragster!
The course was two hills, some flat work and a squiggly bit, it resembled something like that of a Scalextric course than something for motorbikes. I hadn’t received any training on the bike, was just given a helmet, and told how to hold the handlebars and where the brakes were and how to accelerate! Easy peasy they had said! “Don’t worry about balance mate, you will not need it, it’s as easy as riding yer bike!”
Which was my biggest beef with this whole situation!
My Father told me to look happy as he took the photograph above, and then told me to man up and have fun.
I started on the flats first, which admittedly was easy, and then l took a gentle slope and that was easy, and l was beginning to think that maybe being a motorcross rider wasn’t that bad, when as soon as l came out of the gentle slope, l suddenly realised that it was no longer gentle and was now sheer and downwards sheer! I sped down this hill like a crazed lunatic – l say this as l was screaming at the top of my lungs that l had forgotten which one was the brakes and which one was the accelerator! Which l found out pretty darn quick as well – l know because l was pressing it like there was no tomorrow and was then going faster down the hill and heading for what looked for all the world like a solid barbed wire fence!
I was desperately trying to find the brakes and once found realised they were not working – at all! So l still sped down this hill, frozen to my seat, when l remembered the handlebars and that l should turn them! It was too late when l did eventually realise that! According to the spectators they reckoned l hit the fence doing 25mph. The front tyre hit one of the posts and bent the wheel whilst l entangled in the barbed wire around my knees was flung over the top and it was only the speed l was going that prevented me from becoming totally tangled.
No, l didn’t have to worry about that, it had ripped my knees anyway, and as l was flying through the air in all of three seconds thinking “Fuck you Dad!” That my life was over, l suddenly hit the ground not with a resounding crunch but with a huge almight splatter!
Yes l splattered!!
I lay there thinking, wow that was lucky! I had a serious pain in my mouth which l figured was expected, my knees stung and l didn’t need to be a genius to know they were bleeding, but the thing that got to me the most was that l seemed to be sinking and something seriously smelled reeeeeeeeeeeeally bad!!
Behind me, l could hear a ruckuss and it wasn’t long before helping hands were getting me out of my splatter pile. There was a lot of laughter and guffaws and shrieks of comedy going on. I could hear my Father’s voice muttering things like “Useless child, why can he never get anything right?” Followed by, “Now look what he has done, broken the bike, and ruined everyone’s day!”
As soon as l was standing, everyone took a huge step away from me and just looked. I looked around their faces and settled on my Father’s look of absolute disgust. Then l looked down and groaned and moaned as to why was it always me that these things happened to?
At the bottom of the hill, so it turned out had been a sewage plant, acres and acres of shit filled pits, and l had landed directly in one of these pits! Shit had broken my fall literally. I was escorted, loosely defined term for a group of people walking me back up to the shower block with them way in front, laughing and joking, including my Father who only looked back a few times to make sure l was still there following, and each time he did look he laughed!
I showered and washed myself a dozen times, l had ripped open the tops of my knees, but the corduroys thankfully had taken most of the blow [l got seriously bollocked when l returned home on the Sunday for ripping my trousers by my Mother] and l got away with a few large bandages. I was very, very lucky apparently, well according to my Father – because it would mean that l would not miss out of the Hike the following day.
Oh yes l thought, the 12 mile hike – just what l need, like surely nothing else can go wrong?