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Chrissy at Bondi Beach

Chrissy at Bondi Beach

  “  Six white boomers, snow white boomers

    Racing Santa Claus through the blazing sun.

    Six white boomers, snow white boomers

    On his Australian run “.

                         Lyrics by Rolf Harris,  H.M. Prisons

T’was the night before Christmas, Santa had left the North Pole and was heading for Bondi. He came in high over the stink pot, hung a right over Ben Buckler, another right over the Icebergs and hovered over Bondi. His bag was stuffed with surfboards and Boogie boards for the little kiddies hoping to hit the surf at first light. Bondi in the old days was very un trendy, a working class suburb where most families lived in rented flats and semis. At Christmas the locals were entertained by wandering Salvation Army brass bands at night playing carols and collecting for the real battlers. On Christmas Eve there was always a full house at St. Anne’s and up at St. Pat’s, Bondi for midnight mass. Although some of the worshippers were a little unsteady on their feet after Xmas parties, nobody got turned away.

In the seventies, down at the surf club a lot of members had young kids so the mothers organised a kids Christmas party at the clubhouse. We had a wonderful Father Christmas, Wally Glover known all over Bondi as “ the Berg”. Wally edited the Bondi Surfer and wrote a column for the “Bondi Spectator”. The Berg was the proud editor of a trade paper, “ the Pastry cooks Journal”.  A few may remember that Wally once survived a rare fish attack at Bondi. Some early morning swimmers were walking down the beach and met Wally walking up. There was a trickle of blood running down his leg, and he was looking a tad confused. When questioned, Wally claimed he had been in shallow water when a small but vicious whiting bit him on the leg. Wally recovered though the fish escaped. Wally was the Santa Claus from central casting, he had a rotund figure and white hair. He would sneak into the surfboat and when out the back, would don his Santa outfit. The boys would row him into shore and he would leave the boat as Santa and the kids would follow him up the beach to the club for the party. As Xmas day dawned the first event was a nine gallon keg of beer served at 6am in the tunnel, the home of the MacDonald families’ beach hire business. The host was Bill Willis the retired beach inspector nicknamed “ the Whale “ due to his rather large size. The cream of Bondi society attended the Whale’s keg after an early swim. It was all over and tidied up in time for the MacDonald’s to open at 8 am. There was a period when a rite of passage for backpackers from Europe was to spend Xmas day on Bondi Beach as a contrast to their cold Chrissies and to send photos  home. The day got a bit out of hand as they got drunk and sun burnt often finishing up in Bondi Police Station or St, Vincent’s Casualty department.

 Locals insisted on the traditional hot lunch served at the hottest time of the day, cold seafood lunches now popular were unknown. Turkeys were thought of as a little too American so we had chicken or maybe duck. Ham usually came from a tin, all this was washed down with lashings of Resch’s pilsner or their D.A  ( dinner ale). For the ladies’ there was” Sparkling Rhinegold “or” Porphry Pearl”. Everything was closed on Xmas Day, it was a challenge to get ice for the beer from somewhere. The Diggers’ Club opened for a couple of hours in the morning for members without families. Christmas day is still the day for family bonding, when relatives you never see from year to year turn up. When this is combined with lashings of grog, some epic family blues can occur,  resulting in Uncle Les and Aunty Alice storming out over some ancient family dispute. The winding down of the day generally coincided with the Queen’s Speech on telly at about 7 pm. Betty Windsor with her plummy accent would show some family slides and wish us all the best.

 Boxing day remains unchanged, still a huge day for sports. There’s the cricket test from Melbourne and the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Sydney Harbour. The trick is to find someone who has a house on the harbour, a fridge full of beer plus a giant T V set for the cricket so you can watch both at the same time.

 The highly paid, Walkley Award winning team from the Surfer wish their thousands of readers glassy waves and glassy beers this Xmas.

Al Scott.

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