EVERY SINGLE one of my good mates growing up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches rode motorbikes. However, we did socialise with the odd few who weren’t besotted with the raw beauty of two-wheeled freedom machines. But, at least, all those blokes had hotted-up cars. Everyone was a tappet-head in those days, it’s just some needed more than two wheels to get to parties and chase the chickies.
The bikers of the area regularly crossed paths with the non-bikers and, by and large, we all got on. I mean, we were all chasing the same women, drinking at the same pubs, going to the same parties, being arrested by the same coppers, and patched up at the same hospitals when we had our reasonably frequent fuck-ups. Yeah, given the things we got up to, most of the Northern Beaches’ rat-baggery fronted up at casualty more times than they’d really want to remember. The nursing staff would fix us up and send us back for round two. The border between Brookvale and Dee Why was the line of demarcation to decide which hospital you went to. Any injury sustained in Brookie Pub or parts south went to Manly Hospital; Dee Why Pub or points north went on to Mona Vale Hospital. It’s tragic to think that in the current economic climate, some bean-counting cocksucker can decide that both these two wonderful medical institutions should be closed down and the prime waterfront property sold off so more immigrants can come here to live in newly formed ghettoes.
Where was I? Oh yeah, that’s right. Late one Saturday afternoon, we were up at Manly Hospital dropping off a mate into casualty when, as happened so often, we bumped into a few pub mates who were dropping their mate off too. A bloke named Mick, who owned a hotted-up HR Holden Ute, plus a few more mates, had just carried in their mate Noel for some good doctorin’.
Noel was a little fella, but nuggetty and suntanned and we could’ve sworn he’d given up the hottie cars and bought himself a motorbike because the little sucker had the worst case of gravel rash we’d ever seen. And I gotta tell ya, as young blokes who loved beer and speed, we’d seen a few cases of gravel rash. But Noel was a special case; it would be easier to find the skin that was still there than point out the abrasions. “So what happened?” we asked Mick. And he told us, and when we all started to piss ourselves laughing, it didn’t make Noel feel any better. He was groaning up a storm and no amount of witty banter and corny jokes could mask the fact that Noel was hurtin’ real bad.
Now, I only saw the aftermath and wasn’t there to witness the actual incident which rough-sanded Noel’s skin, but basically, here’s what went down:
Mick and a few mates had been at his grandma’s place, knocking down an old dunny and smashing up and removing the concrete slab and broken pathway. It was a stinking hot day and, naturally, after all the hard work, needed a slab or two of cleansing ale to lubricate parched throats and re-invigorate tired muscle. Then it was on to the tip to dump the Barney Rubble before racing back to the Brookie Pub for more cleansing ales.
At some stage of the journey, they crossed paths with a carload of Brookie Wogs. The Brookie Wogs were another mob of young Aussie blokes who drank at the Brookvale Hotel. These days you’d call them people of Italo-Australian heritage, or Non-English Speaking Background, but back then, they were just the Brookie Wogs. There were thousands of them, their parents or grandparents had mostly come from Calabria, creating and working the market gardens which littered the Northern Beaches and fed a lot of Sydney. There were only about four or five different surnames between ’em and were all as mad as cut snakes, but jeez—they had some nice cars, though. Many of them ended up as top-name drag racers, but back then, their racetracks were the roads of our area.
Anyway, according to Mick, the ute full of dunny demolishers was just tootling along, slightly under the speed limit and obeying all the road rules (apart from the drinking and the riding in the back of an overloaded ute). They were motoring north on Pittwater Road, the main drag, which starts in Manly and rips right through the guts of the Manly-Warringah Peninsula before fizzling out at Church Point. All of a sudden, a bright orange Valiant Hemi Pacer Coupe owned by one of the Brookie Wogs came swerving in from a side street, nearly colliding and causing an almighty argument. The Val was chock-full of Brookie Wogs who began hurling abuse at Mick and friends. “Ya fuckin’ Aussies!” they were yelling, which naturally resulted in a—“Ya fuckin’ Wogs!” reply from the occupants of the HR ute.
Then, it apparently got a bit more serious (or comical, depending on how you look at it) and the two vehicles began swerving at each other, just like in the movies.
On one particularly close swerve, Mick managed to punctuate the hurled abuse by extending his arm and giving them the finger—right in their faces! He was sure surprised when the front seat passenger of the Val grabbed his arm and began stabbing it with a screwdriver.
“OWWWW!” he was yelling all the while trying to retract his arm and swerve away. The front seat passenger of the Val wasn’t letting go, though and Mick reckons he was almost dragged through the driver’s window a few times.
The screwdriver must’ve been blunt, or the stabber must’ve missed the ‘Screwdriver Stabbing Techniques’ module at Brookvale Tech, or maybe the stabee had tough forearms, but when we inspected Mick’s arm at the hospital, the injuries weren’t all that impressive; not like Noel’s, anyway.
When Mick’s tormentor finally let go, the Val sped away down Pittwater Road, but Mick gave chase, only faster now, and looking a lot more like a Hollywood car chase movie.
Those Hemi Pacers were quick cars in their day, but the Holden ute was a genuine hottie and managed to keep up at some ridiculous speed.
What happened next could only happen in an Australian car chase movie—Noel and the other fellas who were guarding the rubble in the tray of the ute stood up and began pitching rocks and half-bricks at the Valiant Pacer.
By and large, the yobboes’ attempts to damage the shiny Pacer were as successful as the Wogs’ attempt to damage Mick’s forearm. The missiles just seemed to bounce off without denting anything. If you know anything about early Aussie muscle cars, you’ll know that the Valiant Coupe has one of the largest back windscreens ever, but despite its huge target area and its composition entirely of glass, even the full bricks bounced off it.
It was then that Noel got serious, bending down to pick up a huge slab of concrete from the pile of rubble. The slab must’ve been 40 or 50 kilo, and Noel did a perfect snatch and grab, holding the monstrous mass above his head, lining up the perfect shot and yelling a guttural “Eeeeeyeeearrrrrrghhhh!” from deep down in his soul. Now this was going to do some damage.
The thing with Pittwater Road is that it has quite a few bends, and the sequence of events with the chase had put the cars right on one of those bends. Noel fell out of the ute backwards. He was wearing King Gee stubbies and sandshoes and nothing else. Hitting the roadway near naked wasn’t bad enough for God or whoever was calling the shots that day, and the large slab of concrete clobbered Noel a beauty, right in the chest.
We had to keep apologising to Noel at the hospital, we knew he was in pain, but fair dinkum—it was hard not to laugh, Sometimes we could keep it down to a quiet snigger, but most often, that became a rising crescendo of chuckles that broke out into rollicking guffaws. We still had beers so it was like a party in casualty and the nursing matron came down and chucked us all out.
And that’s the main difference between the arsehole youth of days gone by and the arsehole youth of modern times—when a large group of drunken yobs were told by a frail old lady in a matron’s cap to fuck off out of her hospital, we did the respectable thing and fucked off.
As we were leaving, Noel grimaced and claimed he would’ve been better falling off a motorcycle, because he would’ve been dressed like we did and the damage wouldn’t have been so bad, None of us could work out how a black T-shirt and a helmet exemption can lessen the severity of gravel rash.
Road Tales By Kelly Ashton