"Jean Junction" and how the West was Lost
Back in the 70's, the Bondi Club was struggling to get members, the suburb had changed and there were fewer young families living there. As well as that, members tended to drift away after their 10 years doing patrols and move to the burbs. There were no Lady members, no Masters competition and no Rubber Duckies to flash around in, just the swimmers and the boaties. It wasn't just Bondi, all Surf Clubs in Sydney found themselves in this position and worried whether they could maintain their patrol numbers.
We all looked at the experience of country surf clubs who drew members from towns far from the coast . These guys went for the whole weekend and stayed in bunk rooms in the clubhouses. For example. Yamba drew its members from Grafton , Evans Head from Casino etc.
The Bondi Clubhouse was undergoing yet another renovation, the Club President at the time was C.G.Smith. Charlie was a great, larger than life character. A captain in the army during WW2, he served at Tobruk and was a paratrooper back in Oz. He loved Rugby, a beer, a punt and women, in no particular order. C G had a strong business background so he and others looked at the huge numbers of young fellas living in Sydney's western suburbs and decided what Bondi needed was a "Bunk Room" so that the Westies could become Bondi Lifesavers. Soon we got a bunk room, double bunks plus mattresses in the space where the men's locker room is now. Obviously there was a ton of publicity so a heap of kids signed up.
Enter Greg Solomon and Jean Junction
Now Greg Solomon was a keen member and a great young entrepreneur. Greg sniffed the wind and opened a shop on Oxford Street Bondi Junction specialising in denim jeans and he called the shop "Jean Junction".It took off like a rocket and soon Greg had other Jean Junctions dotted around Sydney. Greg also had a flair for promotion so he bought an old double decker bus and covered it with advertising. Greg a also made his bus available to the Surf Club for surf carnivals and to run a shuttle service to collect the westies and drop them back to Central railway station on Sunday afternoons.The club found a couple of guys with bus drivers' licences like Gundy and Petersham Ray, so we were in business.
Some of these kids were quite young ,so the bunk room needed supervisors and people to give them dinner on Saturday nights and breakfast on Sunday mornings. Keith Tanner ran a roster where members would spend the night in the bunk room to maintain order.
It would not be unkind to suggest these kids were not the cream of the western suburbs, indeed it became aware to some of us that the club was providing a free weekends holiday for delinquent children.
The Jean Junction bus was so prominent that on the trip back to the railway on Sunday afternoon ,the surfies on the hill at the south end of the beach would hurl empty drink cans at the Jean Junction bus as it chugged slowly up the hill to the Astra. our boys on the open top deck of the bus retaliated with their own cans .On a crowded Sunday afternoon at Bondi, this was a sight to behold.
The "Bringing the West to Bondi" scheme was a magnificent disaster. It ran for a season or two and finally imploded. Club membership slowly got better, girls came in, the average age went up and things got better.
Greg Solomon who sadly passed away last year sold his business to "Just Jeans" and started up new businesses in the media and hospitalty industries. Greg continued to be a Bondi regular.
Years later, a few early morning swimmers were walking past the clubhouse and passed a pile of rusting bunk beds and bases waiting for the council truck to take to the tip, the final chapter of a gallant failure.
No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody's gonna slow me down
Highway to hell AC/DC
Al Scott blog
Aside note: Al's blog is a collection of fuzzy memories by Al Scott. All errors are the result of an ageing memory and are unintentional. All members are welcome to submit their stories, recollections and tidbits please do email any entries to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
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